Keith Vaz: "I've never been against games"

Controversial MP turns out for Parliament Games Day

He was the guest that no-one expected to see and yet Keith Vaz MP, Parliament's most hostile critic of the industry, turned out last night at an event in support of gaming, claiming: "I've never been against games".

Parliament Games Day, held at Portcullis House in Westminster, was organised by pressure group Gamers' Voice to bring together politicians and the industry to promote the cultural and economic strengths of Britsoft.

Vaz, whose arrival turned heads, told our sister site "I've never been against games. I've been against violent games that are able to fall into the hands of young people who are perhaps not able to understand the implications of what they're doing."

Vaz is well known to gamers for his fierce campaigning against titles including Manhunt, Bully and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. But in a sign that his views may have softened, he added: "Clearly there are some very violent games around but if you're 18-plus then you can make those decisions yourselves".

"I don't oppose games," he inisted. "I just think it's very important that people respect and acknowledge the age limits. And the campaign has always been about ensuring there is proper labelling so that people know exactly what kind of games they should have."

Other guests saw his presence as symbolically significant. Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey said: "I'm constantly teasing Keith and I think he is aware of the sea-change in videogames and that, particularly with the new generation coming into parliament, there are now many more MPs who grew up with games as a normal part of their life."

He added: "It's important that there's a voice in parliament that talks about issues of concern, be it about videogames or media in general I think he now realises the gaming debate is now far wider than that".

"Keith is very concerned about classification and violence in games," said fellow Labour MP Luciana Berger. "War games are one element of a very wide range of games you can play and engage with be that recreational or educational."

It was a big moment for Gamers' Voice chairman Paul Gibson. "When Keith Vaz walked in there was a murmur of recognition across the room," he said. "Keith is a sensible MP but at the same time he hasn't made many friends in the videogames industry.

"For him to show up this evening is a show of good will on his part, because he knew when he walked into that room that everyone was going to turn and look. It's fantastic that he came along he didn't stay for long but the fact he came speaks volumes.

Asked if he was happy with the new games classification system still waiting to be passed into law Vaz said he felt it was "moving in the right direction".

"When we started this campaign the age limit was the size of half a, I think, a 5p coin, which was very small," he explained. "Obviously we want to see what PEGI does, but the more that they can draw to the attention of young people the need to respect the age limit better and if you're over 18 you can do what you want. No-one wants to stop you playing your games."

The Leicester East MP then drew attention to the recent, controversial Panorama documentary on games addiction, adding: "What is important is that people enjoy games but not spend their entire lives playing games".

Which is the same as any other hobby? "Indeed," he admitted.

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Latest comments (6)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 7 years ago
That may or may not be the case but it doesn't mean you know enough about them.
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Charlie Moritz Studying Philosophy with Psychology, University of Warwick7 years ago
Yeah but your friends in Parliament are killing the Gaming Industry in the UK with that U-turn on Tax Breaks!

I wrote an article about this, as I don't think it is fair, right or even economically logical!
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Tony Johns7 years ago
Biggest load of rubbish from a man who said that games contained rape, and when asked for any evidence, he went and got information about a Japanese H game...and tried to say that people in the UK are at risk of these games...

and yet, he still does not have a clue about what he is talking about.
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Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.7 years ago
And who, as someone over on Eurogamer pointed out, tabled this early day motion late last year.

Vaz was my MP until I was 25. Nothing in his current behaviour makes me think he's changed at all.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 14th January 2011 10:07am

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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd7 years ago
Okay little change of tack here, Vaz has a deserved reputation for speaking rubbish about games. The fact he's willing to turn up to an industry event like the one described means that there's the potential to debate and change his mind, this is a good thing.

If the industry is able to bring someone like Vaz onside and encourage people like him, who say they aren't against games just violent games, then they need to be encouraged to actively promote the vast majority of content that is coming out. FPS still get the lions share of the press, and therefore the lions share of the perceived sales and because of that investors are more likely to back that sort of project as it has a guaranteed return. Which brings us on to funding...

@Charlie Please be realistic and get your facts straight. The absence of tax breaks is NOT killing the UK games industry. Would tax breaks help? Definitely, the more favourable economic conditions would encourage investment for big name publishers. Is it killing the industry, god no. There was a huge amount of fuss around Realtime Worlds and comments that tax breaks would have saved Realtime and APB. It wouldn't, talk to the people who were there, and the post mortems. The company burned $100 Million of funding and sent out a game with fundamental flaws. Tax breaks wouldn't have changed a thing.

We have the developers, we have the creative talent. What needs a major overhaul are games company management, business planning and less reliance on or better relationships with venture capital. The industry is going digital, and download, in a very similar way to the music industry. Where many studios are getting hit is in the inability of Studios based around boxed games to evolve fast enough, studios over reliant on single title for their survival and a lack of understand between making a game and providing a service in the rush to online.

Further if we want support at home and abroad people need to know the games that get made here. How many top titles do we see with developed in the UK? GTA, Arkham Asylum, etc etc. How many people in the game buy public realise the amount of talent? Very few.

Tax breaks would be nice, yes they'd help. They will however neither make not break the industry in the UK, that destiny is very much in our own hands.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 7 years ago
Vaz has never seen a "family values" bandwagon he didn't like the look of, it helps keep his largely asian hardcore electorate on board. Don't read too much into this appearance, he's just keeping his options open. Unless he sees clear politically benefit from 'changing sides' it's business as usual, he needs to be seen to be there or end up marginalised in his voters eyes.

The worst sort of overtly political slime, jammed into a safe parliamentary seat unless an even worse rabble rousing adventurer turns up.
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