Video Games As Art Debate Rolls On


A games industry body has called for video games to be legally classified in Europe as a cultural product rather than software. TIGA also wants local laws changed to make it easier to recruit development staff from abroad.

While there’s a longstanding philosophical debate about whether video games can be art (brilliantly satirised by Sophie Houlden’s exploration of whether art can be a video game), the issue also has legal consequences. In the US, the debate has been at the center of courtroom battles over free speech and copyright in gaming.

There’s a similar muddle in the European Union. There games are officially classed as software rather than being in the same categorization as television, film and animation.

As a result, there’s considerably more bureaucracy involved in the way national governments regulate games companies. For example, the UK introduced tax breaks to boost the gaming sector earlier this year but was only allowed to do so after getting formal approval from the EU. Had gaming been classed as cultural, that approval wouldn’t have been required.

Dr Richard Wilson, head of TIGA (The Independent Games developers Association), told the BBC that it wants games to be considered as “an art form, as a high-tech, highly-skilled industry, as a force for economic and social good.”

The organization has also called for roles such as games analyst, senior game artist and senior game designer to be added to the “Shortage Occupation List”, a special category exempt from normal UK laws that require firms to advertise vacancies locally for 28 days before they can recruit from a country outside the European Union.

According to TIGA, such delays are unworkable given the speed at which games must be produced and failing to fill one vacancy could mean an entire project has to be sent abroad. The group also argues that allowing highly skilled developers from other countries to work in the UK will benefit local staff by sharing experience and knowledge first hand.

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