Scott Ludlam: The Government Should Do More To Help Australian Video Games

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.


Comments

    Currently doing a degree in games development at MQ Uni, really hope to see some investment by the time I graduate.

      Don't take this the wrong way but if they don't (which is likely the case due to Australia's attitude to IT in general - it's not confined to the Coalition), then offer your skills to those over seas.

      If local sectors refuse to take IT seriously, then they deserve to tank while people like you flourish thanks to overseas sectors.

      I've been down the path you are looking at right now. Survived IT in Uni, even got a PhD, could not get a stinking job to save me from the CentreLink queue, got work from overseas and could not be happier.

        This is the unfortunate truth of being IT in au...

        It's the same mentality that basically hobbled the NBN. I once had a conversation w/ a family member when they said "it's too expensive". The conversation lead to me saying it would open opportunities like having our own "silicon valley" here... was shrugged off saying "why would google come to Australia anyway? IT isn't our forte".. followed by "we need roads" and so forth..

        And this is the same mentality why were stuck w/ coal/farming... and even lost the only other manufacturing we had.

          If you speak of automotive manufacturing, sadly that sector saw the end of the handouts under Hockey. And decided to ditch Australia rather than adapt.

          Australia does have the potential, but as well as both sides of government not taking it serious, the IT sector itself treats the workforce with contempt.

          Coupled with that the NBN, I am saddened with the loss but even ignoring that it's dismantling was a political stunt so Turnbull didn't have to credit Labor, out budget is an absolute mess.

          And there is one final problem in all this. We are in a age where young voters who have or are voting for the first time treat the governing of our nation as (for want of a better term) easily swap able.

          If the current government of the day doesn't fit their expectations (a growing number are even factoring their future lives over handouts and not work) they expect immediate elections to at least remove the person that upsets them the most.

          It will be an interesting decade ahead. One that I think will only get worse given that we are already a laughing stock not in our future planning and policies but in how we no longer are capable of keeping a Prime Minister and other members in their jobs for a complete term.

          But despite all this, I am still proud to call myself an Australian. Because it is not the government that describe us; it is the populous and despite the number of people making us look bad there is still the majority that show otherwise. And I hope that least stays that way.

            Yes I was speaking about automotive.

            I've always been at two minds about the "hand-out" argument. Because you could theoretically say the same thing about the US automotive industry back during the GFC days and yet the current government propped them up.

            This is not to say that AU automotive wasn't getting more money that it should have w/o even attempting to fix their current business plans. But the "sudden" action of just saying "nope! your on your own" left a bad taste in my mouth for practically removing the last few major manufacturing industries we had. This isn't something that you suddenly "drop" because we're on hard economic times because manufacturing at the end of the day when done right will prop up the economy much more effectively than being a purely resource economy (which is what we are reduced to at this point)

            As for constantly swapping Prime Ministers... I wouldn't dwell on that much. Japan has had a revolving door PM system for a while now. Abe is probably the only one who has actually managed to hold on and no one is really paying attention to that eitherway.

            As for elections.. I'd say the problem comes from both ends of the age spectrum. You have the young who indeed think governments are a commodity and just vote for the flavour of the day... and at the opposite end of the spectrum you witness truly appalling factionalism where people who "always voted x party" will always vote x party since they have been since children w/o even attempting to balance the pros/cons of the current table of political policies. It makes for some very depressing stuff =P

              This is not to say that AU automotive wasn't getting more money that it should have w/o even attempting to fix their current business plans. But the "sudden" action of just saying "nope! your on your own" left a bad taste in my mouth for practically removing the last few major manufacturing industries we had.

              Not to be mean but that is an incorrect paraphrase. All Hockey asked was for manufacturers to provide business cases before receiving any more funding.

              I doubt he even got one; the fact he put conditions on what never should have been a free ride didn't go down well, our remaining manufacturers literally took their bats and balls and left the field.

              As for elections.. I'd say the problem comes from both ends of the age spectrum. You have the young who indeed think governments are a commodity and just vote for the flavour of the day... and at the opposite end of the spectrum you witness truly appalling factionalism where people who "always voted x party" will always vote x party since they have been since children w/o even attempting to balance the pros/cons of the current table of political policies. It makes for some very depressing stuff =P

              It gets more depressing. The vice versa is also happening. Long time voters are disappointed with their long held choice and switching, while the young think constantly voting for the same party will bring that party back into office or keep the party they dislike out.

              Either way, this side topic is going a bit to far. You and me, we're going to put Oaks out of the job if we keep this up, :-P.

    "Coal is good for humanity.......Coal is an essential part of our economic future."
    - Australian Prime Minister, 2014

    "“This country is still in deep trouble."
    - Scott Ludlam 2015

      So you're saying Tony Abbott is an optimist and Scott Ludlam is a pessimist?

    We all saw what happened when Bill proposed that coding be taught in schools, he was accused of wanting child labour back.

    They want us in forklift seats, not computer chairs.

    Won't happen unless there is something in it for the people organising any type of inquiry or investment. It seems like the overwhelming majority of politicians don't become politicians because they want to better their country/state/electorate, they do it to further their own self interests.

    This will be no different. Maybe if Malcolm's kids wanted to code video games we'd see them pump money into it. Until then you're dreaming.

    Saw this guy speak last year at PAX. While I don't know much about him, I probably agree with @wisehacker.

    The guy knows his audience. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it to the LGBT and nerdy gaming audience he had at PAX last year.

    But he had no suggestions for a fix.

    Seems same this year. Video game industry will flourish? Where is this guy getting his facts from? Seems all he did this year, again, was "hey gamers, Aus gov screwed over local game makers, sucks eh?" and got a resounding "PREACH IT BROTHA". No suggestions or thoughts on how to fix (apart from giving Aus game industry money). And no idea about the bigger picture.

    All in all, he seems like a person that's good to have in parliament just to maybe open some conversations, but ultimately he's just a Greens mascot who no one will pay attention to as they have no idea what's happening.

      He's also the one who preaches that nuclear technology should stay in the 1950's...

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