Editorial: We Need The BBC In Videogames

We know what television is. We also know what the publicly-funded BBC’s role in television is. Neither was the case in 1945. All that people knew then was that both the BBC and television itself had tremendous power, and that they were going to be important in the decades ahead. So people sat down and said: what is this new medium; what could it be used for; and how do we make sure that whatever happens, it’s used for the benefit of all people?

We should be doing the same for videogames. The BBC should be doing the same for videogames.

I’m in love with the early/post-war period of BBC history. Before World War 2, the British Broadcasting Company had been pairing their now established radio programmes with experiments in the brand new medium of television, transmitting light entertainment for four hours a day from the basement of Alexandra Palace. The broadcasts didn’t reach beyond London, and the number of people who owned television sets was fewer than 15,000, but already there were hints of what the service could become.

When war broke out, those BBC engineers and technicians were, like the rest of the country, called into service. When they returned, after years as radio operators and radar engineers, they walked back into rooms which had been untouched since they left them. Progress made in America and France during the intervening period had only convinced everyone further of the importance of television.

America, of course, embraced commercial television. Britain was different. We had a tradition of broadcasting as a public service: the BBC entertained millions on a daily basis, but also offered a diet of programmes which aimed to educate, to inform through news, and to celebrate culture and the arts. The shared sacrifice of the war had also gone some way towards levelling Britain’s traditional class system, inspiring a notion of “fair shares for all”. Television could be a part of that process, taking audiences from the Proms to the coal mines, with more power than ever to, as short-term BBC Director Maurice Gorham put it, “show the one half how the other half lived.”

A public debate began about how television should do that and, more fundamentally, what television was for. Was it radio but with pictures? Early programmes were often derisively referred to as “radiovision”, and dual broadcast on radio and on television, the latter with added pictures. Was it movies but in your house? Many owners of British picturehouses moved to limit TV’s role, fearing the effect it would have on their business. Only J. Arthur Rank recognised the potential for licensing old films for repeats on television, which would more than make up for the shortfall in revenue from soon redundant newsreels.

There was a lot of fear driving the public debate, from the government, newspapers, the church and the public, because the one thing they could all agree upon was that television was going to be popular and disruptive. Those fears prompted the most pressing question: who should be in charge of operating and regulating television? Before the war, television sets had been so expensive that they were seen as a rich person’s toy, a luxury item. If television was to fulfill its potential then the service needed to be accessible. It also wasn’t assumed that control should be given to the BBC, which already had its hands full with radio.

The government formed the Hankey committee to look at developments in other countries, and to make recommendations about what technology and processes should be used to help spread television as far and wide as possible. (An early proposal, that television broadcasts should be transmitted via planes circling endlessly across the skies of Blighty, was dismissed for being too expensive).

Being a different age, the debate didn’t happen out of sight on internet forums, or even solely among politicians and peers. It was a point of discussion in newspapers, on radio, in books. The result is a flood of speeches and writing which, seventy years later, sound awfully familiar.

In a memorandum from the ‘British Film and Cinema Industries’, written for the Hankey committee, the author noted that “Television is not merely a means of broadcasting; nor is it merely a means of presenting entertainment. It is the newest means of communication invented by man.”

“Radio is the newest art and the newest social phenomenon,” wrote The Economist, in an article criticising television for too closely mimicking its forebears. “Why should [television] become a conservative art while still so young? Why should we believe that, without experience and without experiment… we should have hit, at first go, on the perfect system?”

Addressing the British Council of Churches, George Barnes said he wondered “if those who decry television are simply objecting to change. Of course, television like radio will alter habits and it may alter them in a different way, but it cannot of itself stifle the imagination of a whole people; it cannot in a generation make us all materially minded… Imagination has survived longer persecutions than television is likely to give it.”

The BBC themselves would write about their role, nowhere more directly than in the BBC Year Book in 1946: “Every Zeitgeist takes on a certain narrowness of outlook, which is obvious enough to other generations; and the chaotic present is probably an exceptionally bad time for making formulas.”

“Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it,” wrote C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, known today as simply The Guardian.

Maybe I’ve gone mad, but I hear in these comments many of the same topics of discussion bouncing around online videogame discourse. Are games a communicative medium, or meant merely for ‘gameplay’? Is their remit narrow, defined solely by what we’ve accomplished in our brief existence thus far? Are games just movies with interactivity? Are games harmful to us, rotting the minds of the youth?

In the preface to the 1979 book, The History Of Broadcasting In the United Kingdom, Vol. IV – Sound And Vision, which is an excellent read and the source of the quotes in this article, historian Asa Briggs writes, “I have tried, while exploring all the available primary sources, to relate the history of broadcasting to the history of British society during the period. The relationship is not one of foreground to background. Broadcasting registered, though incompletely, what was happening, and through its structures and policies–and the conflicts which it engendered–it was also a revealing expression of economic, social and cultural forces. Politics, moreover, can seldom be left out of the story as told in this volume…”.

Are games political, or can we keep politics outside of our writing about games?

If all this seems cordial compared to current online discourse, consider that in 1955, after a protracted, often fierce debate about the need or desire for commercial television in the UK, the historian A.J.P. Taylor wrote an article in the New Statesman retrospectively labelling the period as the “Television Wars”. Fights happen for the soul of every medium.

The following is my favourite quote.

“The BBC must provide for all classes of listener equally,” wrote BBC Director-General William Haley in November 1943.

Videogames are for everybody.

He goes on. “This does not mean it shall remain passive regarding the distribution of those classes. It cannot abandon the educative task it has carried on for twenty-one years to improve cultural and ethical standards.”

I bristle at the archaic use of “classes” – a word which divides even when meaning to unite – but otherwise I can’t help but feel Haley had the right idea 70 years ago.

Today, the BBC can and does still act as a standard-bearer for culture in Britain. It has a tremendous ability to raise the level of debate in the country. Yet largely it’s silent on and removed from what’s quickly becoming our generation’s dominant medium of art, entertainment and communication.

To the BBC’s credit, it has tried and succeeded in the past to work with computers and games. The BBC Micro was a computer created by Acorn for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, and the first computer I saw in school as a kid. There have also been various direct attempts at educational games, though they have mostly been cheap and of little relevance.

But there has been no broader attempt to represent or engage with an audience of gamers, young and old, that now numbers in the tens of millions in the UK. Cyberzone doesn’t count. (Alright, VideoGaiden does count).

This isn’t about compelling the BBC to create explicitly educational games, either. When the BBC set out in the late ’40s to put cameras in front of cultural works, it didn’t aim to use art or music as a trojan horse for talking about socially aware topics. It did so because there was a belief that culture had value in and of itself; that a knowledge of the arts was humanising, that it enriched our lives, that it led to civil discourse and civil people.

Today, videogames only get written about under the business or technology sections of the BBC website. There is no Radio 3 discussion programme dedicated to videogames. When the cultural review programmes that do exist talk about games, they do so without expertise, and always prompted by something like Destiny’s claim of being ‘the most expensive videogame ever made’.

Why does the BBC have no exponent broadcaster for videogames? The organisation is famed for people like Kenneth Clark, David Attenborough or more recently Brian Cox. Smart people dealing with serious subjects, but if Jonathan Meades can write and present a number of series about architecture, exploring everything from caravan parks to golf courses – subjects I don’t mean to denigrate, because I find them fascinating – then surely the world’s fastest growing medium of expression ought to be featured somewhere. A one-off Channel 4 list programme presented by Charlie Brooker is hardly enough.

The result is that public debate about the medium of videogames is often stunted, without a beacon free from commercial interests present to lead by example. The result is that the debate which does happen, happens out of sight and in corners of the internet detached from the society games are an intrinsically linked and beneficial part of.

The BBC is harangued by all sides, of course – by those who say it is anti-competition, that it is biased, that it is doing too much of this and not enough of that. It makes it hard for the aging corporation to enter new industries or maintain old goals. I’m sympathetic. I don’t mean to add to the din.

I’m also aware that we live in an age suspicious of institutions; that the process of producing videogames doesn’t belong to the people in the way that the airwaves do; that the internet belongs to the people in a way the airwaves never can, and that I wouldn’t want to hand it over to a closed group of gatekeepers no matter how well intentioned; that this all sounds rather old-fashioned; that to people who don’t live in the UK, state-funded television probably sounds disastrous; that I am being romantic, and that the end of the BBC’s monopoly over television in 1955 was a good thing.

But consider how much of videogaming is controlled by corporations like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Apple. Their influence is far-reaching, and their decisions often show little regard for their audience. That’s dangerous. The PC is a fine and flourishing alternative, but it’s an anarchic ecosystem. There ought to be a third way, an organisation with the influence of a corporation but the interests of the people at heart. That’s what the BBC can represent. That’s what I feel we need in games.

The rest of us are failing too, of course. If the BBC is unable to fulfill its obligation to cater to a new generation of people who crowd around Twitch streams like wireless broadcasts, then the onus of responsibility falls upon those of us on the internet with a platform. All culture is a feedback loop between art and audience, and it’s the job of institutions, of people – critics included – to help build an apparatus that makes that loop fruitful and healthy.

We see ourselves – all gamers – too often as proponents of a medium which is under fire from the mainstream, rather than a part of it. We try to convince the world of our power and relevance, when we should have long ago recognised that the criticism we’re subject to is a tacit recognition of an existing power and relevance. We need to move quickly on to more fundamental questions about what videogames are, how they can help society, how they have helped society, and make that debate as relevant and vital to people everywhere as the debate over the future of television was during the 1940s. If the BBC can’t do it as is, we ought to do it instead.

There are examples of people doing just that, which offer some hope. The British Museum is being re-built in Minecraft. The British Library have employed an interactive fiction writer-in-residence. (Disclaimer: who has written for RPS). The V&A have a game designer in residence and are planning a broad-reaching videogame exhibit.

These things are good. They’re also a drop in the ocean, with nothing like the kind of cultural reach of the BBC.

Was George Barnes right? Could television not “in a generation make us all materially minded…”? Perhaps we were simply more willing and better prepared in 1945 to recognise the power and potential of the newest means of communication, and to make sure it was put to good use.

187 Comments

Top comments

  1. NYP says:

    Long time listener, first time caller

    Would like to point anyone interested to a couple of BBC series that might be of interest. The first was Games Britannia broadcast in 2011 on BBC4 which was essentially a social history of British culture through the lens of games, both traditional and ending up with videogames. The other was The Virtual Revolution from 2010 which was broadcast on BBC2 and did a fairly good job of marshaling a variety of talking heads to discuss the development of the web. Neither of these were your usual list-tv and I've found both useful in teaching videogame design to sixth-formers.

    In terms of what the BBCs role might be in terms of broadening videogame culture in the UK, as well as other broadcasters with a PSB-remit like Channel 4, how about offering funding opportunities to games outside of the mainstream? Something akin to the Sony Pub Fund but geared specifically towards increasing diversity in terms of UK videogames production.
  1. Prolar Bear says:

    We need the John Peel of videogames.

    • sinister agent says:

      We need the John Reith of the 21st century if the BBC’s gonna be worth a damn in 20 years :(

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        We’ve needed a replacement John Reith since the second he abdicated control of the corporation.

        And for what it’s worth, ITV need a replacement Lew Grade.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    The last thing we need is a mandatory paid subscription to a service producing games because we happen to own technology capable of running them, which is how the BBC operates.

    state-funded television probably sounds disastrous

    It’s a shameful wart on a free country, yes.

    I’m not sure that any of this is necessary. What, exactly, would such an organization do, that isn’t already being done in a much less centralized fashion? Making TV programs about games is no more useful than making radio programs about TV shows, which is usually relegated to some space-filling DJ banter.

    • sinister agent says:

      It’s a shameful wart on a free country, yes.

      Jesus christ.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        Lionsphil has put it very mildly. 71000 of my fellow Scots and I agree the BBC is far worse than just a wart, hence our telling the Beeb where it can stick its undemocratic tax.

        • dangermouse76 says:

          You actually have a right to fight the BBC on that as it is a public body. I’d like to see you try that on SKY broadcasting and their also horrific referendum coverage.
          From a Scot who voted yes.

        • sinister agent says:

          Ah, well, yes. The BBC really did a number on the referendum. It was appalling.

          • tormeh says:

            Most media did, if I remember correctly. The Economist too. They mostly thought it would be a bad economic decision, which is a very narrow way to assess independence, but classic them. I do trust their judgement on that front, though.

          • sinister agent says:

            The Economist tend to lay their cards on the table, yeah. It’s something to be appreciated even if it’s not always exactly comfortable.

            I was rather disappointed with some other papers/orgs.

          • Gap Gen says:

            The Economist’s editorial line involves copy/pasting “cut spending and liberalise social policy” rather than trying to generate a deeper understanding of what will happen and why. I got a bit tired of it, but sure, it’s better than the rhetoric of most newspapers as at least it’s out in the open.

          • iainl says:

            With prominent members of the SNP saying that in the event of a Yes, they would just seize the BBC’s assets north of the border, it’s hardly surprising, is it?

            As vocally No as I was, if the destruction of the BBC is the price we pay for keeping the Union going, then I’d rather lose my fellow Scots and stay down South, sorry.

        • joa says:

          The clue is in the name, _British_ Broadcasting Corporation — it is in their best interest to retain the viewership and license fees of Scottish viewers.

        • LionsPhil says:

          On a complete tangent, “Kempston Wiggler” is the best username I’ve seen in ages.

          • Kempston Wiggler says:

            I did want to add a “Sir” to the front of it but everyone’d accuse me of aping Smingleigh’s most excellent style.

            Next time the census form comes around around though…BAM. (Titjob)

          • Melody says:

            You still have time, you can change your display name anytime in the “edit my profile” page… Sir.

          • Kempston Wiggler says:

            Smingleigh be damned! I’m taking it for a test-run!

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            Kempston Wiggler, of the Henfordshire Wigglers? I think I knew your great grand-uncle.

          • Kempston Wiggler says:

            On my mother’s side? Possibly. He did put himself about a bit.

    • J Arcane says:

      Let me guess, American?

    • ruaidhri.k says:

      The Beeb is the best goddamn thing about this country.

      I’m sure other people will weigh in with wit and good reason but for me it mainly boils down to the ‘fact’ that above just about anything else it keeps us* relevant on the world stage. even if there are hiccups, pockets of mismanagement , the odd scandal and what not I’ll take that as a small price for what it does.

      To terribly misquote Stephen Fry .. other countries can keep their poxy roundabouts with flowers I’ll take the BBC and what it does for this country any day of the week.

      *note – I’m not british but I’ve lived here for 20 odd years.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        It would perhaps astonish you that I actually could not be made to disagree more, my own disagreement with the entirety of what you have just written being at such a polar opposite as to defy scholars of the written word from even believing such a polar opposite could conceivably even exist.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          Without any substantiation aside from flowery prose, your polar opposition is akin to a magnetic monopole – it might as well only exist in theory.

          I’m not from the UK, I’ve never lived there, but if there’s one thing that reaches far and wide from there (in a pretty much universally good fashion, too), it’s the BBC. Just for the documentaries, they’re invaluable, let alone the many series they run and their overall excellent journalism.

          • gi_ty says:

            I really enjoy listening to the BBC radio news broadcasts nearly every day. I am in the south west area of the States but my odd working schedule makes it so the BBC news is a daily listen for me. I very much appreciate a British perspective in my daily news. There are a great deal of friends and family that really like BBC programs both radio and video.
            That being said I would like to know why you see it as a negative institution/influence. It makes our polarized, commercialized, propaganda look positively ridiculous.
            Lastly thanks to you tax paying citizens for giving people all over the world decent news without any obvious biases, and some excellent documentary films.

    • joa says:

      I would hardly say TV programmes about games are completely useless. You can watch documentaries about music, film and TV programmes, no? So in principle, why not games too?

    • Stellar Duck says:

      While not perfect by no means it’s miles better than commercial telly, that’s for damn sure.

      I’m from Denmark and I worry about the future of our version of the BBC. They’re getting the axe constantly, especially on the Radio 4 equivalent. So many awesome magazines gone the way of the dodo. And for what? A blighted new commercial station that spews nothing but bad music and banter. Fuck that noise.

      On the tv side of things they just axed one of the bands. Why? Because of budget problems from holding the fucking Eurovision of all the obnoxious things. They’re fucking axing a great band with 75 years of history because of a popularity contest. Send that shit to the commercial stations. But you can’t. They can’t foot the bill, nor are they interested, I’d wager.

      DR, and the BBC as I gather, ought to be more than just a venue for talent shows and song contests. Broadcast opera! Broadcast theatre! Art! Education! Debate. Discourse! Let the commercial stations play in the muck and do the talent crap and all the rest of the godawful crap that goes for television programming these days.

      • sinister agent says:

        The Daily Mash, inevitably, has covered a relevant sentiment: link to thedailymash.co.uk

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Ha!

          I may be alarmist, but I just don’t believe for a moment that “the market will provide”. The market has no interest in providing. It’s governed by interests that are widely different.

          I’m perfectly fine with commercial telly existing but it’s shit and as such should not be the only option.

          But I suspect this is rooted in a view of what the state is and what its role is that is fundamentally different from LionsPhil. I also want public transportation and rail. I want public healthcare. I want public a lot of stuff.

          Because, fundamentally, the market does not have our interests at heart. That’s not their role.

          • Rizlar says:

            Even if the market did ‘provide’, it wouldn’t be providing the stuff the BBC does.

            It doesn’t provide the stuff the BBC does.

            As much as I bemoan the populist existence of Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, climate change deniers being given air time on news shows (even if they do happen to be the current environment minister) etc. at the same time there are so many fascinating programs on BBC4 and incredible music shows on Radio 6.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I absolutely want public healthcare. Pooling resources and trying to level out the bastardly unfair world so that everyone can stay on their feet (and do taxable work) is what socialism is for. I wish we were a lot better at it, but I’ll take the NHS for all its flaws over not having the NHS at all.

            But you’re going to have one hell of a struggle convincing me that entertainment (in any medium) is in the same league as keeping the roads paved, let alone keeping people from dying because they didn’t buy health insurance.

          • Martel says:

            Considering that the BBC is some of the best TV in the US, and the only thing we have that competes with it is our PBS, I’d have to say that the free market can suck it for TV. That’s why we have shit like Fox News and Survivor….

          • Faxmachinen says:

            We have socialism AND public television that doesn’t suck. You can have both!
            And it’s not about entertainment, you dolt. Do you want your world view spoon fed to you by Rupert Murdoch?

            Besides, if it weren’t for public television, what would you do when you have 135 hours to kill?

          • LionsPhil says:

            I don’t want it fed to me by the BBC either, thanks.

            The state should have no interference in news reporting. It’s not to tinpot dictatorship levels, but basically insert what Klatu said.

            Every source has bias. No exceptions. This is why we teach evaluating multiple sources in History class.

          • Emeraude says:

            Every source has bias. No exceptions. This is why we teach evaluating multiple sources in History class.

            Which is why I want both the market-driven and state-sponsored channels to exist. I don’t trust either, but each is better than the other at dealings with certain stuff.

            They are biased, but their bias is not exactly the same.

          • blastaz says:

            I’d recommend you check out sky arts 1&2. They broadcast far more opera, theatre poetry and culture than the bbc has ever done in the last twenty years. Sky24 is a much better rolling news channel as well both in terms of depth of analysis and being less repeaty.

            The market is providing by producing commercially popular programs consumed by people happy to pay for them to fund the vanity/high brow stuff. Rather than taxing everyone and locking up people who refuse to pay!

            I watch big budget yank drama and sport the bbc can’t afford and get my news from the net for free. Yet I’m still required to shell out for the Beeb to send 300 journalists a year on a jolly to Glastonbury or move its hq for no reason at all while still cutting front line services. If it was run by the government directly IT would never be allowed to get away with such waste!

          • Blethigg says:

            @ Blastaz

            “I’d recommend you check out sky arts 1&2. They broadcast far more opera, theatre poetry and culture than the bbc has ever done in the last twenty years”
            Firstly, I’d quibble that they have. Secondly, don’t you think it’s odd that the Murdoch broadcaster in the UK shows this ‘culture’, yet it’s US channels don’t? The only reason he does this is to legitimise his claim that the BBC is unnecessary. The second that he succeeds in getting the BBC shut down, watch all that highbrow stuff and UK-made dramas vanish within a month. It will be US imports and game shows from that point on.

            “Sky24 is a much better rolling news channel as well both in terms of depth of analysis and being less repeaty”
            And massively biased. The Hacking Scandal was one of the biggest stories of this decade, yet it passed almost without mention on Sky. an odd co-incidence that most of the papers involved in the hackling debacle were Murdoch owned…

            ” move its hq for no reason at all while still cutting front line services”
            The government required the BBC to move out of London, and the government froze the licence fee while requiring the BBC to take on the costs of the BBC World Service and the free TV licences for pensioners. Both of which Murdoch wanted them to do. See a pattern here?

            “If [the BBC] was run by the government directly IT would never be allowed to get away with such waste!”
            You obviously never worked with the Civil Service. I have and do, and believe me, I’ve never seen an organisation urinate money away quicker on pointless schemes that I have with the government bureaucrats.

            Murdoch and his ilk are a threat to democracy. So many people read only his newspapers and watch only his TV channels that he can basically tell them whatever he wants to. Almost as importantly, he can omit to tell them items of news that it is very much in their interests to know, but which don’t serve his economic or political interests.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, the BBC is a lot more relevant, varied and holds a much higher quality standard than most of the commercial television we receive here in America, and it’s not even made for us. We do have a public broadcasting service, but unfortunately it’s severely underfunded and I’m not sure many people watch it outside of its children’s programming. Or its BBC rebroadcasts.

        • Bury The Hammer says:

          As a Brit, I occasionally listen to NPR, and I’ve found it to be very pleasant, often matching the quality of a decent Radio 4 documentary.

        • Zephro says:

          It’s of a far higher quality and variety than any of the commercial channels here in the UK and is probably the least biased of the news channels editorially (that has gotten worse of late under the Torys mind).

          However it is not about state subsidy of “entertainment” it’s about state subsidy of culture which is valuable in and of itself, without any disgusting need to appeal to a market or something’s commercial worth.

    • apa says:

      Outside of your island nation the BBC programmes are considered to be of very high quality especially compared with commercial ones. Don’t bash them too badly! but public spending should be kept on a tight leash, imo.

      • Rizlar says:

        Indeed, the BBC is one of the best things ever, for so many reasons. One of which is the quality of programme making and journalism that makes the BBC not just central to UK media, but hugely important around the world!

      • smokiespliff says:

        completely agree with this, yes

    • Nereus says:

      I know this probably won’t change any opinions, but I’m New Zealander. You’d struggle to find a region of the earth more distant from the U.K., and having said that I want to thank you for the BBC. Without it, I would not have grown up watching Sir David Attenborough. I would not watch any television, as 90% of what I watch is BBC (illegally, as they simply do not air here in NZ) and the stuff I watch that isn’t, is usually just to get me through the time until the next episode of QI or 8 out of 10 cats. It’s harder to keep up with BBC panorama and horizons, but those are two other series I enjoy. Of all the TV I have watched, the BBC is the only institution that provides both education and humour at a quality level that I demand in entertainment. You occasionally get the odd journalist (and VICE are doing quite well at this) doing documentaries on subjects that are more in depth than just the 2-3min news clips you get with televised news.

      I read for a living (as a scholar) and the BBC is one of few ways I can unwind. Thank you for funding it, even if you wish you did not.

    • khamul says:

      It’s not how the BBC compares to commercial media today that is important. What matters is what media today would be like if it had never existed.

      It innovates. It disrupts. It tries things that are not commercial, or not expected to be commercial. It builds and progresses standards (the BBC’s stand, in the Future Zone at the International Broadcasters Conference in Amsterdam is always one of the more interesting places to visit during the show).

      It sets a bar. Other broadcasters may chose not to go for it, or might exceed it: but because that bar exists, the world is different. It says “you should be better”. Even if it is not always better itself.

      And for that reason alone, looking at games publishing today, I think Graham is right.

      Also, without the BBC there never would have been Dr Who. And I think we can all agree that such a world cannot be allowed to exist.

    • bill says:

      @lionsPhil:
      I usually tend to agree with you, but not on this one. The BBC is one of the UK’s greatest sucess stories, and frankly a massive bargain at the price.
      Try living overseas for a few years in a country without anything similar. If the TV doesn’t make you scratch your eyes out, and the lack of any kind of representation of social trends or minorities doesn’t drive you to distraction.. I’ll eat my hat.
      I don’t live in the UK anymore, and I’d pay double the license fee if I could access it over here.

  3. Cinek says:

    Oh, I already can imagine BBC material about video games. Something in style of “The alternative face of video games: 30 kills per second” focusing purely on console gaming and showing off various examples how big fat unemployed man play with teenager boys in CoD or something alike.
    Yes, BBC got rather good record in making documentaries, but when mainstream mass media gets on a topic of gaming – that’s more or less how it looks like.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah I honestly don’t trust ANY mainstream media to represent video gaming in a realistic light. The BBC is run by stuffy old fuckers who simply do not understand gaming and like any video game editorial piece in media would most likely degenerate into a farce. A farce that would uphold the BBC’s core audiences (people 40 and over) misguided opinion of the industry, namely that video games are still for children and stuff like GTA is bad, bad, bad because it is corrupting our youth, despite being made for people strictly over the age of 18. Also the undertones of cynicism in anything British media does about video games portraying the people engaging in the hobby as boring anti-social nerds.

      BBC produced video games would likely be middle of the road, soulless crap because they wouldn’t want to outrage all the old people, so violence would probably be out of the window, sex DEFINITELY would, it would be a host of candy crush clones and cutesy platformers, further upholding the stereotype that “games are for children”. Screw that.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Funny, I suspect that the perception of who is in charge of the BBC reflects one’s own prejudices. I’ve personally always felt that the Beeb was run by trendy young right-on Guardian readers. The truth is that it’s probably somewhere in between, it’s such a massive monolithic entity these days.

        • sinister agent says:

          I’ve always thought of the BBC as broadly pro-establishment, regardless of which strand of establishment happens to be in charge at any given time.

          Varies a lot depending on what’s going in within the BBC and the country in general too, obviously. But it’s not consistently right or left wing, really. Like you said, it does a bit of both, and confirmation bias does the rest.

          (my – very limited – experience, though: some stuffy farts, but leans much more towards being london meeja twats who are far removed from stuffy old farts, but also equally far removed from (a) the people who grew up with the modern internet, (b) anyone outside the Southeast, and (c) anyone who knows why not to trust the police. Think Nathan Barley, not The Good Life)

        • Archonsod says:

          The beeb has always been seen as a middle class institution round here. One of the reasons I’ll never pay for a license.

    • gorice says:

      Actually, the Australian ABC (‘Auntie’, the equivalent of the BBC) has had a games show for years now, and it wasn’t too bad, albeit aimed mostly at kids.

      • drewski says:

        Somehow I think the MA15+ rating Good Game gets most Tuesdays indicates it’s definitely *not* aimed at kids.

        And it is very good, an excellent example of enthusiast games media done well without dumbing down or artifice. Just genuinely enthusiastic gamers eloquently explaining why they like (or don’t) recent games.

    • Bury The Hammer says:

      Yeah, I like the BBC, but any illusions they’d treat videogames in a way we’d like are misguided – it’s not an unbiased medium. Check out this hilarious video. which is pretty much just repeating the line “VIDEOGAMES ARE ADDICTIVE, LOOK AT THESE ADDICTED CHILDREN” into the screen:

      link to bbc.co.uk

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        The Beeb’s output isn’t quite as monolithic as you might think, though. You can have your stupid “ZOMG GAMES CAUSE TERRORISM” news at the same time as something like Gameswipe…

        I mean, I don’t know why you’d want to, but you can.

        • Bury The Hammer says:

          Yeah. I guess the problem is that there’s way more of the former than the latter. The BBC could be leading the pack by treating videogames as a real artistic medium, yet what we mostly get are moral panic stories about how they’re corrupting the youth. What I really worry about is that bbc news coverage of Minecraft being evil and addictive is more likely what the masses are going to see, whereas Gameswipe is niche and probably going to be ignored by the majority of the public.

          On a side note, I’m quite saddened that the videogame portion of Charlie Brooker’s mainstream show, Weekly Wipe, was pretty much hushed up. There’s barely any mention of videogames in either series – mostly a piece on the PS4 and the XBox One being released. If Charlie can’t get gaming in his show, who can?

  4. NYP says:

    Long time listener, first time caller

    Would like to point anyone interested to a couple of BBC series that might be of interest. The first was Games Britannia broadcast in 2011 on BBC4 which was essentially a social history of British culture through the lens of games, both traditional and ending up with videogames. The other was The Virtual Revolution from 2010 which was broadcast on BBC2 and did a fairly good job of marshaling a variety of talking heads to discuss the development of the web. Neither of these were your usual list-tv and I’ve found both useful in teaching videogame design to sixth-formers.

    In terms of what the BBCs role might be in terms of broadening videogame culture in the UK, as well as other broadcasters with a PSB-remit like Channel 4, how about offering funding opportunities to games outside of the mainstream? Something akin to the Sony Pub Fund but geared specifically towards increasing diversity in terms of UK videogames production.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Doesn’t BBC Click cover computer related stuff as well? I think I’ve seen games covered too…

      • pepperfez says:

        And Click is, at least in the dire landscape of science programming, pretty excellent.

  5. Bull0 says:

    I’m unconvinced of the real necessity of the BBC in modern British TV, let alone in this new and exciting medium they evidently don’t care much about. Sure, “games are for everyone”, but they clearly don’t have the mass appeal of television, and why should they? Why is being popular so great? Most of the things I love most dearly are quite niche.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      Are games even for everyone, though? They very obviously exclude people who can’t afford the console, for example. “Games have a broad appeal” I can live with as a statement, but it just sounds overly simplistic to say that they are for everyone. (I know the main article said it first, I’m not complaining about your comment)

      • Bull0 says:

        Weird, we don’t generally tend to talk about poverty round here; we focus on stuff like, the proportion of men that choose to play as female commander shepard. You’re totally right, of course.

        …I’m experiencing a moment of alarming clarity here

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          I always enjoy Jeremy Laird’s futorological articles referring to how improvements in fabrication can cheapen future computer parts, though in fairness a gaming PC is never going to be a good use of money for a low-income individual.

          Even a gaming console, a decent multiplayer service and, say, 10 games is going to set someone living hand-to-mouth back more than they can reasonably be expected to pay. Many manage, of course, and I’m not suggesting that what is basically an entertainment service should be available freely for all, but it is interesting that being able to critically engage with games and gaming is basically a very middle class pursuit, being as it is tremendously expensive. It is rather a shame actually, since videogames can be very beneficial developmentally, if it’s the right games.

          What I would REALLY like is to have improving books distributed amongst the poor, preferably by a body outside political control. Gideon Bibles have the right idea.

      • gorice says:

        There are an awful lot of smartphones around these days. The Chinese mobile market for games is huge, for example. They’re not necessarily all dross, either (though I wouldn’t know). I read an interview with a Chinese game dev recently where he was making some very unkind comments about Western mobile gaming. The drift seems to be that farmville type skinner box shovelware is less common over there. So, yes, gaming isn’t for everyone, but it is for an awful lot of people.

        • Chuckleluck says:

          If the Chinese smartphone market isn’t filed to the brim with shovelware like you say, I’ll be on the next plane to Shanghai.

          • gorice says:

            I may have phrased that poorly. I’m sure it is filled to the brim with shovelware, just like everything else.

    • sinister agent says:

      I wouldn’t say games have been niche for a long time, nor is there a lack of a mass audience for them, but even if there were, that would actually be exactly why the BBC should cover them. The BBC can do things that commercial broadcasters can’t, and in fact such things are implied in its charter.

      It’s why services like BBC4 still get funding despite having a fraction of the audience of BBC1 – that audience just isn’t catered to anywhere else, because there aren’t huge piles of money to be made doing it. A commercial station would just pull the plug, because money is all that matters, but the BBC has a duty to do more than just chase money and ratings – the duty to “inform, educate and entertain” has been a fundamental principle of its operation since the 1920s.

      That said, however, I have increasingly serious misgivings about the BBC’s performance in recent years that grow regularly. I mean, some of the dross that gets put out is embarassing, and seeing talented actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor flee to America to get work should be a real wake-up call. But I think it’s mostly been down to bad decisions and a lack of spine and originality in its leadership since the Hutton inquiry. On top of which, there’s a whole generation of people now who have very little interest in broadcast television and no real connection with the BBC as an institution, and thanks to savage funding cuts, it’s going to be an uphill struggle to reverse that trend.

      There are a couple of big projects on the horizon that I personally think will make or break the BBC by 2016. Whoever gets in at the next election will attack it tooth and nail, and most of the press will be eager to put the boot into their competition. It’ll be rough.

      Edit: I should probably say at this point that I currently work for the BBC, although nothing I have said here (or anywhere in public) is endorsed by them, and I speak only for myself. I have nothing to do with news or programming output, and only work in a very niche admin support role.

      • Bull0 says:

        I don’t really see why it matters whether the BBC covers games or not, though? We’ve got a galaxy of websites doing a good job of it. We can share primary sources with one another easily now, which wasn’t possible in TV’s heyday. I don’t care whether there’s a broadcast TV program about games or a hundred or none. I can’t explain this; I don’t care about it the same way I don’t care if there’s a radio program about it or not, you know?

        Also – I didn’t say games are niche, and I didn’t say they lack mass appeal; I said they lack the mass appeal of TV (eg, less net appeal overall – I’ll admit reading it back it’s pretty clunky)(a statement I absolutely stand by, by the way, but confess it’s based only on my own experiences) and that since many of my favourite things are niche interests, I don’t see the merit in trying to popularize things as a goal in itself. Just to clear that up.

        • sinister agent says:

          Ah, I see what you meant. Makes sense.

          There’s still the problem of games not being very easy to translate onto tv too I suppose, but then the rise of the youtubers has rather carved an obvious path there, so I don’t know how much of an excuse that is anymore.

          • Bull0 says:

            My vision of the internet fulfilling all the same purposes that a chartered institution like the BBC is meant to is probably a bit utopian, to be fair. Everyone likes making money, and money has a habit of muscling out passion.

        • programmdude says:

          Correct me if I am wrong, i’ve been up all night and am dead tired, but the impression I got wasn’t that the BBC should do tv shows about games, but that instead of having a dictator-style console market and a anarchist pc market, there should be a third option similar to how the BBC runs things.
          Note, I don’t actually know how the BBC run’s things. I’m not british, and don’t own a tv. I just watch shows on my computer, half of which are from the BBC.

          • Otherwise says:

            I think we’re reading a different article. One proposing that a publicly funded organisation in the present day take the same approach to the videogame medium as the BBC of 1945 did to television and radio. It explains the nature of that approach pretty well – ie. develops games for the public good and the good of the medium – going on to be recognised highly for its efforts the world over. Sounds good to me!

            Must be behind some secret paywall or something. Shame ;D

          • Oozo says:

            It’s more that Graham’s article jumps around between different aspects of the work the BBC does without differentiating them all that clearly:

            First, there is the aspect of talking about games, in a framework that could be different from what general interest media usually do (hoping that the BBC could approach games in the same sophisticated way they treat other aspects of art and culture, instead of painting them with a broad brush), but also different from what specialised media do (the aspect some people have pointed out — namely that apart from a few exceptions, there’s a strong tendency to do strict consumer information and warmed up PR talk.)

            Second, most public TV services also have a hand in producing media. This does not only mean, say, series, radioplays and “TV movies” that are only ever broadcast on the same channel that funded them. Have you ever sat through the credits of any old European, independent movie in the cinema? There is a huge chance that somewhere towards the end the BBC (or, in a German movie, Arte or ZDF, in a French movie Canal+ and so on) will be namechecked. That’s because they are very often co-producers on those movies. In fact, most of those movies could not even exist without the money pouring in from TV channels. Obviously, this aspect is connected to the first one, but it’s a different aspect nevertheless. (Even though, of course, the formats produced exclusively for the channels themselves are, in the best of cases, laboratories for creative work, too.)

            And I have to admit that I would be interested in that latter aspect — see what games (co-)founded by institutions like the BBC might look like. Especially when the idea is not to produce “serious games” that are often overtly pragmatic, but to just give a creative space to people to… well, go wild. Yes, you could say that there are already a lot of ways of funding such games, but don’t forget that often, the most experimental games are produced under the strict DIY ethos of self-exploitation, something which is often often not feasible anymore once the creators grow out of certain age. And, let’s all agree that the BBC Stereophonic Workshop was a great thing.

            I’d like to see what a BBC Game Workshop would come up with. (And if the results are identical or inferior to what the indie sector already produces anyway, well, it would still be an interesting outcome.)

          • Otherwise says:

            Can’t seem to reply to Oozo (in agreement)
            There is a bit of a disconnect between the first half of the article (what if 1945 BBC, in 2014 but with videogame – extrapolate…) and the second half (what if 2014 BBC talked more about videogames, which are like the spirit of our age y’know, like TV was in 1945)
            To be honest, I found the first half much more exciting, and promptly forgot about the second – much like the reactionaries who be tutting (sorry reactionaries).

            The BBC of the first half wouldn’t talk about games any more than our BBC in 2014 talks about television. (A little bit, but not much – its mostly just stories about people, leaving it to you to decide whether those people are ‘us’ or ‘them’). Nation shall speak peace unto nation through the medium of videogame. Blue Planet – but videogame, Hancock’s half hour – but videogame, Panorama – but videogame. There would be shit that you didn’t like but that same shit others would adore, because that is public broadcast.

            So yes, loved the first half – would’ve liked some more extrapolation please. Looking forward to the next article on ‘Gaming needs a Mary Shelley, and a Frankenstein’ and the comments on Swiss banking malpractice.

    • Stupoider says:

      If the BBC started making games related programming then it would mainly cover AngryBirds and FlappyBird, i.e. what your average ‘gamer’ plays.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed, and there are already games for almost every taste. Beyond that there is an absolute surfeit of tools to make, self-publish, and even fund games to any tastes you feel are underserved. All that’s left is the hard work.

      One usual defense of the BBC is that without them weird, special-interest topic programs that lurk on their odd channels late at night wouldn’t get made. For games, they already do. And they already get championed by a variety of sources, one of which is RPS.

      We had a game about being a guy checking paperwork in immigration control. It was a huge hit and got the frontpage of one of the biggest gaming portals in the medium (Steam).

  6. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    The problem with a video game BBC is neutrality, just like the real BBC. If John thinks objectivity is impossible, I imagine he must be even more bemused by the concept of scrupulous neutrality. The minute such a “BGC” were to display partisanship (which would inevitably be almost immediately), support for such a concept would drop like a stone.

    I feel that modern people would regard scrupulously neutral games coverage as dry and boring, and games that didn’t make any point whatsoever as vanilla and uninteresting. You will never please enough people to make the concept worthwhile.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      The BBC? Neutral? Ah-ha-ha.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        That’s exactly my point. It is *supposed* to be, however, it just fails miserably in execution.

        • Kempston Wiggler says:

          Agreed.

          Keep the BBC the fuck away from video games, please.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m now trying to imagine the head-on collision between BBC News’ “balanced” reporting, where every opinion is valid and deserving of a soapbox no matter how ignorant and hate-filled, and the moral choice systems of modern gaming, where your binary options are saccherine do-goodery, or moustache-twirling malevolence.

      • Gap Gen says:

        “This BBC reporter found plenty of people who said murdering children was bad. For another perspective, we talked to a crazed gunman who injects himself with vending machine produce and shoots bees from his arm.”

      • Baines says:

        It might be an improvement, and Bioware immediately needs to hire some BBC news people.

    • drewski says:

      Arf. Is Top Gear “neutral”? Of course not. They unashamedly like cars and motoring and willingly gush about whatever lovely metal machine they’ve been flown out to Italy to thrash around a track by the manufacturer.

  7. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Ordinarily I’d agree, but seeing how quickly the BBC transformed from pinnacle of broadcasting across the world to Goebbels rivaling propaganda husk that refers to the people’s daily as “government mouthpiece” in its news articles without a hint of irony. I don’t want the BBC near my medium, I don’t want them to exist at all. I still believe in the concept however and agree wholeheartedly with the principle of the article.

    • Klatu says:

      I agree about the BBC’s news and current affairs output which is seemingly in thrall to the establishment. I believe they are shit scared of upsetting the Government of the day (threats to the licence fee are a given no matter who is power) coupled with the huge number of Oxbridge types who actually run the BBC being best chums with all the other Oxbridge types who run everything else.
      Look at the refusal of the BBC to run the DEC appeal for the last but one incursion of Israel into Gaza with the contortions they had to make to try to remain ‘balanced’ when reporting the last one.

      So yes the BBC are craven cowards, but hang on this article isn’t about news & current affairs output it’s about whether gaming can ever receive the sort of nuanced, intelligent and amusing programming that Jonathan Meades brings to architecture or Waldemar Januszczak brings to rococo plasterwork in Bavarian Schloss’s. I reckon given the will they could.

      • Bury The Hammer says:

        This is the point though, isn’t it? Games just aren’t accepted in mainstream culture as a medium like everything else. The BBC is just like everyone else in that regard, and should be better.

        If you watch quiz shows, there are almost never questions about videogames, and when they are, they’re hilariously simple (about angry birds, etc). Yet they’ll ask questions frequently about music, films, TV that are genuinely pretty difficult and obscure.

        (I watch a lot of quiz shows. I’m talking more about the quizzer’s quizzes – Uni. Challenge, 15 to 1, Only Connect, though Only Connect can be pretty good about including videogames)

        I think we might be at the stage where rock music was in the 60s or 70s. Shunned by the establishment but culturally important to a younger generation, who found it difficult to be taken seriously. Perhaps we could learn something from history.

  8. dangermouse76 says:

    The BBC’s current approach to gaming media and reporting is shallow to say the least.
    Could the BBC work in this space ?
    Yeah they could but I think it is would take a massive internal upheaval in order to get a proper focus on how to cover gaming effectively.
    Sadly also this could be a little late, in the next 20-30 years it is likely ( if the tories get their way ) that the licence fee will be cut to ribbons and or abolished, there are long term plans to carve up the BBC and essentially – in my opinion – destroy it.
    I would love for a BBC covering this type of media. The BBC can be what you want it to be but the only if people fight for it.
    Idealism is great but it’s action that makes difference, and I wonder how much people see the BBC being relevant enough. Maybe they have moved too slow on this one.
    I hope not. I am one of those sad people that rates some of the BBC’s output as the best in the world.
    Hopefully there are more like me.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      It certainly used to be, but these days the Beeb makes almost nothing of the quality that they used to.

      I will never forgive them for cancelling Ripper Street.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        I don’t agree that their best days are passed. I do think they need shaking up a little though. I also believe that they currently produce great content. The world service, a host of other radio stations, the documentary and a science content, is of a high standard ( but there could be a lot more of it). Also award winning comedy. But yes their is also a lot of cash in the attic type nonsense.
        And they are tied up in red tape, funding cuts and focus groups -booo!
        But I would rather have a body I fund and can influence ( and you can make a difference ) than a partisan body like News Core and SKY which I cant.
        For me the point is do people believe or want to try to make it a better place.
        I do. Never say never.

      • Werthead says:

        RIPPER STREET Season 3 is airing in a few months. The BBC did cancel it, but reached a deal with Amazon to keep it going.

        This is part of the problem with the BBC: it doesn’t have the money to do everything it wants any more.

  9. tikey says:

    Fascinating stuff Graham and a great read. Got me thinking about a lot of stuff.
    I’d love to see your take on the issues you mention near the end of the article, I’d love to see RPS take on the subject of what videogames are as a cultural force and what should they be.

    Also on a side note, I found interesting you mention people outside the UK questioning state funded TV. Here in Argentina state television has become the only place with quality programming. While in other stations you can only find game shows with barely dressed women pole dancing, soap operas about people screaming at each other and gossip shows discussing the previous two types of programs, state TV broadcasts intelligent and quality programs, covering a broad array of cultural issues, documentaries and interviews with some of the most important and influential Argentinian figures of arts and science.
    While there can be a lot to criticise the government for, its take on television is not one of them. It’d be interesting to see what a similar entity could do for games.

    • SuicideKing says:

      I think too many in the west look at China and North Korea and panic whenever state run media has too much influence.

      • programmdude says:

        While you are correct, the issue with those countries is the exclusivity. State run television isn’t a bad thing, so long as you are free to choose what you watch. If I want to watch american reality drivel, I should be allowed to. In those countries, they remove the ability for people to choose what to watch.

        • pepperfez says:

          Too many people (profess to) believe that exclusivity is inherent to all state media everywhere. You know, like the communist dystopia UK..

  10. Crimsoneer says:

    No. This is silly. The BBC is necessary because of the high barriers to entry in television – at least, that’s the vaguely plausible argument. It can create the content “for profit” corporations won’t.

    That is completely and utterly unecessary in the gaming space, where the is no barrier to entry. Everybody can make games, and everybody does. That’s why we have stuff like Minecraft, which is better and further reaching than the BBC ever will be.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      Perhaps if the “BGC” functioned as a marketer and distributor of projects they deem improving? In practice it would probably degenerate into 1001 different ways to illustrate how left-wing the makers are, but with a Reith-like figure in charge who was aggressively opposed to partisan politicisation it might work.

      I’m playing devil’s advocate by the way, I’m sure you’re right really.

    • gorice says:

      Attention, skills, media literacy, time, hardware… You’re taking a lot for granted. Yes, in theory games have low barriers to entry. In reality, these are (a) only *relatively* low (and are there grants for making non-commercial games?) and (b) gated by that old ‘attention economy’ everyone used to talk about. Money still talks, and most people don’t spend their days reading about obscure indie games. Consider also the advent of Steam curators. Graham is absolutely right: we need spaces where people can talk and be educated about games outside of the hobbyist abyss.

      • LionsPhil says:

        we need spaces where people can talk and be educated about games outside of the hobbyist abyss

        Simple question:

        Why?

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Have you noticed what happens anytime RPS posts a piece that can be seen as critical of gaming? Of female representation in games? Of whatever.

          Most of the hobbyist press aren’t interested in that and neither is huge swathes of the audience. But it’s needed. The discourse in the gaming press is abysmal, mostly because its set by people with shaky grasp on critical theory and seem to think critique is the same as criticism.

          When you just let the market provide you get IGN and Gamespot. That’s really sad. And yes, I’m aware that RPS and the like exists but it’s quite small, in the grand scheme of things because that’s not what the market wants.

          Ugh. In short, the market can’t and probably won’t provide much in the way of serious discourse on games and a theoretical framework for discussing them. That framework exists but most people would know it if you hit them over the head with it. That’s what I’d like to have changed at least. A forum with a wide reach where that sort of things can be discussed.

          • gorice says:

            Absolutely. RPS is a shining light in the abyss, but it’s still very much a hobbyist site. Same goes for the various critics and indies out there in the wilderness — there needs to be a connection to something more mainstream, and a certain recent fiasco makes it clear that this place will never be the big hobby magazines. Sites with a broader readership like Paste and (shudder) Vice are already showing more spine than Kotaku et al. when it comes to controversy. Plus, it is extremely difficult for many of the most interesting artists and critics to make a living with their work. Neither audiences nor creators are being served by the hobby press.

            As for ‘why’ — well, how do we think abominations like Zynga make their money? Their targets are people with poor games literacy. I honestly don’t know how the world (and gamers) could fail to benefit from games being discussed in the same way that film and music are.

          • HadToLogin says:

            @gorice: Are we talking about same music and movies where everybody knows that Justin Bieber and Twilight is?

    • thedosbox says:

      I don’t think the Beeb needs to make games, but instead cover them in a way the enthusiast press (largely) doesn’t. Instead of regurgitating PR material and product reviews, produce a series on the process of game conception, design and development. Or case studies of games and the design decisions behind them. Something along the lines of gamasutra’s post-mortem’s could be interesting.

      Sure, much of that can be found on the web if you look hard enough, but a TV series could be a good way to educate those who have little understanding of gaming. People are interested in the process of making movies – why not games?

  11. Dances to Podcasts says:

    ” that to people who don’t live in the UK, state-funded television probably sounds disastrous”

    As a continental European… wut?

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      I’ve suddenly had a flashback to the Minitel. That was an amazing piece of kit for it’s time, I wish there were some way to make one work in modern-day Britain.

    • Cross says:

      Living in Denmark, the idea of State-funded television rocks. It makes genuinely brilliant and internationally successful entertainment programmes, it informs and educates, and it does the stuff that commercial channels shy away from. Populations in countries with public service broadcast corporations are more informed, and better able to participate intelligently in political discourse. They have the usual problems of state institutions, in swimming in bureaucracy and being perpetually inept at organisation-wide project management, but public service works, and is to my mind well worth the cost.

  12. SuicideKing says:

    Well, here in India we have both state run TV channels and commercial channels. We inherited the legacy of the British Raj after all. Hardly a bad thing, state TV is free here.

    Anyway, I like a lot of the stuff the BBC puts on TV, or has put up in the past. They also fund a lot of social work here in India. So I have slightly romantic notions of the BBC as well.

    Really long way of saying that I enjoyed reading this editorial!

  13. Gog Magog says:

    Culture is not real.

  14. Tom Walker says:

    Hmm, I disagree. The thing that makes the BBC able to do what it does is the licence fee. I like the BBC and I have no problem with a TV licence fee – if you don’t want to pay it, just don’t have a telly. You’re only missing out on a frivolous and often uninteresting minor luxury.

    Computers are too important though. The information gathering ability of the Internet combined with the local ability to solve problems that would have been prohibitively complex to the world’s greatest minds only fifty years ago is not a thing we should price out of anyone’s reach if we can possibly avoid it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      if you don’t want to pay it, just don’t have a telly

      This denies you the option to own a television to watch other channels instead.

      If the BBC were honestly as wonderful as its proponents claim, it would have no difficulty surviving as a premium subscription service, on equal footing with its competition.

      If it could not do so without change, that is tacit admission that as-is it does not provide desirable value, and is only held aloft by state sponsorship by another name.

      • Emeraude says:

        The problem with the free market-competitive argument is that it fails to acknowledge that there is content that needs to be produced that people do not enjoy, that they do not want to be produced. That they may believe has no value to them at the moment of production and consumption.
        Information can be more than a service, it can be a public service. The public can need what it doesn’t know it needs,

        The market is not always right.

        It also leaves information at the mercy of market monetization schemes – people complaining against click-bait articles should remember that. Say what you will about the license fee (and as someone who can’t stand the format of TV I can’t say I like it), but it acts as a buffer to the monetization and control of information by private parties. I’ll grant you it doesn’t do great at that, but it’s better than nothing, and I don’t know any proper alternative.

        The “Free market” and open competition doesn’t cut it.

        • sinister agent says:

          Quite. “Only that which is profitable is valuable” is a fucking terrifying attitude to any form of culture, let alone broadcast journalism.

          • LionsPhil says:

            What other objective scale of value should we be using in a capitalist society, when talking matters affecting the people at large? This is the best abstraction we currently have for what’s worth doing.

            Gaming can do niche vanity projects on shoestring budgets, and can seek “mass” funding on a per-work basis (i.e. Kickstarter). We don’t get that kind of fine per-program vote-with-your-wallet control over television. Pouring money into channel (or network)-wide buckets in the hopes they’ll divvy them up into interesting niche programs is the best we have.

            If you think the moment the BBC’s subscription ceased to be mandatory they’d ditch their identity and change that to nothing but 24/7 Strictly Come Dancing, then the real relic here is the concept of the television channel itself being propped up, and I am actually going to side with the New Media types, even if they have a silly name and strange ideas about participation.

          • Emeraude says:

            What, in your opinion, makes relative profit, by and in itself, in any way objective as an evaluation tool of value ?

            Because that’s quite a loaded statement from where I stand. Certainly not self evident.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Because that’s what gets you the fungible tokens you need to make it.

            Trying to abstract the value of things is pretty much what currency is for.

          • Emeraude says:

            It gives you *a* value, that much I do not dispute, what about that evaluation is in any way objective ? That’s the point I’ll need to be convinced about. Markets are not rational.

            Any market evaluation is contextual and imperfect. It’s partial to unspoken assumptions.
            A company can technically turn a profit because the frame we use for evaluating profit is keeping costs hidden (for example a company outsources to the public the cost of the pollution it creates. It turns a profit, but is it profitable ? To whom ? Heroin turns a mad profit so it’s good ? The sun reduces the profit of of candle-makers so it’s bad ?).

            Who or what does and should profit is already a barely objective choice that’s hidden behind the terms.

            The idea that more is better is another unspoken assumption that isn’t particularly objective in itself.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I need to sleep, so I’m afraid I’m only going to address (a small) part of that, but the “more is better” only really applies if the total “space” available is finite. A cynical channel with so many slots to fill and so much budget may fill them all with dross.

            It doesn’t apply so much to a more New Media quasi-utopian model where “enough is sufficient”. If enough people want to throw money at the screen for David Attenborough et. al. to keep making nature documentaries, it doesn’t really matter if still more people want to throw money at Emmerdale. It only matters if there’s enough to fund its production. It’s not a zero-sum game, because the airtime is practically infinite and the funding isn’t being funneled through one bucket so for one to starve the other you’d need a populus where most people who want nature documentaries would rather have soaps—the same people.

            And in that (horrible) world, making soaps would be the right thing to do, for some value of “right” that vaguely fits “people should expend their efforts to maximize everyone’s happiness”.

          • gorice says:

            Lowest common denominator =/= maximum aggregate utility. Enterprises produce crap because aggressively marketed crap which is just good enough is easier and cheaper to make, and attracts significantly more consumers/advertising revenue, than a variety of well-made niche products. It’s a question of scaling — business is obsessed with ‘scalability’, and I don’t see that changing, certainly not with the whole ‘startup’ phenomenon. Aggressive standardisation is the name of the capitalist game. The initial problem remains: the best business decision isn’t always the best utility decision.

    • pepperfez says:

      Graphics card license fees, charged as a percentage of TDP.

  15. ChrisMidget says:

    I have 2 issues with the BBC. One is the fact we are constantly told it is ‘extraordinarily good value for money’ as if that is fact. For the record it is not good value for money if the only reason one owns a Tv licence is to watch other channels. The other issue is how it can be overly patronising and in many scenarios lacks expertise. Whenever it covers games at the moment (I.E the recent item on Newsnight) it is patronising and wrong.

  16. Buffer117 says:

    I’m sorry Graham, I enjoyed the article, but I think I’m somehow missing the point?

    What exactly are you suggesting the BBC should be doing? the idea that “The BBC should be doing the same for videogames” seems a tad bizarre when you were just talking about TV in it’s infancy while video games are an established medium worth billions?

    Surely we know what video games are? and if we don’t, I’d rather trust indie developers, universities and some truly inspiring individuals to explore those new directions than the BBC. I can’t imagine the BBC at this stage of our mediums existence creating something as amazing as The Stanley Parable or as artistic (depending on your opinion!) as Dear Esther, no matter how much licence fee is thrown at it.

    And if we want the BBC making games (if thats your suggestion, I wasn’t entirely clear) are those games going to be free? If so they’re already competing in a huge market of free to play games, it won’t be as easy as it could have been years ago. And if the games are not free, I really take exception. The BBC’s ability to monetise content we have already effectively paid for is scandalous. Why the entire BBC back catalogue, or at least the best of it are not freely available online is a huge issue to me, why should I pay for DVDs of content as a licence payer I effectively own? The BBC is, if not failing miserably, lacking behind private institutions in the digital age imo, I’m not sure they are the likely champions of our cause.

    The lack of coverage of video games I agree with, but I also feel my personal needs in this regard are being fulfilled by institutions like RPS and individuals such as yourself. If you want to watch shows there are plenty online with good production values and interesting content, there are also far better places to get written content.

    For all of us here we surely don’t need the BBC for this, so are we just asking for the BBC to inform the rest of society why games are great? The cultural shift is happening anyway, theres more of us who were gamers as children and are now adults than ever, and that trend will only continue to rise. I’d agree with the sentiment of your argument 20, 15, maybe 10 years ago. But for me the BBC just missed the window on this and has made itself unnecessary to an industry that it neither seems to understand or care about.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      “If so they’re already competing in a huge market of free to play games, it won’t be as easy as it could have been years ago.”

      I don’t actually see that as an issue. They don’t need to turn a profit and it doesn’t matter hugely if they’re not smash hits.

      If nothing else, it would allow the BBC to experiment with the language of gaming and that in and of itself would be a good thing.

      I listen to a lot of radio documentaries and it’s unreal how they’ve changed over the years as the language of radio production and customs change. As it stands, the BBC (or the Danish equivalent) are not keyed in to the language and frameworks of games so it might be good to mess with that to at least become literate on the subject.

      • Buffer117 says:

        My point was more that it’s a genre that didn’t really used to exist. I would hope the BBC wouldn’t want to make a profit from free to play! It’s more that now there is a very big free to play market it would be harder for the BBC to make a breakthrough, whereas when F2P wasn’t big they could have really made a difference and almost guaranteed an audience if done correctly.

        While it might be nice to see some arty, small target group games from the BBC I don’t feel it’s necessary in the same way it is with TV. As I mentioned things like that are already being produced, and not only that finding mass appeal. Gone Home, Dear Esther, Stanley Parable etc.

    • Jediben says:

      Graham’s point is really “oh heavens those television talking heads really do make a lot of money and I would very much like to be one.”

  17. mattevansc3 says:

    I do honestly think you are romanticizing the BBC to the extreme. The BBC isn’t even a shadow of what it once was our strived to be. The BBC, or at least BBC TV and News, displays the worst traits of both the private and public sector. It’s entered into rating wars with ITV, chased celebrity content but doing so with a blank cheque and no need to balance the books.

    The BBC had lost any form of direction. It’s putting out content like The Voice just because ITV has the X Factor but whereas the X Factor serves a purpose (as a vehicle for Simon Cowell to sell artists) The Voice has none and has yet to launch a successful career for any of its contestants. ITV needs rating winners because ratings helps it push up the prices of its ad slots, hence why Coronation Street and Emmerdale are main stays. The BBC doesn’t have ad slots but its still pumping out Eastender episodes instead of other content to win the soap rating wars.

    Lets not forget the level of the BBC news reporting. Were expect certain levels of reporting from the likes of the Sun or the Mirror but the BBC is dredging those depths to. There is no attempt at impartiality our reasoned reporting, it’s biased and pushing a singular message. Just look at the Scottish Independence debacle. In the very article they published to say there was no bias to the No Vote they had two photos of happy crowds of No voters and not a single photo of the Yes voters. It’s constantly critical of the public sector, especially it’s workers when it goes on strike yet begs for more public money and asks for public support when its own staff (paid by the public through the TV licence) go on strike over changed to its pay and pensions and even does articles to justify them.

    If we did want a model to follow it should be that of channel four. That, like the BBC has a public remit and its actually achieving it. It’s creating new content, is taking risks, it’s giving opportunities to new talent, it’s focusing on niche interests, it’s pushing the boundaries… It’s everything the PC indie scene is and its the type of voice the gaming scene needs.

    • sinister agent says:

      I agree quite strongly with most of what you say, with an important excepton:

      a blank cheque and no need to balance the books.

      This is so far from the truth it’s not even funny.

      • thestjohn says:

        Aye I read a lot of Private Eye, so I get second-hand reports on the weirdly-targeted cuts made in the BBC, which never seem to be at the expense of the senior management directly responsible for the BBC being discussed in the fashion exhibited in this comment feed.

        Despite that, I still do romanticise the basic principles of public broadcasting services.

      • Buffer117 says:

        I also agree, also with the same exception! The BBC should be doing things very differently. It shouldn’t be a what’s popular, we need a show like that broadcaster, it’s self defeating.

        By paying so much money for content which is available, at least very similarly, on other commercial stations it is squeezing out the very things that would truly make it a public service broadcaster as those shows would not find a ratable audience elsewhere.

        The BBC does some big things really well, Sherlock, Dr Who, Luther etc. but some of the more populist rating chasing, like The Voice, I just don’t get why I’m paying for it and the country needs it?

      • mattevansc3 says:

        The BBC is reported to have spent £1 million on Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale’s car crash scene in Eastenders last year (or the year before, cant quite remember) and how did they intend to make that money back? The likes of Will.i.am and Kylie don’t come cheap and do we honestly expect the phone in voting fees to cover it? Where’s the money coming from to spend on the “celebrities” for Celebrity MasterChef?

        The BBC has a budget to spend without any need to recoup it. Outside of some franchises such as Dr Who and Top Gear nothing the BBC produces has to make money whereas ITV and Channel 5 can only produce shows if they feel they can make their money back.

        I’ve worked in the Public Sector for years and every agency I’ve worked for has been a trading fund. That means less than a quarter of the budgets came from the treasury (taxes). The majority of their budgets came from the fees they charged directly to the public and those fees could not be increased without minister approval. In comparison the BBC just gets a £3.6bn cheque and is pretty much free to spend it as it sees fit.

        The BBC is also one of the only publically funded bodies that benefits directly from its tax. The road fund licence (car tax) collected by DVLA, for example, doesn’t go towards roads, it just goes into the treasury’s big tax pot. The television licence on the other hand goes to the BBC Trust.

        • Buffer117 says:

          You have effectively retracted the statement though. I understand your point in it’s entirety and I agree, but by definition the BBC doesn’t get a blank cheque. It has a finite budget and it must balance it, that meets cutting content and services in order to chase populist ratings, but with no requirement on them to do so. It’s so infuriatingly against what the BBC should be about.

        • sinister agent says:

          The Voice is a particular sticking point to me, as it represents the absolute worst kind of dreck the BBC should be rising above. But I think it came out of a rising desperation to grab hold of an <25 year old audience. That the best they could do is a knock off of a cynical, hateful, decade old format is almost as embarassing as paying money to the kind of twat who calls himself "Will I Am" to do anything other than fire himself into the sun.

          There really is too much dreadful shit, and a lot of that comes from following the pack and trying to lead by stupid guessing games instead of having any kind of vision. Lions led by benign but disappointing non-entities.

          The BBC has a budget to spend without any need to recoup it.

          The BBC has faced a budget cut of over 20% for the last five years, on top of which it’s now responsible for funding the World Service, because the government know full well that they can privatise anything they like as long as they spend a few years sabotaging it first. It’s had to axe its third tv programme – one it had hope would be a flagship in the internet age – just to keep the others on air at all.

          Recouping funding is a HUGE issue at the BBC, and will be one of the biggest items on the agenda when its Charter is renewed in 2016. The BBC Store and its overseas output in general are all about maximising revenue, and there was an announcement about 6 months back that the BBC will be starting a paid streaming service from next year, precisely to make better use of, and more money out of, its programmes*. People are being made redundant all over the place, redeployed across the country in their hundreds, buildings are being sold off, staff taking effective pay cuts – and that’s AFTER weeks of industrial action. It’s not even close to being an infinite money hose, and governments hate the BBC. Much of the press (particularly Murdoch’s gutter hacks) attack the BBC almost every day and would gladly shiv it in its sleep just to enjoy the thrill of hurting something, let alone to line their own pockets. The contracts defining and binding the BBC are renewed regularly, and any sign that the BBC were systematically pissing significant amounts of public money up the wall would be the end of it within a decade at best.

          *The exact details of this are still being worked out, and its existence isn’t secret but the details are. I’m actually keeping as close an eye on it as I can, as depending on how it’s done it could prove brilliant – think like gog.com but for almost a century’s worth of BBC programmes. Of course, it could also be shite.

  18. Rizlar says:

    Why does the BBC have no exponent broadcaster for videogames?

    Dara O’Briain seems the closest we’ve got. He’s always dropping games into conversation on various shows, speaking frankly about playing lots of games and how they are more relevant to contemporary society than most of the shite on TV.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I wouldn’t class Dara O’Brien as BBC though as his mainstay is panel shows and he seems to happily go between channels.

      • Rizlar says:

        Yeah, he’s not really an exponent broadcaster either, just someone that occasionally mentions games in a serious way. Which is kind of sad, that he is the only person I can really think of who talks about games on the BBC.

  19. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’m sorry, I forgot to mention the world service bears that disgusting brand of modern Britain where private enterprise gets to profit from publicly funded works and the entertainment output of the BBC is embarrassingly one dimensional and cheap. It also gets to shield the likes of Jeremy Clarkson or Steven Moffat or even more nefarious types without having to answer to anyone.

    • pepperfez says:

      Is the knock on Moffat just that he’s a loudmouth sexist jerk? Or is there even worse?

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      At the risk of opening a can of worms, can someone explain to me when Moffat became persona non grata on the internet? I don’t watch Dr Who and make a point of avoiding the opinions of media figures in the wider world because I find it gets in the way of enjoying their work, but I quite liked Coupling (a series he wrote).

  20. Gap Gen says:

    On the very much minus side, any organisation that provides continued employment to Steven Moffat very much deserves to crumble to dust, its buildings lying as derelict husks, jagged and burnt-out warnings to future generations. However, it’s better than a lot of news organisations and if its presence acts as a deterrent to a FOX News-style show gaining more followers, all the better. Plus I’m always a keen follower of BBC Magazine articles like “how many fingers am I holding up?” or “what is jam?”

  21. Donners says:

    Australia’s ABC has a quite wonderful series called Good Game, which has been around for years and is available internationally on YouTube.

  22. Ham Solo says:

    You know what “BBC” means in porn?

  23. FlopsyTheBloodGod says:

    Do we really want to see anything we give a damn about covered to the depth of ‘Click’ or the average Brian Cox astronomy programme?
    [camera pulls back to show me gazing vacantly upwards while some incredibly irritating elevator music plays]

  24. Emeraude says:

    Misfire. Back later for edition hopefully.

  25. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    Why aren’t we writing to the BBC to request more content. One for “Right to Reply”?

    My only concern would be whether or not a show like this would get sufficient viewing to make it worthwhile, don’t get me wrong I get that gaming in all forms is huge but with so many gamers with so many interests (some of them specific to single games), how do you programme something that’s sufficiently popular that there’s a good business case for it.

    I almost wonder if something like Gameswipe was testing the waters?

  26. mattevansc3 says:

    One slight constructive criticism, you may want to change the title to “of gaming” or “for gaming” instead of “in gaming”.

    A lot of people seem to be taking the article the wrong way, that it is about the current BBC reporting more on gaming as opposed to there being a BBC style entity to make gaming more mainstream accessible.

  27. PopeRatzo says:

    The love of the BBC is the ultimate appeal to authority, From what I can tell, it is every bit as much about creating an agenda-driven narrative as commercial television. The fact that the agenda (and the narrative) seems consonant with your own views, makes it more palatable, but not less insidious.

    When you can no longer perceive the agenda, then you’re in trouble.

  28. Kaeoschassis says:

    The BBC might have catered to everyone equally once upon a time, but it sure as hell doesn’t now. See their recent coverage of the scottish independance fracas, which infact prompted us to finally cancel our tv license altogether.
    Hopefully whatever we are aiming for in terms of gaming will be a little more truly all-inclusive. Or something.

    • pepperfez says:

      I assume it was strongly Unionist? Because my impression is that the overriding political bias of the BBC is “pro British-status-quo.” Which in many respects is troublesome, because the status quo is messed up, but as problematic commitments go it’s fairly benign.

    • RobF says:

      It never realllly has. I’m sort of coming round to thinking that the incredibly weirdy-partisan nature of BBC News has, if nothing else, brought this starkly home. The news is a constant source of frustration, more so in recent times when they seem to have gone of the deep end between 24 hour non stop reportage on a royal having a poo or something and ignoring pretty much most things that seem to happen in the world that aren’t UKIP. It’s not quite so obvious when they’re clearly filling in half an hour at six and nine and a bit for the local news.

      What it has done and pretty much continues to do so is to make TV and radio that couldn’t survive elsewhere in the way the BBC does it. This is, obviously, for better and for worse. I have my ups and downs with recent seasons of Dr Who under Moffat but I’m glad the show can continue, I understand that this is not something that could happen elsewhere. The same could be applied to pretty much most of their non-Radio1 radio output. Sure, a lot of it it’s not my bag but I don’t begrudge it existing either. I’m fairly sure most of the population don’t care for what I tend to listen to when I do.

      The BBC is, well, it’s in the breadth of content it can and does provide from arts programming to light entertainment. Not that it does cater to everyone but it has the capacity to cater to more people than commercial TV does. And well, whilst I agree entirely with the complaints about the BBCs recent light entertainment stuff, I can’t think of a time it’s been something to shout from the rooftops about. Noel’s House Party says hello and all that. Looking back at old TV schedules and they’ve always been mainly, I won’t say shite but not exactly brilliant either. They just have the occasional memorable thing that sticks out and transcends all the other shite.

      It can do better, I think. It probably should do better and its news output is a shambles these days, no doubt. But I don’t think there’s ever been a time where the BBC has ever really been “all that” or “all inclusive”. A look back at the TV schedules of any given date on any given year will send that signal very loud and clear.

      That said, bring back Wordy!

      • Werthead says:

        DOCTOR WHO is not a great example. In fact, DOCTOR WHO’s immense success is propping up a lot of other content on the BBC rather than being paid back into it. If DOCTOR WHO was airing on a commercial channel, the profit if makes could get put back into the show and give it a higher budget. On the BBC, any excess amount of money WHO makes gets disseminated back into the BBC as a whole. Which is good in the sense it helps fund other shows, but bad because the show still occasionally feels claustraphobic and cheap despite the occasionally impressive visual effects.

        • RobF says:

          I’m honestly not seeing that as a problem. I don’t want all the money from Dr Who funneled back into Dr Who, I’m happy for the thing that I like to watch to prop up some stuff other people might like to watch, y’know?

  29. Scurra says:

    Hmmm. For a site that recently didn’t allow comments on an editorial about “gamersgate”, I’m surprised that you even considered opening this one up surely knowing full well what the comments were going to devolve to. I guess it’s because the novelty value is still high.

    I can’t really bring myself to join in on this fruitless debate beyond agreeing that the original point is valid – the cultural output of the BBC is exceptionally bad at covering videogames, but then again it’s exceptionally bad at covering popular hobbies in general (not that anyone else is any better, mind.) There was a period a few years ago when Front Row on R4 covered games quite often but I can only assume that the person on staff moved on somewhere else.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The comments on this article are nothing like usual ugly hot-topic bile. There’s a lot of disagreement, sure, but most everyone is being civil about it. It’s more of a discussion than your usual Internet shouting match.

      Well, at least upthread.

  30. Not_Id says:

    “The BBC should be doing the same for videogames.”

    Well yes and no. The best programmes to come from the BBC are the arts programmes. Arena, Omnibus, Imagine, The Culture Show etc. So you’d think that over the years they’d be able to slot at least one programme on games into at least one of those programmes. And that is the problem. Games are not considered an art form, and the BBC does not consider them an art form. That is why we see them mentioned only on Click, and to be honest, that’s probably enough.

    I’d also like to add that I don’t think games are art. If games are art, then so is Eastenders right?

    Something else I’d like to add is that with the arts, the price of admission costs nothing or very little unlike gaming.

  31. elderman says:

    To pile on with some of the others who find this post baffling, I’m afraid I think this is half an editorial, and not the better half, not the half with an idea that’s wrong enough to be interesting. If state-sponsored media has some vaguely defined role in the creation of interactive digital media, then it also has a specific role. Come on Graham, don’t tease us, if you believe in the idea, make a go at really articulating it. The BBC has a social mission and a political one. Trying, and probably failing, to imagine how to include games in those goals would be provocative. But that’s not what this editorial does.

    I’ll give it a go and anyone maybe someone reading the comments can tell me if I get any closer than Graham did.

    If the the BBC has any role in the games industry, I suppose it might provide the raw material and tools for people to re-imagine their world. This might involve providing accurate simulations to inform public policy debate, architectural design environments to enable more people to weigh in on public planning, frameworks for social online competition to highlight and encourage pro-social behaviour, things like this. It could make raw data available and provide to tools to visualise it in various ways. Then it could sponsor game creators to use these tools to explore (challenge and reinforce) conventional thinking and to model engagement in a way that excites the imaginations of non-experts. So: the BBC (or other public corporation’s) role would be to provide data, tools, and compelling examples, a variation on the BBC’s mission to inform, educate, and entertain.

    For example, civil society input into public transport planning could happen over a game like mini-metro, tax policy discussions could revolve around the travails of a family in a Sims-style game, and blame for civil unrest could be debated on massively multiplayer urban battlefields. Each of these games could have a canonical incarnation or two provided by the public-interest corporation and variations added by members of the public with particular perspectives.

    A mission like this, if it could be done in a way that’s at the same time captivating, accurate, timely, and relevant could help re-invigorate public discourse and mitigate the information dis-equilibrium between civil society on the one hand and government and industry on the other.

  32. Stupoider says:

    “We should be doing the same for videogames. The BBC should be doing the same for videogames.”

    Uh, no we shouldn’t?
    ws, tr
    Television followed in a very recognisable tradition- radio. Scheduling, broadcast, transmitted through the air. It was very understandable that the format for television would be the same for radio. How is this in any way similar to video games?

    This article seems to be the kind that you think of as an afterthought, I mean with a title so outrageous that you JUST HAVE TO read it. But beyond the thesis statement it quickly devolves into a barebones argument with references to other sources thrown in to form the framework of a post that was flawed from the start.

    • RobF says:

      I don’t understand why the format has to be similar when we’re talking cultural outreach?

  33. Philopoemen says:

    Australia has link to abc.net.au which is run by the national broadcaster

    It’s been going long enough now that they’ve got past the “gamez are funz” type stuff and actually deconstruct what they’re playing. With a male and female presenter, both of whom are obvious gamers, and are passionate about games, there’s a fairly good mix of viewpoints, plus they cover the latest news, they weighed in on Gamergate (however lightly they tread) and there’s a spin-off directed at younger gamers that avoids the politics etc.

    They’ve had some very good interviews too. But it’s a half hour format, an they cover all aspects of gaming, not just PC, so there’s a lack of focus.

    But given that it’s funded by the public, it’s not a bad start.

  34. mcgiants says:

    I haven’t read the rest of the comments, so forgive me if this has been discussed before, but I feel that caution must be used. I remember one video game related program airing on my local public broadcasting (PBS, American commenter here) and it basically ended up sounding like an infomercial for Second Life. On the other hand, I remember Frontline doing some good investigating reporting on the internet, so I’m sure there’ s stuff I’ve missed that’s been a better look at games.
    I know games aren’t the only media that runs the risk of outsiders (and many insiders) being susceptible to PR as newsworthy, but it does seem to have a heightened risk.
    So, those are my concerns, and I really hope my fears end up being unfounded. Then we could just get more awesome perspective and more widespread visibility. How awesome would it be if to be chatting with your bus driver or someone else and have a game you enjoy be brought up in the conversation because they saw an interesting program on it. :D And of course, great to netflix as well, if you ever have time to TV with your steam backlog staring back at you.
    PS. First time commenter, so I must say, I greatly enjoy the “Opinion, away!” button. Great reminder to people about what an internet comment is.

    • mcgiants says:

      Oh, I almost forgot about the Top Score podcast I listen to from Minnesota Public Radio’s Emily Reese. Good stuff: interviews with game composers.

  35. Misha says:

    “We want a radio that reaches the people, a radio that works for the people, a radio that is an intermediary between the government and the nation, a radio that also reaches across our borders to give the world a picture of our character, our life, and our work. The money produced by radio should in general go back to it. If there are surpluses, they should be used to serve the spiritual and cultural needs of the whole nation. If the stage and publishing suffer from the rapid growth of radio, we will use the revenues not necessary for the radio to maintain and strengthen our intellectual and artistic life. The purpose of radio is to teach, entertain, and support people, not to gradually harm the intellectual and cultural life of the nation.”

    Dr Joseph Goebbels, 1933

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Absolutely. We should have a government controlled, government funded bureaucracy determining what is good, right, progressive and wholesome for the masses to entertain themselves with, because only through slavery can we truly be free.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      That’s right, because everyone here’s been saying that the BBC should have a total monopoly with no other broadcasting permitted under pain of torture.

      Wait, everyone? Oh, no, the opposite of that.

      • Misha says:

        Dr. Goebbels didn’t say that he wanted to do that either. Granted, he most certainly did, but centralized control of everything generally doesn’t start out with “OK, so we want centralized control of everything for The Common Good.” It doesn’t poll that well, for some reason.

        Oh and please, enough with the Godwin’s Law nonsense (not you, the other guy). It’s fine to draw parallels where there are some, even if it makes people uncomfortable.

        Not to say, of course, that either the original poster or any of the commenters in this fine thread want the government to take over all means of communication and determine what is good and what is double-plus-ungood, there are some excellent points made from all sides, it’s just that I get queasy whenever any sort of discussion starts touching upon how we “need” the government or some government-controlled entity to intervene because etc. etc. etc.

        It almost never ends well, no matter how noble the initial intentions. History shows it.

        Government is not some collection of bright, incorruptible, brilliant minds capable of making all of the “right” decisions for “the rest of us”, government, like any other gathering of people, is people. And people are corruptible, people are fallible (I know, because I’m as fallible as the next guy and I’m people too), and people like power and telling everybody else what they “ought to do”, as long as what they ought to do nicely correlates with what the person telling them thinks they ought to do.

        Problem with government is that they come and go, and the government that you don’t mind having a certain power today because you trust them and agree with them might not be the government tomorrow, yet the power you gave them remains. And power will always seek more power.

        Power, in a just and free society, rests with the individual first and foremost, and when it is delegated, it should always and only be delegated in order to prevent one person from using his power to deprive another one of his.

        If it doesn’t break your bones or picks your pocket, it’s none of your business, no matter how much it offends you.

        Because once you start giving somebody else the power to decide what is and isn’t “offensive”, you run the risk of them deciding that you’re the offending party.

        Anyway, there are a lot of good reasons why gaming should be more in the public view, not to “educate” because that almost always immediately translates into “indoctrinate”, but because it’s becoming more and more a part of the world we live in.

        But it should not be promoted at gunpoint (and don’t fool yourself, if we’re talking about public broadcasting it is at gunpoint, because the money to produce it is collected that way. Try not paying your taxes if you don’t believe me), it should be promoted because somebody wants to promote it and somebody wants to listen to it. And it will be. That’s how the market works. Once a massive market of people who want to be entertained by media coverage of games exists, somebody will find a way to monetize it.

        Those who say “the free market doesn’t provide” are always talking about the free market not providing what they want it to provide, and using other people’s involuntarily collected funds to provide a good that they don’t want in the first place is theft and oppression.

        Pure and simple.

      • sinister agent says:

        Not when it’s completely spurious. If Hitler spoke of his love of porridge, would that make anyone else who loved porridge a nazi?

        What you’re doing is a bog standard association fallacy.

        And equating the BBC with government is ignorant at best. Literally every government within the last 50 or so years has attacked the BBC regularly. Governments HATE the BBC. It’s precisely why the Coalition hamstrung it with a huge funding cut at the first opportunity.

    • Oozo says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, Godwin’s Law in full effect.

      (Seriously, there is a long and sprawling comment section demonstrating how the subject can be talked about from different points of view without having to make yourself look like a tool. It is right above your head. Might I recommend reading through it for educational purposes?)

  36. Wytefang says:

    In response to the headline – no, we really don’t.

  37. Wohful says:

    Should the people ever rely on the state to determine what is of cultural importance? If we are so helpless, if we need that kind of ‘saving’, aren’t we doomed already? Is government the chicken or the egg?

    • elderman says:

      I’ll bite just because I’m in a good mood: yes, we’re all doomed. We will all die and so will everyone we know and sooner human beings and all of our works will disappear or be left floating unnoticed in a cold universe.

      In the mean time, other people want to change any culture you want to name. You or I can choose to let them do their thing or we can choose to try to influence it, too. Not to judge either choice, change is certain. If someone chooses to put a hand in, the government’s one of the tools at their disposal.

      All that said, I don’t see the good in getting the BBC involved in gaming as it exists today any more than I see the point in the BBC starting an oil painting division.

      [Edit: Is that ill natured? I wrote it in a playful mood, but looking at LionsPhil’s comment above, I suddenly worry that I’m being trollish.]

      • Wohful says:

        No, that’s not ill natured :)

        My point is not that we shouldn’t bother to exert cultural influence, just that entrusting it to the government — which will pander to whomever it can derive power from, not who has merit or truth — seems like a bad formula. Now I’m not accusing the BBC of anything here, perhaps they’ve done great so far… Does that mean it’s a good formula? Government is by nature interested in status quo, control, censorship… Enemies of cultural evolution (and lots of other good things). We must think for ourselves, we must care for ourselves… Surely the best way to fight cultural homogeny and stagnation is to directly support media ourselves. Why leave it to governments or big investors who are primarily interested in power/market share, are psychologically manipulative, and are allergic to risk? Let’s have the taxes back and invest it in what we think is important. I think the mere act of taking that responsibility and making those decisions ourselves would lead to a virtuous cycle. I think crowdfunding in games is demonstrating this, all though it’s still early days (huzzah, we’re a positive social example!).

        • elderman says:

          A little late to reply, and everyone has probably moved on, but I’ll just put in a quick word.

          Graham argues his editorial that the BBC was not an institution created in the spirit of preventing cultural evolution. It was on the contrary an attempt to use a new medium to do something new: mass media in the public interest. This example contradicts the suggestion that governments are only capable of conservative action and since it’s the specific example Graham talks about and the one he uses as a metaphor for a corporation public-interest game design, it’s one you have to explain away if you want to say the idea of a British Game-making Corporation (the BGC!) is a bad idea because it’ll be anti-evolutionary (I want to use the word anti-progressive or conservative, but Wohful’s word is evolution).

          It’s not clear what Wohful’s getting at, putting aside the ick-factor of publically funded media. If it’s that the mission of a possible BGC is better done by crowdfunding, I’d point to the lack of games in the public interest and the difficulty of matching government communication power, access to data, and funding compared to even the most successful independent developers. If it’s that crowdfunding would do something totally different but just as valuable making the BGC unnecessary, well it’s hard to agree of disagree without more specifics. But then, Graham’s pretty vague himself on this point, making it hard to argue for a BGC in the first place, so that puts everyone on the same dreamy level.

          • Wohful says:

            Ok well if you want me to distill it, I’m saying that: Relying on interests who are primarily interested in popular opinion (government, big business), guarantees a less rich and varied culture. Not only that, but by opting out of investing in media that matters to us, we have a tendency towards autopilot “Oh I can’t believe what society is coming to, but there’s nothing I can do… It’s the idiot apocalypse!” Where is the personal responsibility there? And of course the issue is not a neutral one, since the money you give to the government for this purpose is money you could spend on what you’d like to see out there.

            Just want to add, you may indeed be correct that historically speaking, independents didn’t have access to the kind of resources necessary for expensive and far-reaching productions, but I think you’ll agree the internet has enabled a new paradigm.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Wasn’t aimed at you. :)

        • Wohful says:

          Ah I see, I didn’t get it ’cause I’m a lowly down-threader ;)

  38. Sergey Galyonkin says:

    What about “Game On” podcast on BBC by Adam Rosser?

  39. Bagpuss says:

    [You are welcome to disagree, but do so using abusive language again and you will be banned – RPS]

  40. drewski says:

    The BBC exists, in part, to hold a mirror to British society. Gaming is a part of British society that is, to my knowledge, utterly unrepresented in any form on the BBC, which I would consider to be an oversight.

    I don’t know exactly the form the BBC’s engagement should take – Australia’s Good Game is an excellent example of a games TV show done well, and the format could be borrowed – but to me it is indisputable that a public broadcaster should attempt to engage with all forms of public culture.

    Whether or not the BBC should exist at all is an argument I’ll leave for others, but given that it does, and that it is going nowhere, despite the criticisms unleashed in this thread, I fail to see how a bad BBC, if you consider it to be so, is in any way redeemed by not covering a significant and important part of the society that pays for it.

  41. eggnoir says:

    This article is talking about the glory days of the BBC, but those have long since passed. Now it’s schedule is mired in endless re-runs, knock-offs of popular reality shows from other channels, tired remakes (yes, including Dr. Who) and the latest ‘yet another hilarious celebrity panel quiz show’. All while forcibly taking money from anyone who dares to own a TV! Britain has lost faith in the BBC, and with good reason.

    But that aside, I genuinely cannot see what a ‘gaming show’ could bring to the table that isn’t already widely available online. They can’t do ‘let’s play’ style features, as they would simply take too long. They could feature eSports, but who would want to tune in just to watch a half-hour of footage before going back to Twitch? Game reviews are already well served and much-maligned, I doubt the BBC could help lend credibility to games journalism.
    On top of this, what games would they cover? A gaming show is going to be niche enough already without dedicating time to non-AAA titles. It would be a weekly glimpse into the latest COD and Farmville clones. Something to show someone who has absolutely no clue about video games AT ALL.
    Finally, viewer age is a huge problem here. Any show that is even partly aimed at children would suffer from over-the-top ‘wackiness’ and would be so up in your face you’d be able to feel it’s breath on your lips. On the flipside, an ‘adult’ show would either be ‘too boring’ because it might feature some actual intelligent discourse about games, or ‘too risque’, as inevitably children would end up watching anyway and be subjected to a metaphorical orgy of foul language and videogame violence (but no sex, thank god).

    In short, this article is a fantasy. Well-intentioned, but highly unrealistic.

    • Continuity says:

      BBC TV may be somewhat tarnished but i’d suggest radio 4 is still holding to the best qualities of the BBC of the past.

  42. Continuity says:

    “Videogames are for everybody.”

    Someone is saying they’re not???

    I do agree though that its about time for serious games critics to enter the mainstream, on the BBC and in newspapers. Gaming is growing up with our generation and I think there is an appetite and need for proper criticism.

  43. Wret says:

    Extra Credits slipped into mind after reading this, but I doubt anyone who doesn’t already care about looking deeper into games watches them

  44. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Ignoring the debate about content generation and political bias, I can only comment from a technical perspective, which is where my main day-to-day life intersects with the Beeb.

    Outside of the industry, people are unaware of just how much tech the Beeb is responsible for and how many standards they have defined. Directing the Beeb’s engineering expertise to engage with some of the challenges faced by exciting new frontiers in gaming such as VR would only result in a better experience for everyone. The only problem is that they may not be nimble enough to keep up with the rate of iteration in modern gaming hardware. But I think there’s a definite need for some of their experience in defining standards.
    For example, given their history defining safe standards of phosphor levels and flicker detection, they seem like a natural fit for cracking game-related motion sickness. Sure, the folks at Oculus are working on this, but will they define an international standard? Doubtful.

    Remember, the Beeb have been in the business of beaming images into our brains through our eyes for over three quarters of a century now. The gaming industry would benefit greatly from their technical know-how and discipline. Hell, it already has done without knowing it I suspect.