Culture Show producer talks Tomb Raider and GTA

Games ought to feature more.

The executive producer of BBC 2's The Culture Show has spoken to GamesIndustry.biz about the inclusion of two videogames in the list of nominees for the programme's Great British Design Quest.

Eidos' Tomb Raider and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto are both up for an award alongside 23 nominees, which include the likes of the London A to Z, the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde.

"We worked very closely with the Design Museum, who are experts in this, so they shaped the list of 25," The Culture Show's Eddie Morgan said.

"It's a big, mixed eclectic list that goes from 1900 to the present day, and the Design Museum felt that some of the biggest success stories of the last 10-15 years weren't just about things like the Dyson vacuum cleaner, but were things like Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider."

"They encapsulate, in all sorts of ways, the brilliance of British design... It's the same ingenuity and creativity and wit that you see in the A to Z, or the tube map, or penguin paperbacks."

"The other thing to say about both of these two games is that they're British," Morgan continued.

"We know that about the Routemaster bus, the Sergeant Pepper's album cover and so on, but I think generally people are surprised that Tomb Raider and GTA - in large part, at least - are creatively British."

When asked if the controversy over the adult content in many of the GTA games, along with the 'Hot Coffee' scandal, was not a concern when selecting the nominees, Morgan replied: "I don't think it's necessarily for us to be nannies of what is out there. For good or ill, it's a key part of people's culture, and culture also does include videogames."

"It would be strange to rule out areas of excellence even though they're controversial, and pretend that culture doesn't include things as eclectic as that."

For its part, Rockstar has welcomed the nomination, with a spokesperson telling GamesIndustry.biz: "Grand Theft Auto has been heralded by critics and fans as the world’s most important video game franchise precisely because of the importance placed on design and creative innovation, through all sections of the development process.”

Moving on to the question of whether videogames can be considered an art form, Morgan declined to offer a definitive answer, stating: "I would leave it to cleverer people to tell me what is art and what isn't. Is Banksy's work art? Are TV programmes art? Is the shed which won the Turner Prize art?"

"I would stand by the view that, for many people - who might be young and might not be gallery goers or great fans of opera - in important and valid ways, a videogame is culture. I think we should be as open-minded as that."

Morgan went on to discuss the way in which videogames have developed over the last three decades, stating: "What's been achieved in this area over my lifetime is completely revolutionary."

"I'm of a generation where, in the early eighties, we had Pac-Man and Space Invaders. For Christmas 1979 my uncle gave me a tennis game where you had one white line on one side, and one white line on the other, and a little white square in the middle..."

"Today they've come on light years, [offering] completely different experiences that are miles more vivid, is my sense of it. I think the most exciting question is, where will it be in 20 years' time? I can't begin to imagine - it'll be my children's generation who are shaping it."

When asked if videogames could become a regular feature on The Culture Show, Morgan replied: "I think they ought to be. I believe that gaming is a cultural activity, a part of the way people live, express themselves, enjoy themselves and relate to one another."

"Culture is a bigger, and more interesting category than just 'the arts'... I believe that gaming is a valid, lively part of British culture today, so yes, a programme that aspires to capture cultural Britain today should be covering areas that you cover, and that your readers get interested and turned on by."

The next edition of The Culture Show will be broadcast on BBC 2 at 7pm GMT this evening, and repeated at 11.20pm. To vote in the Great British Design Quest, visit the BBC website.

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GamesIndustry International is the world's leading games industry website, incorporating GamesIndustry.biz and IndustryGamers.com.

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