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3AW's Neil Mitchell: $20 Million Interactive Games Fund Is "Welfare For Nerds"

There are days when I genuinely think video games are mainstream, properly mainstream. Then, at other times, I’m given a stark reminder that there is still a long way to go. This is one of those reminders.

After announcing that the Federal Government was providing $20 million fund for interactive games, Arts Minister Simon Crean was interviewed by Neil Mitchell on 3AW mornings and discussed, amongst other things, the introduction of the fund.

The transcript for the interview betrays an incredible amount of willful ignorance on the part of 3AW host Neil Mitchell.

NEIL MITCHELL: Now this is a growing industry which I cannot get my head around. This is the interactive gaming industry – meaning games not punting – and it’s a huge industry.

So big that the Federal Government is putting $20 million into it to create the Australian Interactive Games Fund. Now that’s a big slab of money for an industry I have trouble understanding.

On the line we have Simon Crean, Minister for Arts, good morning.

SIMON CREAN: Hi Neil, how are you?

NEIL MITCHELL: Now this looks like welfare for nerds.

To his absolute credit, Simon Crean does a great job of explaining the fund, and the reasons why such a fund is helpful to Australia’s economy.

Australian’s consume one and a half billion dollars worth of games each year and the global economy in this industry is expected to be ninety billion dollars by 2015.

SIMON CREAN: Now Australia therefore has to get a slice of the action, and Australia has some of the world’s best in this space.

The trouble is the games industry is changing significantly – it’s not just the film industry which is the driver of this – it’s the different platforms and different applications.

Whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, tablets or multi-channel TV, you can get your information and your access to games, entertainment and interactivity in so many different ways.

NEIL MITCHELL: And what sort of games are we talking about? Are we talking about ‘go out and shoot people type games’?

Interestingly enough, in an interview with Kotaku yesterday, Tony Reed, the CEO of the Games Developers’ Association of Australia mentioned that informing the broader public of what games were capable was “part and parcel” of the industries responsibility. “There are those perceptions,” said Tony Reed, “that games are toys — but we’re so much than that.”

It’s incredible, but not entirely unsurprising, that many mainstream media outlets still have such a dated derogatory view of the games industry. Reed himself stated that mainstream media reportage played a large part in the overall ignorance of decision makers in Canberra when it came to the games industry.

“Certainly in Canberra there were certain perceptions and this had a lot to do with mass media reporting,” he explained.

“Whenever games hit the news it’s bad news. So it was a long educational process about what games are, what their audience is and how they play — and certainly the commercial side of things, the economic benefit. It was really important to communicate that.”

The above interview really exemplifies that attitude.