It’s not really a “What If” more of a “When” the Conservative Party win the next General Election, it’s pretty much expected Labour are on the way out unless Gordon Brown manages to walk on water and then feeds an entire Bermondsey council estate with only a tin of Pilchards and a Ham and Cheese slice from Greggs. What has this got do with gaming? Is David Cameron going to appear in Ratchet and Clank as an end of level boss? Perhaps Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, will be donning the body armour in the next Halo? Unfortunately not, but the decisions taken by politicians do effect gaming in many ways. They can give tax breaks to encourage new software developers, decide how games are rated and even affect the speed of you broadband. If the Conservative party win, the man with the plan for the games industry will probably be Ed Vaizey MP, the current Shadow Culture Minister.
Ed spoke at the recent London Games Conference and gave an insight in his plans for the future, I have a copy of his speech but before we pick out some key points I would just like to say I have absolutely no loyalty to any political party and neither does TSA, apart from CB who you might have seen on Question Time a few weeks ago, big chap, quite sweaty – doesn’t like immigrants. Anyway, on to dissecting his speech and in the time honoured fashion of the internetz the Shadow Culture Secretary shall be rated on various topics as either WIN or FAIL. Here we go..
One of the best ideas from the Conservatives is to integrate video games in to the UK Film Council, a body that looks after the economic, cultural and educational aspects of the UK film industry both here and abroad. The council also distributes Lottery money to finance new independent UK films and I would assume they would to the same for games. This could lead to a more PSN and XBLA games. WIN.
Ed highlights the threat to the UK games industry from competition abroad. France gives games companies tax breaks as do twelve U.S. states, Canada has a pot of $400 million to hand out in incentives to games companies who move there and South Korea has a $200 million fund and a $144 million agency. The UK has no incentives at present which reduces the chances of the next LittleBigPlanet developer emerging here in Blighty. What are the Conservatives going to do about to stimulate game development on these shores?
“When possible and when necessary, we will provide the right investment, business and fiscal environment to allow you to compete.”
‘When possible’ is they key phrase here as it promises nothing. ‘When possible’ I will give every TSA reader a brand new Ferrari!
Ed is keen to point out that an ‘All Party Group for Video Games’ has been set up in Parliament with the aim to educate MPs that games can be fun for all generations and not the devils cyberspace training ground for mass murders and rapists. It’s a start but the Conservatives could be so much more for the UK Games industry. FAIL.
The subject of the Internet is next with Ed suggesting that the current Government target of UK wide 2 Meg broadband by 2012 just is not fast enough. A valid point, downloading a HD video from PSN Video store might be a struggle if you are on a 2 Meg connection.
As you may know the UK is going to get an “ADSL Tax” – 50 pence or so slapped on your monthly phone bill to pay for network improvements. Vaizey suggests,
“The current Government plans to enable superfast broadband by creating a new tax. Frankly, this is an old economy solution to a new economy problem. The cable revolution happened without a cable tax. The satellite revolution happened without a satellite tax.”
BT is the only company that is allowed to upgrade the UK internet backbone at present so the Conservatives wish to deregulate and allow other companies to compete. Competition means lower prices and that should means end users (you and me) should benefit. This sounds like a WIN, but there is the chance Labour could bring in the 50p tax before the next election. Ed does not say if the Conservatives would get rid of this tax if it is already in place. The current party line is they oppose the tax. WIN and FAIL.
The final topic from the speech I wish to cover is internet piracy. Vaizey says,
“The advent of superfast broadband makes the need to find workable solutions to internet piracy all the more pressing. We think that ISPs do bear part of the responsibility to address this problem, but this must work hand in hand with content providers working innovatively to make their content availability easily, legally, reasonably priced, online.”
If people have the choice of downloading a HD Video for £25 or getting a dodgy copy for free, people will go for the dodgy copy. If you can download a perfect HD Surround sound 7.1 HD movie for £5-£10, people will get the legal version. Ed wants to make sure content is available digitally and at a decent price. WIN.
That concludes my dissection of our Shadow Culture Minister. He appears to be enthusiastic about gaming and he does not assume that anyone who plays GTA IV will go and chainsaw a nearby prostitue – this is a very good thing. The bit where he understands gaming does not turn you in to a psycho, not the chainsawing of prostitutes.
Here is an example of Ed at work and you can see he has done research and knows what he is talking about – rare for any MP on any party. This is the transcript of a debate in the House of Commons, November 2008,
John Whittingdale (Conservative):… Part of the problem with video games… is that there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that view. The Video Recordings Act 1984 provided that games should be classified, that it is necessary to restrict certain games to people over a certain age… and that there would be games that should be banned entirely. That system has been generally successful since then, although there is often controversy about individual games…
Edward Vaizey (Conservative): I invite my hon. Friend, in the tone of his remarks, to make the point that when we talk about harmful video games and films, we are talking about a small minority. Does he agree that it is incumbent on hon. Members to remind the House as often as possible, when they talk about video games, that we have a most successful video games industry in this country, which employs thousands of people?
Keith Vaz (Labour): …The fact remains that some of those games, even though they are a minority, are very violent. The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game “Kaboom” in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?
Edward Vaizey (Conservative): May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that “Kaboom” is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban “Kaboom” is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point.”Kaboom” is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, outside the mainstream… It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry.
If you want to go and read the entire debate, click here. It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact these people RUN OUR COUNTRY, people we trust to be intelligent but then say,
“…there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur.”
No evidence, but we are still going to say VIDEO GAMES MAKE YOU KILL BABIES. John Whittingdale MP you should be bloody ashamed. As for Ed, let’s hope he keeps up the good work he genuinely seems to be interested in promoting games rather than demonizing them.
Tuffcub can see the Palace of Westminster out of his office window and Vince Cables daughter sits a few desks across from him (she works for the same company and likes Wine Gums). Michael Portillo stopped and asked him where Sainsbury’s was a few weeks back and Boris Johnson has almost run him over on his bike. Jeremy Paxman beware!