Should the BBC make games?

Off the back of Adrian Hon’s excellent post on the Death of the BBC and the case for public service games, I’ve been taken up in discussions with a couple of work colleagues about whether the BBC should make games at all.

Some say that the BBC shouldn’t get into gaming, because then it would have to compete with blockbusters like Modern Warfare, Grand Theft Auto and Pro Evolution Soccer. If the BBC can’t make games on the scale of the big studios, goes the argument, it shouldn’t try.

This is defeatist rhetoric, based on flawed logic, and misses the point entirely.

Consider video. The BBC is one of the larger producers of video in the world. It spends over 2.5 billion  pounds a year on making video content, most of it broadcast on TV.

Why does the BBC bother? Even with that spend, it can’t compete with blockbusters like Avatar and 2012.

Of course this line of reasoning is bunk, because that’s not what the BBC is there for.  TV and the cinema are different markets – but that’s the same error of logic that one makes when one says that the BBC can’t make a game on the scale of Modern Warfare 2, and therefore shouldn’t bother.

The lead titles on consoles are like the international blockbusters of the video world. Panorama is also video, but it doesn’t really compete with Avatar. It doesn’t need to, because Panorama is a different kind of video, for a different kind of audience, with a different kind of message.

Similarly, games like Smokescreen and Code of Everand are fun, popular, and add public value – but they are aimed at different audiences from blockbuster releases on mainstream consoles,  with a different kind of message. This kind of content has enormous potential for informing, educating and entertaining people.

The future is interactive. People are spending more and more time online, engaging with concepts interactively instead of sitting by and passively watching them flow past. We know that games are the best kind of interactivity.

One day, someone will build the Panorama of the gaming world. Will it be for the BBC?

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