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GameCity boss: gaming politicians wouldn't be named

But industry needs to be less paranoid about politicians and the media, says Iain Simons

A culture of distrust between the games industry, politicians and the media remains, GameCity festival director and National Videogame Archive co-founder Iain Simons has told

So much so, he claimed, that game-playing political figures are not willing to reveal their interactive entertainment habits in public.

In an interview which will be published on in full next week, Simons told of a planned article for The New Statesman (to which he contributes) on gaming MPs and other Westminster notables.

"The New Statesman were working on a supplement at the time [2006] looking at videogames, and they sent out an informal email to their contacts - so this is Westminster circle journalists, civil servants and indeed MPs - asking them how many played videogames," Simons revealed.

"I don't think anyone responded to say that they did."

However, "A second email was sent to the same people, telling them this was anonymous and that they wouldn't be named as part of the piece, and this time lots of them got back in touch and came 'out' as gamers."

While Simons did not have a concrete reason for the participants' unwillingness to be named, he supposed that "to be identified as a gamer (in 2006, at least) was incompatible with being a 'serious' civil servant or member of the Westminster set - be that journalist, MP or whatever."

The attempted study took place in 2006, a time when games had become a particularly hot issue in Westminster, and a time when mainstream press coverage of gaming was dominated by negative headlines.

But while this is a situation which is gradually improving, says Simons, a culture of distrust remains. The onus, he claims, is as much on the industry as the politicians.

"My experience as a writer and NVA/GameCity person has been that very often the establishment wants to play - but we need to communicate with them much better.

"If the industry can get over its paranoia, and the 'establishment' can get over its often irrational reactionary standpoint toward games and gamers - we could start exploring the real value of the industry's contribution over and above what it brings to the GDP.

"I can well understand why the industry would be suspicious and a bit paranoid about the media and Parliament, having had the kicking it's had for the last twenty years."

In recent years, UK politicians and MPs have lashed out at controversial games because of their violent nature and perceived risk to children, often neglecting to consider evidence to the contrary.

Look out for the full interview with Iain Simons next week. For more information on what's happening at GameCity, check the festival's website.

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