In These Dark Times, $25k Of Video Games Funding Is Something To Write Home About

The history of government funding for video games is sketchy at best. Late last year the Federal Government put a red line through the Interactive Media Fund, taking $10 million out of the hands of local developers. Considering that Film Victoria does a far better job of funding local development in Melbourne and beyond, it was the Sydney game development scene that was arguably hit hardest.

But curiously, a video game by a Sydney Studio did just received state government funding, via a finance program few would link to video games at all.

Screen NSW has announced it is distributing $1.2 million on 19 new film, TV and online productions. Among them: a family show called 'Dance Academy', a documentary title 'The Shadowland' and a video game called 'Objects In Space'.

'Object in Space' is the latest game by Sydney-based studio Flat Earth Games. It's a stealth space trading simulator. We saw it running at PAX Australia and it looked fantastic. It's not only open-ended from a narrative and design perspective, but also allows players to literally build their own control interface. If you wanted, you could probably build yourself a Steel Battalion-esque space station and trade stealthily to your heart's content. Or you could just play the game like regular people. Your choice. Very cool either way.

Objects in Space has received $25,000 in funding from the Screen NSW Production Finance program and Regional Filmmaking Fund. That may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it is a unique tangent in the troubled narrative of government funded video games.

Recently Screen Australia teamed up with the Canadian Media Fund to create funding for "interactive digital content" and then, in the same statement, refused to accept video game applications for the fund.

In this context the fact that Flat Earth Games felt the need to apply for funds usually allocated for television and film projects is interesting. The harsh reality: if you are a games studio and you want government funding for your video game, you have to think outside the box. And in a weird sense you have to play up the 'non-game' aspects of your video game in order to do so.

Leigh Harris, co-founder of Flat Earth Games and designer on Objects In Space, did the intelligent thing: he called up Screen NSW and politely asked which funds would suit their project and which funds they'd have have the best chance of securing support from.

He was very complimentary of Screen NSW.

"Film and television is undoubtedly their primary focus, but they were more than helpful in getting us through the hoops to be able to apply," said Leigh.

But Leigh was also happy to admit that he focused heavily on the narrative of the game to help get his application through.

The $25,000 in funding Flat Earth Games received is primarily going to be spent on the 'non-game' aspects of Objects in Space. And by that we mean very little of it will be spent on design or coding. The money will mostly be used to hire seven writers to create unique, interactive narratives for the player to interact with in the game. Some of the funds will also be used for the game's soundtrack.

"I don't think Screen NSW have any issue with funding games," said Leigh, and he's right. Screen NSW has funded video games in the past, and will almost certainly continue to do so in the future, but it is interesting: in order to secure government funding, video games have to seek out and adapt projects to non-gaming funds and scrape up the dregs. Of the 19 projects being funded by Screen NSW, only one of them relates to video games. Of the $1.2 million being divvied up, only $25,000 is devoted to video games. It's a drop in the ocean.

Particularly in the context of broader issues: a $10 million federal funding program scrapped without industry consultation; a second fund that explicitly forbids game developers from applying. It's a grim situation, and one that has you wondering if the government wants any part of the games industry at all.

It's a strange one. Yesterday our Prime Minster spoke to the nation and called for an 'ideas boom'. Why not an industry that continually brings overseas dollars to Australia, that rattles off success story after success story?

Why not video games?


Comments

    Yesterday our Prime Minster spoke to the nation and called for an ‘ideas boom’.

    This is brilliant spin for someone from someone who's own ideas are stuck in the past.

    it was the Sydney game development scene that was arguably hit hardest.

    Poor Brisbane :'(

      Are you implying that their are cities in this country besides Melbourne and Sydney?
      Madness, I tell you! Scandalous lies!

    I guess the Objects in Space project could use the grant money to pay artists to create .jpg pictures of space ships that might one day appear in the game. They could then spend the rest of the grant money on a marketing campaign to sell those pictures of space ships for a tidy profit!

    Why not video games?

    Both sides (Labor and the Coalition) have this attitude of complete and utter contempt for anything IT related.

    They'll only throw enough money at the sector to silence the easy swayed yet most vocal critics but won't actually do anything to promote growth (gaming or otherwise).

    It doesn't help either that overseas investors only see Australia as a platform for cheap labour and are resentful that our dollar is still above the $0.60 USD mark.

    Last edited 08/12/15 12:24 pm

      Well one side did suggest teaching coding and programming in primary schools.

        Yes, the side with even less understanding what teaching coding involves.

        To actually teach programming effectively, you need good teachers and funds to help students gain access to books and even software to support their learning.

        As it stands, there are not enough accomplished teachers who are programmers and the programmers have already seen how educators are treated thus wouldn't go near said jobs if their lives depended on it.

        And finally, the arrangement of the needed resources. It is safe to say neither side could organise an explosion in a combination match and dynamite factory let alone get proper IT-based support for teaching programming.

        And before you even raise this; yes I do remember Abbott's coal mine response and it doesn't distract from the fact Labor's primary school suggestion was just another in a long line of hollow suggestions from a party completely disconnected from the Australian public as well as each other within.

        Last edited 08/12/15 8:14 pm

    The enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.

    A great Whitlam quote, on a subject that will be very important in the future, as long as we survive to see it pass. Even now, our service industries for a significant part of our economy, and the work required to ensure our comfortable survival into the future will only decrease. What will replace all that time? It must be the creation and enjoyment of art, in all its different forms.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now