Is gaming the most undervalued creative influence of them all?

Gaming’s creeping influence is being felt across the creative industry, particularly in immersive entertainment. We find out why there’s so much to learn from it, and how a generation that’s grown up playing games is now rethinking the way narrative works

Design studios and ad agencies might not realise it, but the games industry is snapping at their heels when it comes to pushing the boundaries of creativity. It’s using technology to forge new ways of telling stories and interacting with people, and finding huge commercial success while doing so. And you don’t have to look far to see how the mechanics of games are being tapped as a creative resource – think everything from productions created by Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema, to Netflix’s Bandersnatch. It’s even taking hold behind the scenes, where game engines are now being used to visualise and interact with creative work before it’s made.

Traditionally, disciplines such as cinema, gaming, theatre and advertising stayed well away from one another, but boundaries are undoubtedly blurring. One organisation exploring this is UK Research and Innovation, which set up its Audience of the Future programme to bring together companies from across various creative fields, and understand how our experience of live performance is changing. It funded Skepta’s apocalyptic mixed reality experience Dystopia987, and this year is supporting a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, made by the Royal Shakespeare Company alongside Magic Leap, Epic Games, and others. It feels strange seeing the name of a video game company next to an organisation like the RSC, but there’s some surprising parallels between the two worlds.

“We’re finding that connection between theatre and games a really rich one, and the collaborations we’re creating are bringing in game designers and leading coders, and people that have been world-building and making alternate reality games for quite some time,” explains Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development for the RSC, which is leading the Audience of the Future programme. “We’re finding that they can go quite deep in a different way, and the convergence of that is really interesting.”