Most of us know very little about high-tech ‘virtual world’ gaming, so it might come as a surprise that the local taxpayer-funded Regional Development Agency - Advantage West Midlands – has poured £3.3million into funding ‘The Serious Games Institute’ at Coventry University.
The Birmingham Post reports today that the ‘Serious Virtual Worlds’ event will take place this week, focusing on the 3D technology of social and gaming media such as ‘Second Life’ (an online world where those who are particularly attached to their computers spend hours conducting virtual relationships) and how it can be practically applied to everything from ‘education training and business collaboration to military planning and disaster management’. It’s a growing industry according to those in the know…
The Institute itself declares that ‘The Serious Games Institute (SGI) is a new initiative designed to transfer the ideas, skills, technologies and techniques used in commercial entertainment games to local SMEs’. So surely the businesses that this project seeks to benefit should be tearing at the bit to invest in some of the time and money saving ‘remote working’ programs that the Institute has on offer instead of having the taxpayer foot the bill? With 160 interactive media businesses based in the West Midlands and numerous regular businesses set to profit it’s a wonder that the Institute couldn’t be fully funded by those who stand to gain directly from its work.
The Institute goes on to boast that their scheme, ‘…presents a unique opportunity for West Midlands’ computer games developers to diversify their product base’. And is it the taxpayers’ responsibility to fund the research of new options for computer games developers? Surely not.
There’s more. Coventry University also run the ‘Adjust the Balance’ project for the West Midlands which similarly siphons money from Europe (European Social Fund) to offer free consultations to local businesses on how to ‘work remotely’. They have thus far notched up ‘a number of successes’ according the Post’s report, which sounds fairly ambiguous to say the least.
So just to clarify, the taxpayer is funding Coventry University, their ‘Adjusting the Balance Project’ and, of course, Advantage West Midlands who seem keen to pour millions into the initiative. But should schemes like this be propped up by the taxpayer? Surely if they are viable, and truly useful to the business interests they seek to entertain with their free conferences and consultations then they will keep themselves afloat without draining millions of pounds of public money that would be better used on more practical projects, or conserved.
‘Serious Games’ could well be a decent resource for the future, but the fact that the unelected Advantage West Midlands are prepared to brazenly lay down substantial amounts of all of our money – especially when alternative funding seems to have been untapped – on an untried and untested phenomenon that could well fall flat is undoubtedly a careless use of public funds.
Advantage West Midlands are always keen to waste our money, click here to see some of the other projects deemed worthy of our cash…