"The industry has come of age -- we take our responsibilities seriously"
UKIE's Jo Twist on the right response to "a new phase of regulatory scrutiny" for the games industry
Despite the awful nature of 2020 and its impact on the entire world, the impact of games on popular culture within the UK is firmly established; our industry is mainstream and currently seeing growth in many ways.
More than half of the UK population now plays games regularly, and the consumer market was valued at £5.35 billion in 2019 -- that figure is likely to grow noticeably in 2020 because there have been some fantastic breakout hits, albeit for unanticipated reasons on occasion.
So, all good then? Unfortunately, not quite.
In some corners of the press and in some parts of Westminster, games can get a rough ride
We are in what feels like a new phase of regulatory scrutiny. The UKIE team has, while continuing to serve the wider industry, worked on consultations in 2020 on everything from our industry's response to COVID-19, topics related to online harms, tax matters, online advertising and, of course, loot boxes in games. It is natural that an industry of our size, directly employing nearly 20,000 people and supporting many more thousands of jobs, has its voice heard on such a range of issues, and we work hard to get what we need heard by the right people.
But in some corners of the press and in some parts of Westminster, games can get a rough ride -- especially in the past few years. We understand that the innovative and immersive nature of the medium can be unsettling for some. We also know that we have at many points in history been held unfairly as the cause of the ills of society, just as with other emerging forms of popular culture throughout the decades. There are many who incorrectly believe the industry is a Wild West, despite companies across the sector working within a wide range of regulations such as consumer protection laws and self-regulatory practices.
However, these concerns -- often shaped by emotive headlines -- should not lead to knee-jerk regulation that could damage a thriving national creative industry, particularly as we look towards the part we play in our national economic recovery. Instead, as well as believing that policy should be guided by robust evidence, we should continue to take the approach of a mature industry and talk about games in human, understandable and compassionate ways to those who put us under the microscope.
We know that much of the concern about games is unfounded, but we're only able to show this by helping people -- whether it's carers or policy makers -- to understand the value of games. Yes, there will be some people who never like games and will never have their minds changed, but the simple fact is that tens of millions of people in the UK derive a huge amount of pleasure and entertainment from games, safely and sensibly, and that number is only growing as our sector evolves. Plus, we must always be proud of the contribution our sector makes to the economy and the jobs that it creates.
This means we must have the confidence to firmly but politely push back against depictions of our industry that do not align to reality. We are not, as some would like to portray us, gambling companies without concerns about our players. We are not in the business of addiction, in exactly the same way that the makers of compelling film, TV or books aren't. And we are certainly not motivated solely by profit without thought about the consequences at the other side -- a depiction of our sector that is deeply inaccurate and unfair.
This is the time to prove we are worthy custodians of the trust and faith that players and parents put in our hands
Instead, we must show our critics what the UK games industry is: a fun, kind and thoughtful sector that leads the world in creativity and is a significant contributor to the UK economy. It has roots in both digital and local communities across the country, and it aims to entertain responsibly, working hard to ensure that its players feel valued, respected and -- in the case of children -- protected.
But the best way we can show the world -- and regulators -- this is by making sure we continue to match the words we say with actions from within the industry that demonstrate we can be trusted on the major issues of the day. A number of campaigns in 2020 have been noticed by policy makers. The sector's generosity to NHS workers, its fundraising efforts, its support of mental health campaigns, and the widespread support of the #RaiseTheGame diversity pledge all made a positive impact beyond the edge of the industry.
The industry has also successfully come together for self-regulation, and we have a proven track record of working closely with government and regulators to create meaningful and effective solutions that ensure we are providing safe, healthy places to play.
At this crucial time for the industry, we must continue to make that case. We'll shortly be launching Get, Set, Go! -- an extension to our Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. campaign -- which will actively encourage parents and carers to activate the family controls on their new next-gen consoles to help them manage time and money spent. Once again, we'll be asking the wider industry to back this campaign and amplify this message.
This is the time to prove to the world we are worthy custodians of the trust and faith that players and parents put in our hands. Self-regulation combined with increasing use of family controls is the best way to protect players and ensure our industry continues to grow and thrive, while keeping player safety and trust as our guiding principle.
The industry has come of age -- we take our responsibilities seriously. Now is the time to show the world we are proud to do so.