2015: A Year in the Political Game
Before heading off for a holiday break, we took a look back at some of the highlights from this year of games industry engagement with government, parliament and UK politics.
We'd like to thank all of our members for their help throughout the year getting more recognition and support for our industry. None of what we do would be possible without you.
A policy and public affairs newsletter, the Policy Download, goes out every fortnight to interested members. If you would like to receive it, please email Andy. And you can of course keep up with policy news right here on our blog, as well as reading all of our consultation submissions and other policy papers.
The early months of the year were focused on the run-in to the 2015 General Election: engaging with frontbenchers and advisers from all the leading parties to put across the points in the Ukie manifesto we launched in September 2014.
A major theme for us this year was to explain the range and diversity of games innovation to decision-makers, as well as how games are now a mainstream part of our cultural conversation.
January saw Jo and Shahneila, our Head of Education, present to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Craft and Design in Education, chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP and the Earl of Clancarty. They talked about the importance of creativity and art to the games industry and the rest of the economy, and explained our Digital Schoolhouse programme to embed the new coding curriculum in schools through creative teaching.
Chris White MP, Chair of the All Party Group for Video Games
With Chris White MP, Chair of the APPG for Video Games, Playground Games and the Arch Creatives we held the Leamington Games Summit in his constituency, bringing together companies, colleges, the council and the Local Enterprise Panel for that vital games industry cluster.
In March together with Jagex we brought together games companies in Cambridge for a roundtable with Chris Bryant MP, then Labour's Shadow Creative Industries Minister, to discuss the success of the Cambridge games industry and how the next government could continue this growth.
In the pre-election Budget the government responded to lobbying on several proposals from Ukie by announcing £4m for the Prototype Fund (now the UK Games Fund) and a further £4m for the Skills Investment Fund.
As Parliament closed in anticipation of the General Election, MPs passed a final wave of legislation, including the Consumer Rights Act. This introduced a new set of rules for what consumers could expect when they bought digital content that proved to be faulty - something that hadn't been clear before. Ukie had worked with government for three years, presenting evidence from across the industry to make sure the new law didn't cause a problem for digital business models for games. The final version kept to the priorities we had made clear throughout that conversation, keeping the UK a great place to sell games and representing an important policy win.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson at a Ukie Digital Schoolhouse project at Regent's High School in Camden
As the new government got up to speed after the election we engaged with them across the policy agenda, including on immigration, the digital economy, skills and many other issues. We started building bridges with new MPs representing games clusters. For example we took Keir Starmer QC MP, the new MP for Holborn and St Pancras, to visit Rocksteady Studios and hear how they have built one of the most successful games franchises in the world with the Batman: Arkham series. Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched London Tech Week at a Ukie Digital Schoolhouse programme in a London school.
With the proposals around a new Digital Single Market gathering pace, Ukie joined ISFE for a major launch of important new research from Deloitte, on the size and importance of the mobile games industry across Europe.
Jo at the ISFE research launch in Brussels discussing the growth of the mobile games market with Commission and European Parliament representatives
With Parliament back in full swing in the autumn after the election, the summer break and party conference season, this was the busiest time of the year for us. We introduced Disabilities Minister Justin Tomlinson MP to games industry charity SpecialEffect and in October Jo appeared before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee to give evidence about the Creative Industries in Scotland.
Jo addressing the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in September
On 3rd November we hosted the first-ever Westminster Games Industry Day. This saw four events across a single day, including our annual reception, a games showcase in Parliament, and two policy seminars.
We had 24 MPs come along to events throughout the day, including keynote speeches from two ministers, and engagement with over 60 researchers, officials and advisers from across Parliament and government.
Shadow Creative Industries Minister Chi Onwurah MP and Ukie Chair Noirin Carmody at the lunchtime Westminster Games Day showcase in Portcullis House
Ukie also launched the Blueprint for Growth for the industry, outlining government and industry interventions to help shape and promote growth over the next 5 years.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey MP at Ukie's Westminster Games Day reception
Good news came on Video Games Tax Relief as we saw the rate of applications doubling. Almost as many games were certified in the three months to October as had been in the first six months of the year. We are confident that the tax relief will continue to have a strong and growing impact for our industry all across the country.
We continue to work hard across the policy landscape. November and December have seen a new impetus behind the Creative Industries Council, on which Ukie representatives have sat since 2011. A strategy refresh by the Council is underway, leading to in-depth discussions of digital infrastructure, access to finance, copyright, regulation, skills and other issues. Ukie has been at the heart of all of these debates, making sure that the games industry's voice continues to be heard right at the top of government.
That's all for 2015 - a year that saw major political changes in the UK, continued success for the games industry, and lots of hard work from everyone here at Ukie. But 2016 is shaping up to be just as busy, with elections in Scotland, London, Wales and Northern Ireland, most likely an EU referendum, and big policy debates around the Digital Single Market, the talent pipeline and the Apprenticeship Levy, immigration controls, privacy and many other issues.
We will keep working hard to make sure the games industry's voice is heard by all sides.