UK Tax Breaks For “Culturally British” Games Only?

By John Walker on October 2nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

British culture in one handy image.

The suggestion of tax breaks for the UK games industry has been something of a ten pound note on a thread of cotton, yanked away just about every time the industry thinks it can reach for it. The plans are yet again being looked at, promised to appear next Spring, and this time with the rather peculiar suggestion that projects should be measured to see if they’re “culturally British”. Huh.

There is a much larger debate to be had over the merits of tax breaks for any industry, including games. Last month Osborne announced more tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, in the hope of encouraging future investment from that oh-so struggling industry, and we don’t tend to look too fondly upon it. But we like games, right! They deserve a break! Or they don’t. And that’s a debate for someone a lot more informed about the intricacies of tax and the economy than I. So putting that aside, let’s take a look at the oddity that is the latest round of consultation on gaming’s will-they-won’t-they relationship with the HMRC.

According to the BBC, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (because they’re all the same thing, right?) is “proposing a test to identify ‘culturally British’ games.” This mimics a similar rule for the grey drear-fest that is the British Film Industry, ensuring that everything we create here is about a poor boy who makes good despite being poor, while his gran dies/the Queen. And Simon Pegg.

The plan is, it seems, to introduce a test. A test that measures a project’s “cultural value”, and thus whether it’s British enough to qualify for tax breaks. Breaks that should be, but of course might not be, introduced in April next year. But I have one teensy weensy question. What the heck is “British culture”?

The United Kingdom looks increasingly likely to be snapped in two in the near future, and even if it stays united, it’s impossible not to notice how culturally different the countries within the union can be. And indeed, when you remove the top and left-hand bits, you’re left with a country that’s cultural identity is the constant subject of debate, if not complete bemusement. Entire books have been written pointing out that England doesn’t have a distinct, identifiable culture, but rather is an eclectic lucky-dip of influences, themes and flavours, both integrating and conflicting in equal measure. It’s a country without a national anthem, national dress, national food… So just what exactly is considered culturally British enough for a game to receive these benefits?

Certainly not Grand Theft Auto, as created by Scottish-based Rockstar. One of the biggest game series in the world comes from the UK, but is distinctly set in a perspective of American culture. Or how about struggling Codemasters and their Formula 1 series? You could make one heck of an argument that F1 has many British roots, but you could equally counter it’s an international sport. Are Worms culturally British? Has Batman ever popped over to Birmingham?

While I’m certain that studios like Firefly (Stronghold), Revolution (Broken Sword) and even Jim’s own Big Robot are high-fiving the sky at the news, it strikes me as a deeply peculiar measure for what is supposed to be a means to encouraging more investment in the UK, when you’re excluding anything that doesn’t measure up to the spurious notion of Britishness. Especially when that excludes, well, the popular ones.

I don’t know your views on the UK film industry, clearly. And perhaps you love nothing more than costume dramas and films about people dying of cancer in run down estates. But good grief, I don’t want British games to be financially dragged into the same monotonously grey world of faux-high-brow drear. And if a tax break is something the industry deserves (and I still don’t understand why or how that works – other than it stops publishers moving studios to other countries that do have them), I really don’t want it to mean everyone is caught trying to chase the ethereal confusion of “British”. I want games about long-lost realms and spaceships and hard-boiled noir detectives and mad gardens and angry wolves.

Let me interject here. Hi, sorry, I’m Counter-John, and John’s made a mistake in his rant. There’s a good side to this idea too. Because if you look at what British culture actually is – if you acknowledge it as that lucky-dip of integration and conflict – then this test also brings in the possibility of gaming involving topics that are woefully ignored by the industry. Games that acknowledge the existence of multiple faiths, cultural clashes and integration, delve into the rich seams of British literature, and yes, heck, even acknowledge the concept of a rich/poor divide. Games that innovate on the themes of Shakespeare, games that explore British myth beyond that of King Arthur, games that recognise that Muslim people aren’t only for shooting at. While the other John has a good point about this scheme seemingly needlessly excluding many interesting and profitable projects, it also could have the effect of driving gaming into areas that are usually left unexplored.

Or of course it could mean we get more third-person action games set in castles. So what do you think? Is this a positive move? A silly gimmick? A way of ensuring they don’t lose tax money from the biggest established UK publishers? Many thanks to Luke Worthington.

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202 Comments »

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  1. Captain Joyless says:

    If only you could talk to the politicians…

  2. mangrove says:

    Gawd bless yer, marm!

    • RogB says:

      GTA needs to come back to London, so its pretty much GTA:Guy Ritchie
      GAW BLOIMEY, LAHV AH DAAAHK

      British games used to have a quirkiness about that seperated us from the US and Japanese games, but its very hard to pick out what it was. (most likely, a sense of humour)
      it certainly wasnt setting them in the UK or making sure everyone had a bowler hat on.

      Im thinking 90’s Bullfrog, sensible software, team 17, (old) DMA…

      • Optimaximal says:

        I’d say the currently DMA Rockstar North is resoundly British. Yes, the GTA games are set in the US, but the humour is very much a British take (read: absurd) on what a US city polluted with organise crime would be like, propped up with numerous slapstick characters who have a tragic ‘second’ level.

        Come on, Roman from GTA IV was basically a slavic David Brent!

      • Shuck says:

        I, for one, would play the shit out of GTA: Cockney, especially if I got to run over Dick Van Dyke while driving an Austin Allegro.

  3. woodsey says:

    It’d be nice if embracing and being able to enjoy elements of different cultures was “culturally British”.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Yes, I worry that the interpretation of “British” might well depend on who makes that interpretation, given the number of people who complained about Danny Boyle’s Olympics ceremony in the right-wing press and on the right-wing half of the House of Commons.

    • Phantoon says:

      I thought it meant conquering one fourth of the known planet, then letting it slip away for the next two hundred years because running a giant empire is really hard?

      • Edlennion says:

        That sounds a bit like what happens in the Total War games (with mods to make the AI better). So I assume Creative Assembly will get these tax breaks.

  4. Phantoon says:

    I’m expecting games from Britian to now all include a French taunter-level bombastic English stereotype for that money.

    Or for someone to make a game that’s nothing but British stereotypes, and then try to argue that it’s so British, they should be paid more than the game cost to make.

    And culture clashes sounds like something that happens in pretty much every first world country.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Oh man that is an amazing game jam idea. How stereotypically British can you make one game?

  5. Ironclad says:

    wouldn’t this be a transgression of the European Common Market? That is to say, on what grounds can the financial support of British game companies be argued not to be anticompetitive?

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      When it encourages culture of the country in question.

      There is an exemption that allows tax relief for the games industry where it would provide a cultural benefit (i.e. a culturally significant game is made that, without the tax relief, would otherwise not be made).

      That’s the sole reason for this test, a point that is missing from the debate here.

      If there wasn’t the cultural “Britishness” test then the tax break would breach European state aid rules.

      This is a good article on the legal difficulties.
      http://www.gamerlaw.co.uk/2012/03/uk-games-tax-break-opportunities-and.html

      • Simon Hawthorne says:

        Can we have some sort of acknowledgement that this “Britishness test” is a way to get around EU state aid laws in the main article please?

        Some of the other comments here discussing right-wing conspiracies are ill-informed and it would be good to discuss the actual difficulties here rather than some made up notion that the government is xenophobic.

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          Dilapinated says:

          I would dearly love to live in the alternate-universe UK where systematic xenophobia is “some made up notion”.

          • Wulf says:

            Goodness. That’s unexpected. There’s someone here saying this and it’s not me. I’m actually mildly impressed and heartened by seeing that.

            It’s galling, really. The vast, vast majority don’t seem to realise that widespread xenophobic misanthropy exists. Nor do those responsible even realise the part they play in it. And when we can even have anyone admit to it, all we get are weak attempts to rationalise it (it’s just people venting steam, that’s fine, have a thicker skin) rather than any amount of accountability.

            I too would love to live in this alternate-reality UK.

          • CrookedLittleVein says:

            “Goodness. That’s unexpected.”

            That’s just what I was going to say.

            “I’m actually mildly impressed and heartened by seeing that.”

            That too.

          • Simon Hawthorne says:

            I agree that it would be nice to live in that alternate-reality universe.

            However, I do not believe that this “Britishness” test is an example of institutionalised xenophobia – and I also believe that by raising a hue and cry over this then it makes it harder to argue against genuine examples of institutionalised xenophobia.

            My point is that the main reason for this test is that it’s a required measure for the tax break by EU law. Not that the government is never xenophobic ever never not once. And actually, there’s an interesting debate to be had about the test, but that debate is being lost.

        • JamesPatton says:

          This, incidentally, seems like another reason the EU is a waste of time, money and effort for the UK. When our politicians have to basically lie *for us* to help *their own people* because of a rule that *we did not vote for or have any say in*, well, frankly that just seems stupid.

          • Ironclad says:

            Except you did: ANY european legislation is only accepted if both European Parliament (where the United Kingdom has 72 seats, who voted on this) and the European Council of Ministers (consisting of the members of government of the various member states, meaning one meeting will consist of all the ministers of defense, another will consist of all the ministers of agriculture, etc…) are in agreement.

            THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WHERE YOU HAVE 1/10TH OF ALL SEATS AND YOUR GOVERNMENT HAVE TO AGREE BEFORE ANY EU LAW IS ACCEPTED. You voted both of these people into office.

            Furthermore: your politicians voted to ratify EVERY treaty that gave powers to European Institutions. So don’t come bullshitting your way in here saying you had no say in it. We’ve had enough of British whining since “I want my money back” Thatcher.

          • Fanbuoy says:

            Served. It’s called representative democracy. Although I would very much like a more direct democratic approach to the EU. Just imagine gathering every EU citizen for a yea or nay vote.

      • NathanH says:

        This comment ought to end this entire thread.

  6. Emeraude says:

    “Because if you look at what British culture actually is…”

    That’s what troubles me most with those kind of laws (and my country loves them, and I’m concerned every time a government tries to pull something like this), just WHO gets to define what the culture is ? Based on what ?

    How can anyone even believe oneself capable of such a monstrous task ?

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      The government gets to decide and politicians think they’re up to the task because the primary attributes required to get into politics are arrogance and limitless self-regard.

      • Emeraude says:

        The questions were mostly rhetorical, but thanks.

        Kind of nice to see we’re roughly on the same page.

        • Risingson says:

          But, seen from this lost peninsula where Spain is, British culture is…everything? You could put a science fiction tale with socialist overtones and drum n bass music, and be absolutely and undeniably british.

  7. Cinnamon says:

    British spaceships can be quite different to American spaceships. For a start the good and bad guys speak with British accents instead of just the evil space oppressors.

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      Gap Gen says:

      The bad guys talk with tinny voices, carry toilet plungers and can’t get up stairs.

      • Cinnamon says:

        Well surely student life is like that for people across the world and not just Britain?

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        Gap Gen says:

        You do see a lot of students staggering around town in the evening saying “I… AM… INEBRIATED… EXAM AT EIGHT! EXAM AT EIGHT!”

        • mondomau says:

          Nice. like it.

        • InternetBatman says:

          You don’t look well, maybe you should go to the doctor?

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            “I’m sorry, there are no more appointments as it’s the last week of term. Shall I book you in for next semester?”
            “NEXT TERM IS GREAT. NEXT TERM IS GREAT.”

    • MaximKat says:

      They also use giant space whales as the means of propulsion.

    • belgand says:

      And now you’ve got me thinking about Hyperdrive and that has made me rather sad. It really should have been better than it was.

  8. Lemming says:

    It doesn’t matter what Britishness means, it only matters that it immediately stifles your creativity right out of the gate. It just sounds like something that’s been thought up by someone who has no idea what games are. Again.

  9. Untruth says:

    Well at least we’ll get GTA London at last.

    • fiddlesticks says:

      When being confronted by the police, rather than resisting arrest your character will just say “It’s a fair cop.” and go along willingly.

      • NathanH says:

        Another acceptable approach is to posture slightly with a gun and perhaps a hostage, until some gruff police inspector with a cavalier approach to the rules shouts “give it up, (surname)”, at which point you must give it up.

      • Shooop says:

        I thought the only real difference between police in Britain and the US was the British ones bludgeon you into submission instead of tasering you.

        • belgand says:

          Ah, but they have to catch you first. American police are surprisingly poor at running in fast motion.

    • frightlever says:

      At last? You mean again.

      • Untruth says:

        [the long wished for GTA London in 3D] at last. Pedants unite!

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      Vandelay says:

      GTA: Victorian London! Make it happen.

      (I’m not the only one who thinks every franchise would be improved with a Victorian London entry am I?)

  10. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    “Culturally British” is nebulous and absurd and seems license for the government to only give tax breaks to games they ideologically like, whichever party is in power.

    The tax break should exist to support a creative industry and encourage people pursuing degrees in programming etc use their talents here and so in turn the country benefits from the taxes their endeavors generate.

    edit: Oh and “the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (because they’re all the same thing, right?)”
    The Tories bunged equality into that department’s remit too at the last reshuffle. It wasn’t important enough for the home office apparently.

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      Smashbox says:

      Right, this raises the question: What’s the purpose of these tax breaks? To my knowledge (from the US, based on what I’ve read of the UK games industry <-See how I included the 's' on games!?) the purpose was to encourage a high tech industry and workforce training. Would this be an abandonment of those goals and a shift to a soft-power goal for UK game development?

      You chaps do soft power quite well.

  11. zebramatt says:

    “…while his gran dies/the Queen.”

    Eh?

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      everything we create here is about (a poor boy who makes good despite being poor, while his gran dies) / (the Queen).

      added hopefully clarifying brackets.

      • zebramatt says:

        Ah! Yes, that does make sense.

      • Pindie says:

        Well, there is also Dr Who series and The Beatles and once you realize there is not much more conversations about British Culture get stale pretty fast.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Sorry John, that part erked me. We really still have this narrow perception of British Films?

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_films_of_2011

      A list that includes the likes of ‘The Inbetweeners’, ‘Kill List’, ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, ‘Arthur Christmas’, ‘Harry Potter’ (probably stretching British film with that,) ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Paul’, ‘Senna’ and ‘Attack the Block.’

      Is that really not an eclectic list? A couple of those were probably the best films of the year too. (Some really weren’t, granted.)

      • iucounu says:

        Who can forget 2011? The year in which David Cameron killed the UK Film Council, then lectured Britain’s filmmakers on the need to make commercially successful movies like The King’s Speech, which was funded by, er, the UK Film Council ($15M investment, grossed $235M.)

        The removal of Jeremy C. to the DoH possibly explains the DCMS’s change of heart over tax breaks for games.

  12. coffeetable says:

    Britishness you say? Well, 4X games are safe – they’re are all about invading other countries without provocation for their land and resources.

    • trjp says:

      It was said that the sun never sets on the Empire – because there was always somewhere in the world we ‘owned’ where it was daytime.

      What it really meant was that no-one trusts us in the dark… ;)

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      Smashbox says:

      *collar-pull*

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      In all honesty, I would love to see a game made about British Imperialism from the British perspective since all I ever see on that subject are Americans revolting *insert joke* and Chinese martial artists kicking arse. I suspect it would be pretty inflamatory stuff being the perspective of the unwanted overlord, but it could also be fascinating if handled maturely and as an honest part of world history.

      I seem to remember some CoD game having a segment from the “bad guys'” perspective, and that everyone exploded over it when it was new. That was interesting, no? (I never actually played it.) Taken to silliness, AvP2’s alien campaign was the best! :D …hmmm…satire could work without offending, I think.

    • Tim Ward says:

      Actually, the colonization of foreign nations was rarely achieved by anything as vulgar as an outright invasion. Common schemes involve setting up puppet rulers, offering to help defeat some rebels or something in exchange for a bit of land, manufacturer an incident of some kind then demanding land as recompense, just outright buying places or simply turning up and starting to live there.

      It was all frightfully clever

  13. unacomn says:

    You know, if my country suggested something like that, we would be accused of extremist nationalistic views and xenophobia.
    And no, that’s not a joke.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I don’t think it matters what country does it. The same accusations are being made about England.

      • ix says:

        No kidding, this obsession of the UK right-wing with foreigners is getting a bit pathetic. This is just another symptom of their attempt to blame minority groups for all the country’s problems.

    • Premium User Badge

      c-Row says:

      Well, I am pretty sure what would qualify for “Culturally German”, but we wouldn’t be allowed to buy those games anyway.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        fairly sure it’s Point and Clicks and industrial machinery simulators

    • holy socks says:

      This article seems to have created a great deal of misunderstanding, it really needs to be updated or deleted alltogether.

      The requirement that games or films show themselves to be “culturally British” is not because of any xenophobic or even patriotic ideas of our government but entirely down to EU regulations ( which I believe were brought in by the French to protect their film industry). If Britain wants to encourage games development with tax breaks then this is how we are required to do it under EU law, the fact that isn’t mentioned in the article makes it pretty damn misleading.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        It’s actually very common for the EU to support local cultures/languages/etc. with lots of subsidies. There might be an attitude of ‘oh noes, our culture!’ in the UK, thanks to righ-wing propaganda, but the EU is really very much about that.

    • Shooop says:

      I’m fairly sure everyone would.

      Unless you’re in a third world country. Because no one pays any attention to them.

  14. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Perhaps Dishonored will now be Dishonoured?

    • Emeraude says:

      Actually, given the overall artistic direction, I was kinda surprised they didn’t go with British spelling. Would have fit the game to a T.

      • Bioptic says:

        Surely you mean “to a Tea”!

        • Emeraude says:

          As a believer in the One True Religion of the Most Holy Coffee, no, I wouldn’t have meant that.

    • Kollega says:

      Arkane Studios, which made Dishonored, are based in France. I wouldn’t recommend hoping that they heed British ways of spelling the title of their game.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        Well as it is they’re spelling it the American way. I was sort of under the impression that these days the French were a lot more anti-American than they are anti-British, and anyway, from what I understand the setting is based at least partly on London.

        Perhaps they’ll change it to Dishonoured for the US market only, for the lulz.

        • Shooop says:

          As an American with a functioning sense of humor I’d find that hilarious.

        • Gasmask Hero says:

          Clearly they could promoting british culture by promoting the use of British English…so I think they could be in line for a tax break on that. All they have to do is delay the game for about a year or….

          …let’s not do that.

  15. Bishop says:

    For further reading, here is how a game is decided if it’s British enough on a scale of 0 – 30. http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/consultations/120927_VG_Condoc.pdf

    I’ve tried to work out if my game (Trash TV) is British enough to qualify and I’m a little lost. I was pleased to see that I still get some points for having a game not in any particular language or set in any place. I won’t have to open my game with “ello ello ello! Wot we got ere den?!”. I also scored points for being British. However I have no idea if I have a British innovation of gameplay in my game. I’d like to think shotgunning a toaster is fairly original but I don’t know if it’s particularly British.

    On a more serious note, the real fear for me comes in section D. Where you gain a point for each European citizen/resident in key role of the games creation. As I cover art, code and design and I guess at a stretch I manage stuff. Do I score 4 points for myself or am I only allowed one point per person? This is a serious issue as if I’m only allowed one I’ll reach a grand total of 13 points and fail, penalised for being an indie. However if I am allowed multiple points per head, then my game will just scrape through. Which still doesn’t seem that fair seeing as it’s made entirely in the UK by an entirely UK staff. But I guess it looks abit like Super Crate Box from the netherlands and abit like Super Meat Boy from America. So maybe it isn’t that British?

    • Emeraude says:

      Thanks for the link, won’t have to look for it tonight. A quick glance through it didn’t prove really reassuring.

    • Untruth says:

      “Produced mainly in the English language (including
      official Regional or minority languages of the UK)”

      So, any language then?

      • hypercrisis says:

        No, it means English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and Cornish.

    • NR says:

      Actually, using those criteria, games like GTA, F1, Worms etc would all qualify easily, given the weight attached to having UK based staff and doing the work in the UK. The people who seem most likely to get shafted are actually small indies, which is a bit of a shame really, as that’s where a lot of the innovation in the industry comes from.

    • Lenderz says:

      That document is awesome!

      “A2 – lead characters are British citizens or residents or of a nationality/species that
      cannot be determined ”

      So…… Lead Character can be literally ANYTHING.

      “Subject: does the production contribute to or reflect British cultural heritage, e.g. does
      the production explore a historical or imagined event whether or not set in the UK”

      HOW CAN THAT STATEMENT BE MORE VAGUE? Can be set anywhere, can be about anything and that contributes or reflects British heritage?

      • Bob_Bobson says:

        except a French stereotype.

        • The Godzilla Hunter says:

          “You can have a character of any nationality, so long as they are not bloody French”

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        phlebas says:

        There goes Broken Sword.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        By that standard, GTA is very British. I mean, it’s set in the United States, which is obviously highly related to British historical events (circa 1776).

        • Lenderz says:

          Well actually, the 1980s setting of GTA Vice City might mean that it does potentially qualify, its a take on historical events in a fictional area made by British coders……

          This is going to be interesting.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Hm…

      so I can get a tax break for a shallow but flashy (A4) game about a bloody pro-independence (B1) insurgency in Scotland (A1-A3), where the Glasweigan (A2, A5) main character is fighting waves of disabled (B3) ex-servicemen led by a reanimated Homunculus of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher (who has once more annulled the results of a referendum (B1, again)). The game can have an asymmetrical multiplayer mode where the sides respectively heal through drinking whisky and tea (B2).

      In the event of their being a shortage of suitable development staff (due to the fact that nobody can afford to go to uni in the South any more), I will hire* local alcoholics as ‘artistic consultants’, fulfilling A4 and D. I can make it in my bedroom (C) and thus my mortgage can be paid (which is lucky, due to collapsing house prices in my area after the great economy SNAFU).

      *well, not hire. Get as slaves from the ‘work free at Tesco or lose your benefit’ programme.

    • nobody says:

      In the film industry these sorts of tax breaks are generally about promoting employment/spending, encouraging a movie to shoot locally and thus to employ a bunch of people locally and to spend locally on all sorts of incidentals like restaurants, etc. So, sadly, it’s probably no accident that you’d be penalized for being a one-man-band. (Even the country-wide tax incentives that pay lip service to promoting national culture tend to require a certain percentage of key positions filled by citizens/nationals.)

    • Risingson says:

      This is so vague that it could actually be from any spanish goverment agency: vague enough to let the powers-that-be to decide what all these points mean, exactly, in every case, so the criteria isn’t applied equally in every case.

  16. Rahaks says:

    Instead of discussing how many fish’n chips should appear in a British game to apply for a tax break (same goes for baguettes in French games and burgers in American games), they’d better give that break to games not coming with shitloads of DLCs / DRM systems.

    In those days when you don’t even pay for a game, but for the right to play it when it appears to be online (lets say Diablo III for example), I feel like the stereotypes quota in said games is far from being the top priority.

    As a final word, I have to say I love how the guy on the first picture on this page somehow has a hand totally torn apart with two fingers glued to his halberd, but still with the greatest smile ever. Just saying xD

  17. Issus says:

    WASD – Movement (bumping into NPCs will automatically make player mumble apologies, however when the player has moved away they instead mutter insults)
    E – Interact (e.g. with the kettle/teapot)
    Q – Complain about the weather

    Overlays and decals must consist of predominantly “keep calm and *insert alternate phrase*” posters.
    If the map is open world then NPCs in the North and South must A) Have some form of rivalry between them, and B) Must have over the top, unintelligible accents.
    All hazards in the game must be clearly labelled, and in the event that the player is somehow killed the loading screen shown while respawning must include a personal injury advert.

  18. Premium User Badge

    emertonom says:

    Obligatory plug for “Poacher.”

  19. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    Looking forward to Cooking Mama: UK Edition featuring all those great British recipes. All three of them.

  20. Vorphalack says:

    Government initially proposes tax breaks to appear supportive of growth industry during a period of economic stagnation. However, government doesn’t really want to give any money away, so uses the ”culturally British” clause to exclude as many candidates as possible from tax exemption. Somebody is being paid far too much to produce a scheme that has no tangible impact. Politics, ho!

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      No, this test is required to avoid breaching EU state aid rules. It’s likely to be interpreted as widely as possible because the whole point of the tax break is to give the UK a competitive edge as a location for gaming businesses.

      • mondomau says:

        So why have they continually U-turned and back-tracked on the issue if they are so keen?

  21. Lenderz says:

    I for one look forward to a game where our protagonist has to make a pain staking decision to drive a car to his next mission waypoint but have to empty his wallet doing so and be in massively clogged roads or take public transport and it could have a sub quest where you get extra points for avoiding eye contact with anyone else.

  22. frightlever says:

    So, mainly games about football and curry?

    I thought the idea was to close down quangos, not create more of them.

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      “I thought the idea was to close down quangos, not create more of them.”

      Whatever gave you that idea? If it’s because some politicians said so and you believed them then you need to sit down with your naivety and have a nice long chat.

      • frightlever says:

        I had a long chat with my naivety. Turns out your arrogance is having an affair with your obnoxiousness and your remaining brain cell doesn’t know anything about it. Who knew my naivety was such a gossip?

    • Pindie says:

      You forgot a dozen or so “The Beatles” rhythm games.

  23. KaelWolfcry says:

    With all the speed cameras in your country (if talk is to be believed), then I suppose a racing game is out of the question.

    Honestly, this sort of adding a tax break to the books with some grey and ridiculously obtuse requirement in the way was, I thought, a uniquely American kind of political idiocy. I guess I should feel smug, but all I feel is the need to take a scalding hot shower.

  24. nicholaslovell says:

    Slightly disappointed that John didn’t talk to TIGA, UKIE or the government before making erroneous assumptions about the test

    /passiveaggressivecriticism

    The test is required to help get round the EU state aid rules, which make it difficult for governments to support individual industries at the expense of other EU states (as already mentioned).

    Culturally British doesn’t mean cor blimey Mary Poppins. It means did it use British skills and British people. Did it do bring expertise and creativity into Britain, not outsourcing it to China. It’s about making sure that the tax breaks help the British games industry, rather than transferring taxpayer money to Chinese outsourcers via a US corporations lobbying arm.

    Of course, it only exists because it is required under EU law, but it is nothing like the assumption that John made.

    • trjp says:

      Whilst that makes perfect sense – the words “culturally British” don’t mean what you said at all – not even remotely.

      If you’re going to use words, it’s generally best if other people share your interpretation of their meaning – otherwise you may-as-well bang your genitals on a walrus and expect people to understand what you’re saying…

      • nicholaslovell says:

        I get your point, but it’s the EU phrase, so we have to use it.

        • trjp says:

          My hovercraft is full of eels…

          My hovercraft is full of eels…

          Means

          “We wish to suspect fishing sanctions in the North Sea”

          ??

        • Lemming says:

          Wouldn’t ‘British sourced’ be more accurate and a lot less, well, jingoistic? Not many Thesauruses in No. 10, I guess.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        It’s pretty close to what the consultation document says. The government is the one at fault for picking that wording. And really, the government doesn’t seem especially worried that what it means by ‘culturally British’ doesn’t correspond with what lots of people assume that to mean. It, not the received opinion, gets to make these decisions.

        • trjp says:

          Governments do that – Tony Blair single-handedly redefined the word ‘respect’ to mean something you’re entitled to instead of something you earn.

          Then George Galloway redefined it to mean someone you’d have to be insane to vote for :)

    • frightlever says:

      Hmm. Sounds about right. And it also gives them the option to NOT give tax breaks to games they disapprove of. So the GTA games won’t qualify no matter what. But a Mickey Mouse game could. It’s very… political.

      • nicholaslovell says:

        Er, of course it’s political. It’s government money being given to fund a creative product.

    • Skabooga says:

      But if this is the case, won’t this tax break essentially just be used as a loophole to circumvent previously agreed upon trade laws? That honestly doesn’t sound much better.

      • nicholaslovell says:

        Basically yes. But the French have already got one, so we need to have one too, or so the argument goes

        • trjp says:

          But France is the only successful Communist state in the world – they have allsorts of stuff which protects their ‘culture’ including – but in no ways limited to – the right to burn sheep in trucks ;)

  25. trjp says:

    Does this mean Danny Boyle will have to play and approve all the games?

    All of thems???

  26. Premium User Badge

    wyrmsine says:

    Well, maybe it’s about time for a sequel to this sensitive and thoughtful examination of British culture.

    EDIT: … It wasn’t until I read the wiki article that I realized the game is meant to be set in the Netherlands. In my defense, not one of the people that I played it with ever realized this.

  27. Berzee says:

    So someone can make a “Napoleon of Notting Hill” game on the cheap now, right? I would love that to pieces.

  28. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    I think that you will find that no country has one, single, easily identifiable culture. (Granted, because the UK consists of several distinct countries with different histories, it is rather fragmented relative to its size). America, for instance, has dozens of subcultures. The culture of New York and Texas are hugely different. Even within states, people would have a hard pinning down a single culture. Sure, there are always broad strokes that unite the culture, and makes it, as a whole, different from other countries, but the culture of any given country will be so large and diverse, it is nigh on impossible to define it. Which is why trying to label something on a scale of how much it “follows” the culture is absolutely idiotic.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Well, like John says, it could lead to a fairly diverse list of games being counted, which would be cool. That said, I’m still making a game where you launch Big Ben rockets at each other, or race big red buses filled with Beefeaters.

  29. nicholaslovell says:

    BTW, I am one of the few people who have argued against tax breaks. These are my reasons:
    http://www.gamesbrief.com/2010/07/video-game-tax-breaks-short-term-gain-for-long-term-pain/

    • Emeraude says:

      Agreed on most points (not sure I do on the “games in boxes/games as products” divide, but that’s another matter).

      I think the only way I would find specific direct government help for the industry justified is as patronage for commercially non-viable – yet deserving – products.
      But then crowd-funding may be becoming the better solution for that (to be confirmed in 5 years).

    • Bart Stewart says:

      The “cultural” thing is fun to debate, but it’s not the part that actually matters. nicholaslovell has it exactly right — targeted tax breaks are a trap.

      Firstly, has what happened to 38 Studios when it crawled into bed with politicians already been forgotten?

      Second, here is what can be expected from tax breaks for computer game makers:

      Day One: Tax breaks for the games industry, hurrah!

      Day Two: Fill in forms. Fill in many forms (assuming your Form 21-z has been pre-approved).

      Day Three: Hire! Hire! Hire!

      Day Four: Say, that’s a nice game development studio you’ve got there. Be a real shame if something were to happen to it because you didn’t make sure all your employees voted the right way….

      Day Five: Listen, while we’re giving you these wonderful financial benefits, we’ve noticed that your game seems to have a lot of X in it. That could be offensive to some people [read: voters], so we’d like you to consider these teensy little design improvements. Right now, please.

      Day Six: Hi, we’re the new administration, and we’re getting rid of special tax breaks. Sorry if you let yourself become dependent on that to survive.

      Long-term, across-the-board rate cuts will do more good for more taxpayers than special benefits (that always come with strings attached) for today’s favored few. I will now hold my breath while I wait for any UK government to appreciate this point.

      [inhale]

      • wu wei says:

        Other than the names & intent of some forms, this is pretty much why there are so few Australian game developers anymore.

      • Cryo says:

        Firstly, has what happened to 38 Studios when it crawled into bed with politicians already been forgotten?

        They got millions of dollars of taxpayer cash?

        • Bart Stewart says:

          Not exactly.

          They spent money in the belief that they would have access to millions of dollars in taxpayer cash (as loan guarantees).

          Then that money source got taken away from them by the next administration, which caused other funding sources to dry up. The vision (and spending) predicated on all that money was unsustainable without it.

          That’s not too different from what happens to a lot of start-ups. What makes the 38 Studios case distinctive — and a clear warning that’s relevant to this discussion — is the amount of cash being spent in expectation of special benefits provided by one government that can be taken away (or used as a stick) by another.

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    So let’s see: the last series of Doctor Who had:

    1) An episode set on an alien planet.

    2) An episode set on an alien spaceship headed for Earth.

    3) An episode set in the Wild West.

    4) An episode set mostly in Britain!

    5) An episode set in New York City over a few time periods.

    Well that’s not very culturally British at all! It’s mostly American, or Alien, which is almost as bad!

    I demand the BBC be taxed higher until they set a majority of the episodes in the United Kingdom, or at least on UK-owned spaceships.

    P.S. On a more serious note, the real problem is too many goddamned taxes to begin with. When we moved to London, the same amount of money got us a house about half the size, gas cost over twice as much, and “value added tax” was over twice as much as any sales tax we’d seen in any American state. If the Nanny State wasn’t so busy bleeding U.K. citizens of every last cent, maybe U.K. citizens could afford to make games and films on their own!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I’d argue that tax in the US is too low, but eh.

      • derbefrier says:

        Its actually way to high in my opinion. Especially in the current economic situation. I’ll admit I am very conservative when it comes to these things though. but when our government is borrowing like 50 cents of every dollar(that may not be exact but it is stupidly high) they spend its not a tax issue but a spending issue. I cant remember the source but i read that even if the democrats got every tax increase they ever wanted it would hardly make any difference to the national debt simply because of mis managed entitlement programs along with a bloated government and out of control spending by both Dems and Republicans. I don’t know what the answer is but one thing i am sure of Obama had 2 years of a democrat controlled congress and senate and did nothing to lower the national debt and only added to it,more than any past president combined thanks to Obamacare. We just simply cant continue on this track Obama has put us on and he shows no signs of wanting to change so yeah, Obama turned me into a republican for this election. Its quite a strange thing to completely change how you perceive government I went from a hardcore liberal Democratt to a more of a libertarian(commonly referred to as a pot smoking republican, meaning fiscally conservative but liberal when it comes to social issues) one thing I know for sure the next 4 years are going to be interesting times for America.

        • TCM says:

          The best part about the upcoming election is that either choice will totally screw over our economy, but in different ways.

          • mickygor says:

            Barely different ways. Romney and Obama are practically identical, and even if they weren’t they’re both funded by the same corporate lobbies.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            That sounds like your typical ‘both sides are the same, so vote republican’ argument. Do you really think the last ten years had been the same if for example Al Gore had beaten Bush? Also, if you want to see a real difference in implemented policies, maybe you should make sure that the pres and congress are on the same side for a change, so they don’t cancel each other out. ;)

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            I wonder what difference Iraq made to the US. My bet is that Gore would have gone into Afghanistan but not Iraq. It off-balanced US foreign policy and cost a ton, as well as costing a huge number of lives, but it may have also had some side-effects in the Middle East, like scaring Saudi Arabia away from supporting Salafism (as well as aiding Iran in the short term, of course, but that seems to have worked out for the US in the end, assuming Assad goes, which he probably will).

            But yeah, Clinton was a classic small-government president (largely out of necessity), whereas Bush spent like crazy and tore a large hole in the surplus built up by Clinton after Reagan and Bush Senior built up debt (although it was the 2007 recession that really bummed everyone’s public debt in the gob). The idea of republicans being fiscal conservatives is a total myth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Debt_1901-2010.png

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          US taxes are lower than ever, so if that was the solution to any economic problems, the economy should be soaring.

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Good job George W Bush was such a fiscal conservative and did a lot to repair the damage done to the budget by Bill Clinton OWAIT.

          Obama’s spending policy was largely a continuation of Bush’s stimulus policy as a way of climbing out of the recession (there are varying opinions as to how well that’s worked, with some people arguing that much money has gone to shoring up banks rather than flushing into the economy and encouraging spending). It’s not really a question of Obama starting to nationalise the health industry – medicaid and medicare are already huge, and Bush expanded them, partly to win the elderly vote (strange how people vote for socialism when it’s in their interest). So claiming that Obama is irresponsible with government spending but the Republicans are not is a little crazy. The Republicans make a lot of noise about small government and giving human rights to corporations, but if they cut medicare they might as well immolate themselves in front of the Capitol for all the good it’d do to their election results. Sure, you could cut defence spending, but that would deny the US its ability to control the international economic system through its navy.

          Point is – the US government is about as small as it’s going to get, and any US politician who claims they can shrink it is a liar. And short of raising taxes or just defaulting on its debt, by 2040 mandatory spending will exceed federal revenue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GAO_Slide.png

          EDIT: I might have conflated quantitative easing and stimulus. I’m not an economist, so if I’m wrong, someone correct me.

          EDIT EDIT: I wonder whether this will mean that the US will be forced to screw over Goldman Sachs and its ilk at some point in the future if it has to default on its debt. What a delicious moment that would be.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Oh also house prices are high the UK because of population density. Nowt to do with the gubmint.

  31. Zorganist says:

    Most of the test seems to be concerned with making sure the developers are using British/European staff or services, which the vast majority of British developers will pass easily. There’s only the odd question which relies on nebulous cultural specifics. I’m still struggling to think of what a ‘British/European narrative structure’ is.

    All of which fails to explain the dreary state of the UK film industry- as far as I can tell, they should be able to make just about whatever they want, as long as they film on location in Italy and outsource the effects to an American company. Unless the film version has some other criteria requiring the setting to be a run-down council estate/ the Queen.

    • Zombie Jesus says:

      Traditional European-style stories have a definite and (somewhat) separate beginning, middle, and end that are ordered one after the other, as opposed to, say, traditional African-style stories, which are arranged in a more cyclical manner.

  32. Delusibeta says:

    Considering when the tax break was originally proposed by Labour it also had the “only for culturally British games” clause in it, I wasn’t upset when the Tories initially scrapped it since it would have benefited at most a dozen companies and I’m not surprised that the Tories have kept the clause when they brought the proposal back.

  33. DiamondDog says:

    Jim must be happy.

  34. zachforrest says:

    If you read the consultation, the department is mainly looking to encourage games of cultural value. DCMS idea of britishness is incredibly broad, as shown by the recent GREAT britiain campaign.

    The new SoS doesn’t care about culture anyway, so it’ll only get canned.

    Point is, the department operates with a light touch and is very inclusive with its idea of britishness

    • MiniMatt says:

      Yeah, suspect this also.

      Guessing the prime reason for the “britishness” caveat is because you just know at some point some bozo from his bedroom will release “Wife Beater XL” or “Kiddie Fiddler Professional” and then go asking for his tax break. It gives the Dept. an easy way to say “feck off” and avoid newspapers asking “why is this sick filth being rewarded” etc.

  35. jonfitt says:

    Tax breaks should be given to encourage companies to bring money to the country through investment. You encourage industries you want to guide the economic development of an area. A vibrant British games industry will form its own cultural niche. The bedroom coders of the 8-but era produced some incredibly British games with no government intervention.

    Dictating the content of the media is unnecessary meddling that is bordering on censorship for no useful purpose.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Encouraging one thing is not forbidding another thing.

  36. MOKKA says:

    And I always thought Germany was the country of unnecessary, arbitrary regulations that don’t make any sense at all.

  37. Axyl says:

    Does this mean that Tower Defense games would count?

    Seems pretty damn accurate considering this countries invasion / attempted invasion history over the years..

    Also.. RISK. Again, seems pretty accurate. Does historically british count?

  38. Premium User Badge

    JamesTheNumberless says:

    I can confirm, we have indeed just had a round of high-fives here at Firefly.

  39. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I eagerly await Alex Salmond’s new policy on tax breaks for games which involve the wanton murder of Sassenachs, puzzle games involving rerouting oil pipelines to Scotland and sims in which you must make Scotland more like a Scandinavian country.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      Don’t forget the missions where you clear all the forests to make wind farms!

    • DarkMalice says:

      If we’re fortunate in 2014 then we’ll be able to apply our own tax breaks, without needing to include the word ‘British’ in any of it.

      Saor Alba.

  40. MiniMatt says:

    Actually, Grand Theft Auto is about as iconically British as you can get.

    It features drive by shootings – just like any UK metropolis, wanton violence – or kicking out time on a Saturday night, and you can even go batshit mental to the Plod whilst sat on a bicycle – just like public school educated right honourable members of parliament.

    Ok, so the voice actors in GTA all speak a bit funny, but come on – Birmingham?

  41. Lagwolf says:

    Considering the bad guys are almost always voiced by a British-voiced actor surely this is not a problem.

  42. MythArcana says:

    Get Tony Blair back, he’ll fix it.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      but we have Tony Blair… it’s just right now he’s been split into 3 people, each as ineffectual as the last

  43. YourMessageHere says:

    So as a government, you can’t help the industries of your own countries with tax breaks except if they’re producing things that are in a category that cannot be sensibly defined. Despite this being your own money you’re forfeiting.

    Rather than messing about and meekly abiding by the EU ruling that includes this stupid proviso, why are the government not fighting in the European Parliament for it to be repealed? This is precisely the kind of wrongheaded legislation that makes people dislike Europe.

    I believe in the idea of Europe, and I still think a united Europe is the best chance member states have of not being totally sidelined in modern world politics/economics. This sort of thing is basically counter to that, and while each of these annoyances is merely a little thing for most people, there’s so many that it turns people off the idea of the EU at a basic ideological level. We need EU legislation that makes people want to be part of the EU, and this totally isn’t it.

    This whole anticompetitivity thing needs to go, in my view. Given that competition and unrestrained market behaviour is what’s basically caused the whole economic cockup, perhaps it’s time for a scaling back of the sanctity of competition.

    So, how about: you ARE allowed to help industries in your own country with tax breaks if you want, given that you’re forfeiting your own tax to do it – provided that 1) you still pay your dues to the EU and its members, whatever they may be, 2) you have clearly defined rules about how your tax breaks work (i.e. not based on indefinable qualitative value judgements), and 3) the process is totally transparent to all?

  44. Hoaxfish says:

    Nah mate I is well muzz’d, I is gonna make this game right, and it’s gonna be fucking narshty wid dem guns and tings, cause dat’s like culturol british aint it

    Also Fable is the last game I can think of where it felt “culturally british” (what with the accents, and chicken chaser)

  45. wiper says:

    I’m not racist but, to be quite frank, if you want money from Our Government then it had better espouse the cultural values of Our Fair Isles’ indigenous peoples.

    By which I obviously mean the Beaker People. MORE ANCIENT POTTERY IN OUR GAMES.

  46. Brun says:

    The United Kingdom looks increasingly likely to be snapped in two in the near future

    Wait, what? Someone explain this to a poor yank unfamiliar with politics on the other side of the pond . What part of the UK wants to split and become its own entity? (My guess would be Scotland but this is the first I’ve heard of anything like this).

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yep, Scotland is the closest to “independence”, with people talking about a referendum etc to see if the population wants it.

      As with these things, there are amusing economic issues (e.g. people saying this newly made country of “Scotland” would owe the UK a load of money, and that they want to still use the UK £) and “societal” issues (e.g. they want to keep the Queen as their monarch).

      There’s also some other stuff, like Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland having their own mini-governments, while England just have to go along with whatever the main government policies are (i.e. some English wants it’s own mini-government)… unhelped by the fact that a lot of politicians are Scottish (Gordon Brown is the most prominent example)

      Of course, there’re the other issues of general racism/immigrant culture clash/political correctness gone mad/etc.

  47. zeekthegeek says:

    I am going to blow you guys away with Kinect Morris Dancing Central. Mark my words.

  48. Jamesworkshop says:

    gears of politeness

    GTA Surrey

    Richard Dawkins invents the anti-god sim genre

    The Satanic verses vs street fighter

    Abu Hamza’s Pro fishing

    Cooking mama: Nigella’s kitchen

    monster raving loony party: Battle for Suburbia

    Heavy Rain (wait a minute)

    I think lots of idea could be made, restrictions are what make sonnets so inventive.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Abu Hamza’s Pro Fishing is cruel and amazing, congratulations sir.

  49. Squishpoke says:

    DOSH, GRAB IT WHILE IT’S HOT LADS

  50. Metonymy says:

    Ctrl-F for “white.” 0 results. Wot?

    How you boys liking that cultural enrichment? Are you enjoying the fruits of marxism? Enjoying the onset of forced immigration with absolutely no imperative or request from the indigenous population? How about the incrimination of all dissent?

    It’s quite a jump from repelling the undivided military attention of Rome for 7 years, huh?

    I shouldn’t be talking, we’ve been doing even worse, over here in the land of the free.