With news this month that suggests playing computer games can help the intelligence and social skills of children, it seems that the stereotype that playing games will stunt your child's development, consigning them to a lonely life within the four walls of their bedroom, can finally being put to rest.
At BAFTA, we've long celebrated the creativity and artistry in games but gaming is now firmly in the mainstream - while you may not think that idling away the commute playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush makes you a gamer, a major study by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 2014 found that 70% of the UK population had played a game in the previous six months. The same report found that, in an age where kids face a barrage of sound bites, Vines and memes "games are a unique and engaging environment which requires people's complete and utter focus."
If your child loves playing games, why not encourage them to take the next step and design their own? With the Easter weekend fast approaching, many parents will be preparing themselves to wrestle their kids from the console. But rather than seeing it as wasted time, there's a huge amount that young people can learn from making games that will mean they go back to school or college in April equipped with skills across a wide range of subjects.
Just as writing helps your child acquire literacy skills, designing a game helps them flex their creative muscles and engage critically with the games they're playing. Designing games encourages young people to think quickly, gather information and use that information to solve problems and inspire creativity - skills that will benefit them for life. There's now a huge range of free software available for those who want to try their hand at building a game - something that will use maths, physics and creative writing skills as well as ingenuity. Working through the structure of a game and creating a storyboard will improve art and design skills as well as logical thinking - and exercise their creative streak.
If this gives your child an appetite for games design, a career in it is a real possibility too. According to figures released last year by Ukie, the UK's games industry trade body, the British games market is now worth a colossal £4.2bn. Our own British Academy Games Awards has been championing the industry for over a decade, awarding BAFTAs to the best in the business.
For young people, the BAFTA Young Game Designers (YGD) competition is one of the ways they can navigate the world of game design. It is currently open for entries for 10-18 year olds.
For any young creatives thinking about trying their hand at designing a game this Easter, Arthur Parsons, Game Director at BAFTA-winning studio TT Games, has some useful advice: "Look outside of games for inspiration. The world is an amazing place, and there are so many fantastical things within our own world that can be used to trigger our creative spark. So, as well as games, watch documentaries, whether natural world ones, or how things are made, they are all brilliant places to gather knowledge. Read up on geography, yes that's right, geography; a subject that has served me so well in my time as a [game] designer. Look around you and again absorb everything, you never know what could form the embers of your next amazing idea."
The BAFTA Young Game Designers (YGD) competition, in association with Nominet Trust, aims to inspire the UK's game designers and game-makers of the future by giving young people the chance to design and make their own game. The winners will be named at a special awards ceremony in July attended by stars of the games industry. Entries are open until Friday 3 June. To find out more about the initiative, go to: www.bafta.org/ygd