Our Federal Communications Minister Isn't Enthusiastic About Funding Video Games

Given that we're getting closer to PAX Australia, it's only natural that the subject of video games as a business and an industry more broadly is going to crop up.

And thanks to Greens co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam, crop up it did. The Senator had the opportunity to pop some questions to Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield at a meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, and Fifield was, well, barely interested.

Thanks to the efforts of Senator Ludlam and the Greens, an inquiry has already begun into the health and ongoing viability of the video game industry. Senator Ludlam made note of that when he began questioning the Federal Communications Minister, but nevertheless he took the opportunity to take the Victorian Liberal Senator's temperature on video games and Commonwealth support.

To say the Communications Minister was lukewarm would be a tad generous. He wasn't cold, either, but those eyeing off the prospect of Screen Australia getting additional funding for video games shouldn't look for any presents in next year's budget off the back of this performance.

"I don't want to pre-empt anything that the Government may do in the future in relation to its innovation and creativity agenda, but I do need to make the point that in relation to savings measures that have been put forward in previous budgets, which obviously have required some organisations such as Screen Australia to change the way they operate," Senator Fifield replied when asked about the former Australian Interactive Games Fund.

"The reason for that is because taxpayer dollars are a finite resource, we do need to prioritise, we do have the agenda to balance the budget, so that does require some difficult decisions across portfolio areas. And one of the reasons for that is so that we can make sure we do have the capacity to do some things which we would all agree are really the core, core business of Government — things like the [National Disability Insurance Scheme] from my former portfolio."

Prior to Senator Fifield's replies, Screen Australia chief operating officer Fiona Cameron and chief executive Graeme Mason testified that the fund had been undeniably successful from their perspective as administrators. "We funded 10 companies for their broad slate and we funded about 40 individual games," Cameron explained under questioning.

"A lot of those games have gone on to make a profit, millions of dollars, which is fantastic. Some of those companies, such as [Defiant Development, makers of Hand of Fate] in Brisbane, have gone onto make a huge slate of projects and programs. So it has enabled companies to develop a slate of projects, retain IP in Australia and build their company."

Mason also noted that Screen Australia is continuing to support companies that received initial rounds of funding, and that they maintain an active brief on the industry.

Update: Added a missing word to Senator Fifield's quote (to).


Comments

    Unsurprising, this is a generational thing and games are still viewed as an unimportant, time-wasting fad.

      Mitch Fifield is only 48 so I don't know if that's a good enough excuse for how they think anymore.

        Yes and no... 48 would be hitting the tail end of that "new fangled stuff!" generation when it comes to games at times.

        Really just depends on your environment growing up. I would assume being a conservative Mr Fifield fell on the "games are for kids and you should do something more productive as you get older" camp =P

          Trey Parker just turned 46 if that gives you some perspective. I get what you're saying though.

      Which is weird considering how large the industry is and how much money it generates.

        Not really...

        Most transitional technology always gets that last push back from conservatives every time they appear. Heck just look at the push back on "filthy" music like Rock, Blues and whatnot during the 50's to 60's. Music was becoming a multi million dollar industry during that time but because it was a "different" brand of entertainment it was branded as a "waste of time", and so forth

        I've had several discussions online on why there is such a push back on investing in this media.. and only ONCE have I had a decent reply dissecting what is wrong w/ the general system in place + problems w/ our location. Most of the time it's the usual "games is for kids/waste of time" or they try and dodge the question by shifting the question back on me why we should invest when I've already given my points =P

    "The reason for that is because taxpayer dollars are a finite resource"

    Yep, we really need to be careful with the peoples money. We can't spend a cent of it on something pointless like videogames, we need to fund anti-piracy watch programs and helicopters to fly people in for parties.

      And replacing old copper with new copper to fudge NBN results.

      It does beg a question, our manufacturing industry is dead, are creative industry is moving overseas, our innovation startup industry is already overseas...so what industry is the taxpayer dollar funding?? (other than mining...forgot about that one...)

        Beef exports is pretty huge atm due to the low dollar and high demand from overseas (particularly china).

          Beef exports get tax breaks/government funding?

            Not sure on beef directly but farmers in general definitely do.

      We can't spend a cent of it on something pointless like videogames, we need to fund anti-piracy watch programs and helicopters to fly people in for parties.

      Hey it can't be helped its what t̶̶̶h̶̶̶e̶̶̶i̶̶̶r̶̶̶ ̶̶̶l̶o̶b̶b̶y̶i̶s̶t̶s̶ ̶̶̶f̶̶̶u̶̶̶n̶̶̶d̶̶̶i̶̶̶n̶̶̶g̶̶̶ ̶̶̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶̶̶c̶̶̶a̶̶̶m̶̶̶p̶̶̶a̶̶̶i̶̶̶g̶̶̶n̶̶̶s̶̶̶ "the people" want.

    But spending $130k to prevent an recognised asylum seeker from speaking with her lawyer is a great way to spend finite taxpayer dollars.

      Then there was the $50m to send 3 asylum-seekers to Cambodia...

    And let's not forget this efficient usage of finite taxpayer dollars:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/31/cambodia-has-no-plans-to-take-more-nauru-refugees-in-55m-australia-deal

    The thing that gets me about this is the fact that the likes of Canada and the UK are fully supportive of the games industry, which brings in millions in profit and funding from US/Japanese studios, and we still seem to be stuck in the dark ages. It's baffling to think that we're so far behind in this regard, and yet our track record in the industry is growing thanks to Crossy Road, Assault Android Cactus and Armello among others.

    Not that I want to advertise my own wares, but I had a really good conversation with Nic Watt from Nnooo about this and he said the very same thing. You're welcome to check it out, link's in my bio.

      Because unfortunately whilst the general populace as a whole has a very open attitude to technology and whatnot.. our general voting habits when it comes to "economic policies" tend to fall in line w/ conservative ideologies.

      Hence you have the paradox of someone loving technology and having all the latest gizmos and whatnot and then voting for Coalition because it's their "careful economic management" which is needed when running a country.

        Sometimes, on a cool Canberra night, you can hear the Tories vigorously rubbing-out of Joe Hockey's name from any reference in every copy of "The Conservative Guide to Careful Fiscal Management."

    Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry.... But who wants to invest in that when we can lose billions a year propping up the low priced mining industry?

      Sadly the game development needs the mining industry to exist.... Horse before the cart.

      Mining produces the material which flows into hundreds of sectors, video games much more limited.

    Fair enough, we do need to prioritize our money. So let's spend it on the right things, shall we? No more helicopters and anti-piracy bullshit, thanks.

    Obviously there's no guarantee for success, but why can't funding be structured as a loan? If a game makes a profit, the funding gets paid back and a few Australian development houses get to continue employing local talent.

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