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Political Games - Part 2

Ben Parfitt
Political Games - Part 2

How has the Government’s attitude to video games changed in the last five years?
I wouldn’t say our attitude has changed, but we have definitely begun to more fully recognise and articulate the contribution of video games to the UK economy as a whole. The two sponsoring Government departments, DBERR and DCMS both recognise the importance and potential of the sector. The latest figures we have, for 2004, show that the games market made a positive contribution to the UK trade balance of £280m and in 2005, contributed 30 per cent to the UK’s media exports. Games also make a cultural contribution to the UK and though a few still attract the wrong kind of attention in the media, it is our job to help the industry demonstrate that the overwhelming majority behave responsibly and make a positive contribution.

Does the DCMS have any concrete plans to support the UK games industry further in the near future?
Government already helps games companies through the various generic business support measures (such as the R & D tax credits) and programmes such as our competitions for collaborative R & D funding through which a number of games companies have won substantial grant support. We are investing heavily in supporting skills development particularly through the sector skills councils and UKTI has in recent years concentrated closely on the games sector with, for example, missions and events around trade shows.

Additionally of course, several of the Regional Development Agencies offer targeted support for games companies in their regions. The Creative Economy Programme is exploring how the Government can support the creative industries in general. This will examine market drivers such as skills, innovation and competition. The video games industry is a significant sector within this work.

Has there been any more discussion on the ‘academy for games’ which has been hinted at in the past?
Education and skills are key to the Creative Economy Programme. As a Government we need to listen to and work with the industry to identify the best use of resources. This could include encouraging existing institutions to work more closely with industry or it could involve creating new ones – or both. There have been various calls for different kinds of video games academies and we are listening very carefully and taking views from all sections of the
industry.

Since there has been concern that UK games developers are suffering from a ‘brain drain’, involving them leaving for overseas where the tax breaks are more favourable, would the Government consider making tax concessions to games developers in order to keep the talent in the UK?

Of course we want to do what we can to sustain and grow the video games industry in the UK; it is a success story for Britain and we want to nurture that success. As part of the Creative Economy Programme, we are keeping the global competitive environment under close review.

What would you say is the biggest problem facing the UK video game industry at the moment?
There are many strong opportunities and many visible challenges facing the UK video games industry. Whilst globalisation offers new markets, it also means greater competition. Similarly digitisation offers opportunities for tens of millions of potential new customers, but it also introduces the problem of protecting Intellectual Property Rights effectively.

And of course maintaining the competitive advantage we enjoy with our highly skilled, innovative and creative workforce presents a challenge to the education and training sector as well as to the industry itself.

Click here to find out what Jeremy Hunt MP, the shadow secretary of state for culture, says the Conservatives will do for the games industry.

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