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Exclusive Andrew Gower interview

Andrew Gower, Jagex, Runescape

Browser MMOs are very fashionable just now, but the market was led by Andrew Gower’s Runescape, which is in the Guinness book of Records, and the company Jagex, which he founded. Jagex is based in Cambridge and with around 400 staff they are the biggest independent UK developer. In addition to Runescape they have the FunOrb online gaming portal and a second MMO under development.

Q: Cunning and Devious games, developing for the Atari ST from 1995 was your first foray into the industry. Was this a deliberate career choice or did you drift into the industry?

A: I’ve been programming computers games in one form or another since I was age 7 (1985), originally starting out on the ZX Spectrum, and I knew from about age 10 that I wanted a career in computer games. The games I made in 1995 were a bit of a milestone in that they were the first games I wrote in assembler and were the first ones I felt were good enough to actually release to the public. They were also the first ones I made any money from. So yes it was a deliberate career choice, although it didn’t turn out quite how I expected!

Q: You are the founder of Jagex, the most successful British owned games studio. You must be very proud of this achievement. What were the main hurdles you had to overcome?

A: The biggest hurdles have generally been to do with that the fact that I’ve always tried to pioneer new things, and not just copy what is already being done. However this has often meant that the tools and technology we need don’t exist either, so rather than being able to use off the shelf products to create our games we’ve always had to develop our own tool chains, game engines, etc.. When starting out with RuneScape there wasn’t much like it, so before I could even start making the game I had to build a whole load of supporting technology to determine if a game of that complexity was even possible at all in the browser. Also as one of the earliest MMOs we’ve had to learn the hard way how to manage a live, and evolving game, how to support the community etc.. It’s been one continual learning experience.

Q: With RuneScape you went for server based browser gaming many years before it became fashionable. Now the hottest technology is cloud computing and netbooks. How far do you think that the games industry will eventually move to your way of doing things?

A: I think the industry will continue to diversify, and make increasingly varied games for increasingly diverse platforms, and the appropriate technology to use will therefore be equally diverse. I don’t think things like browser games will totally replace retail games any time soon. As each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. I personally play both and enjoy them both, for different reasons. I’m going to be controversial and say I don’t really buy all the talk of convergence, it seems to me the number of different technologies, and the number of ways of making games and doing business is increasing, not the opposite.

Q: You are personally responsible for a lot of game design and advanced technology to make a game with millions of global players work. What advice would you give to a schoolboy who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

A: Well what worked for me was sticking to what I had a real passion for, and what I was good at. I never sat down and said to myself ‘I want to make a hugely successful game and make lots of money’, that was never the aim, and I think if it had been it wouldn’t have worked. I also think it is important to have realistic goals, if my initial objective had been to create a game as massive as RuneScape it would have seemed like an impossible task, I’d have been totally daunted and would never have got anywhere. Instead focus on what you can realistically do, make a simple game, certainly don’t start with an MMO. And importantly set an achievable goal you will enjoy. Make a simple game for the love of making that simple game as well as you possibly can, and seeing just how well you can make it. Just because it’s simple and achievable doesn’t mean it can’t be beautifully crafted and something to be proud of.

Q: When I worked with Richard Darling he hated being on the Sunday Times Rich List, yet Jez San in his interview for Bruceongames brought the subject up himself! How do you feel about being on there each year?

A: I really don’t like it. I’m just a normal guy who lives a rather normal life, with a passion for creating games, and wish people would focus on the games I’m making rather than me! Also people don’t realise that the value is very much an ‘in theory’ figure, based on the value of my studio, rather than being money in my bank account that I could actually spend. I feel these ‘on paper/in theory’ valuations really just give people the wrong idea. For me it’s really not about the money anyway.

Q: A lot of your gaming heritage is on the FunOrb game portal. How do you see the more casual side of gaming developing, especially with the influence of the Wii?

A: Well the first thing I should say is that I don’t see FunOrb as a casual gaming portal :) And we’re trying very hard NOT to make it ‘wii like’. One of the perceptions we are challenging is that if game is accessible, lightweight, and doesn’t have a huge manual to read before you play, then it MUST also be ‘casual’.

It seems to be that is ignoring a huge gap in-between ‘core’ and ‘casual’. The perception seems to be that games must be either massive budget (And therefore very high risk and so not very innovative), or exceedingly low budget casual games, with no depth or lasting gameplay, targeted at non-gamers. FunOrb is trying to fill the gap in between the two with games that aren’t all just the same ‘low risk’ FPS/RTS formula over and over again, but ARE still proper games designed for gamers, that are very deep, and (at the end) present a real challenge even to a seasoned gamer.

FunOrb is targeted at the sort of people who used to enjoy playing games on the Atari-ST or the Amiga, who say to themselves ‘why they don’t they make games like they used to?’. Those 16-bit games were never considered ‘casual’. They were very certainly targeted at gamers. But they were far more varied, were quick to pick up and play, and didn’t require a huge commitment to get started.

Q: It is inevitable that MMOs migrate onto many new games platforms. Already we have Free Realms coming to the PS3. And Android looks like a fantastic mobile platform. Where do you see this going?

A: Yes I think MMOs will migrate onto every (internet enabled) games platform. We’re pretty well positioned to take advantage of that, because we have a lot of experience making games for low spec devices.

Q: Finally, it is an open secret that Jagex has the working title MechScape under development, aimed at different demographics and introducing new state of the art technology. Is there any specific direction you are going in with this game? And when are we likely to see it ready?

A: We’re deliberately keeping pretty quiet about MechScape, because we want to surprise people, and also want people to enjoy exploring it for themselves and seeing what we have created without lots of spoilers. It’s very much a game of exploration and discovery and has beautiful art direction and back-story which I’m not going to give away :) The original rational for creating it was very much ‘if we made a new MMO we could do it so much better given everything we have learned doing RuneScape’. So we did! RuneScape grew very organically, whereas MechScape was created with the benefit of years of experience so is much more cohesive. In terms of when it’s ready…, the version in the office is now pretty much feature complete, it’s fully playable and is due to enter the final internal testing and polishing shortly, which is massive milestone for us. How long the testing takes depends on how much we decide we still want to improve, it could be a little while longer because we’re not going to rush it, and aren’t going to launch it until it’s awesome.


Exclusive interview with Jez San OBE

Jez San

Jez San is one of the veterans who made the British video game industry. An assembly language programmer for several different processors, his first major game hit was Starglider in 1986, many others followed. He is also a chip designer, book author, online gambling expert and highly successful businessman. In 2002 he was awarded the OBE. He is also a life member of BAFTA.

Jez now owns or has interests in a range of companies in and around the gaming industry.

Perhaps we can start by setting context with you giving a very quick overview of PKR and Origin8.

pkr and origin8 are two very different companies.. with different goals, aspirations, shareholders etc.
pkr was started to make a new form of online poker that was more entertaining and shared some aspects with modern computer games…  and origin8 was established to make iphone apps, including both games and non-games.

At Codemasters we discussed doing online gambling. The video game and online gambling industries seem to me to be the same thing but with different business models, yet the two industries live in different boxes, why do you think this is?

They are very different industries  – enormously different but with some common skillset between them.  in computer and video games, you make good games.. you spend a year or two developing the game itself.. then you put it in a shrinkwrap box, and sell it into distribution, and retail etc.  some sales are online but most are at retail.   the game, once sold, is the end of it.  a sequel might come a few years later etc etc.   there are no rules on what you’re allowed to put in your game, or who you’re allowed to sell to, except voluntary age restrictions.  cheating in the game is common – either by patching it, or hacking it, or just playing in a way against the spirit of the game is all rife, and its a cat and mouse game to stop the cheaters.. but it is of little impact.   people pay a fixed amount to buy the game, or a monthly amount to play the game (if online).  the money flow on a computer game is out from the customer and in to the game sellers.  the players do not expect to make money.
contrast all that to the online gambling industry (we call it online gaming, btw).  Online gambling games, by their very nature are all about Money.  Money has to be protected.   Cheating in a computer game is a fact of life, because there’s little impact in being cheated.  But when REAL MONEY is involved, the game has to be totally and utterly fair., as MONEY is involved.   you cant afford to slip up.  one lapse and it could be the end of the company.
The software must be developed by audited companies who have screened their employees.  the key ones will have gone through a police criminal records check.  The company will be licensed and regulated by a pukka jurisdiction like Alderney or Gibraltar and hopefully not by the light or zero regulated islands like Costa Rica, Curacao or some indian reservations etc.  The better jurisdictions have a lot more regulation that must be adhered to and have the skilled operatives able to discern the legit companies and people from the faceless ones.. and the honest companies welcome the enforcement and regulation.  there’s a lot of rules to comply with.  all about protecting the innocent, the vulnerable and ensuring the games are fair.
Trust is everything!  The honesty and compliance issues surrounding online gambling are a huge obstacle for a computer game or video game company entering the gambling market.  in computer games we simply accept that there are cheats and try to avoid them.  in online gambling we simply cant allow cheating of any kind, either by the company or its players.  if ever a company was found cheating, its most likely because it wasn’t regulated properly in a safe and trustworthy jurisdiction.. and there weren’t enough checks and balances in place to ensure fair play.  in proper jurisdictions, the software that is created is audited and validated to ensure it plays fair and doesn’t cheat.  its vital that the customer trusts the game and the company that supplied it.  Trust is everything.  the customer is trusting that they can deposit their cash into the game – sometimes hundreds or thousands – or even tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.. and the game cannot allow cheating of any form.  its essential that the customer can trust the game is fair and that they are playing against fair players.  Players must be able to TRUST where they leave their MONEY and that the games are fair.

Do you think that there is anything that the game industry should be learning from online gambling?

The business model is more direct.  in online gaming, the game supplier has a direct relationship with the customer.  I wish that in computer games that this was true.  the main reason i stopped making computer games was that the biggest negative of being a computer game developer was having to have a relationship with publishers and distributors at the expense of a relationship with the games player / customer.  one day, computer games distribution techniques will allow game developers and game players to interact directly – without publishers and distributors getting in the way.  and on that day, I will consider coming back to computer games and probably will enjoy it again.
I think that most online gaming companies can learn a lot from computer games companies.. in how to make the products better.. and more compelling.. and enjoyable etc.  this is what pkr.com brings to the table.  we have a poker game that’s more like a computer game yet a business model and compliance that is of the highest standards of the online gambling industry.  pkr;s game of poker is a lot of fun..!  its in full 3d, with avatars, and clothing, hairstyles, jewellery, poker tells and body language, moods and accents etc.  you enjoy playing, because of the experience itself.  it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, you will probably still enjoy it.. and that’s the beauty of pkr compared to the other poker sites which are 2d, top down, very dry, lots of text and numbers.. and are a very technical form of poker game.. whereas pkr is more of an entertainment experience.  Also, and most importantly, PKR is all about the social play.  it has a social network, like facebook, built into its front end.. and it encourages people to interact.. both in terms of chatting in-game, forums out of game.. plus having friends lists and keeping their friends up to date with their accomplishments.  pkr is the most social of the online poker sites.. and that is our edge.  other poker sites may let you chat but the chat window is one line big.  you’re really not expected to chat.  they usually don’t have forums as they don’t want their users talking to each other.  they don’t have social networks or friends lists etc.  pkr has carved its own niche among online poker.. in embracing the idea that people want to play poker and other gambling games for social and entertainment reasons, and NOT, simply, to make money.

The App Store has been the biggest success of any new platform in the history of video games and you are a part of it. Where do you see it going next?

The biggest advantage of the app store is its direct relationship between the game developer and the audience.  that bit I love.  but the biggest problem is that there are few if any channels of communication to allow the marketing of the game.. and the only way that games can rise to the top of the pile and be noticed is if they are priced cheap enough to be popular.. so right now, the model of the app store is a bit broken in that usually, only cheap games do well.. and there’s almost no way for a properly priced game – that compensates its authors for the work – to be able to do sell.  of course, there’s a few exceptions, but that doesn’t make it a successful market.   The App Store, itself is doing well because of the large number of apps and games available but each one isn’t selling as well as it should because of lack of visibility and lack of an ability to promote the game.  but each individual game only makes thousands of dollars.. maybe a hundred thousand if you’re lucky.  certainly not enough to pay back the man years of effort required to make a good game.   very few Apps on the app store have earned $500k, and even less have got to $1m, yet the cost of producing a high quality iPhone game could easily get up to that level.

iPhone is not the only App based mobile platform. Android, PSP and Pre are there, amongst others. How do you see this market panning out?

I think its definitely the way to go and I’m hoping they have success.  apple did a great job of wrestling away the right to distribute Apps away from the telcos and operators.  for that they should be loudly applauded.  mobile operators are very dumb, and full of idiots who know nothing about entertainment or games.  they became too powerful and managed to deliberately stop a potential virtuous circle of App developers making apps that allow operators to sell phones and data plans.  for ages, mobile operators were a disparate group that had little or no software available on their handsets, and what was available was often crap.  now, with App stores.. this will change.  Finally, the App creator and the consumer.. can have a direct relationship.   Now we’ve just got to fix the marketing angle and lines of communication with the consumer.. and we’ll be there.

Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others are investing billions in the internet cloud. With MMOs and casual gaming our industry has moved in this direction. How far do you think that gaming will eventually become server based?

It makes a lot of sense for server based games.  or even games hosted on servers and streamed to the users.  there’s no compelling reason why the end user has to have an incredibly powerful hardware system, when all the power could be at the server end, and deliver to the user a beautiful and interactive game at full production values in real time – utilising streaming or thin client game engine.

This is an excellent way to go, for sure.  not the only way, of course.  there will always be games that wish to run on powerful home computers and consoles.  but i think we’re going to see a lot more server based and/or streamed games in the future – now that our internet connectivity is finally getting fast and reliable.  ive got 90 megs at home in london.. that’s incredible!

ARC has been a phenomenal success with cores now being manufactured in over 300 million chips a year, and you created it. How difficult is it to turn a technology idea into a successful company like this?

It was very difficult as it was such an innovative idea.  ARC built a powerful and yet configurable microprocessor and allowed its customers to fine tune its instruction set.  this kind of power in the customer’s hands has never been available before.   We started ARC when we had just finished the Super FX chip for Nintendo.  After creating several chips for people who never brought them out… (we designed the 3d engines for Philip’s CDI-2, and for an Apple games system that never came out, as well as a Hasbro VR machine…)  So in the end we decided that it was too risky to be a tech house reliant on other people’s efforts to bring out the chips.. so instead, we built a completely configurable processor.. so that we can license the core technology and building blocks and let others customise them in any way they wanted to make their own products.  We had some very large licensees and its likely there’s an ARC inside your laptop, and your set top box, and maybe even your camera or mobile phone.  ARC’s main trouble was that it wasn’t an industry standard – like ARM – so it didn’t make enough revenue per license to make it very profitable.  I don’t think its ever made a profit.  I sold out of ARC in the last few years.  It did well for me personally, in that – as major shareholder – i got to sell my shares for a decent amount of cash.  ARC was once a Billion Pound company, and i once owned 20% of it (hence my position in the rich list in 2000-2004).  Luckily I sold out with relatively good timing, and ive put some of the cash into new things like PKR and Origin8 (as well as Ninja Theory, Codeplay, MyDeco and some other cool companies).

What happened at Argonaut must have been very traumatic for you. Are there any lessons for the game industry here?

as mentioned, the whole business model of the computer game industry is wrong.  Also, the power of the industry wrests with the wrong people.    Those that make the games – the developers – earn the smallest piece of the pie and get the least credit.   This is WRONG.   no other media industry treats its content producers – aka STARS – so badly.  You don’t go buy a Random House book.. you buy a JK Rowling book.  You don’t buy a Sony album… you buy a Michael Jackson album.  So why the fuck would you buy an EA game? Who cares who the distributor is.   I’m very glad I’m not relying on the computer game industry to butter my bread.  One day, the industry will get it right.  The people who make the games need to be better credited and compensated.   And the people who buy the games need to be educated that its not the distributor or publisher that matter but the people who created the games are why they enjoy what they’re playing.   There are very few ‘Stars’ in computer games.. The Carmack’s and Molyneux’s of the world are very rare.. and there really should be a lot more.

You should be on Dragon’s Den with all your investments in young games related companies. CodePlay, Anthropics and The Chilli that I know of. Should game industry entrepreneurs looking for an angel get in touch with you?

sure.. I’m always happy to hear from bright people with passion and a good idea.  Preferably they need to have it all figured out, including a business plan.. before they will get much out of me.  I am looking for new investments.  but I value innovation and a sound business model above most other things.  experience counts too.  I’ve got cash.. and I’m not planning to spend it in any way except very wisely.  I will consider investing in new concepts and new ideas with good people.  but always in things I understand (hair brained crackpots with crazy shit, don’t apply!).

Exclusive interview, Philip Oliver of Blitz Games Studios

I have known Philip (and his twin brother Andrew) for over 20 years now. We worked together when they wrote Sinclair Spectrum games for Codemasters, including the phenomenally successful Dizzy series. At Blitz  they have succeeded where so very many have failed, in the massively difficult and complex job of independent game development. Not only do they make games, they are also active at the very sharp end of technology with projects like their own development software and their current work in 3D gaming.

Philip is incredibly enthusiastic about video gaming, it is something he lives and breathes. He does so with knowledge and sincerity that have made him widely respected throughout the industry.

Firstly, to give the readers some context, how about a very brief potted history of Blitz Games Studios?

PO: Blitz Games Studios is one of the world’s largest independent videogames developers. Andrew and I established the company in 1990 and the studio now employs 230 people; last year’s turnover was more than £10m. We work both on a commissioned basis and develop our own IP games. (Fuller details on the website).

Politicians and journalists cannot seem to see past the issue of violence in video games, what do you think of this obsession?

PO: I really think this has now changed, over the last year, and helped by the Games Up? campaign, attitudes are definitely shifting. It’s very interesting that when GTA 4 launched there was practically no negative press and no adverse political comment. I think we’ve won the argument that games cover all ages and genres, just as with films and books. The Byron Report also proved how responsible we are as an industry, and in fact this has led to the approval of the self-regulatory PEGI system, which is a huge win for the industry.

Over the last few years the UK video game industry has slipped from third in the world to fifth or sixth. Is it possible to stop this downwards slide and if so how?

PO: Well, it depends on when and how you measure it. The main reason for the slippage is the huge investment by countries such as Canada into game development, via their tax breaks and salary subsidies (which can be up to 45%) – it’s absolutely not the case that Britain is becoming worse at developing games. And certainly it’s possible to halt it, I’ve been in discussion with various government people about various tax break systems for some time now (see below).

Within a year we will have a new government. Do you expect this to have much effect on how our industry is treated in Westminster?

PO: I believe the spread of support is pretty even across the political spectrum – look at the recent formation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Computer and Video Games Industry with cross-party support from 22 members of both the House of Commons and the Lords. I think everyone now appreciates that the games industry is part of mainstream entertainment and should be a thriving example of British creativity and entrepreneurship.

What are the best decisions that politicians could make for the health future of Blitz Games Studios and your contribution to the economy and to employment?

PO: We feel we’re a global industry competing on an uneven playing field. We’d like our government to make moves in the same direction as Canada, South Korea and Australia, to offer financial incentives. For example, ensuring that R&D tax credits are fit for purpose for knowledge-based industries, but let’s not stop there – they could offer tax credits for companies who invest time and effort in supporting schools, colleges and universities to improve their courses and make business engagement really rewarding for the students and industry. Blitz does a lot with universities already, but we can’t afford to engage directly with schools and we’d very much like to be able to, as I know would other developers. Another hugely useful direction would be to improve the information and access to support for industry internal training – we’re always needing to learn new skills at a faster rate than many industries and currently the support is aimed at much lower skill levels.

We have two trade organisations, ELSPA and TIGA, would we be better served if they amalgamated so the industry could speak with one voice?

PO: It’s an interesting idea. Historically, ELSPA has spoken for the publishing side of the business and TIGA for the development side, but as we go into the digital future, the line is likely to become increasingly blurred. It’s worth noting that TIGA represents UK owned business whereas ELSPA is almost wholly representing UK subsidiaries of international publishers. However, they are very good at working together for the benefit of the whole industry. It’s also worth noting that other industries have more than one trade body – I believe engineering has over 20 – and competition helps to keep everyone’s game up. Another thing to bear in mind is that if you do have more than one voice speaking for an industry, when they’re speaking in unison you find that people really start to listen!

Arts have the Arts Council, Film the Film Council and Music the Music Council. Why don’t we have a Games Council for promoting video gaming in the UK?

PO: Actually the Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has already proposed such an idea and yes, we would warmly welcome it and we’re keen to be involved.

The video games industry and the country as a whole are desperately short of the right type of graduates. Physics and maths especially. Do you have any suggestions for fixing this?

PO:  Higher per student subsidies in specialist areas where the UK industry as a whole identifies skills shortages would really help, especially if it was backed up with a plan to ensure that teachers in STEM subjects were highly qualified and rewarded for turning to teaching – all the way from primary schools to universities.

I’d also like to see a higher per student subsidy offered to universities for Skillset-accredited courses; this would underline that accreditation really means something, and would help budding game developers decide on the right courses.

Lastly, I feel really strongly about this, programming and other ‘under the hood’ areas of interest need to be reintroduced into the curriculum at a much earlier age. You could start it off with problem-solving at primary school; but I think the real issue is expanding and developing the ICT curriculum, which currently turns a lot of students off. If you could include simple game development in there it could really inspire young people and give them a great grounding for future careers – as you say, it’s not just the games industry that needs programmers, after all!

What percentage of the video games courses run by UK universities are pretty much a waste of time?

PO: There are a huge number of courses out there – 330 at both university and college level, according to UCAS – and some are good, some are average, some are very poor. We want all of them to up their game, and one way of doing this is for all of them to work towards Skillset accreditation. We support Skillset wholeheartedly, and just the process of trying to get accredited will teach the currently less valuable courses a great deal about what they should be teaching and how. It’s also worth noting that accreditation is a very useful internal lever for courses if they’re trying to get better equipment or better funding from their administration.

Do you think that there is a legal or legislative answer to game piracy, or will we be best served using technology and adapting our business models?

PO: Tricky question. Solving piracy by technical means is within our power, as has been proved by current digital download technology, and certainly I think we’ll all need to adapt our business models to new challenges. Legislatively though, one thing that strikes me is that the government could look into the legal loophole around the ‘back-up device’ – you know, where any technology that allows copying can be deemed a ‘back-up device’ and is therefore allowed. No-one wants to limit genuine use but where it’s being blatantly exploited, perhaps the loophole could be closed, allowing the industry and the police to better enforce it. Obviously piracy is a global phenomenon so any one country’s law has a limited remit, but there’s something to be said for leading by example.

We are at long last seeing a rapid increase in the use of video gaming in education. From Brain Age to Moodle. Where do you see this going?

PO: I think the single most revolutionary change recently in education is the introduction of digital whiteboards into classrooms – they are fantastic, it’s making an enormous difference to the ways in which teachers can engage and deliver their content. We’d love to see many more applications in the classroom and believe this will happen. We hope to be part of making it happen!

And finally, do you find this industry so much fun that you don’t need a hobby?

PO: I wouldn’t do anything else. I love the industry, I love the fact that our games are played by so many different people – but it does keep me too busy for a hobby!

Exclusive interview: Ed Vaizey, UK shadow minister for the arts

Ed Vaizey, Shadow minister for the arts.

Ed Vaizey is a front bench Conservative politician, he is Shadow Arts Minister and part of his brief is the video game industry. In less than a year the Conservatives will be forming the British government and Ed could well become the most important and powerful person in Britain for the games industry.

Ed has a BA in history from Oxford university, he has practiced as a barrister and was a partner in the public relations company Consolidated Communications. He is Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of  Wantage.

In this exclusive Bruceongames interview Ed gives an insight as to how video games will be treated differently under a Conservative government:

Firstly to get started, are you a gamer yourself?
No, I haven’t played video games since I was a teenager.

Your responsibility covers all the arts so do you think that the idea of video games as art is valid?
Well, I tend to divide between the arts and the creative industries – and put something like film in the creative industries bit.  But yes I would see video games as art, they are creative, and they have by now their own heritage and cultural significance, which is one element of art.

In recent years the UK game industry has slipped from being third in the world to being fifth, or even sixth. Do the Conservatives have plans to stop or even reverse this slide?
We think video games have not been taken seriously by this Government.  They are a huge industry for us, we are world-beaters, and we should be looking at imaginative policies to support the industry as much as possible.

Keith Vaz has said some very negative things about video gaming in the House of Commons. Do you think that understanding of the industry is increasing amongst politicians now?
It’s getting better – Tom Watson is a great cheer leader for the industry, and he is a former Labour minister.  Read digital Britain, and there is more about the games industry in it than I expected.  I think there has been a change, and I’d like to think I played a part by banging on about it for so long.

In other interviews you have said that the industry would be better served by having just one trade organisation, instead of both ELSPA and TIGA, as we have now. Would you give encouragement for this change?

Yes – though they would argue they have different interests, I think a single trade body putting across the industry’s view would be a good thing.

You have previously supported the idea of a Games Council to promote gaming. Much like the Arts, Film and Music Councils. After the Olympics there will be lottery money available. Would a Games Council be a good cause?
Possibly – I don’t want to create another quango, with all those overheads and self-serving agendas.  I’d like to explore whether the Film Council’s remit could be extended to video games.  And the Film Council doles out money to independent movies via the Lottery, so there is no reason in principle why Lottery money could not support some aspects of games development

Are you happy with the level of protection given to children by the PEGI censorship system?
Yes , it seems a pretty straightforward system

How can we get the British mass media, like the Daily Mail, to better understand gaming and support our games industry?
You can’t – the media love bad news stories.  But I do think  the industry has made real strides in the last couple of years.  You see many more Wii type stories, emphasising the industry’s contribution to health and education, than you used to.

Video gaming is expected to be massive in education and confers many advantages. Do the Conservatives have plans to promote this?
Yes – we will take the way technology is transforming teaching much more seriously.  Hitherto, we have simply given teachers the latest gadgets, and never asked – how does this change the way you do your job.  Michael Gove is going to revolutionise teacher training so that technology is at the heart of what teachers do

The gaming industry and the country as a whole are massively short of maths and physics graduates. Do you think that gaming could be used as a carrot to help solve this problem?
Yes absolutely.  It’s one of the reasons I got into the area so much – it ticks so many boxes for politicians such as having a regional presence.  And then it is a huge attraction to get kids to take the sciences seriously.

Copying of digital works is a big problem. What would a Conservative government do to protect creative workers from the online theft of their work?
We will work with the ISPs to ensure that people who are ripping off games are held to account, we have to take tough measures to ensure this becomes much less of a problem.  But the industry has to adapt as well, and change its business models to account for the new era.

Finally gaming is fun. Is politics fun too?
It used to be – before expenses!