Are there any British games? “Well, of course”, is what you're probably thinking right now. What a silly question! Some of the best games developers in the world are based in our lovely Green and Pleasant Land, and as a game developing nation Britain has quite a lot of history.

Back in the eighties British games were some of the most popular in the world, and every man and his robotic dog were involved in the gaming industry in some way. It's this era that spawned countless seminal hits, from the ground-breaking platforming of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy to the then unbelievable scope of Elite. Britain has an excellent history of game development has had made many, many important contributions to the industry. Nowadays, developers like Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios, Codemasters, Rare, David Doak and the Free Radical diaspora (not to mention a slew of fantastic independent talent) continue to produce games that stand shoulder to shoulder with the biggest and the best. The whole situation’s pretty peachy, isn’t it?

But all of this makes me wonder… Are these actually British games? Or are they just games that were developed in Britain? Is there anything that really makes games developed in Britain stand out against those made elsewhere (my apologies for bludgeoning you over the head with questions here)? After all, British musicians, film-makers and artists in general have taken inspiration from the culture that surrounds them and imbued their own work with that very culture. Britpop, after all, wasn’t just called that because it was made in Britain, but because it reflected and commented upon contemporary themes in British society – whether that’s the observations on class values in Pulp’s ‘Common People’ or the musings on American cultural imperialism on Blur’s ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’. Video games have the potential to do the same thing, and to make the same social impact that Britain’s greatest bands and artists have made over the course of history. But at the moment they’re not getting anywhere near that kind of impact. Sure, music has had a pretty big head start on games as an art form (music having been around for about as long as Homo Sapiens themselves), but gamers and game developers alike are putting years of experience under their belts, too – so is it too much to expect a British gaming renaissance in the near future?

After all, if there's one thing that we've learnt from American and Japanese games developers, it's that your culture – as well as your perception of other cultures - massively affects the type of game that you make. Let's take a fairly obvious example. The first FPS games – and the vast majority of today’s first-person shootery – comes from the US. But why? The answer, of course, lies within American culture. I’d argue that there are two things responsible for this, both of which are real cornerstones of American values and culture; a strong sense of personal freedom and independence, and an extreme reverence of the firearm. The second amendment tells you all you need to know - 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'. SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. What started with the use of guns in order to defeat the pesky English - and continued with the wielding of firearms on the edge of the expanding Frontier - ended in the virtual world; rocket-launcher-ising zombie Nazis in the face in Castle Wolfenstein. There’s a line of continuity that runs right through these events. So when you combine this with enlightenment values of individuality and self-preservation, it quickly becomes apparent why the US became the original and the largest producer of FPS games in the world.

Japan, however, is probably the best example of gaming flourishing because it has embedded itself into the surrounding culture. Whilst elements of the American mainstream tend to gawp in fear at FPSs and games in general because they're “thinking of the children”, Japan has positively embraced the gaming culture that it creates. Japanese developers do this by taking cultural 'calling cards', so to speak, and embedding them into their creations. For example, the very understandable (and, tragically, frequently realised) fear of earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear catastrophe that is so deeply embedded in the Japanese psyche manifests itself in much of the art that the country produces, most notably in the form of 'monsters' – think Godzilla, think every anime you’ve ever seen. And then consider Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy and even Pokemon, and how they fit into that picture. And it’s the ubiquitous presence of these cultural ‘calling cards’ in Japanese games that has made Japan the culture where gaming is most widespread. By taking its inspiration from its culture, Japanese gaming has started to feed back into Japanese culture and has become a proper part of the country’s cultural fabric, so much so that artists like Takashi Murakami take their inspiration from gaming and turn it into more traditional artwork that sells for millions of dollars. I'm holding on to my beautifully tatty copy of Ico in the hope that one day it will be worth that much too...

Could Britain not be more like Japan in that respect? It might well be that Britain has simply been ‘squeezed out’ by prevailing American trends. We tend to follow American trends in many other fields, so why should it be anything different for gaming? There are probably elements of truth in this argument, but you only have to glance at France or Scandinavia to see independent gaming cultures flourishing in spite of foreign pressures. Would we experienced the likes of Flashback, Rayman and Beyond Good and Evil if it was impossible for gaming cultures outside the giants of Japan and American to thrive? So what are the most characteristic aspects of British games, and how can our developers make more unique stuff?

In my opinion, if there is one characteristic genre where British games excel (or at least should excel) then it is in those of truly epic scope, the kind that's usually described as the 'Western RPG'. First of all, the very fact that there is such a huge distinction between the two prevailing archetypes of RPGs – the JRPG and the WRPG – pretty much shows how successfully Japan has been with this genre. Sure, it's not all great stuff, but in any of the thousands of the 'best game evarr!!' lists on the internet you're bound to find a a good number of JRPGs. Until recently the 'West' has sort of lagged behind, when you consider the recent success of Fallout, you can see how Bethesda in particular has drawn on America's Cold War history and attitudes towards warfare to produce an excellent (just forget the glitches, forget them) game. I might be getting a little off topic here, so I'll bring it back round with a big, British developed action RPG in the western mould – Fable.

Like the Fallout games, it does divide opinion. I think it's great, but I know a few of my friends find it insufferably boring, and I imagine the readership of The 405 will have equally varying opinions. Nevertheless, there's no doubt that it slots very nicely into the wider British cultural canon of epic literature and film. The Chronicles of Narnia. Lord of the Rings. Even Harry Potter! They're all large, sweeping epics that have in some way or another taken place in a fictional, 'nostalgic' Britain, where everything is truly 'Green and pleasant'. Fable continues this trend, most ostensibly in the very name of the world it is set in – Albion – which is the oldest recorded name for the British Isles. Albion is an idealised conception of Britain, and in the games it goes through many of the things that have happened in Britain's tumultuous history, as well as the events of the culture's myths – corrupt monarchs, a glorious revolution, and an industrial boom are just a few of the things that happen over the course of the games.

Fable 2's story of gathering different heroes together to complete an epic quest is also in a very Arthurian vein, and the role of the character and the heroes is in some ways similar to the trinity of Guinevere, Lancelot and Arthur. And the themes of revolution and morality that Fable 3 occupied itself with, whilst occupying a certain time-frame within the game, are both pretty universal ideas. Sure, you can draw more specific historical parallels, but a quick glance outside the houses of parliament will tell you all you need to know about dissatisfaction with authority in contemporary Britain. The temporal setting in the Fable games reflects a couple of the deeper and potentially darker characteristics of the British culture. An obsession with rural environments, a pining for Britain's Early Modern zenith as an economic power, and perhaps even attempts at getting to grips with Britain’s status on the world stage in the post-colonial era. You could even see the manifestation of your actions on your characters appearance as a metaphor for Britain in the 20th Century, unable to decide where it should stand in the world, but that might be reading a little too much into things. Fable proved that you could make games that are very aware of the culture they were developed in, that offered commentary on that culture, and that were still fun. I've suggested this 'epic quest' type genre simply as a foot in the door – not all games have to be like this, and nor should they be. But we can glean a lot about contemporary British society and attitudes towards aspects of it from the Fable series, even though that’s not the main idea of the game. It works these themes into its narrative, gives the story more context without having to resort to boring story telling, and generally enhances the game-play experience for the player.

Certainly, whilst Fable provides a good example, games developed in Britain don’t offer the same sort of insight into society as Japanese games do. However, there is one very characteristic feature that springs to mind when thinking about British games. It’s the one resource that British games do seem to have a monopoly of; a quirky, Python-esque brand of humour. You could even draw a line back to the first absurd, nonsense works by the likes of Lewis Carroll. This has been around since the very earliest British computer games, and you can see it in products of the eighties like Matthew Smith's Miner Willy series and Jeff Minter's Llamasoft creations. In a very obvious nod to the Pythons, Jet Set Willy's game over screen is a giant foot falling from the sky. And then, well, Hover Bovver, do I really need to explain that? If you've not heard of it, it's a game about mowing the lawn with your neighbour's lawnmower and trying to keep your lawn pristine whilst avoiding your understandably upset neighbour's attempts to murder you. Americans love lawns, and mowing, and grass, but I honestly don't think that they would have ever come up with a game about mowing the lawn. There's a noble bloodline of this brand of humour running down through the decades, too, through the Monkeys of TimeSplitters to the crazy villagers of Black and White, and even into Minter's latest retro stuff, where Kevin Keegan makes an appearance as an end of game boss. And for the case of humour we have an exception that well and truly proves the rule (yeah, I don't really know what that phrase means either, but it totally fits here). The most recent example of this quirky, dark humour comes from an unexpected source – Portal 2. Sure, it might have been written by Americans, but the very fact that Valve chose Stephen Merchant to do the voice acting of Wheatley shows that most people consider slightly surreal dark humour to be a very British thing. So, British game developers, keep up the laughs, you're doing a good job!

So why is this important anyway? I honestly think that it would be a good thing for both the quality of games and for society. No one wants to play games about generic, near-future wars where everyone is an unfathomably muscular white American male, do they? But we have a lot of those; games that don’t have any cultural roots, that just take trends without understanding where they come from. They don’t really have an identity, which is why these bland, generic identikit-games (often shooters, by the way) are so unfulfilling. Games have the ability and an untapped potential to start discussions about the places we live and the culture we have grown up in, potentially even more so than books and film. By bringing in more things from British culture – we've got a good start with the humour and the epic-ness – game developers can make more interesting games for everyone. If we live in that culture, we get to muse about it and think about it as we go about our daily lives, and it enriches the environment the game takes place in. If you live outside that culture; well, it gives you insight into somewhere else. Just look at how much insight into the Japanese psyche you can get from playing Japanese games. We also live in a society where, even though the vast majority of people now accept video games as a permanent fixture of modern life, they are still looked upon with huge amounts of suspicion by large swathes of the population. The inclusion of more obvious them And whilst developers shouldn't be doing this simply to appease people who aren't fans a gaming, it certainly would be a bit of an added bonus and would help gaming become a true part of the overall cultural fabric. So do British games exist? Sure they do. But if we can bring more of our culture into the games we create, it will be to the benefit of everyone.

Thanks for reading, please do leave your thoughts on the issue in the comments. But I have a feeling that people will have their fingers hovering over the tl;dr buttons right now, so I'm going to stop doing all of this talking at you and present THREE FANTASTIC IDEAS FOR BRITISH GAMES THAT DEVELOPERS SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE.

Beyond Good and Tea-vil - This one's fairly self-explanatory, really, and it perfectly reflects the notion that the mighty cup of tea has been a more permanent fixture in British culture than anything else you care to mention. The world's first brew-em-up, Tea Maker Extreme traces tea through the ages and places you in a variety of exciting roles. Take to the Indian ocean and protect your precious cargo against nasty, tea-thirsty pirates! Put yourselves in the shoes of the Earl Grey – can you make a nice cuppa and get the Great Reform Act through Parliament at the same time? Fully compatible with Kinect and PlayStation Move, Tea Maker Extreme includes several hilarious mini-games that all the family will enjoy; take Mug a' Mugger, where you fight off assailants using nothing but porcelain cups and piping hot Darjeeling that is fired through a high-pressure hose (bonus points are available for filling up the hostage’s cups between waves of enemies).

Streets of Wage – The first game of its kind (seriously, this tish will go down as ‘seminal’ in 20 years time), Streets of Wage deals with complex questions of class, unemployment and the value of work in modern England. Probably. In a nod to the game from which it takes its name, Streets of Wage starts out as an 8-bit, side-scrolling beat-em-up – but there’s a twist. The people on the streets are innocent. By all means, beat them and take their money (you stabbr). You can spend that on new consoles, and upgrade this 8-bit retro fighter all the way up to a state of the art, Kinect enabled 3D fighting experience! Or, if you’re not a hideous, immoral child-puncher, then you can continue in 8-bit land, making slower progress, but less morally reprehensible progress through hard graft and toil. Can you survive the Streets of Wage?!

FIFA Pub 2012 – FIFA Pub 2012 (which is scheduled to be released in annual instalments alongside FIFA Pub Manager) takes football back to its roots - the grotty, pockmarked pitch behind the industrial estate that is known amongst the local dog walkers as ‘poo corner’. Football games these days are too easy - what with their impartial referees, grassy pitches and fully codified rules – but FIFA Pub adds a whole new dimension of danger to an increasingly stale genre. Shards of glass, missing goalposts and roving gangs of rowdy teenagers on quad bikes are just a few of the obstacles that seek to halt you in your otherwise inexorable march to the UEFA Pub Championship Final. But if you stay the course and prove your mettle, then you’ll have a shot at the ultimate reward; a chance to get off with the landlord’s well fit daughter behind the changing rooms after the game.