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Vaizey: Industry only featured in parliament when MPs "pick on violent games"

Culture minister observes hypocrisy compared to treatment of films

Minister for culture, media and sport Ed Vaizey has criticised politicians' negative attitude towards the games industry.

Whilst appearing before the Scottish Affairs Committee to discuss government assistance for the games industry last month, he tackled a tangential accusation from chair (and Labour MP) Ian Davidson that "You ought to be concerned about the general coarsening of cultural life that is symbolised by the videogames."

The Conservative MP responded that "One of my regrets about the industry has been that the only time it has featured in Parliament is when individual members of Parliament have wanted to use it as an example to pick on violent videogames.

"These seem to be the only way that some politicians think that you can get headlines for the videogames industry when, in fact, what this inquiry will show is that you have got a fantastically successful industry with a huge range of applications."

Vaizey went on to lament an apparent disparity between politicians' treatment of games compared to that of films.

"There is a ratings system for videogames. They are subject to the same kind of controls that film is. So why is it that in terms of our cultural climate we tend to celebrate the success of British film? We stay up for the BAFTAs; we stay up for the Oscars; we love looking at pictures of our film stars in the newspapers and celebrate in their success.

"Yet, we seem again and again only able to come back to the violent nature of videogames... What I object to is that we don't... say, 'The film industry is coarsening our children.' We say, 'That was a violent film and I certainly want to make sure my kids don't see it.'

"You can certainly take that attitude about the videogames industry. You can say, 'That is a violent videogame and I don't want my children to play it.' But you shouldn't say, "That is a violent videogame and the videogames industry is coarsening our children.'"

The MP also claimed that the violence debate was not his mandate. "My job is to support this industry as much as I can because it does tend to get some negative headlines. I feel that the negative headlines are somebody else's responsibility."

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Latest comments (19)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
It's true, every now when a title comes out, they have the old moan at video games violence. Then pre-election it's 'We love all you guys, vote us and you'll get your icing on your cake'.
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Ryan Locke Lecturer in Media Design, University of Abertay Dundee10 years ago
'Violent nature of videogames'

Some games are violent, not all. The industry obviously will well understand this. Some games are indeed also obscenely violent. Throw whatever moral argument at that you wish, but the interactive nature of games is what makes such rediuclous titles so much fun. Not because its violent, but because the rediculous things you can do in a digital realm.
The argument for now should concentrate not on the morality of a violent game, but the morality of parents who allow thier kids access to games with guns sex and gore - their not ones for taking the blame on these issues, but its a massive responsability for any parent to ensure thier child dosent have access to music, films or games that may be harmful for thier kids development.
The Political agenda is clear - sell parents the idea that games are the reason society is going to the dogs, and promise them that they'll do somethign to stop this plague! The voting parent must therefore be absolved of repsonsability - as the cost of the enjoyment of millions of gamers who enjoy violent games peacefully.
The mix of media sensationalization and politcal agenda is a fire & brimstone prospect for an industry thats needs help, not hinderance. The logic to these debates seems irrelevant - instead its more like point at the bad child and take his toys off him.

There are so MANY options for parents to ensure good non violent game choices for thier children, and more than ever ways to censor game content. The 'point and blame' nature probably will never go away, and maybe even resisting these claims could polarise arguments - I see the only way out of this is to better promote the cleaner safer options to parents consistently so thier image of our industry isnt to tainted by headlines like these. Eventually they'll hopefuly think them as silly as alot of us do.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University10 years ago
very true....
I may have move out of england when I older because of govs like this....
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Show all comments (19)
Armando Marini Product Development, Big Viking Games10 years ago
Why UK companies don't just say screw it and leave for Canada? Seriously, if there was a distinct movement away from the UK, the government would take notice and then get serious about offering incentives to stay. In the meantime, UK companies would have set up shops to get the incentives in Canada and once the UK government gets up to speed they can then claim additional tax incentives back home.

It isn't unheard of. It's been the way of manufacturing for a long time. Run the business from one country and make the product where the cost of good is significantly less expensive.
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The govt are too busy playing with benefits...and staying in power
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Ewan Lamont CEO, Legendary Games10 years ago
Hi Guys

If you read the text the government minister was speaking up for the industry while the Labour MP was attacking it.
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Mark Hill Studying Computing & Networks, University of Abertay Dundee10 years ago
Yes, there have been exceedingly violent videogames. But there have also been exceedingly violent films, and it's pretty rare (nigh unheard of) for someone to call for banning, or blame the state of (whatever nation it happens to be this time) on them.

The reason companies don't up and leave for Canada is pretty simple - if they are here, so are their friends and families - not many people want to uproot themselves and move to the other side of the world. But it will happen eventually, and there will be less new business created here long before we see a mass exodus of entire companies.

It's not going to be (in my guesstimation) a fast process, but rather a slow and sure leeching of money and talent.
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Howard Parry10 years ago
Discussing the morality of violent videogames is laughable when we are involved in wars that involve interrogation and suppression of the native peoples. We spend far more on those, yet when we profit from virtual violence it's horrible and disgusting, an affront to our humanity. What hypocrisy.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
@ Ewan. Come in, don't bring party political point scoring into it.

At the end of the day, the Tories are now in power. We're giving billions away in international aid, yet we can't find 150m to fund a tax relief program that will bring jobs back here? Oh yeah, and we're about to rely on the French for our aircraft carriers. And don't go on about the mess Labour left, that argument was old 2 months ago.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fran Mulhern on 2nd November 2010 5:49pm

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Chris Elwyn Animator 10 years ago
Leaving politics aside just for a moment, I think it's worth remembering that Vaizley was supporting gaming here. Defending it against the suggestion that gaming is somehow 'coarsening our children'. That's something that should be applauded, even if they don't have the foresight to help out the industry.

I won't get into the logic of some of their decisions because, to me, there doesn't seem to be any - but then, I'm an animator, and have the luxury of being relatively unattached - I'll quite happily go overseas for work, and pay my taxes to a government that's trying to help out the industry I want to work in.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Elwyn on 2nd November 2010 5:58pm

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Benjamin Seeberger Writer/Translator 10 years ago
I remember traveling in the U.K. (London, mostly) earlier in the summer and seeing billboards for Red Dead Redemption *everywhere*, on the streets, posted on walls, television commercials, and even listening and hearing a radio spot advertising the game. I'd never seen a game so highly advertised as I did then, and although I was only in London for about a week, never seen once advertised so highly since. It was in the public eye, for all mothers and overly protective fathers to see.

While there are non-violent games out there, it's the violent ones that attract attention and criticism (of course). So why are we so surprised? Obviously, violent (or sociopathic) games sell well, and blood, death, and gore in games is hilarious. But perhaps we relish the concept too much and fail to consider the long-term implications on the soul.
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Tony Johns10 years ago
We need more politicians who can stand up for the industry instead of those who blissfully attack it with ignorance.

I am happy that there were a few people who voted for Vaizey. And it was about time that Vaizey also spoke his mind on this issue too and start to target certain members of his own parliament who are causing problems and calling them into question.
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Tony Johns10 years ago
Also note, there are many non violent videogames out there.

Just walk into the EB or GAME store and see for yourself, it is not hard to find allot of games that are suitable for younger eyes...

and there is also a healthy selection of games for the older audience who do like the violence and are not affected by it.

Sometimes, I wonder if politicians ever really walk into a game store with their kids and realize that allot of games that they might want to buy for their kids are the type of games that don't usually get any advertising attention unless if they were from Nintendo or SEGA who do have the money for advertising.

Also how many companies who do make violent games are also able to afford advertising?

Take Two (who publishers Rockstar's games) and Activision (The publisher for Call of Duty) are the only two who I could think of.

and with Nintendo and SEGA, they are two publishers who do have a mixture of great games for younger eyes as well as great games for an older audience too...

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Tony Johns10 years ago
One thing about politicians...

Allot of the comments from different politicians who bash games seem to be that they get all their information from the news and the Daily Mail...who ever rarely check their facts and who are just as worse to quote your research from than wikipedia. Like do some of them know how little they cross check their information?

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Gina Mombelli Artist, Thoroughtec10 years ago
Games all come with age restrictions (same as movies), if parents are irresponsible enough to let their kids play games they shouldn't be playing then that shouldn't be our problem (as makers of video games).
I'm glad that he's saying something about it =)
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Kam Star Managing Director, PlayGen10 years ago
@Fran we still have an empire to run and it costs money :) - even if the general population thinks those empire days are all over, the reality is the influence we buy with 'that money' is far greater than the tax breaks would ever achieve for the gaming industry. Simple economics.

@Ed Vaizey
and whilst we're at it can I just say WELL DONE TO MR VAIZEY - at least he is speaking up for us! Its really good see that Ed Vaizey picking up the baton where Tom Watson left it - lets hope they can do something to break the popular Press's insistence that violence on our streets, obesity and anti-social behaviour are the work of video games.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
@ Kam. Afraid I'd disagree. I don't think our money buys us influence, I think it just shows us for mugs with an inflated sense of self importance. I don't have a problem with international aid in principle, but I have a problem with it when we're basically having to borrow the money to give it away, that's all. I do see your point - just afraid I don't agree:)

And don't even get me started on how we're going to have to rely on a French aircraft carrier to retake the Falklands in 18 months:) The days of Empire are long gone. And Empire's only a bad thing if it's not yours:)

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Jordan Woodward Level Designer, Rebellion Developments10 years ago
Hear hear Mr Vaizey. The government need to realise just how big the industry is and how much money it can bring in. We have almost no industry left in this country anymore, if the government concentrated on the games industry we could be leading it or at least close.

Canada has realised the potential and our developers are starting to set up shop over there, time for us to catch up.
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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd10 years ago
Lots of interesting stuff, but looking to stay on point.
Certain Politicians have a reputation for having a dig at games, Keith Vaz MP and Gordon Brown MP immediately leap to mind, but this shouldn't be misconstrued as the attitude of government.

When the Byron report came out everyone expected a damning indictment of games and game ratings. In fact Byron came out backing the Industry position of taking PEGI and giving it the same legal teeth as the current BBFC rating. The position of games has further been strengthened by respected reports coming out of the US stating that game content will only have a psychological impact on those suffering with existing conditions.

Discussions about tax breaks, international industry growth etc. apart there are things that we as an industry can do to help break this stereo type.

- Looking at the content we produce and how it's marketed
- Making sure that we promote the sucess stories not just the horror stories
- Taking a more mature and business like stance. Less publicity stunts poking fun at competitors and CEOs duking it out in the press for a start.
- Actively promote what we do have in the UK rather than hiding our light under a bushel

Small example, GameCity last week announced a link between Videogaming and Nottingham City PCT, not as a gimmick but as a genuine effort to use games and social media to engage with people about exercise and health where more traditional methods have clearly failed.

@Jordan "no industry left", sorry but strongly disagree. If we're talking games industry in particular there is plenty happening on the development side, although I'll admit there is a certain amount of decline, and we do need to act to help arrest it and turn it round. Publishing is becoming an increasingly restricted field but this is more of an issue for boxed games and the variety business models that are now available present a wide variety of opportunities.

Is the government the answer? I don't think so. Yes, it would be nice if idiot journalists and short sighted politicians would stop taking cheap shots at us (and TY Mr Vaisey for his testimony), but that happens to all forms of entertainment. Tax breaks would be nice as well but I believe a more fundamental look at how at how development is funded, where the money goes once games are out is more important and how many companies are managed will stand us in far better sted (the tax break debate kicked off again after RTW went bust and honestly the post mortum on APB concluded that tax breaks would have been a band aid trying to fix more fundamental management issues at RTW).

Governments can do a lot of things but there is plenty that the industry can and should be doing for itself.

And while Canada does have some big names, it's not the be all of gaming by a long chalk.
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