The BBC has said that it has a responsibility to support the creative industries in the UK, including the videogames sector, but that it must act carefully when investing public money in projects.
Speaking in the first episode of a new series for EGTV, hosted today on GamesIndustry.biz, head of interactive for the BBC Children's, Marc Goodchild, said that audience research shows that videogames are the number one reason viewers use the internet, and games are central to the BBC's interactive services.
"Games is absolutely a core part of what we do. We do audience research about what children go online for and games is regularly top of the list and social normally comes second," he said. "So we couldn't operate in the interactive space without doing games, it's part of our remit.
"As a pubic service organisation we have a responsibility to make sure we're helping to support the creative industries in the UK to make sure the UK stays top."
During the EGTV special, which focuses on the the UK's standing in the global gaming market and the ongoing struggle for financial and cultural recognition, Labour MP Tom Watson suggested that the BBC is in a unique position to help smaller videogame businesses by using its world-leading intellectual property.
"The BBC has spent a billion pounds on their websites since 1994 – they could have breathed life into a lot of small gaming companies if they'd got contracts right and been generous with their licensing," he said. "I'm not blaming the BBC because all of this is new, it's fast-moving, but I would like to see a point where they can use their muscle to help the small guys in the industry to help them get on with making great games and applications."
This generation the BBC is working with Sheffield's Sumo Digital and Revolution's Charles Cecil on Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, and reception to this first project will help thinking on any other new games projects based on BBC properties.
Goodchild added that the corporation – funded by an annual licence fee in the UK – must be careful about how it invests in new initiatives, and is also working on internal education between new and old perceptions of games and entertainment.
"For people outside the BBC it's easy to say the BBC doesn't move fast enough. When you're working with license payers money we've got to make sure we're spending our money in the right spaces," he said.
"Are we doing enough to promote gaming or to incorporate gaming into all of our output? There are certainly people around the BBC who would say we should be doing more. And I think we are still living in a world of two different cultures and we don't know how to talk to each other very well."
The first episode of the new EGTV show, The Videogames Election, can be viewed below:
Later in the series the EGTV show turns the spotlight on age ratings, with the new PEGI system passed into UK law, examining the transition from BBFC; seeing how self-regulation works in the US; learning how the UK's biggest games retailer trains staff to prevent under-age selling and advise parents; working undercover in-store to experience first-hand how well the system works; and asking why so many parents still ignore game ratings.
The show will also examine the skills crisis in games development, while looking at how gaming technology is rapidly becoming a vital educational tool in itself, visiting a specialist clinic in Rotherham where games are deployed to combat obesity; meeting the students who are learning to program while making games for the blind; and checking out the charity SpecialEffect, whose work is helping children with severe disabilities to play and enjoy videogames.