Scott Ludlam spoke at PAX Australia today, alongside Tony Reed of the Game Developer's Association of Australia and Ron Curry of the Interactive Games Association of Australia.
The overwhelming message? The Australian games industry is worth investing in. And the Australian government should be doing more.
But why isn't it?
According to everyone on the panel, it's a broad and multi-faceted problem. A problem that might take time to overcome.
"The attitude towards games," said Ludlam — referring to the Australian Parliament — is that it's "kid's stuff".
Ludlam hopes his upcoming inquiry into the state of the Australian games industry will actually change the hearts and minds of those in power. There's a chance that might actually happen he said, claiming that inquiries often encourage a momentum shift in mindset.
"But there's also a chance they'll just toss it out," he said.
According to Ludlam a multi-faceted approach is the solution to a multi-faceted problem. He encouraged those in attendance to contact their local member of parliament and have a calm, rational discussion regarding the games industry and why gamers are not being adequately represented in parliament.
Ron Curry, of the IGEA, made reference to how a simple narrative shift can result in a better result, and used the R18+ debate as an example.
"When we moved from 'give us our games or we're gonna kill ya'," he laughed, "to actual rational arguments — that's when we started seeing a shift."
Ludlam praised both Tony Reed and Ron Curry for their ability to "punch above their weight" in terms of lobbying efforts in Canberra. He believes that gaming interests are well represented by the IGEA and the IGDA, but there is an opportunity for a broader movement to make an impact in Canberra.
Part of the issue, said Ludlam, is the generation gap, and that may be something we simply have to wait out.
"In 10-15 years people in this room will be in parliament," he said, "and then we'll be able to have more interesting discussions."
But there have been victories and those come, said Tony Reed, when politicians take the time to speak to developers and understand their craft.
Reed retold the story of how Simon Crean came round to the idea of video games an an industry worth investing in.
The then Federal Arts Minister spearheded the Interactive Media Fund, a $20 million "downpayment" for the video games industry. A funding mechanism that was intended to be self-sustaining with three years but was cruelly cut 12 months later in Joe Hockey's first federal budget.
"I refused to meet Simon Crean in his office," explained Tony.
Tony Reed invited Simon Crean to 2K Australia, where he saw BioShock Infinite in early development. According to Reed that was enough to convince Crean that the games industry was something the Australian government should be paying attention to.
"Once they understand us," said Reed, "they never look back."
"This country is still in deep trouble," said Ludlam — in reference to the fact that the government is more likely to spend money on loss-making industries that cause harm to the environment, like deforestation, than a growth industry like video game — but admitted that current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was an improvement in terms of his ability to understand technology and the impact investment could have on the growth of the Australian economy. Tony Abbott, was actually "proud" of not understanding technology.
Where to now? The message from all three members of the panel was ubiquitous: create things and communicate. Make video games, make great video games and harness the tech industry's ability to communicate and foster change in the mentality of the current Australian government.
But that change may be a long time coming.