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Political Pilgrim's Progress

ELSPA's Michael Rawlinson reveals some of the work behind the scenes in 2009 - and what needs to be done this year

Another year has come and gone, but while everybody's looking ahead to what 2010 will bring, last year saw one of the biggest political victories for ELSPA in its existence - the acceptance of PEGI as the ratings standard.

Here director general Michael Rawlinson explains some of the complexity behind the lobbying task, and gives an insight into how the publisher trade body has been working behind the scenes on behalf of the industry.

The phrase "momentous year" is often used but rarely justified. However, at ELSPA, we think that 2009 really has seen a massive leap forward for the games sector in political terms. We're better known, better organised and more widely respected by policy makers and legislators than ever before.

Coming into 2009 there was only one thing on our minds: PEGI. We had spent countless hours convincing those with a duck house (en route to the dog house), that to award responsibility for games classification to the BBFC would be a disaster for the games industry and dangerous for consumers, especially British children. In June, against all the odds, we won. In fact, in case you missed it, our campaign was nominated by a former Minister to be one of the greatest political campaigns of all time. Praise indeed!

On reflection one could be forgiven for thinking that this campaign was won on a solid strategy alone. In reality it is the culmination of three years of hard work making inroads into Parliament. The victory merely reflects how far we have come from being perceived as the runt in the litter of 13 which make up the creative industries; to the respected sibling we are today.

It doesn't seem long ago that we trembled with anger as Keith Vaz regularly condemned the industry with a tirade of factual untruths and then drew inaccurate conclusions based on ignorance. It was clear that the industry had a problem. We had been so busy being commercially successful we had forgotten to make friends along the way, and now it was open season.

We realised that we needed to take time to explain to Parliament just what videogames are all about. To convince MPs that games, rather than being condemned as the root cause of all societal ills, should be embraced and seen as a force for good. This was never going to be an easy task, but little by little we confronted their fears. We explained that ours is an industry with a conscience and that we take our responsibilities seriously.

Despite our successes in this area we know that this is a never ending task. With over 1300 Lords and MPs, there will always be an honourable or noble member who has never played a videogame. With this in mind 2009 saw the launch of 'Project Parliament', where we set ourselves the simple task of meeting as many Parliamentarians as possible to get them talking and playing games. As part of this process we also took a stand at each of the three main party conferences.

The success of this project has been phenomenal with over 160 inhabitants of both Houses of Parliament meeting with the ELSPA team, many of whom played a videogame for the first time. Naturally we were delighted with our work in this area as the seniority of the people we met - five Secretaries of State, eleven Government Ministers and forty members of the Shadow Cabinet (Conservative and Liberal Democrat) - showed that we are as much about quality as we are about quantity.

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