MPs unite for video games industry

The long-standing appeal for help from Britain’s computer games industry has been partly answered by about 20 MPs, who have set aside their differences to champion it.

The first all-party parliamentary group for the industry said it would discuss practical ways to shore up its position as one of the UK’s most successful and creative sectors.

It will be led by Bill Olner MP, who video games workers hope will give them more of a voice in Whitehall on policy issues they have lobbied about for the past 15 months.

Alongside Tiga, the game industry trade body, the Labour MP for Nuneaton backed a range of new initiatives to staff-up the industry, including an initially free jobs board for UK-based developers.

A forum for creative minds from all sectors looking for collaborative, computer-led work was also announced, as part of a goal to get round the skill shortages facing developers.

If successful, the initiatives will make the UK’s developers more efficient, boost their competitiveness and potentially avoid redundancies and offshore outsourcing, TIGA said.

Until now, video games captains say they have been largely ignored by the government or have been deliberately kept low-profile because of claims their products harm children.

But the government’s onus on sectors outside of financial services to steer the UK out of recession, coupled with the industry’s cry for help, appears to be changing MPs’ minds.

Richard Wilson, Tiga’s chief executive, said: “We face a unique set of challenges: skills shortages, high recruitment costs, an unfavourable tax regime and limited availability of finance, all against a backdrop of a global recession and a relatively tight credit market.”

The UK games industry generates about £2billion in revenues and employs 20,000 people, though it faces stiff competition from places such as Canada where the tax regime is more favourable.

Mr Wilson added: “Our sector could be still more successful if the government introduced a tax break for games production and increased the supply of skilled students. The government must reinforce sectors with potential.”

 

16th June 2009

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