Game Republic

Jo Quinton-Tulloch interview

This profile forms part of a series of interviews produced as part of Game Republic’s 20th Anniversary celebrations supported by our Official Partners Barclays, Escape Technology and Red Kite Games.

Jo Quinton-Tulloch is Director of the National Science and Media Museum – part of the Science Museum Group. The Group’s mission is to inspire visitors to engage with and be inspired by the incredible pace of scientific and technological innovation that surrounds us. In Bradford the National Science and Media Museum is home to a world-class collection devoted to the science and culture of image and sound including photography, film, animation, television, sound and gaming technologies. The teams make collections accessible and available to visitors, schools and researchers. Collections are made accessible in loads of different ways – through exhibitions, activities and events, festivals, talks, through work they do in the Museum, through outreach in the community and on the website. The Museum is also home to three cinemas. These include Europe’s first IMAX screen and the world’s only public Cinerama screen, an important responsibility and unique experience the museum offers in screen heritage. In 2016, Jo and the team, working with Game Republic, launched the first Yorkshire Games Festival. The festival now welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Jo has worked hard to develop the museum with her team creating an exciting programme of events and activities to inspire new generations.

 What is great about doing work with the games industry?

The games industry is one of the fastest growing, vibrant and creative industries in the world. Yorkshire is also a hub for game development, so we are very well placed to connect to some amazing people and companies. Video games are one of the most playful and vibrant forms of media and sit at the cross section of science and society. Video games have infiltrated our lives and our homes and whether you’re a gamer or not, video games are shaping our lives and the world around us. Video games are far more than just entertainment – the associated technologies are used across industries including construction, healthcare, engineering, the list goes on and on. So for us, video games are a great way to connect with people who might not think science is for them. And working with the games industry is just fun! People are so passionate about what they do, and are always generous with their time.

We run the annual Yorkshire Games Festival, and one of our aims for the festival is to build young people’s confidence and help them connect to industry professionals to build their networks.

 What words of advice do you have for people starting out in the games sector?

As with all industries, your attitude, personality and soft/smart skills can be just as important as your technical knowledge and specialist skills. Studios are looking to build supportive, collaborative and friendly working environments, so it is vital for early career professionals to demonstrate a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn.  The video game industry is often a very social space, with regional and national networks and events as well as online social platforms. Networking is critical for people to build up their contacts when trying to get a foot in the door and demonstrate a pro-active attitude when looking for work. Individuals can often recommend other people for roles, even within different companies, so trying your very best to get your name out there is vital. We run the annual Yorkshire Games Festival, and one of our aims for the festival is to build young people’s confidence and help them connect to industry professionals to build their networks.

What work have you been doing in the region to support the games industry?

Our museum has been a cornerstone of video game heritage and exhibiting since launching the Bradford Animation Festival in 1993. The festival welcomed animators from around the world, working across film, television and video games and celebrated the history, technologies and culture of animation in all of its forms. The festival awarded industry legend Hideo Kojima with the UNESCO City of Film Award for Cinematography in Videogames in 2014. We refocussed the festival specifically on video games in 2016, launching the Yorkshire Games Festival and have since become an industry hub for connecting game development students and early career professionals with the industry. The festival welcomes thousands of visitors each year and has evolved since 2016 to now include our two day industry Game Talks programme, schools days and a family weekend. The festival not only shines a spotlight on the video games industry in the region, but is a platform for local developers to exhibit their games and visitors to get hands on with learning activities and meet developers from across the country, and in fact, from across the world, who have created the games that they play at home. Notable past guests include John and Brenda Romero, David Wise, Mike Bithell, Rhianna Pratchett and William Pugh. We have also worked with BAFTA games to bring events to the North of England that celebrate our region’s contributions to the industry.

We have also exhibited video games and their associated technologies since back in the 90s, helping to legitimise the industry as a career path for young people and inspiring the next generation of video game developers. In fact, Matt Horsfall, who is our Curator of Game Technologies, was one of those people who was inspired by the Museum in his younger years. It is wonderful that his career has led him back to the Museum!

Child with VR headset at museum
Child tries out VR headset at the National Science and Media Museum

 What has been a highlight of your career so far related to the games industry?

I’m very proud of the fact that we launched the Yorkshire Games Festival in 2016. Starting something from scratch is always a challenge, but we are still going strong. Our aim was to give aspiring games creators unrivalled access to games industry talent and give families a platform to play together. We wanted to create a virtuous circle where speakers at the top of their games inspire the next generation of makers and feed the industry with new talent. We have welcomed many highly successful games developers to Bradford over the years and I hope we’ve supported many aspiring makers on their journey.

We have also been threading video games through our wider programme of exhibitions and activities, and there will be stories about game technologies in our new permanent galleries that will open for 2025. We are very excited that Bradford will be City of Culture in 2025, which will give us more opportunities to shine a spotlight on the creative industries, including video game development.

Highlighting video games within our national museum is key to the public recognising the video games industry not only as entertainment, but as an important STEM subject, with specialist skillsets and passionate professionals.

What influence do you think the National Science and Media Museum and similar types of organisation can have on the sector and region?

We want to show our audiences that STEM is all around us. And revealing the wonder of video games to our audience through our unique lens of Science and Media is hugely important when not only telling the story of the history of the industry, but also inspiring people to be part of the industry’s future. Highlighting video games within our national museum is key to the public recognising the video games industry not only as entertainment, but as an important STEM subject, with specialist skillsets and passionate professionals. Our public programme, including the Yorkshire Games Festival, aims to bring our visitors closer to that industry, whether it’s through our industry game talks programme, our schools days or our free family weekend.

What do you think of the role of Game Republic?

Strong and supportive networks are vital for industries to flourish. Networks such as Game Republic, that allow industry professionals to come together to share their knowledge and passion are incredibly important in order to build a sense of community within a region and within an sector. In a world that now has more remote workers than ever before, following the global pandemic, networks are also a powerful tool to help people not to feel isolated within their industry and to provide a sense of belonging locally, even if they work for a company based elsewhere in the country, or indeed the world.

Why is Bradford and Yorkshire a good place to do business and have a museum?

With Bradford having just won City of Culture 2025 and famously being one of the youngest cities in the UK,  we are in a really exciting place, geographically, to inspire future game developers and ensure that young people have the digital skillsets required to work across the creative industries, including film, music and video games. Inspiring futures is one of our museum’s core values, and we have a commitment to help to improve the digital literacy of young people and to ensure that the next generation has the toolset to start in exciting careers across the region.

What projects are coming up for the National Science and Media Museum?

We are super excited because we are underway with a major capital project called Sound and Vision, that will transform our Museum. From June 2023 we will temporarily close for 13 months for a major refurbishment that will deliver two new galleries that will transform our visitor experience and access to our collections, open up the foyer space giving more opportunity to host events and festivals, and also build a new lift to ensure much better access through the building. During this time our largest Pictureville cinema will remain open and we will still be delivering the Yorkshire Games Festival in 2024 (in case you were worried!) We’ll be looking to partner with other venues across the city and do things a bit differently). And then, of course, Bradford will be City of Culture in 2025 which is a unique opportunity – we are expecting more than 15 million visitors to Bradford District throughout the year! And the Yorkshire Games Festival will be part of our programme in 2025. We also take an even longer view and at the moment we are working up plans for a big gaming exhibition for beyond 2026. So watch this space!