Can Politicians Take Games Seriously?

On Monday night, I tried my best to look like a respectable member of society and popped along the Houses of Parliament to attend Labour MP Tom Watson‘s discussion about the place and perception of videogames in UK society. A gathering of politicians, educators, games industry folk and random interested onlookers (hullo!), it was a fascinating few hours. Given the knee-jerk hullabaloo we’re so used to from mainstream media coverage of games, it was surprising to the point of surreality to be amidst politicians, hearing discussion of the form on the sort of level we have, say, here. Obviously, games have some distance to go to obtain to achieve full societal acceptance – even though that has clearly little-to-no effect on the ever-escalating success of the bigger titles – but that this kind of discussion is at least happening is a cheering sign.

Lead brains in the discussion were Watson himself (though he was clearly pro-games, he was more an MC than active participant); journalist, author and World of Warcraft gonk Tom Chatfield, one half of the legendary Oliver twins (creators of Dizzy, now running Blitz Games), Philip, and Guardian columnist Sam Leith. While the Tory’s Shadow Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey showed up late in proceedings, sadly the debate lacked anyone who seemed especially concerned that there might be negative moral and social implications to gaming. Don’t get me wrong – I’m enormously glad to hear politicians being rational and positive about the industry, but given the opportunity of the event, it’s a little disappointing that it seemed to be a matter of preaching to the converted.

While it would be beyond joyous to see Kieth Vaz engage in some real debate on the matter, I’m sure he’s fully aware that to genuinely discuss rather than simply accuse would only reveal his massive ignorance about that which he so often attacks. The constituents wouldn’t like that. But I had hoped we’d at least see some lower-profile but similarly intractable Games Are Killing Our Children types see how their damning opinions held up in the face of a room full of intelligent, clearly non-psychotic adults who play videogames. Never mind: we did at least enjoy some eloquent discussion as to what games are, and what they mean. Even if everyone was on the same side, it was a valuable opportunity to focus their arguments.

Chatfield, author of Fun Inc., kicked off with the addiction issue, immediately making the point that “people talk about addiction rather than compulsion.” That’s the key fallacy in any argument as to whether games are unhealthy – playing them does not create a chemical dependency. “It’s simply wrong to say that games exert power over people. The power comes from the investment people are willing to make in an imagined world.” Also referenced was the relationship videogames have to “a very old form of games”, and even to the novel – a source of escapism, of being plunged temporarily into an imagined world rather than paying full attention to the outside one, but one that doesn’t suffer the abuse games do.

Watson’s theory as to why the industry still struggles to achieve societal legitimacy is that “we need a new language so we can win the argument about games.” I.e. rather than responding to the regular accusations that games are addictive and incite violence with simple rebuttals, we find ways of explaining what games really are, and why we play them.

One-time Codemasters superstar Philip Oliver’s argument for games to looked on more kindly by politicians was a business one, pointing out how much money can be made with the help of games. Apparently a series of small games Blitz created for a Burger King promotion saw the fast food firm’s profit rise by some 40% in that quarter. “There’s a lot of governments in the world taking this seriously. Currently in the UK, there is no support for the videogames industry.” His concern was that American and Japan dominate games, and that Britain should be up there too – the government funding the industry in the way they do the arts.

And not purely for commercial reasons: “what we need is centralised budgets to commission great games that can be used in the classroom.” As well as the directly educational potential, he felt pupils were being unfairly and irrationally warned off getting into games development because teachers didn’t consider it a proper career. There’s a great need for more programmers, he thought, and current curricula aren’t serving that well. But home enthusiasm, rather than condemnation, is important too: “Parents should encourage kids to turn their interest in games into a career.” While there was some later rebuttal from educationists in the crowd, who felt games were in some cases being cleverly deployed in the classroom, I’m pretty sure Oliver’s correct in appealing to politicians in financial terms. Speculation has it that Modern Warfare 2 has been profitable than Avatar; it’s openly absurd that gaming is denied the support and funding that film benefits from.

Journalist Sam Leith’s opening salvo was against the media. “There is only one story – the violence in videogames. That sort of hysteria has the effect of creating what it deplores – it feeds into the marketing.” He felt Modern Warfare 2 wouldn’t have been as successful if it was had the papers not picked up on and howled about the controversial, civilian-killing No Russian level. “You can’t help but suspect [Infinity Ward] put that in to gain attention.” He feels neither the games industry’s critics nor the games industry itself are always behaving well, the latter continuing to bark up lowest-common-denominator or controversial trees because it knows it’ll win headlines for it: “childishness in direct response to the childishness with which they’re understood.”

Still, he felt gamers aren’t seeing violence, as such, when they play violent games. “Johnathon Wendell [Fatality] played Quake with all the blood and guts turned off, because it ran faster that way. What was going through his head when he played was not what people thought.” This was a recurrent theme throughout the discussion – the idea that an onlooker’s perception of gamers’ behaviour (i.e. that they’re either murderous or completely tuned out from reality) is a far cry from the constant, amazing cyclone of imagination and narrativisation of the on-screen image that’s really occurring in their brains.

He also brought up the argument that “you could play GTA 4 for hundreds of hours without running anyone over”, but I always feel that’s a counter-productive line to take, and really is gamers/game-makers lying to themselves. We do buy GTA because the virtual, compartmentalised transgression is thrilling, not because we want to go for a leisurely drive – there’s really no point in pretending otherwise. It’s much more important to correct the perception that all we’re doing in something like that is repeatedly and mechanically running over or shooting people: that it’s a complex array of prescribed narrative, player-created on-the-fly narrative and tests of skill. We don’t need to say it’s something it’s not – but we do need to say what it is beyond the obvious virtual sociopathy element. We need to explain why we play, not simply say that we have the right to play. He went into this to some extent with the idea of WoW being a cathedral: “it’s architectural, a space to tell a story in.”This is why the idea that a game is like a film is incorrect: it’s the creation of an adventure, not simply the consumption of an image.

Still, he rightly pointed out that those outside the industry tend to perceive games wrongly – lumping everything together, instead of seeing the huge differences between genres. “WoW has nothing to do with Wii Tennis, Halo has nothing to do with Spore.” But, to many outsiders and critics, a game is a game is a game. Now’s the time, he felt, for the industry and gamers to refine their defence against their accusers, moving on from the outspoken outrage and flamboyancy of the last couple of decades. We’ve fought loudly for attention, for the right to exist, and now we’ve got it – because games really have moved into the mainstream now – we need to do it artfully.

Next was a round of enlightening audience comments, which included the MP for Rochdale revealing he once developed a game called Their Finest Hour, and stating that while it was important to reinforce the idea that games are trivial pursuits, responding to “all games are not okay” with “all games are okay” is over-simplifying the matter. I agree, frankly – we need to specifically hold up and explain what’s good in gaming rather than simply refute all attacks. Until we make it absolutely clear that we don’t accept all games ourselves, that the genuinely reprehensible stuff is not something we want or approve of, anti-gaming lobbyists will still be able to hold up horrific stuff like Rapelay and claim it’s representative of the entire industry.

Shadow Culture minister Ed Vaizey then offered a welcome but rather generalised thumbs-up for gaming from the Conservatives. “I find it bizarre that we have a film council but we don’t have a videogames council.” He admitted that games weren’t being taken seriously by politicians, but “After the next election, regardless of the outcome, I think we’ll see that change very quickly.” It’s refreshing to hear a right-wing minister be relatively down with games, but there was a sense that he’d be similarly positive about pretty much any industry. Here and now, with an election (and election funding) looming, is not the time for a big party to be rocking any boats they don’t need to. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but it did seem a bit “I heartily endorse this service and/or product” rather than specifically addressing any of the issues.

A few more audience comments, before ELSPA’s Michael Rawlinson tackled the thorny issue of game ratings: the room’s general sentiment is that the BBFC, the current game certification body in the UK, isn’t terribly well-suited to the task, being traditionally a film-certifying body rather than a games one. Power in this regard should be restored to the game-specific body PEGI. But, returning to a theme Sam Leith had brought up earlier, he thinks gamers and the games industry need to adjust their arguments. “It’s about having the confidence that games are part of our cultural world. We need to stop being hurt little gamers and just be normal people who are confident in what we do.”

An affirming discussion, then, but again – it’d be fantastic to see what happens were such folk able to put their arguments directly to the people who decry gaming at large as bad news. Hopefully, the right honorable Tom Watson will be able to arrange follow-up debates in which that happens. It’s great that this is happening in the seat of British politics – it’s real progress.

Dave Tosser says: As our chosen leaders and genetic superiors with only our best interests at heart, it’s important that politicians tell us whether or not we should play videogames. That way, we can be absolutely sure no-one is murdering anyone as a result of playing Bejewelled, or maiming children after playing Nintendogs. I for one would trust the opinion of any politician, even if it completely differed from what the last politician had told me. I do like custard.


  1. Thirith says:

    Interesting entry – but what’s the point of that Dave Tosser guy, beyond broad, facile and quite frankly boring satire? Does anyone actually like the Tosser bits at the end of new entries?

    • DrGonzo says:

      This one wasn’t very funny. But many of the others have been.

    • Vitamin Powered says:


      I believe it has something to do with this: link to

      I actually like them; not sure how relevant they’ll always be though :-)

    • Sam says:

      Ah, see, like most sensible people I don’t read Gamespy, so the reference whooshed right over my head.

    • qrter says:

      RPS just haven’t found the right balance yet – some posts can do with such a comment block joke thingy, others (like this particular one) don’t need it.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I like them, they remind me of early PCGUK. Also, we were linked to Gamespy earlier to read their ubisoft announcement. If you read the ‘lil comment at the end of that, you’ll better understand the role of Tosser.

    • qrter says:

      I understand where it comes from, it’s just that it’s already starting to come across as forced. I’d say use Tosser when you actually have something funny/insightful to add, not just because you started doing him.

    • Tyrmot says:

      haha dave is an absolute legend long may he reign.

      That gamespy link is interesting, obviously because now I get the joke and also for the astonishing fact that it actually reads more tosserish than big Dave himself.

    • Malcolm says:

      I was unaware of Gerald from Gamespy; the comments reminded me more of Insincere Dave of Digitiser fame.

    • the wiseass says:

      Tosser is one of the many reasons why I love this Site so much. Only our tallest leaders are able to cold bloodedly pull such a thing off :)

    • Bonedwarf says:

      ” Vitamin Powered says:

      I believe it has something to do with this: link to

      WOW! What a douche that guy over there is. The “benefits” of the system? You mean what we all USED to get when we bought games?

      Whenever I see someone touting the “benefits” of DRM, I tune out because they’re clearly bought and paid for by the industry.

    • Pod says:

      I always assumed it was a digitiser reference of some sort. But then again, I think everything is a digitiser reference of some sort.


    • Lambchops says:

      Oh how I miss Insincere Dave. And Mr T.

    • Martin Edelius says:

      I *love* Dave Tosser! I’m going through all entries just to read “the Tosserisms” at the end of them.

  2. Monchberter says:

    I attended the first Gamer’s Voice meeting and collared the Culture Minister on tax breaks for films and not games.

    Sadly i couldn’t make this meeting. All looks interesting

  3. Sam says:

    Thirth: I dunno. Obviously, he’s a parody of a particular kind of commenter, but I agree that the parody is especially broad.

    In any case, on topic: I think it says more that MPs were prepared to turn up to such a meeting than anything else. Tom Watson appears to be anomalously sensible about games for a politician, but still, can you imagine this happening five years back?

    • Rich says:

      Up ’till now I thought he was supposed to be the voice of the games industry’s megacoprs. So far his comments have reminded me of the head of IW.

    • Noc says:

      Alternately, the parody is extremely specific.

    • Rich says:

      Like Sam in the post further up, I don’t read gamespy and I missed the specific reference given earlier today. My bad.

  4. zipdrive says:

    Hey, if you brits can do this, there’s no reason the MPs here in Israel can have a thoughtful, serious discussion too….in fifty years or so.


    • Pseudonym says:


      While it’s true that Israel’s MPs are not great when it comes to civil discourse, at least no one here cares a whit about video games. In fact, I think that we care a too litte about video games around here.
      I don’t know how I feel about seeing 13 year olds buy GTA, and I never saw anyone at a games store in Israel mention age ratings.

    • zipdrive says:

      Yeah, we’re so far behind the curve that we aren’t even really into the “OMG the games make children into killers!” phase.

    • dog says:

      i think sending your kids to the army for 3 years kind of does that :)

      (please don’t take this as an anti-israeli dig… i’ve been living here (in israel) for the last 10 years and have an israeli wife)

      my point is your average 18 yr old in the uk has never even seen a real gun… in israel your average 18 yr old is handed an M-16…

  5. Jacques says:

    Dave Tosser is a very clever man.

  6. Optimaximal says:

    On Monday night, I tried my best to look like a respectable member of society

    Pictures, or it BLATANTLY didn’t happen.

  7. Monkeybreadman says:

    Does it make you sad that you are also preaching to the converted?

  8. MarkSide says:

    Thanks for keepin’ us informed. Appreciated!

  9. Caleb says:


    It seems to be a parody of the commentary the GameSpy writers put at the end of news stories (such as Vitamin Powered’s link).

    • Thirith says:

      Ah, thanks. Even with this in mind, though, he seems to boil down to “Stupid commentators are stupid”. Ah well, it’s not as if he isn’t easily ignored.

  10. the wiseass says:

    Well soon most politicians will be gamers too and the whole situation will change for the better I hope. It just needs time I guess.

    • Lack_26 says:

      the wisearse: What do you want to bet that half of them wont be, they’ll be the sort of politicians who weren’t allowed computer games in Eton, so will regard them with disdain and much the same attitude of their mentors.

    • the wiseass says:

      @Lackey: Maybe you are right, I cannot predict the future yet. But I can look at the past. In the beginning, rock n’ roll an the radio were the devil. Shortly after, television took the role of the social scapegoat and now it’s video games. With time all these things became largely accepted and I guess the same will happen to games.

      Surprisingly, all these debates are mostly a non-issue in my country (Luxembourg). I can’t remember any politician in the last 5 years condemning video games. Actually, there is no discussion about them at all as it hardly seems to matter on the political agenda. And you know what? I agree with this. Most problems with video games are artificial in nature, they are created by people too stubborn to go with the times.

  11. qrter says:

    Am I a bad person for misreading ‘titles’ in “even though that has clearly little-to-no effect on the ever-escalating success of the bigger titles” as saying ‘titties’?

  12. Lilliput King says:

    “Johnathon Wendell [Fatality] played Quake with all the blood and guys turned off”

    Incredible he did so well, really.

    EDIT: Good article!

  13. Colthor says:

    “On Monday night, I tried my best to look like a respectable member of society and popped along the Houses of Parliament”
    I bet you stuck out like a sore thumb.

  14. EthZee says:

    Ahhh, Tom Watson. His stance of videogames is to be admired, as well as his other obvious advantages.

  15. Psychopomp says:



  16. manveruppd says:

    lol @ the fact that nearly a third of the comments are about Dave Tosser rather than the feature itself. I can see Alec crying into his hands from here. :)

    On topic:

    @ Alec: Did you by any chance notice whether people mostly referred to games as “videogames” or “computer games” or just “games”? Or did it vary? The reason I’m asking is because I thought Sam Leith came very close to articulating part of the main reason why there’s such a stigma attached to videogames with his “not all games are the same” comment. I think that’s got a lot to do with the image someone playing a game presents to an onlooker: fixated on the monitor, concentrated, usually silent, nearly motionless. It looks very antisocial to an observer, like the gamer’s being mesmerised by some evil mind-controlling flashing TV images.

    I’m thinking it might help dispel that image if people dropped the prefixes and started referring to them as just “games”. It’s ridiculous to bunch them all together when they’re so different, and when many of them as so similar to traditional (ie. not computer-based) kinds of games that don’t suffer the same kind of stigma at all. Why should Doom and Solium Infernum be both “videogames”? Because they’re both set in hell? Clearly the latter is more similar to Risk than to Doom. And, conversely, Wolfenstein is more similar to Doom than it is to Risk even though both are set during WWII.

    Basically all I’m saying is that people should look at the content, not the medium.

    • Monchberter says:

      “the image someone playing a game presents to an onlooker: fixated on the monitor, concentrated, usually silent, nearly motionless. It looks very antisocial to an observe”

      Sounds a lot like reading to me. God those ‘books’ are terrible things. Full of murder and vice and all sorts of depravity. Ban them.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Someone did say pretty much that, but alas my notes for that bit proved indecipherable.

  17. DuncanF says:

    Great read, thanks.

  18. Rosti says:

    Who put journalism in my RPS? Excellent work, Alec.

    Next time though, bring along KG in his JC Denton disguise and you’ll appear far more respectable. Or stick out less.

  19. President Weasel says:

    “the room’s general sentiment is that the BBFC… isn’t terribly well-suited to the task”

    I always found them competent, level-headed and reasonable. It’s hardly their fault that the legislation they work under predates video games.
    I believe the government are still moving forward with the plan that came out of the Byron report, which will make PEGI the sole game ratings body in the UK (with the Video Standards council providing the statutory clout). No idea when it’s going to happen though; if they published a timetable it’s passed me by entirely.

  20. CMaster says:

    Did anyone raise the idea of giving gamers better consumer protection?
    Seriously, I think our best hope against insane DRM is to try and legislate it away, seeing as buying/not buying isn’t going to convince anyone

  21. Hamish Todd says:

    @ President Weasel and the article:

    Yeah, David Cooke was actually a cool guy. I did a public debate with him, which can be listened to here: link to he seems actually to rather regret banning Manhunt 2, and warns that PEGI are going to be harsher. He also has a tremendous amount of respect for games in general.

  22. Carra says:

    The No Russian mission felt completely out of place in CoD. But it sure did get the game a lot of media. Bad media is still media.

    Games are probably going more and more mainstream as we age. Those who are now thirty grew up with a console. So sooner or later the politicians themselves will have or still play games.

  23. GYAD says:

    “It’s refreshing to hear a right-winger be relatively down with games…”

    Wait, wot?

    Sam Leith is a Telegraph/Evening Standard hack as well as working for the Guardian and Keith Vaz is a Labour MP (be thankful he wasn’t there, I’ve suffered through the tortuous hours of a meeting with him and never wanted to repeat the experience). There’s tons of Rightie videogamers: James Delingpole springs immediately to mind. What we’re really talking about is that the Daily Mail has a frequent moral outrages about videogames whilst the Grauniad has tons of videogame coverage. But that pattern doesn’t hold true of the majority of righties or lefties.

  24. Jimbo says:

    I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the suggestion Infinity Ward were pandering to controversy. Once you reach the pinnacle, cheap stunts like that are just counter-productive. They certainly don’t need that kind of attention for Call of Duty to succeed and nonsense like that just cheapens the brand. It’s the same reason ‘A-List’ celebrities manage to remember their knickers when they go out. Were they trying to shock the player? Absolutely. But nothing about how it was handled suggests to me that they were chasing cheap publicity.

    I do agree to some extent that we need to stop acting like ‘hurt little gamers’. I don’t agree with the negative language necessarily, because for a long time that was exactly the battle that needed to be fought. Gaming didn’t just get handed the kind of popularity and acceptance it enjoys today; we all had to nurture it for years and constantly justify it. Maybe the Glorious Gaming Future that we all imagined didn’t turn out exactly how we might have liked, but we got there nonetheless. But anyway, I do agree that gaming is now strong enough to stand on it’s own two feet without us all needing to feel like ambassadors all the time. If Mr. Joe Public still doesn’t like gaming, well, whatever – there are more than enough of us now to survive indefinitely, regardless of what he thinks about it.

    Maybe a few politicians and editors haven’t realised yet, but I believe we are comfortably beyond the tipping point where bad-mouthing games can be used for populist vote-grabbing or cheap sales.

  25. sonofsanta says:

    @Malcolm: Precisely the comparison I had in mind. I almost want it to be hidden behind a big REVEAL button to flash up in green text.

  26. Kelron says:

    Unfortunately it’s now emerging that all games make kids violent, not just violent ones.

    link to

    • flashgames says:

      sorry but i think thats completely crap!
      Where’s the link that playing fifa 09 makes you stab your dad in the neck????

      Mentally ill kids will always do crazy things!

      From the sounds of that article the kid has some serious mental problems…..

  27. cjlr says:

    That’s exactly how it felt to me. No Russian was – as fairly eloquently explained on this very site – what might once have been a fairly decent idea which was botched terribly and then thrown into the winds of the media.

    Let’s review: your character has gone undercover with terrorists. Said terrorists begin executing hostages. You can join in or not, to no effect. You CANNOT, under any circumstances, attempt to interfere or alter the goings-on. And then you’re all killed at the end of the sequence anyway.
    It would have played out exactly the same if your character wasn’t there. That means it fails as narrative. I grant, it would have been shocking had it been a scene in a movie about, oh, ninety years ago, but in a game, and today?

    • Jimbo says:

      I felt like it was fairly eloquently misunderstood and most just rolled with it because bashing MW2 was the order of the day.

      On the contrary, the attack wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t there. Your being left there was the sole reason for the attack.

      It was absolutely critical to the continuation of the storyline that you didn’t try and stop the attack. Granted, it’s a totally artificial limitation to place on your actions, but no more so than any other mission that tells you “You must do X to continue”. Your not wanting to do X doesn’t come into it.

      The entire theme of the game is “Blind patriotism is bad” – not trying to stop the attack is your character’s act of blind patriotism and everything that comes after it is the repercussion of that action. If you stopped – or even just tried to stop – the attack, you destroy the illusion Shepherd and Makarov are trying to create and the war never happens, subverting the theme and rendering the rest of the game redundant. They’d have just had to stop the game and pop up a message saying “Well done, you did the right thing and stopped the war from happening. Good job.”

      Unless you believe the dodgy No Russian video leak was instigated by Activision, I don’t understand what you mean when you say it was ‘thrown into the winds of the media’. To me it seems clear that they wanted it to remain totally unknown until it was actually in the hands of gamers. If they were really going for controversy, I think they would have made a much better job of it. They barely addressed it before launch, and only then because the out-of-context leak forced their hand.

  28. Pod says:


    Should rape-kill games be banned, for the same reason that snuff films are?

    • Tei says:

      I don’t know. But drawing stuff you are not damaing people, and sould be protected by the free speech laws/rights, imho.

    • cjlr says:

      No. Why would they be?
      Turn it around: why are the films banned? If there’s a competent ratings system in place (because it would be far, far too much to assume that minors always have a guardian’s oversight and said guardian is infinitely knowledgeable on all media) then slap the highest one on it and get to business.

      Unless you mean the urban legend variety of snuff films where it’s actual footage of murders, then I guess that’s justifiable.

  29. JasPurewal says:


    I’m not sure if you’ll read this thread but, just in case – hello, I was also at Taking Games Seriously on Monday (serious looking blue suit and glasses I was), I did walk around talking to people in pub afterwards, shame I didn’t bump into you to compare notes on the spot.

    Anyway, I understand that Tom Watson is keen to have more of these sessions. If and when there is another one afoot, I will let you know via Twitter.

    link to

  30. Tom says:

    I geuss the answer is no then.

  31. Vanderdecken says:

    You gotsed linked by Tom Watson: link to

    And The Tech Lounge: link to

    Conga rats on a great article as well – it’s nice to see RPS taking time out for journalism of the kind you’d expect to pay money for, I dunno, a magazine for. Thanks!

  32. Phil Carlisle says:

    Well said jimbo.

    But I think the games industry also has a responsibility to start making games in a more mature and thoughtful manner too. I’ve experienced a lot of industry “designers” who clearly have almost no grasp of the power of their chosen medium. I watched a video on gametrailers recently from the creators of Mass Effect 2 and they were talking about the “emotion” of mass effect and how it was almost like a science fiction novel from the likes of Asimov. Which if you actually play the game is clearly not the case.

    I read books by real creative people (recently about acting and theatre) and came to the conclusion that the games industry at large lacks a lot of critical reflection. It’s largely a sort of back-slapping “yeah we made money!” kind of feeling I get from most industry discussion. That’s not to say there arent thinkers in the industry, after all the majority of people in the industry are incredibly bright. But we need a shift in thinking away from the production-as-everything mentality towards a more mature viewpoint that really considers the game as a peice of culture.

    Some day.

    • Jimbo says:

      I see where you’re coming from and have issues with it myself. If I may re-use a post from a similar discussion (about the ability or lack of for games to be both ‘AAA’ and ‘artistic’) we had on another forum a couple months ago:

      ‘I guess a few still slip through the net from time to time and manage to achieve both – such as Bioshock – but for the most part you are right. The budgets involved with achieving the – almost essential – technical parity required to sell, mean that there is as little risk-taking as possible. Anybody can sit down and write the next best-selling book for next to nothing, if they’re talented enough. Movie directors often form their careers by making blockbusters and then using the proceeds to film the arty movies they really want to be making, then another blockbuster and so on. That doesn’t happen in gaming; our most talented developers just get ‘acquired’ as soon as they prove themselves and then set to producing blockbuster after blockbuster on a video game assembly line. There’s nothing wrong with popcorn games, but there’s something wrong with only getting popcorn games out of the top of the market, which is where we are right now.

      The lack of risk-taking isn’t just a problem for artistic merit, it’s also a problem for innovation. This is one of the main reasons why it was and is so short-sighted of people to stick the knife into PC gaming at every opportunity. Virtually all of the most popular developers today made their name on the PC and then used that as a platform to expand from. Why? Because a studio could form, compete and get noticed there a lot easier than they could anywhere else, and quality could sell without spending millions on marketing. You have to already be successful to be successful on the consoles.

      The PC market has been chipped away at over the last decade to the point where it is too weak for that to happen anymore – so I ask, where are the next most popular developers going to come from? Where is it now even possible for a new developer to start up and overhaul Infinity Ward, in the same way that Infinity Ward started up on the PC and eventually overhauled EA’s MoH franchise? Two years ago Infinity Ward released the ground-breaking CoD4 and nobody has come close to competing with it since then. Now they have released the virtually identical MW2 – and why wouldn’t they, they have no competition to worry about? In two years from now they’ll release the virtually identical MW3 and still nobody will be close to competing with them – there is simply nowhere left where competition can start up, innovate and force them to respond. A strong PC market was the main driving force in moving the industry forward, yet gamers have revelled in it’s demise without a thought for the consequences – now gaming can only move forward as and when the console manufacturers decide it can, which, given that it’s far more profitable for them to let it stagnate, won’t happen any time soon.

      I feel like we’re slipping into the same rut cinema did when a handful of studios controlled every aspect of everything that got made – and I can’t see where our Lucas, Coppola or Spielberg is going to come from to end it. Bungie could be, but so far they’ve just carried on with what they were doing anyway.’

      (Here is the (dead) thread if you’re interested. I especially enjoyed the first post and the first reply: link to )

  33. Ed Vaizey says:

    Yes you’re being cynical – I’ve been banging on aboiut games for three years. And I love the fact you think politicians shouldn’t be positiove about the industries they’re meant to be representing!

    • TeeJay says:

      It’s good to see a real-life MP posting on RPS comment thread.

      Re. the “left-wing” / “right-wing” thing:

      Saying someone is on the “right” might imply they are ‘socially conservative’ and want to promote ‘traditional values’ etc. but equally it might mean they are more libertarian and against government censorship and control. It might also simply mean they are more pro-business and free-markets.

      Saying someone in on the “left” might imply they are ‘socially liberal’ (eg support people’s rights to alternative lifestyles etc) but equally it might imply they are more inclined towards a ‘nanny state’, support censorship of things that offend various groups and are not that supportive of multinational businesses making profits from videogames.

      “Left-wing” and “right-wing” are insuffient labels to tell you anything much about a politician’s journalist’s or government’s attitudes – and more importantly policies – towards videogames.

  34. Dan Milburn says:

    One-time Codemasters superstar Philip Oliver’s argument for games to looked on more kindly by politicians was a business one, pointing out how much money can be made with the help of games.

    I have no problem with the government funding games as an artform in the same way as other arts are subsidised, or indeed for educational purposes.

    I see absolutely no reason why the games industry is so special that it deserves help from the government.

    • Crispy says:

      It contributes £1 billion to the country’s GDP (so, substantial taxes), its workers are traditionally highly educated and currently we are losing talent to other countries where tax breaks and lower costs of living allow more developers to flourish and continue to be successful. More developers in business means more job security for industry professionals, which is why our dev studios are closing and more of our professionals are going to Europe, the US & Canada.

      link to – Report on impact of Games Industry on UK
      link to – UK Games Industry to drop to 6th in world

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