How much importance do you place on the UK video games industry – both in terms of cultural impact and economic contribution?
As a successful part of our creative industries sector, employing nearly 30,000 people and contributing over 2 billion per year to the economy, the UK video games industry is obviously a vitally important part of our economy. The Government needs to do all it can to support the video games sector and allow it to flourish.
I would, however, place equal weight on the cultural influence that games can have. As children and young people make up a significant proportion of video game users it is important for the industry to act in a responsible and sensitive way. Issues involving content have largely focused on the negative aspects associated with games. The arguments around Resistance: Fall of Man and Manchester Cathedral being the most recent example. The industry needs to accept it has a duty to act responsibly when it comes to appropriate content and politicians and the media needs to realise that the industry can have a positive impact on young people's lives.
What, in broad terms, would a Conservative Government do differently on the following issues:
Funding for the general industry – particularly development studios
One of the greatest threats facing the UK industry at present is certainly the shortage of suitably trained graduates. Much of our top talent is going abroad to places such as Canada where companies are offered incentives and tax breaks. This ‘brain drain' is certainly affecting the competitiveness of our industry as until recently we were the third largest global games producer.
Tax breaks for the games industry, similar to those experienced by the film industry, could go some way to remedying this situation and this is something I will be discussing with my colleagues in the Conservative Treasury team. However, given the current financial climate we will not be committing to such measures just yet. I would prefer to look at alternative methods of increasing the industry's competitiveness in order to attract greater levels of private investment.
A number of our policy groups will be making proposals that could benefit our computer games industry. John Redwood's Economic Competitiveness Group has looked at ways to reduce the regulatory burden on all companies and our Small Business Task Force's final report is due in September. Both of these are likely to contain proposals that would benefit the UK's economy in general and the UK's computer games industry specifically. In addition I am in the process of putting together a Creative Industries Taskforce which will look into this issue in more detail.
Copyright protection for games
As David Cameron has previously stated, the Government needs to do more to establish a more robust intellectual property framework in order to adequately protect our creative industries and to encourage innovation and investment. The Conservative Party was disappointed with the Gower's Review which did nothing more than suggest slight changes at the margins. We believe more fundamental change is needed to create a framework that is both flexible and accessible. I am sure that our Creative Industries Task Force will consider changes to the law that would benefit the computer games industry.
Unsuitable material falling into the hands of minors and the banning of ‘ultra-violent' games
I believe that it is time for the games industry to act in a responsible and sensitive way and play their part in the prevention of unsuitable material falling into the hands of children. It is essential that manufacturers take seriously the messages sent out by violent and increasingly life-like video games and I believe that most currently do so.
Games culture in the personal/social development of the young
I think that the games industry and games culture can play a very positive role in the development of young people. I have read with great interest about the UK's first ever ‘games academy' that has been created by three universities in collaboration with leading companies in the industry. This will not only have a positive effect on youngsters as they will be offered scholarships and work experience, but also the industry, who will be able to benefit from highly trained new employees.
Click here to find out what Margaret Hodge MP, the government's minister for culture, creative industries and tourism, says the Labour party will do for the games industry.