1. Strategy
  2. Our ambitions
  3. Embracing a wider screen culture

Embracing a wider screen culture

By 2033, we will achieve wide appreciation of the cultural, social and economic value of the full breadth of screen storytelling, including video games.

We will use the first three years of our strategy to build a clear case for the role of government and industry support for the video games sector. We will take what we have learnt from this period, to build a roadmap for how we will support video games and interactive media over the remainder of the strategy.

We want to build on our international reputation as an expert and advocate of film and the moving image, and fuel an entirely new narrative around the cultural significance of video games amongst the public and government.

Why now?

Screen culture is evolving rapidly with the growth of video games, the use of social media, XR and other interactive media. People the world over use screens to capture our imaginations in vastly differing ways: from work in more established formats to interactive work. Creators make and share content on phones, bring new life to old material through creative reuse and attract huge audiences as they do it.

This will only accelerate over the next decade as the ways in which society creates and consumes traditional and new media converge. Predicted technology-enabled evolutions such as the metaverse and decentralised web offer huge potential for the sector.

These transformations will challenge business and distribution models and create demand for skills. These intersect virtual production, VFX, video games and new forms of creative expression.

It is core to our mission that we continue to evolve our own cultural, educational, research, policy and funding support for the making, collection, preservation and exhibition of new forms.

Over the past five years we have begun to expand our work to incorporate video games and emerging media.

  • Our BFI Film Fund has supported several immersive projects with National Lottery money including the critically acclaimed Notes on Blindness; Child of Empire, an animated VR docudrama experience which immerses viewers in the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan; and In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats, a euphoric interactive VR adventure presented as part of Coventry UK City of Culture.
  • A new strand of programming as part of the BFI London Film Festival – LFF Expanded showcases a variety of forms of visual storytelling, presenting artists’ work from across different media. We curated a new physical exhibition space and a free, globally accessible virtual exhibition space, The Expanse.
  • We are piloting a year-round ‘Expanded’ programme at BFI Southbank. We recently supported a UK-wide tour of Laika, Asif Kapadia’s VR animation which was originally developed by the BFI and StoryFutures Academy for the 2021 edition of the LFF.
  • Our industry support for video games and new forms has primarily been through the work of the BFI Certification Unit. This administers the cultural test for the Video Games Tax Relief. We also run video games days throughout the year to share knowledge and best practice and build networks.
  • The UK Global Screen Fund, funded by the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offers targeted support for screen companies, including those specialising in video games and emerging media forms, to help drive international business growth and IP development.
  • Games trade bodies are represented in the BFI’s Screen Sector Taskforce and our Research Advisory Group. The economic impact of the Video Games Tax Relief is featured in our Screen Business report, which demonstrated the increasing importance of video games to the UK economy. The games industry’s total gross value added (GVA) grew by 81% between 2016 and 2019, reaching £5.2bn and supported over 72,000 jobs across the UK.
  • As an independent research organisation, the BFI benefits from strong partnerships with two AHRC-funded cluster projects, StoryFutures and XR Stories.

It is now time to explore where it makes sense to do more. We are mindful the constraints of our current funding model mean that in the first years of the strategy, our ability to offer significant financial support to the sector will be limited.

Our initial focus will be on working with organisations engaged in the sector including UKIE, TIGA, Immerse UK, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK Games Fund, BGI and the National Video Games Museum. We will build partnerships and share knowledge, being careful to make sure we add value and expertise where it is most needed.

How we’ll do it

Over the next 10 years, we want to establish the BFI as a valued partner, a leading advocate and a supporter of video games, interactive and immersive media.

Our goals are:

  • To enhance our reputation as a leading advocate for all forms of screen storytelling at home and abroad.
  • To fuel an entirely new narrative around the cultural significance of video games – particularly amongst the public and government.
  • To work with government and partners and secure the necessary level of funding to support emerging media.
  • To identify sustainable models for the creation of new work and grow a thriving grassroots sector of UK-based games companies.
  • To increase the range of new and emerging forms at our festivals, venues, in Sight and Sound, on BFI Player and via funded UK partners.
  • To create the necessary partnerships and infrastructure to care for and preserve videogames and new forms for future generations, supported by appropriate funding.

In the first three years, we will:

  1. Build the case for funding, and for our long-term role. We will embark on sector research, engagement and knowledge exchange (including on the preservation of video games and digital media). We will also develop an understanding of the social, economic and cultural value of video games and new forms that is underpinned by evidence.
  2. Undertake research on skills needs and opportunities within virtual production, VFX, video games, animation and new forms. We will ensure our workforce is equipped with the right creative and technical skills for the UK to retain its position as a global leader in screen content.
  3. Share best practice in equity, diversity and inclusion and sustainability policy. This will help us set standards for inclusion and measuring environmental impact.
  4. Expand several National Lottery funding programmes. We will build on our current support for the sector via the BFI Certification Unit and the UK Global Screen Fund.
  5. Build on the success of LFF Expanded and our virtual exhibition space, The Expanse. We will offer year-round programming at BFI Southbank, online and across the UK.