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Can the BBC embrace gaming culture?

Charles Miller

edits this blog. Twitter: @chblm

At Birmingham’s Digital Cities, the BBC’s Si Lumb, Senior Product Manager in Research and Development, outlined the BBC’s approach to gaming – bringing the thriving culture of gaming to the corporation, while bringing the BBC’s strength in production and storytelling to gamers.

The world of gaming may not be at the forefront of BBC producers’ minds, but the case to change that is made by the numbers alone. iPlayer gets 200 million views a month, said Lumb, but YouTube superstar PewDiePie got 8 million views last Friday. The Halo world championships had 43 million subscribers, and there are more than 83 million videos about Minecraft on YouTube. It’s “utterly astounding”, said Lumb. 

As 360 video and more immersive VR experience become more common, the strengths of the BBC will come into their own in games production. What’s more, “the people at the BBC who grew up with games are starting to make the content.”

After the conference we asked Lumb to tell us more about his strategy for the BBC. He said he was excited about new kinds of game such as Sam Barlow’s “Her story”, which use interview clips to make a powerful narrative. This kind game, together with the advent of VR brings the opportunities in gaming closer to the skills of the BBC. 

The BBC has already created narrative games such as Our World War, based on TV programmes. Lumb recognises the difficulties of such efforts to bring TV audiences to gaming and gamers to TV-related content.

One hurdle in bringing non-gamers into the world of gaming is that they can be discouraged by ‘failure’ – losing a game and reaching ‘game over’. Lumb says gaming is moving away from such outcomes in a way that’s helpful for introducing a wider audience. 

In future, games will be made with and by their players, rather than being released in a finished form. And the same trend can be seen in TV production too: asking the audience “what do you think of this?” is “crucial now”.