Eurogamer TV is very excited today to launch a new documentary series - The Videogames Election - which offers a unique snapshot of the UK games industry and the big issues it faces in the run up to the general election and beyond.
The current election campaign has proved fascinatingly unpredictable in many ways, not least for gaming, which has - for the first time - found itself actively courted and fought over by the main political parties.
Last November Labour's Tom Watson, Parliament's best known gamer (not the most hotly-contested title, in fairness), became the first MP to actively explore the potential of gaming as a vote winner. He stood up to the latest pitchfork-waving diatribe from Keith Vaz in the House, defending the industry's right to make and sell Modern Warfare 2 to an adult audience, and - in response to another Daily Mail hatchet job - set up Gamers' Voice, a Facebook-based 'pressure group' for the gaming public.
But while Watson is the most prominent, he's not the only would-be gaming champion up for re-election this Thursday. The Eurogamer TV cameras have for the last six months been tracking Labour, the Tories and the LibDems in their attempts to position themselves as supporters of gaming, and the industry's tenacious, ongoing efforts (spearheaded by trade bodies TIGA and ELSPA) to be taken seriously by Government, whatever colour it is when we wake up on 7th May.
Why does any of this matter? Isn't the games industry doing just fine by itself without freeloading, expenses-fiddling politicians getting their mucky hands involved? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that, in spite of decades without any meaningful support from the Government, gaming pumps £1bn-a-year into our ailing economy and is enjoyed in one form or another by three-quarters of the population.
But it's a big, fat no for many in the industry. Not if you consider the UK is struggling to compete against financial incentive-laden territories like Canada; not if you consider the 'brain drain' this is causing as top talent flees abroad for more money and better conditions; not when you look at the number of university degrees failing to teach students adequate development skills; not when the UK has become one of the most expensive places in the world to make games; and not when UK publishers and developers struggle to remain independent and hold on to the games they create.
Beyond all of this is the defining issue of perception. If the Government starts taking gaming seriously, then maybe more people will come to accept it as a fun, normal hobby enjoyed by millions, only some of whom are 25-stone, educationally subnormal pariahs.
The first episode of The Videogames Election, available to watch below, looks in detail at the relationship between gaming and government, following the industry's fight for recognition as leading figures explain how Parliament has failed the UK. Along the way we interview the three main parties and some of the biggest voices in gaming, tracing the industry's own election campaign as it muscles its way onto the political agenda and - ultimately - into the Government's election manifesto.
Later in the series we turn the spotlight on age ratings, with the new PEGI system passed into UK law, examining the transition from BBFC; seeing how self-regulation works in the US; learning how the UK's biggest games retailer trains staff to prevent underage selling and advise parents; working undercover in-store (a real job for us at last!) to experience first-hand how well the system works; and asking why so many parents still ignore game ratings.
We'll also examine the skills crisis in games development, while looking at how gaming technology is rapidly becoming a vital educational tool in itself, visiting a specialist clinic in Rotherham where games are deployed to combat obesity; meeting the students who are learning to program while making games for the blind; and checking out the charity SpecialEffect, whose amazing work is helping children with severe disabilities to play and enjoy videogames. And beat us at them.
It's something a bit different from Eurogamer TV, so we hope you enjoy the first episode. Be sure to let us know what you think!