The myriad opportunities in games

  • Hold on to your own intellectual property to reap the benefits
  • Games can be a great tool in education and rehabilitation


The myriad opportunities in games


GAMES can be more than a form of entertainment. In fact, gaming might actually be good for you, said Livingstone Foundation founder and chairman Ian Livingstone.

A firm believer in games, Livingstone is something of a legendary figure in the world of games having transitioned from tabletop games to fantasy books and on to videogames. 

He shared his nearly 40 years of experience in the games industry and thoughts on what the future holds for the industry during a session organised by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) before an audience of entrepreneurs, educators and students in Kuala Lumpur.

Livingstone began his career in the games industry in 1975 when he co-founded the prominent miniature game company Games Workshop, the developer of tabletop game Warhammer.

In the 1980s, he authored the Fighting Fantasy series of role-playing gamebooks. He subsequently transitioned to the digital age, having played a role in the creation of the Tomb Raider franchise which starred one of gaming’s most famous icons, Lara Croft.


Games as a business

When Livingstone started Games Workshop with his partners John Peake and Steve Jackson, they originally had an exclusive distribution agreement for Dungeons & Dragons.

However, three years later the exclusivity ended and they then sought to create their own intellectual property in order to survive. That led to the creation of their own fantasy game called Warhammer.

“If you can create your own intellectual property and own your own content, you will build much greater value in what you are doing in your companies than if you were just a simple service company,” said Livingstone as he related his experience.

To him, retaining ownership of one’s intellectual property brings greater benefits as it determines your own future and can be very rewarding should the plan succeed.

His advice for budding game developers is that they need to understand the importance of data and how the business works.

“A lot of people in the creative industry don't understand how to do business. But they need to in order to create a sustainable studio,” he said.


Games for education and beyond

Livingstone is a huge advocate of games and firmly believes that they can play a critical role in education.

He has worked tirelessly to convince the UK government that games are a great tool for teaching.

“Playing games can be a good thing. They are interactive and they encourage problem-solving using critical thinking, all of which are important life skills,” he said.

He cites games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and SimCity as great tools for delivering contextualised learning, teaching players about management, economics, building and the environment.

Games like Minecraft that are popular among children allow them to express their creativity by building 3D worlds, potentially inspiring them to be architects one day.

In a contextual sense, children can see why when they heat sand in the game, it creates glass. These things stick with the child for life because they are learning by doing.

In his opinion, these lessons resonate more with children than trying to memorise lessons in a classroom.

But it is not just the young who benefit from games. Even senior citizens can be rehabilitated and have fun with games.

“A TV programme called Horizon by the BBC looked into the effects of games on people and it came to the conclusion that games are good for them,” he said.

A group of senior citizens were given some tablets to play games on before undergoing an MRI scan and it was found that brain activity had increased by a significant amount.

“The conclusion is that it is better to give old people tablets to play on rather than tablets to swallow,” he said.


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