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A new coalition and a new Culture Minister

May 19th, 2010 by

Back in December last year, our very own Xero took it up himself to speak to the three main party members who would in turn be looking after all things “culture” related in our country post the recently 2o1o elections. The original article for which can be found here.

Since then as we all know, a coalition has been setup to act as government for the United Kingdom which brings Ed Vaizey into the spotlight as Culture Minister.

Lets take a look back at Xero’s questions and spotlight Ed’s answers -

Xero: First question, who are you and what do you do?

I’m Ed Vaizey and I’m both the Shadow Culture and Creative Industries Minister and MP for Wantage and Didcot.

X: Next, something we ask everyone here at Midlife Gamer, a subject that is very near and dear to our hearts; what is your favourite biscuit and beverage?

EV: Biscuits – whatever my team leave lying around for me to steal, beverage – probably coffee, though I am working on drinking more water.

X: So, do you play interactive entertainment of any form yourself, either as a personal hobby or with family members? If so, what do you play, if not, why not?

EV: I’ve played the Wii a few times, and achieved the distinction of coming last in the party conference Wii ski-jumping competition. I hope to get a bit more time to work on my skills over Christmas.

X: Perhaps one of the hottest areas of debate in video games at the moment is that surrounding violence and controversial material. Do you believe the current structure of censorship for questionable content is adequate?

EV: The fact that there have been two different bodies rating games has been confusing for consumers and parents. I know the video games sector is keen to address this. The current digital economy bill will change the way that video games are rated, making age ratings compulsory for all boxed games designed for those aged 12 or above – we are supportive of this measure. I think in terms of adult games, as with film, theatre and art, individuals should be free to make their own decisions on what they buy, watch and play.

X: Can video games be responsible in influencing young people to commit violent acts and inspire criminal behavior?

EV: As I understand it, research in this area has not shown that conclusively. The roots of crime are complex, and personally I do not believe it can ever be as simple as the ‘video games cause crime’ headline that is often bandied around.

X: Why do you believe certain British politicians, for example Keith Vaz MP, focus much of their energies on highlighting the negative areas of interactive entertainment?

EV: It is perhaps an easy way to generate press coverage. As video games are a relatively new medium, I think they are something that few current MPs have direct experience of – it is much easier to be negative about an area which you don’t personally know well.

X: How important is the video games industry to the nation in particular regards to economics? Is it something worth investing more in, for example at the higher education, small business and blog level?

EV: There is a lot of talk around government and Westminster about NENJ (pronounce it ninja!) an acronym for ‘new economy, new jobs’. It refers to high tech jobs, green jobs, but also crucially jobs in the creative industries, as those which will drive our economy in the future. I think this is absolutely the case, and the video games sector has a key role to play in this. The UK has an amazing talent for creativity and this is absolutely something we should be investing in and seeking to capitalize upon.

Personally I would love to be able to invest more in the video games sector if we were in government. For me the key areas are helping UK companies retain their IP rights, access investment, increase understanding amongst investors of creative businesses, and development support.

X: If we are to assume that video games are indeed art, does government have a responsibility to preserve them? Should Manhunt, for example, be included in the nation’s galleries or museums, and if so, are there any plans to do so?

EV: I think that is something that we will begin to see. I would like to expand the remit of the UK Film Council to also cover video games, and this is the kind of area where they could take the lead. The British Film Institute already keeps records of video games. I think critics are leading the charge on this, with considerable media discussion about the significance of, for example, Grand Theft Auto. So I don’t think this necessarily has to be about the government stepping in and taking responsibility, but rather, perhaps enabling the sector to work on changing perceptions and becoming regarded as a mainstream art form, alongside film or literature.

X: What do you believe the future of Britain’s games industry is, and how do we get there?

EV: I hope, as outlined above, building on and expanding on considerable successes so far. I think this does require a significant shift in attitudes, starting with Government: video games, and the creative industries, should be at the centre of our business and economic plans. At the moment, they are too easily set to the side as a ‘niche’ sector.

So here’s hoping that Ed Vaizey can deliver as promised by ensuring the video gaming as a business continues to thrive…

One Response to “A new coalition and a new Culture Minister”
  1. avatar Pat Jennings says:

    I have to say that, providing that this wasn’t just pre-election placating nonsense, the minister was very good on the issue. He seems to understand that the industry could become more mainstream, could take control of its own fortunes, and could represent a huge economic boon to the UK. He was also careful not to jump on the usual bandwagons. I say “Bravo” if he can manage to follow these ideas through in the post election era.

    Thanks again to xero for more outstanding, original and thought-provoking journalism.

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