UK Government wants understanding of video games to move to the next level
On 30 May 2023, the UK Government published a Video Games Research Framework which encourages research on video games and emerging game-related technologies.
The UK video games sector continues to experience huge growth. It contributed £2.9 billion to the UK economy in 2019 (up 725% from the £400 million it contributed to the economy in 2010). The Government has expressed an ambition to grow the creative industries (of which video games are a vital part) by an additional £50 billion by 20301. However, the Government's call for evidence into the use and impact of loot boxes2 in video games in September 2020, and the response published in July 2022, highlighted a perceived lack of understanding (and evidence) of the video games ecosystem, its impact on society and the economy more widely.
Through the Framework, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) aims to facilitate and promote high quality independent research on video games and related technologies. There are two key focuses of the Framework:
1. To learn more about the impacts of various video games features on different individuals and groups, including understanding:
- why people interact with games;
- the social, behavioural, and health (both mental and physical) impacts of games;
- the role of video games in education;
- the effect of in-game features, including spending and advertising on players' experiences; and
- online safety for video game players.
2. To understand the economic benefits video games can provide to the economy including:
- the potential economic value of the UK video games industry, including what barriers or market failures need to be overcome to achieve that potential value;
- the legal, economic, and social relationships between games platforms and companies, and consumers; and
- how video gaming technology, innovation, and skills can help grow the economy outside of the video games industry.
The document also provides best practice guidance for undertaking research and includes information on how parties within the games industry can share player data with researchers, without contravening data protection laws.
What this means for the video games industry
Conducting greater research into video games, in particular on their "positive economic and social potential" will enable the Government to better understand and support the opportunities presented by this industry.
However, additional research, particularly relating to the impact of gaming on children and young people, may pave the way for new regulation on video games. Although the Government considered it "premature to pursue legislative options" in its response to the call for evidence on loot boxes, it introduced a technical working group to strengthen industry-led protections in this area. In an environment where there is an increased focus on protecting children and young people online following the introduction of the Online Safety Bill, the output of this recently formed technical group combined with the additional research stemming from the Framework could lead the Government to consider whether new policy and regulation may be required for the video gaming industry.
This all comes at a time where the Government says it is seeking to put technology at the heart of a growing UK economy. Consumer-facing tech businesses, including some of the world's biggest companies, are responsible for some of the most exciting technological advances for society (including those which are highly relevant to the video games industry). However, consumer-facing tech is also one of the areas facing the greatest regulation both in the UK, EU and internationally. The publication of the Framework is a timely reminder of the Government's pro-active interest in consumer-relevant tech.
For more information on the Framework, please contact RPC's Interactive Entertainment group or your usual contact at RPC.
1. This ambition was discussed in Lucy Frazer KC MP's (the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) speech at the Enders Media & Telecoms Conference (see: here).
2. Loot boxes are features in video games that can be accessed through gameplay or purchased by a player. The contents of the box are unknown until it is opened by the player. For more information, see our article "Loot Boxes: what's in the box?"