Earlier today I wrote a quick update on where we are with the UK games tax break. A few well-intentioned Twitter followers of mine immediately joked that games being required to go through a ‘cultural test’ to gaint the tax break would result in red telephone boxes throughout games, etc etc.
This is a bit like the Guardian’s Charles Arthur’s joke that the games tax break might lead reducing Grand Theft Auto games to using British provincial towns like Weston-Super-Mare instead of New York etc. All of which shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the cultural test will work – a mistake which, albeit understandable, is so pervasive in the industry I thought I’d write a quick post about it specifically.
Yes, there absolutely will be a core ‘cultural’ test in the cultural test, but that’s only part of the picture. There will be a points based system by which a game accumulates a minimum number of points based on equally important issues
like where the work is done. To help illustrate the point, here’s my (amended) screenshot of DCMS’ proposed points test, taken from its consultation request, which you can read here (Newsletter readers, you can find the screenshot here):
See what I mean? Section A gives you 16 points for cultural content, but there’s 14 points available elsewhere. Even Section A is focused on UK and EEA locations. Which means, even with the test as is stands, you can quite feasibly get the 16 out of 30 points even if your game doesn’t go so far as having overtly British links. More importantly, with some tinkering to the parameters of the test (including in particular making it more specific to interactive entertainment, with less film-isms) this is an entirely workable test. Like I said in my previous post, Ukie are proposing some eminently sensible suggestions on that point – you should have a look.
So, the next time someone makes a joke about how the cultural test for the games industry will make for a generation of games focused on odd bit of British culture that no-one will play, you can point them to this post!