THE UK’s immigration policy is damaging Scotland’s video game industry, according to Minecraft developer Chris van der Kuyl.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Scotland’s creative industries, van der Kuyl also said North Sea oil could “look like a drop in the ocean” compared to the opportunities afforded by video games if the country takes the industry seriously.

He said Grand Theft Auto, which was created in Dundee, was “bigger than the whole of the recorded music industry combined”.

He added: “This is the biggest entertainment industry in the world and Scotland actually has a serious foot in the door and we don’t treat it that way.

“We’ll talk about our TV industry and our film industry – our film industry is nothing in terms of relative scale to our games industry yet I don’t think we appreciate the resource that we have nor give it the focus that it deserves.”

Van der Kuyl, right, told MPs that emerging markets such as virtual and augmented reality could offer potential annual growth of hundreds of per cent.

“Especially for a country like Scotland, who really have nibbled round the edges and done very well, the opportunity is huge.

If I were to be asked to compare it to the opportunity of North Sea oil, I would say it will make North Sea oil look like a drop in the ocean. This is the ocean we are playing for this time. We’re just trying to hold a tiger by the tail.

“If there was ever a time to get serious about this industry, now is it. If we let this opportunity pass by, others will take it and Scotland will languish, but we shouldn’t and I think we are brilliantly positioned to be successful.”

Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise in particular need to take the industry seriously, he said. “Either we decide that this is such a focus that we’re going to get a games champion and put them into a position of strength – of being able to pull in the

right agencies, come up with strategies, implement quickly and have real teeth to do that – or don’t.

“But the bit in the middle where we pretend to do it, I think it’s a waste of everybody’s time and money.”

The developer warned that an “enlightened immigration policy” was vital to the industry’s survival.

Dr Jo Twist from the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment agreed, describing “the current climate around immigration debates” as potentially “very damaging” to the games industry’s ability to attract overseas talent. “We must be able to continue to attract overseas talent while we are fixing our own homegrown talent pipeline, in order to remain internationally competitive,” she said.

Van der Kuyl said any foreign students who had come to study video games development were “fairly heavily leant on to get out of the country after graduating”.

He said: “In our immigration policy we’re very well structured to invite people in who have already proven themselves, but they’re already settled.

“We need to attract talent that is very early-career, that doesn’t quite fit the Home Office boxes that are there at the moment, but which is exactly what we need in our companies.”

Minecraft has sold more than 70 million copies since it was released in 2009. Created by Swedish programmer Markus “Notch” Persson, the console versions of the games were developed by van der Kuyl’s 4J studios, based in Dundee and East Linton.

Last year Microsoft announced a deal to buy the ownership of the Minecraft intellectual property for $2.5 billion.

The National View: Our world-leading games industry is at risk