Over the years, governments have woken up to the important economic contributions that the video games industry makes – in terms of value added, jobs and exports.
At the global level, industry analysts forecast that games revenue could reach $106.6 billion this year. High-tech and creative, the sector is seen increasingly as a UK priority for skills policy and industrial strategy. Recent statistics from HM Revenue and Customs show that since video games tax relief was introduced in April 2014, a total of £114 million has been paid out relating to 420 claims.
Cultural policymakers have, however, been slow to wake up to the significance of video games. No doubt in part this reflects preconceptions that the medium is immature, the preserve of commercial entertainment (and by implication not ‘high art’ worthy of public investment) and may even have detrimental impacts on cultural wellbeing.
Our new research – based on novel data from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Taking Part survey in England – debunks these myths. With the gamer’s average age of 43.2 years the medium cannot be characterised as immature, and since females are on the whole more likely to play, the activity cannot be described as male-dominated.
Gamers tend to be more educated and more likely than non-games players to participate in other forms of culture, especially through active participation eg creating digital video, photography or animation or writing stories or poetry, but more passive participation eg attending cultural festivals is common too.
These findings are reinforced by comparing the characteristics of individuals who did and did not play video games when they were younger.
In particular, we find that those who played games when growing up participated in other forms of culture too, and in particular they were more likely to read, paint, attend performing arts and visit heritage sites and libraries.
The implication of the research is that the time has come for cultural policymakers to challenge their assumptions about video games. Our study provides further fuel for suggestions (here and here) that the Government should invest in the UK’s cultural, as well as economic, wellbeing through investing in the video games sector.