Despite years of positive noise from the U.K. government towards video games the government's culture minister has launched an attack on gaming, calling it potentially "damaging" for children.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Matt Hancock expressed concern over the impact of playing video games on young people, while other members of his government went further.
"Too much screen time could have a damaging impact on our children's lives." Hancock told the Telegraph. "Whether it's social media or video games, children should enjoy them safely and as part of a lifestyle that includes exercise and socialising in the real world. We’re looking at what more could be done in this area alongside game publishers, developers and other agencies to promote safety and support parents."
Hancock's parliamentary private secretary, a junior member of the government department, went even further. He specifically cited current gaming sensation Fortnite in saying that the games children were playing were too "aggressive" and warned that the game could become an "addiction."
These statements from the culture department will be a big disappointment for the U.K. games industry. UKIE, the industry body representing video games, has hosted Matt Hancock at events in the British parliament aimed at pushing the benefits of a strong gaming sector.
At a reception in Oct. 2017, Hancock described the industry as "a force for good" and "a major economic and cultural force.”
The Telegraph report also cites "concerns" that children are stealing their parents' credit cards to make in-game purchases as further evidence of the negative influence of gaming on children.
It's unclear what the U.K. government's true position on this issue is. Perhaps they intend to bring in legislation, or tackle in-game loot boxes in the vein of the Belgian government's recent ban. This could, however, just be an attempt to pander to negative media stories about gaming—while still remaining vocal about the economic benefits of a booming video game industry.