PC or NPC? – Video Games and the BC Election

As those of you who live in British Columbia are probably aware, we are in the midst of a provincial election. My approach to elections tends to be thus: I scope out each of the candidates for my riding and then choose which one I feel would best represent my interests. I have preferences as far as political parties are concerned, but I prefer to focus on the candidates themselves. This year, I was still in the process of making up my mind when I received a phone call from the office of Carole James, the current MLA and candidate for the New Democratic Party in my riding. After the usual question (Can we count on your support?), the caller asked me this:

Caller: Do you have any questions that I can answer for you?

Me: Actually, yes. Can you tell me: What is Carole James’ and the NDP’s policy on financial incentives for the video game industry in BC?

Caller: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask someone and get back to you. Is it okay if we call you back later?

Me: Sure!

I hadn’t thought much about that conversation until a couple of days later when Carole James herself called me to answer my question. I was pleasantly surprised that she took my question seriously enough to contact me directly and that she was relatively informed on the issue. Carole was aware of the troubles that the game development industry had been having in Vancouver and the need to offer incentives that would keep BC competitive, especially in comparison to Quebec and Ontario. She told me that her party had already made plans to do something for the BC film industry and would look into something similar for the video game industry. After chatting a bit more and making plans to talk more after the election, I wished her good luck and said goodbye.

I felt pretty pleased about our conversation and told some friends about it, game developers and otherwise. One of my friends is an ardent supporter of the Green Party and suggested that I contact them with the same question and give them a chance to state their position. I thought that it seemed only fair, so I sent an email to Jane Sterk, the leader of the Green Party and the candidate for my riding. This was the email message that I sent:

Good morning,

I have a question that I would like to ask Jane Sterk: What is her and her party’s policy on financial incentives for the video game industry in BC?

Cheers,

Chris

A few days later I received this response:

Chris,
We don’t have policies on incentives for video games.
Jane

Wow, that was terse. And I don’t think she was answering the question I asked. It almost sounds like she thinks that I’m asking for money to play video games. Maybe a handful of quarters for the arcade?

I’m pretty amazed at the difference in the response between the two candidates. One was polite, thoughtful, and engaging, the other was rude, brusque, and dismissive. I know that my concerns about the game industry may not be important to the majority of the electorate, but they are important to me, and they are important to others who make a living making games.

And you know what? Maybe the video game industry should be more important to BC as a whole. According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, Canada’s game industry ranks third in the world, has a direct economic impact of $1.7 billion on the Canadian economy, and was expected to grow by 17% last year. Traditionally, BC has been a big part of that, but growth has flattened out in our province compared to strong growth in Ontario and Quebec, due in a large part to better financial incentives in those provinces. There’s a lot at stake for the industry and consequently for British Columbia, not the least of which are thousands of well-paying jobs.

To Jane Sterk and the Green Party: if you are interested in supporting environmentally friendly industries, you could do worse than support the video game industry. These days many of the games developed exist only in digital form, requiring no packaging or shipping, and no physical media to junk up the landfills. And in a time when we’re looking to move away from a reliance on the oil and gas industry, supporting the video game industry may be just the thing British Columbia needs.

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About Chris Tihor

Wordifex extraordinaire.

Posted on May 12, 2013, in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. melissareams

    That’s really interesting. I just fired off a couple quick emails to the NDP and Green candidates in my riding. I wonder what they’ll have to say.

  2. I’d be interested to hear myself, Mel. Please feel free to share when you hear back from them.

    • Haven’t heard back from the NDP candidate yet, but here’s what Susan Low, my Green candidate had to say

      Overall, I’m not a huge fan of ongoing financial incentives for specific industries, but I am in favour of programs to incubate and get new things started. The distinction for me is when you start to see an industry plateau in terms of growth even while government dollars are going into it. Sometimes it takes 10-15 years to really get an industry going but you need to see that the government support is leveraging an increasing amount of industry support, not maintaining an increasing share of the jobs.

      I agree that we want to see more videogame development in BC, and that means looking at what infrastructure, skills, venture capital tax credits etc. need to be in place to make BC an attractive place to start and support videogame studios. As for using tax dollars to subsidize an industry on a continuous basis, I don’t think I could support that. Industries need to eventually become competitive without the government’s money.

      Feel free to write back. I’m interested in your thoughts about what would help your industry.

  3. That’s great. It’s refreshing to see that Susan Low has a well-considered position regarding video game development. I find it particularly encouraging coming from a Green Party candidate. Generally I actually like the Green Party, which was part of the reason I was so put off by Jane Sterk’s response.

    Let me know if you hear from the NDP candidate. Incidentally, I did send the same question to Karen Bill, the BC Liberal candidate for my riding. I haven’t heard back from her yet though.

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