Walking into London’s City Hall on a cold and blustery winter’s morning, there’s a sense of excitement in the air. Even the normally zombified security guards seem perkier than usual, as though they’re aware that something pretty momentous is going on. As I descend down the spiralling ramp into the bowels of the building, the reason I’m there hoves into view: the astonishing Games Art Exhibition taking place as part of the London Games Festival lies sprawled out across the complex’s lower floor. But the exciting thing is not so much what’s happening in this auspicious building but the fact it’s taking placehere.
For many of us who love games here in the UK, there’s long been a feeling that our industry has been overlooked by both the masses and the government. We’ve been viewed as a niche sector; one that appeals to the teenage minority rather than the wider populace. Thankfully, this year has seen a marked change in attitudes to the importance of the video game industry in the UK, largely thanks to the work that the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) has done. Games are being increasingly culturally accepted and integrated, as the location of the exhibition shows.
Alongside organising this year’s London Games Festival and all its events, UKIE has also lobbied the government to take a stronger stance when it comes to supporting the industry. UKIE has fought hard to get the UK government to grant the industry similar tax breaks to the ones that have been available to film production companies for years. Under current laws, only the film industry (which includes television) can claim tax rebates for production expenditure that meets certain criteria. It’s looking likely that by April next year, games will finally be extended the same benefits.