With or without Brexit, there's a consensus that Britain needs to get back to its exporting best, and to do that, the country needs to inspire its young people to emerge as tomorrow's inter national traders. The problem is, being an Exporter or Importer doesn't really fit into the category of 'Dream Job'. The ONS found in 2018 that the top 5 dream jobs among 16 to 21 year olds ranged from working in Nursing and Midwifery, Protective Services, Healthcare, Teaching and Education to the Arts. How does Britain engage its young people in the often complex, technical world of international trade? Perhaps the answer is already here.
Video games relating to the international trade sector have been around for years. My earliest interaction with the industry was on a computer owned by my cousins, where during weekend visits, I would spend hours playing the Rolf-Dieter Klein classic 1980s DOS game Ports of Call. Running a shipping firm, your goal was to take cargo from coast to coast, buying and selling vessels, fixing them when broken, navigating canals, entering and leaving tricky ports, even tackling the occasional rat infestation on your boats. Ports of Call may be obscure, but with a 2008 re-make, and a re-release for tablet and phones, the concept of international trade simulation is big in gaming.
According to data gathered from Steam, the video game distribution platform for PCs, over 5 million people across the world have purchased the award winning simulation game Euro Truck Simulator 2 since its 2012 launch. The game allows players to run their own haulage firm, buying/selling trucks, carrying cargo and collecting the odd speeding fine across Europe. There have been popular simulators for ships, planes and trains, all with a focus on cargo. There's even a simulator for the Space Shuttle, for those keen on out of this world cargo movement.
The PC has a niche target audience for gaming, but some of these titles are even landing on more casual gaming console platforms like the X-Box and Playstation, where Train Sim World has been joined by Truck Driver and in the future, Microsoft's seminal Flight Simulator, bringing the experience of moving goods from A to B right into our living rooms.
'The concept of clever trading has also been a core skill for gaming for years. City management simulators such as the aptly named Sim City, and Government simulators like Democracy, have helped competitive gamers to engage with, and tackle, some of the big economic and financial issues facing the world.
How can Britain tap into this potential, to reveal the exciting possibilities of international trade to the next generation? An opportunity exists in Britain's video gaming sector. According to TIGA, the body representing the UK's gaming industry, "The video games industry is export-intensive, with 95 per cent of UK developers exporting at least some games." UKIE, which supports the UK's video game and interactive entertainment industry, also note that almost half (48%) of UK games companies generate 80% of their revenue from overseas, whilst almost three quarters (73%) generate more than 50% of their revenue from outside the UK.
TIGA recently called on the Government to introduce a "Games Investment Fund (GIF)", suggesting that "A GIF would make grants or loans available to games businesses on a matched funding basis. The GIF would provide funding of between £75,000 and £500,000 to games developers nationwide." If such a fund were introduced, could the Government use such investment to promote video games that help to bring the excitement of international trade to the UK's future workforce, whilst simultaneously helping to boost an important UK creative industry with a strong position in terms of a growing world trade sector?
One way or the other, the UK needs to get Britain exporting more, and if young people are already finding the sector enjoyable from their sofas, perhaps helping them to realize their potential interest in the real world will help boost the UK's international trade sector.
After all - for youngsters wishing to become astronauts, exporting goods to the Moon and Mars could be their 'Dream Job'.
By Daniel M Byway of The Exporter