3AW’s Neil Mitchell: $20 Million Interactive Games Fund Is “Welfare For Nerds”

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.


  • It sounds terrible to say this, but I can’t wait for his generation that don’t understand and never will understand games to retire or otherwise shuffle off.

    • Well I’ve never understood his generation’s constant desire to send actual letters to companies complaining about the errors they make however his comments have actually led me to the feedback form at 3AW & I’m providing him with my opinion, now. Perhaps he’ll listen if more people do the same.

    • He should understand it, entertainment has been the blame of every problem since the dawn of time.

      Before video games, there was rap music, rock and roll, dancing, obscene movies etc. These things were all destroying the fabrics of society. This is all a joke.

    • I agree mate.
      What I saw from that article was “Old man complains about games”.
      This is no different from 100 years ago people hating on motion pictures.
      He even admits that “this is a growing industry which I cannot get my head around”. Why comment or report on something that you do not understand. Pathetic “journalism” imo.
      I’m not going to and express my opinion about Islam or the car brand ‘Great Wall’ because I know nothing about them except for vague information from mainstream media.
      Have a bit of integrity, Neil. Damn I hate talk back radio. Everyone has a opinion, and it’s usually one no one gives a damn about.

      • My stepdad refers to them as GAL (Get A Life) segments.
        Which is an extraordinarily accurate picture of talkback radio on the whole.
        “Here’s a little something I picked up from my local toy store, Mr Bond. It’s called radio.”

    • As bad as that sounds, it’s going to a boon to the future of our media. out dated dinosaurs like him need to make way for those that actually understand the topics and interests of the current generation.

  • we built all thier computers and electronic devices and geeks/nerds/gamers still get “dropout loosers” status

    i thinkthis bloke relies on snail mail still

    • this is something i always relish in, without us nerds the entire world would fall apart, i take a single day off work and everything goes to shit, people cant access emails, they cant get data, there VPNs dont work, printers and faxes stop transmitting, the worlplace just grinds to a halt.

      Yet people like this geezer have no understanding so they immediatly assume the money will be wasted, instead of used for the greater good, bitter old geezer out of touch and needs to retire.

          • Yeah the fact that someone can’t access email is not because there is a problem with the program, it’s because someone has minimised it by accident and can’t find it again, or keep pressing right click instead of left click.

          • Thanks for your reply,
            Notable there has been a lot of writing ‘for’ the fund.

            This Article (For):
            “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.” Where reasons for against are purely one liners.

            What Does $20 Million Of Federal Funding Mean For The Australian Games Industry? (For)
            “We can do amazing things.”

            Australian Government To Invest $20 Million In Local Games Development (neither, all though no opinion for against or mention of what happen in Perth or anything):
            “Arts Minister Simon Crean has announced that the Australian government is committing $20 million of Federal funds to games development in Australia over the next three years.”

            I’ll be eagerly awaiting to see a piece for against. But a little unsettled that none is planned.

          • I think in order to write anything comprehensive he would need the actual details of the funding – so far all that’s available is some quotes from Simon Crean.

          • You could run a piece that is against the whole idea of government handouts for games companies, rather than waiting to see whether you think the form of handouts are any good.

            Never written an opinion piece before but happy to start now – I think this is a shocking policy.

          • It’s called balance reporting. If there is no one out there thinking it’s a bad idea. Then i’ll concede my request.

          • Because they are bailing out people who couldn’t source investors from any other avenue because their ideas clearly aren’t good enough.

          • Balanced reporting isn’t giving both sides equal coverage. It’s giving a fair assessment of all the facts in a story.

            Do you think that it’s balanced reporting for a minority group of anti-vaccination protestors who have been proven wrong at every step of the way are given equal weighting to experts who have spent their lives working in that field? I find that incredibly imbalanced.

            Arts grants are common in many nations. This has now been extended to include video games, a relatively new industry compared to film, TV and other productions that end up being for-profit.

            So what should this “balanced” against side be? Why video games should be excluded? Why these grants shouldn’t exist? Why the amount should be significantly more or less than it is?

            We don’t need to hear some arbitrary negative side to a story. Those that wish to express that side are free to do so but they do not need to be given a platform purely on the basis that they demand “balance”.

          • What facts have they excluded or not fairly assessed?

            So far the only opposition expressed has come from a position of admitted ignorance.

          • How do you know this is the only opinion? or ever will be? That’s why I asked.
            And I’m sure this kind of funding has been tried before in this countries and others. wouldn’t be hard to get an opinion there.

          • There’s a big difference between ‘balanced reporting’ and ‘making sure to run a piece contrary to every article you ever write.’

    • I wonder how long ones soul can stand talking shit an entire career, and having nothing to show for it (I’m refusing to classify material possessions as significant enough to save ones soul).

      I would love to hear Neil Mitchell defend how he ISN’T a troll.

      • Making a totally serious point: this is a handout for games companies that can’t hack it in the real world. If their games were so crash hot, why can’t the source funding through the market? Why do taxpayers have to bail them out?

        • Because a lot of Australian companies were bought up by American companies and then dumped when the stock market crashed. As a result most people are making games for the mobile because it’s the only viable way to make games at the moment. But have you tried it? It’s actually quite hard to sell them. With so many apps on the market it’s quite hard. However with enough money to do a bit of advertising, sales could go through the roof. This would then be paid back when the companies pay their taxes.
          Isn’t that better then funding sports people who aren’t well known for paying back?

          • I’m sure it is hard but so are a lot of things. Why should taxpayers be forced to make it easier?

            And I don’t think we should be giving handouts to sports people either.

          • Actually I think they should. I am currently on a pension. It’s costing the government a lot more then the gaming grant. If the industry hadn’t collapsed when I graduated, I may have gotten a job. This means I may have saved enough money to support my mother and I while she’s sick.
            It’s not like it won’t be paid back at all. Game companies have to pay taxes as well. Look at how well fruit ninja is doing.

          • It probably isn’t costing them less. Creating a spending program creates dependents who will lobby actively to keep their benefits, no matter how much the situation has changed. You only need to look to the Australian car industry to see how special interests can continue to fleece taxpayers, even though their industry is producing almost nothing of value to consumers. By not creating this spending program in the first, you are eliminating the possibility of special interests perpetuating and expanding this program forever.

            I feel bad that the industry collapsed before you got a chance to make a living in it – it is unfortunate to be left high and dry like that. However, everyone takes risks and it would be truly foolish to a) give money to everyone whose plans don’t work out like they want and b) create a whole group of people wholly dependent on the political process for their continued viability.

            You may bring up Fruit Ninja but I’ll bring up 38 Studios – the company that made Reckoning: Kingdom of Amalur. They got a $75m loan from the state of New Jersey and then fell into bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers in that state millions of dollars out of pocket.

          • Obviously, I can’t change your mind into thinking this is a good thing.
            A lot of companies are just staying afloat. I know companies who applied for government media grants, like the voxel agents. It was because of that funding that they were able to get their company started. They’re going well and appear to be able to support themselves.
            Not every company is going to go well unfortunately. But isn’t it a lot better to help some companies off the ground? I don’t really see as a waste of money in that sense. More jobs in the end.
            Still, you have your opinion, I’ll have mine.

          • Can’t really bring an American company into the argument as they have entirely different situations to deal with versus Australia.

          • one and a half billion from games, ten percent goes back to the government as gst, the industry makes the gov money, wouldnt it be stupid not to support ur cash flow?

        • It’s not a bail out, it’s arts funding. We also don’t know if it’s a “handout” yet (I assume you mean grant when you say this). We don’t know if it will be in the form of a grant, a loan, a subsidy, a percentage of funding. We don’t know squat, so you can’t expect examination of details from Mark that aren’t yet finalised. It’s still in a consultation process. As for sourcing funding through the market, crowd funding isn’t right for every project or every team. There are multiple revenue streams available, all valid, and all hopefully making our game making market stronger. This is good news, that can’t be debated. HOW good the news is, is yet to be seen, and I’m sure will be something that is discussed when there’s, you know, stuff to actually report on.

          • By handout, I mean any money in any form flowing from the government to private companies – tax breaks, loans, grants, whatever. The details don’t need to finalized and hopefully this scheme will be gone before it can even start.

            Funding things through the market takes on more forms than crowd-funding – loans, venture capitalist, angel investors, and more. Anyone of those organisations or individuals will put money into the project if it is likely to make more money than it costs (ie a profit). If a company cannot get funding from people who will give them it voluntarily, why should taxpayer involuntarily be forced to pay for projects that are likely to tank and cost money? This scheme is bad news.

          • This particular funding will be in the form of Screen Australia funding. A process that usually requires significant production planning for application and then a thorough acquittal process at the end to justify the funding.

            Some projects will end up being commercially viable while others will not.

            The ones that will not, purely by virtue of the requirement for a producer, will probably see teams gain experience in many aspects of the business of game development that may lead to employment in the future. Not to mention that most of these guys are also working second jobs at the same time so that their funding can go into things like marketing and freelancers so that they can make more polished and professional games.

            It’s also an opportunity to explore new ideas with a bit of a safety net. Those ideas may end up being the next big thing, and sometimes you need to fail to succeed.

            The idea that the government shouldn’t help stimulate private business through funding because not everyone is interested in it is a bullshit argument. We all give custom to companies that have had government funding in order to survive, that is one of the reasons we have government, to help with business. If you want all your products and services to come from companies that have been left alone to compete in the market, then you’ll be paying higher taxes because unemployment will skyrocket from everyone moving their business to countries that pay 5c an hour.

        • Why? Because not every game has to be a publisher backed AAA title or an underground crowdfunded indie favourite to be important.

          Australia already provides grants to people working in all sorts of creative fields from film to music, dance, visual arts, theatre and more. These grants allow creative people to enrich our lives with creative Australian content, so why should Australian game developers be denied the same appreciation?

          And if you think that a “tough titties, do it yourself” attitude is a fair one, then you better go through any film, music or art in your possession that was created an Australian artist, because there is a damn good chance that they were created with the help of a grant as well.

          • Australia has spent millions already on shitty movies that no one likes (Kath & Kimderella anyone?) and we want to emulate that in the games industry? No thanks.

          • It matters if your basis for opposing Govt. funding is based on your Libertarian viewpoint. Libertarians are usually irrationally opposed to govt. funding of almost anything, even if it has a beneficial outcome. I thought it was likely you were a Libertarian.

            Your comments suggest a black and white view of govt. and business relations typical of Libertarian ideaology.

          • Doesn’t make his views in this article any less relevant unless you can point out how his views on this topic is ‘irrational’.

        • Would you say the same about the film companies in the past that have got money and gone on to make internationally successful films? You need to lighten up.

          • Absolutely – if someone has an idea so crap that people aren’t willing to invest in it, taxpayers should have nothing to do with it. And if it is good enough to get investors, there is no reason for taxpayers to get involved. This sort of money only exists to be spent on losers.

            Why should I lighten up? I, like a lot of Australians, work hard to make a living for myself, only to have my money forcibly taken from me and given to people who have manipulated the political system so that they could get a handout. They are getting money that other people have earned and they haven’t. If anyone else did what the government was doing here, they’d go to jail.

          • You are so wrong its not funny. This is why the Aus government needs to do it. OTHER GOVERNMENTS DO IT. This is why the car industry gets funding, because other countries do it. If we don’t do it, they go elsewhere…….
            Canada is a prime example. They fund tax cuts for Ubisoft and Bioware in a big way, and those two companies won’t leave because of it and employ hundreds of people.
            In teh world economy you have to compete against other Governments. End of story. Go back to your young liberal convention.

          • and before you say tax cuts is dumb its not. You still get tax from the employees income tax who wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for yuo…

            Generally income tax is higher than company tax, so you win in the long run.

            But liberals forget that, ALL THE TIME.

          • They MIGHT go elsewhere – there are lots of reasons companies are based in Australia and for most businesses, it isn’t because they get a handout.

            And as I’ve said previously, just because other countries are stupid enough to give out handouts to private businesses, doesn’t mean we should do the same.

  • I really shouldn’t care what someone as ignorant as Niel Mitchell thinks, but his comments still make my blood boil. What a toxic and bitter old man.

    • My thoughts exactly.

      The part that frustrates me to no end is he compares it to sports games like sports athletes are more deserving of the money.

      Yes. Because a bunch of guys wrestling in the dirt is a much better investment of money…

        • Theoretically, nobody deserves anything.
          But it would be a great boost to the Australian game development scene as there are a lot of extremely talented game devs here, and it would be an awful waste to see them all go overseas when they could make awesome games here instead.

        • Considering this is clearly merely your opinion, you should provide reasoning to demonstrate why you believe this. For example, I’m more than happy to give some portion of my tax money to the arts, as I derive great enjoyment from them and think they’re an important part of culture.
          I wouldn’t really argue that ‘deserve’ is a factor, trying to figure out what people ‘deserve’ is one of the most debated things from ancient to modern philosophy. You should probably leave the can of worms that is ‘deserve’ alone and simply explain why you don’t think funding the arts or sport should be something forced on taxpayers, it’s a fairly easy thing to justify, and I quite understand the sentiment.

          • “why you don’t think funding the arts or sport should be something forced on taxpayers, it’s a fairly easy thing to justify, and I quite understand the sentiment.”

            Yeah, I should have expanded on my words. But I thought context was established. note taken.

  • Neil Mitchell is an annoying dick-head, it’s not the first time he’s ragged on some aspect of gaming. Either gamers are nerdy drop-outs or they’re to blame for the woes of a society that’s rapidly degenerating into an law ignoring, world owes me everything though I’ve done nothing to earn so why should I show respect dirt bags.

  • I hope the government has a complete list of ‘things Niel Mitchell cant get his head around’ the next time the grant people money.

    I now like to think all government bodies plan there budgets around the concept of Niel Mitchell understanding what they are doing, or better yet, the government should stop funding things Niel Mitchell Literally cant get his head around. Imagine the amount of battleships and submarines we could afford if we used Niel Mitchell’s head size as the standard.

    • That was the hilarious part (or at least one of them) for me. $20m probably wouldn’t even cover the marketing spend for a successful FPS these days, let alone the development costs. And that’s assuming they poured the entire $20m into a single game.

  • Gaming, in it’s many forms, is so widespread and fundamental to the media consumption of most people that it’s a waste of time to listen to the ignorance of someone who neither plays nor understands the medium in any way. It’s like a deaf person criticising music or a blind person giving their opinion on art.

  • “that games are toys”

    I don’t care. Seriously when was the last time people who worked in the toy or board-game industry were derided publicly by the media? Those industries are respected businesses in making money out of products that make people happy. If there were hot new toys on the market that were ever gaining in popularity and making serious bank with a great deal of people in your country interested in getting in on that action then god-damn you better be in support of government funding for that.

  • Well, look – Neil’s audience is such that he had to distinguish gaming from gambling, which should give you a clue to how much attention we should be paying to what he said. Console yourself with the fact that Neil and his audience will more than likely be dead (very) soon, so we just have to smile and nod patiently until they drop off the twig.

    For the record, that $20 million of welfare for nerds? Compares with the $12-15 billion of “welfare” we give to clubs, casinos and other gambling institutions per year (both from direct funding and tax concessions). That’s what … about 0.25%, so I can understand how he’s listeners might be afraid of how gambling trade could lose that in these tough financial times, and be forced to continue with only 99.75% of its government funding to supplement it’s meagre $20 billion a year income. (Figures from the Productivity Commission report on the gambling industry)

  • Wow. You’re all so touchy. Think about it. He probably has never played a game. His audience is made up of people who have probably never played a game. Does it surprise you that he thinks this is 20million wasted?

    Everyone’s allowed to have an opinion. If you all get so upset when someone has a different opinion from yours, then we’re in a real pickle.

    What I think is money completely wasted is the money the govnmt spent to get on the UN security council. 20million for a temporary position. That’s just criminal when we have health and educations issues here at home needing to be sorted.

    • Having an opinion isn’t the problem. It’s having an ignorant, uninformed opinion combined with having a platform where you can spout that opinion and have it influence others. The fact those others are equally (if not even more) ignorant and uninformed doesn’t help – they still get a vote just like everybody else. Although we can hope that his audience, like Alan Jones’, will mostly be dead of old age by the time the next federal election rolls around.

      And I’ve never bought into the whole “we shouldn’t spend money on X because we have issues with Y that are more important and need to be fixed”. If you follow that path of reasoning to its logical conclusion, you end up prioritizing everything and then just spending the entire budget on the number 1 priority and nothing else. The fact is there are a lot of competing priorities and they all need money and none of them are ever going to get as much as they want or need.

      • When X is a stupid waste of money, then it’s a pretty valid observation. But if you’re happy with the way the current government is spending the money, then that’s cool.

        I reckon their priorities are a bit out there myself.

    • “Everyone’s allowed to have an opinion”.

      Yes, but when you’re in a position of power/influence, you have a responsibility to ensure your opinions are informed.

      Going out and calling an arts/technology fund “Welfare for nerds”, beyond being offensive, because he was doubtlessly using the term ‘nerd’ pejoratively, is baseless.

      If he said something that showed why this fund was different to any of the other arts or sports funds, if he justified his position reasonably, I’d have no issue. Instead, he’s gone out, dismissed what is actually a much needed fund for Australia’s future in this industry, and insulted developers in the process.

      • Are you not familiar with the concept of talkback radio?

        They’ll always be whinging about something, that’s what they do. And if people get angry about, then they’re listening and paying attention which means ratings, which means more money from advertising.

        You’re doing exactly what they want you to do. Just don’t buy into it. If you don’t pay attention, they don’t have any power.

  • I think what Neil Mitchell is getting at here is that the government shouldn’t be spending money on anything that he doesn’t understand. And that’s a fair point, really. They need to get him into those government budget committee meetings so he can veto all the stuff that he can’t get his brain around. With his multiple qualifications and extraordinary breadth and depth of experience in the fields of medicine, engineering, agriculture and economics, along with his decorated military career, I really don’t think there would actually be very much that he doesn’t understand. Except video games, of course, so they’re out.

  • Unfortunately, Neil is right on this one.

    The only thing that hand outs encourage are mediocre games that are created to cash in on the grants.

    The studios will come, get as much cash out of the government as they can a leave.

  • I would like to write a long comment but it will never be seen, so I’ll keep it short. All you complaining about this need to understand that there is an economy to run. Generating incomes for people is a good thing. This is a massive growing industry and Australia is well behind. Wait to see how the money is being handed out before all the hate.

  • This is today’s “Old White Dude Who Doesn’t Understand Something So Scoffs At It”. Keep this in mind when you’re dismissing someone next. You’re “Doing a Mitchell” if you get your scoff on. The way you feel now, when this guy says these things, is the way someone else feels when you dismiss them.

  • What’s wrong with the government supporting an industry that has potential to earn Australia export income, and encouraging diversity in the economy beyond primary industries and services?

  • As insulting as some of his comments are (myself being a fairly hardcore gamer), I think the fund is a terrible waste of money.

    Shielding them from competition with tax money that consumers otherwise would not have spent on them willingly is arguably a bad idea. It is better for the consumer that inefficient businesses struggle and fail, they should feel the heat.

    • Agree. i worked at a small studio as an artist, and my payment for 4 months of the year was essentially thanks to state government arts funding. That was not comforting, so I found another unrelated job.

  • Crotchety old dustfarter clearly has no idea WTF he’s croaking on about.
    I guess it doesn’t really matter, nobody under 50 listens to 3AW anyway.
    He’s probably just sore because his medium of choice is an archaic relic of a bygone era, like he himself.

  • I just had another thought…
    Can someone check if 3AW gets any grants?

    Hmm they are part of Farifax media… Do they get grants?

    • They don’t get grants as far as I’m aware. Fairfax Community Newspapers, though, publishes many community newspapers, the ones no-one reads, and I think they might be subsidised by local councils. It’s a long bow though to say 3AW is therefore subsidised.

  • While i don’t like his use of the term ‘nerds’ to describe professional artists, the truth is, THIS IS WELFARE! It’s government supporting payment for local developers because there is NO industry in Australia. Games in Australia are not a money maker. It’s a fact! So many small studios (that still exist) are relying on state funding.

  • Neil Mitchell is the quintessential cantankerous old geezer. That’s his gimmick. No well informed person takes his ranting seriously.

    You give him power when you pay attention to him. He’d consider all this attention a “success,” even though it illustrates his ignorance.

  • This must be the first time in decades anyone under 70 has given a crap about what Neil has to say.

    Must be a big day for him.

  • Oh look, another washed up old hack who is still so deluded, he thinks his ignorance is still relevant to ANYONE.

  • 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, the latest edition to my comprehensive list of “Old people, whos deaths will surely make the world a better place”

  • “Are we talking about ‘go out and shoot people type games’? ”

    Yep, now get in line, the first round you go without a gun

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