No Tax, Please. We’re British: UK Game Biz Tax Breaks Have Cultural Strings Attached

British game developers have been lobbying for tax breaks some time. And, based on yesterday’s release of the Digital Britain report, the Government seems to finally be listening.

But, as reported by The Guardian, tax breaks proposed for game developers by Lord Carter’s report may come with cultural strings attached:

The [Digital Britain] report also contains the fascinating sentence in its executive summary…: "The Government has therefore committed to work with the industry to collect and review the evidence for a tax relief to promote the sustainable production for online or physical sale of culturally British video games.

Culturally British. We suspect we know what they mean – games companies based in the UK – but what if it’s not? What if they actually mean something like, for example and completely hypothetically, Grand Theft Auto: Weston-super-Mare?

Or Left 4 Dead: The Light Brigade?

Come on, what would you suggest as a "culturally British" computer game that we could offer to Lord Carter?

GP: Actually, there are some precedents for the cultural requirement recommended by Digital Britain. As GamePolitics reported in 2007, France imposed a similar restriction. The French Government requires that game projects seeking tax breaks have a "cultural dimension."

In the U.S., the state of Texas has content-based restrictions on its game and movie subsidies.

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  1. Orange Soda says:

    Maybe they can make a video game based on cricket, so that we Americans can get it and not need to know what a crumpet is to understand cricket.

  2. ChronoWraith says:

    The tax break is obviously helpful, but I’d be wary of what "British Culture" you put into your game, if there’s anything to learn from Resistance: Fall of Man.

  3. DarkSaber says:

    Hey, don’t be dissin Lords of the Realm!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  4. SticKboy says:

    Paragraph #1 : opinion

    Paragraph #2 : opinion

    Paragraph #3 : opinion

    Opinion != historical accuracy

  5. Austin_Lewis says:

    You’re right, the Rangers and the Airborne units of America had little effect on the war, much less D-Day itself.  Crazy to assume they had more than a minor role. 

    The brits did a lot in Africa, and they deserve a lot of credit.  They also had a general (Monty) who slowed the pace of the war so he could take places that he thought would make him look like a hero.  Thank God we had Patton to shut Monty up.

    As for the Russians, we could have all fought like that too, if we had no conscience.  You know, the whole ‘throwing unarmed soldiers into a fight’ and ‘shooting them if they retreat’ bit.  They lost, what, 100,000 men in a day at Stalingrad?  That’s great military strategy there.  The only thing that Russia had going for it was its marksmen, who were top notch sharpshooters.  Vasili Zaitsev, for example, who later wrote a book about his experiences (diaries of a sniper; for us, there was no land beyond the Volga, or some such title). 

  6. Austin_Lewis says:

    Did you just not play most of the COD games?  Cod 1 has the british fighting all over the place, as well as the russians winning the day in Berlin.  So did COD2, which had the british fighting in Africa against Rommel’s men, and the Russians fighting on the streets of Russia (pretty sure it was Stalingrad).  I never bought COD3, but I heard there were either brits, canadians, or polish in the game.  COD4 centered around the British and the Americans, with a strong showing from the Brits (Soap, Price, Gaz) vs the US (that one lt, the guy you played as, and the guy with the SAW who lived till the end).  COD5 ends with the planting of the red army’s flag in Berlin on top of the Reichstag!  

  7. Chamale says:

    Battlefield 1942 had plenty of missions with British versus Germans, mostly in northern Africa or in the early parts of the war. IIRC, there was a single map with Canada versus Germany, the US was the only country to fight Japan and they also fought the Germans later in the game, and the Soviet Union fights the Germans in the Eastern Front.

    This is a signature virus. Please copy and paste into your signature to help it propagate.

  8. GusTav2 says:

    It is reasonable, but the reasons are complex.

    The major reason for the need for the test is the EU State Aid rules. Essentially it is a system that stops EU States from giving financial support to domestic industry unless they fullfil quite tight conditions. The reasons for such control are quite simple – in a single market they are self defeating as the various Member States would get into an Aid ‘arms race’ trying to outdo each other to support their branch of industry (there are plenty of examples of exactly that behaviour).

    For the UK to give a specific industry Aid they need to justify it as something other than straight support. The rules allow support for ‘culture’, largely at the behest of the French who view French film as vitally important to French culture, and therefore the UK have to dress this to avoid the rules.

    The WTO rules are much less strict.

  9. DarkSaber says:

    CoD 2 had a British section iirc. In the desert I vaguely remember. But nothing since then as far as I know. And the fact the Russians got to Berlin first has been pretty much ignored since the first CoD.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  10. Wormdundee says:

    Hmm, in any of the WWII based Call of Duty’s do you ever play as a Brit, Canadian, or Australian? Because you do make a good point. Commonwealth soldiers outnumbered American soldiers at Normandy, and there were many other battles fought by Commonwealth forces, as well as the French, Polish, etc.

    Why do we always have to play as the Americans?

    There were so many interesting battles that happened before the Americans even joined the war and I don’t think we’ve ever played them. 

  11. State says:

    What a game about the Second World War which actually shows the British as heroes as is what actually happened, instead of the American rewrite of the War in which America did everything?

  12. DarkSaber says:

    Why, has someone announced that they are going to make a game like that? Didn’t think so.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  13. insanejedi says:

    It just sounds like they are going to make a bunch of WW2 games where you play as the british and russians and germans speak english.

  14. farlander28 says:

    Compared to how they do things already with their film industry? Sure.. taken in a vacuum? Fuck no, it’s ridiculous.

    Their attitude towards the industry hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely to. This is why their companies flee to Canada, the US, etc.

    (Note: If the rules here in the US and in Canada are similar – and if memory serves, they are not – I’ll admit ignorance and that I’m wrong here.)


    "Life sucks, get a fuckin helmet" – Denis Leary

  15. SticKboy says:

    The Getaway 1 & 2

    Gangs of London

    Hellgate: London


    Rule of Rose

    The Italian Job

    Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown & Robin Hood: Defender of Sherwood

    Lords of the Realm series

    …wow, thinking about it after having had a look at the list above, perhaps we’re better off *without* videogames set in Blighty?

    Why has nobody made a game set in London during the Punk era of Sept. ’76 – May ’78?

  16. Nocturne says:

    GTA: London

    Resistance: Fall of Man

    …. erm… that’s about all I can think of.


    Driver.. maybe

  17. Vake Xeacons says:

    And are we talking both publisher and developer? Tomb Raider’s the first that comes to mind.

    Eidos is British based, but the franchise has been outsourced to a US developer. And while Lara’s British, she hardly spends any time in her home country (aside from the training level).

    How British does a game really have to be? What about Lord of the Rings? Or any mideval based game, for that matter. Does it have to based in Britian, or just inspired by its history?

    I can’t think of a lot of games that are developed, published AND plot-based in Britain; can you?

  18. Austin_Lewis says:

    The original call of duty had a quite strong british showing I think, as did COD4.  I love the levels after you get out of the glider and fuck up the nazis while holding the bridge.  It reminded me of the movie ‘the longest day’, holding the bridge until relieved.

  19. Randomavatar says:

    This isnt protectionism as its not having any specific negative effect on international companies. It is just giving a bonus to local industry. there is a difference. If we were refusing to accept games produced outside the UK then thered be a problem, but there is no change in their goal, its just added inscentive for local companies in a time of recession.

  20. Wolvenmoon says:

    Woot, more global economic defensiveness. Where’s this international spirit of cooperation I was hearing so much about a few years ago?

  21. bgmnt says:

    That requirement sounds no different to those required to get funding to develop films from the UK government.

    All it’ll likely mean is that a substantial part of the development is done by British companies, or that the game is set in Britain, or has a British cast.

    It doesn’t mean that the only games to get tax breaks will feature Morris Dancers drinking tea and eating scones, inbetween getting in truncheon fights with British bobbies, waved on by the Queen.

  22. Magic says:

    I actually winced when I read about China doing something similar, it was the whole reason behind WOW WOTLK being denied classification (Or whatever) there – because they want Chinese culture predominantly placed over that of the West as they’re afraid it will be somehow overrun.

    Frankly I think it’s all ridiculous, including here in Britain if it’s what some of us imagine. It almost seems ultra-nationalistic – we’re giving you tax breaks in Britain therefore we want to ensure British culture is presented.

    Why does it have to be that way? What’s wrong with mixing other cultural facets together? After all, 2K Czech made the classic Mafia game (No guesses for where they’re based), Rockstar are in several locations around the world yet have made games typically set in America that were very successful.

    I’m a Brit and a game I’m involved with is set across the globe, so though the first location is actually in London you travel to several countries. We’re all part of that sea of humanity. 🙂

    Overall, I think it should be more of an added bonus to a tax break, not the sole reason behind it. Help game developers out (We need it to compete with the likes of Canada, no doubt) and give them an incentive to do something more if you so desire.


  23. Vordus says:

      If it’s based on the Cultural Test For Film guidelines, then only 1/6 of the possible points avaliable are actually based on a work being ‘british culture’ related, and with a pass rate of 50% or higher, none of those even have to be considered.


    And even then, the cultural control is limited to;

    Set wholly or mainly in the UK or a representation of the UK (1-2 points)

    Principal characters wholly or mainly British or residents in the UK (1 point)

    Based on an [original] story by a UK writer (1 point)

    Filmed wholly or mainly in the English Language (1 point)


    By which standards, GTA is possibly 2 points up merely by being a british-written english-language game.

    The remaining 55 points are dependant upon the location of the various studios making the film (up to 10 points), and the nationality of the directors, composers, scriptwriters, etc. (up to 15 points), which, assuming that similar rules will be applied to games, would make Grand Theft Auto 4 culturally British under the rules, as GTA is made in scotland by mostly british developers.


  24. Verbinator says:

    If you’re willing to let someone else pay your bills, then you also need to be willing to accept that they have a say in what you do with their money. Doesn’t matter if it’s the government, a patron, or a private investor. If they feel it’s important that something that matters to them be represented in a work, then the folks taking the money need to accommodate the folks paying the money (and yeah, a tax break represents a sort of payment).


  25. DarkSaber says:

    A Sims like game called The Moaners?


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

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