It's Time For The Australian Government To Get Involved With Video Games

The first video game to enter the collective consciousness was Pong, released into the world in the early 1970s. In 2016, the games industry is a Hollywood-dwarfing multi-billion-dollar behemoth. Even by the standard of the mechanisms of our government so often moving at a glacial pace, waiting more than 40 years to take a closer look at the industry seems like quite an oversight.

In June last year we succeeded in getting the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee to agree to an inquiry into the current state of the video games industry. We wanted to learn what the industry needed from their government to get back into the business of employing, mentoring and developing after a traumatic few years.

And what we saw was, hearteningly, some of the most productive and engaging committee work I’ve yet been a part of. Labor and Liberal Senators, with what could be probably be described as only a passing interest in the sector when the inquiry started, listened attentively, learned plenty and contributed positively to the process.

Senate committee inquiry reports commonly fragment into at least two – a majority report, which reflects the politics of whoever has the numbers on the committee, and a minority report, which contains the dissenting view. I can not emphasise enough how unusual it is, in this partisan and politically charged environment, and in an election year, to have a consensus report.

It says a great deal about the quality of evidence presented, the good faith that both witnesses and senators brought to the proceedings, and the clarity of the conclusions the process reached that we ended up with this piece of work. Up until now, the Greens have been a lonely voice for gamers in parliament. This process could well see that change.

And not before time. Gamers are a huge part of the Australian community. Millions and millions of us play, on phones, tablets, consoles and desktops. But aside from a brief period around the R18+ ratings debate, gamers have yet to leverage that mass appeal into a political voice, and the industry may have been treated with complacency by government as a result.

The key recommendations in our report are clear, and the challenges for the industry were evident from the outset. While the average Australian gamer is pretty much the average Australian – people of all ages, backgrounds and genders game enthusiastically – the industry itself has a major diversity problem. Proposals to make future Government support contingent on improved diversity within the industry was enthusiastically promoted by developers and spokespeople, who made it clear that diverse creators make for more appeal for the work.

The short-lived Australian Games Industry Fund should be reinstated, or a similar model put in place. As I said here a few months ago on this very site, the return for the relatively tiny public investment was massive and cutting it - just one of a swathe of short-sighted decisions in the Abbott/Hockey budget of 2013 – removed the only federal assistance the industry has had.

Industry figures were at pains to point out that they’re determined to stand independently; they have no wish to be reliant on government. That doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude government from giving the industry a jump start, in the form of grants, low-interest loans and tax offsets to foster the growth of a local industry and to ensure that local talent stays local.

The reason almost half of the Australian games industry is in Victoria is in no small part due to the assistance of the Victorian government. Shared workspaces like the Arcade – the site visit was a definite highlight of the inquiry process – have fostered talent, technologies and companies. It’s a model that should be replicated across the country.

There is not a Turnbull buzzword box that the games industry does not tick. These are the creative industry jobs of the 21st Century. This industry is innovation manifest, on every screen on the planet. New, fascinating stories are being told through the medium. ‘Serious’ games help to personalise some of the most complex challenges we collectively face. Technological changes have kept the industry evolving.

The industry is growing rapidly. It’s charging into new markets and competition from around the world is only going to get more intense. The opportunity for Australia to establish itself as a global leader in the industry is not going to last forever.

It’s time for us to get in the game – and thanks for everyone who played as this process ran its course. You did your bit – now it’s time for the politicians to step up.


Comments

    Yet another example of the Greens with their bleeding heart anti-gaming nonsense. Oh wait.

      the pic was total click bait, I was just plugging in my evil keyboard too

    Don't for a second dare to call me a 'gamer'.

    At ground level, we've seen what happens when gamers get political. It hasn't exactly been a picnic.

    That said, thanks must go to Mr Ludlam for penning this.

    I have voted for Greens in the past, but as he points out, for those of us outside Victoria there's a lot of barriers in front of us and to get our elected officials to take the industry seriously enough to make it a competitive and economically sound source of jobs in this country.

    This is worth a shot, but would Mr Ludlam be available to discuss this further in the comments?

    Or alternatively, could Kotaku please canvas other politicians no matter their affiliation or the location of their seats?

    For those of us with a keen interest in politics, and how it affects the running of the country, we seek times like this in election years to make our voices heard.

    It's not something to be taken lightly.

    "we've seen what happens when gamers get political."

    They get results?

    It would be great to see if this could revive Brisbane's game development scene!

    Krome, THQ, Pandemic and Sega Studios... Brisbane used to be a hub for game development (and the more developers there are, the better for the industry's competitiveness and innovation). The government should show more support towards supporting local jobs and cultural output - better funding and support could have kept a lot of these developers in the industry!

      A good number of my work colleagues are ex-Krome members. Adelaide has a thriving indie scene and with just a bit of government cash could become at least as big as Melbourne

        Krome was the best! I went to Supanova a couple of years ago just to get my Ty poster signed ;)

        ... just out of interest, what industry do you work in?

          Games of course :) Developer working for a small company in Adelaide. The senior management and a good number of others are all ex Krome. Great people

    "the Abbott/Hockey budget of 2013"

    It was 2014. Good God, these politicians can't get anything right, can they.

    We need more diversity in the industry?
    What are you basing this on?
    The gender, skin color or race of a game devolper is irrelevant, they just need to be good game developers. Anyone is entitled to educate themselves and create there own games, if you feel 'you're view point' is under represented make you're own damn games.

      Of course gender and background are important, because the experiences people have are different. Games are not just the code that comprises them but the stories and experiences that code is used to explore.

      Of course everyone is entitled to create games; it doesn't follow, however, that everyone is currently as able to do so which is the entire point of wanting a more diverse workforce in video game development. There are a range of factors, from gendered stereotyping in schooling shifting women and others away from IT careers to entrenched funding models in the industry that don't reward risk and actively hold back production of 'different' games before even reaching consumers and competing on the market. Not to mention the demonstrable financial disadvantages faced by many non-white individuals or the very real social barriers to LGBTI that demonstrably affect the areas where people can both work peacefully and express themselves at the same time.

        Yep. The majority of developers where I am are male, with Artists being about 50/50

        Get over it. Diversity in game production is not an issue. If a lgbtixabflaj wants to make a game, they just need to get a free copy of unity or ue4 and start making. Such babies.

          It's not just about LGTBI, it's also about Male / Female and Black / White representation in the industry. Games, especially in programming roles is heavily white male dominated. It's a big problem with all STEM based jobs. There are many factors the preclude people from progressing, from stereotyping to financial backgrounds. Unity / Unreal might be free, but those require decent computers and good internet, something that even today not everyone has access to.

            In Australia, by black are you reffering to african americans, indians, nigerian immegrants or aboriginals. The Aboriginal issue is much greater then video games, so much so that it's comical to even relate the two. Immigrants have the same rights and access to education / career opportunities that Australian born people have.

            Programming is not white male oriented. Working in the field, yes it is male oriented, but in no way is is it white oriented. If you work in the programming industry you would know that is a stupid thing to say. India and the phillipines are built on IT, and Australian businesses import/sponsor a large number of these people to work in Australian business.

            It is male oriented because men are more interested in fields of engineering then females. There are female programmers and I've worked with a number of them, typically they were indian/asian. Programming does not appeal to most women in our culture, therefore they are underrepresented. Women are represented well in science and medicine.

            Lastly internet access in Australia is not a limiting factor for game development, UE4 does not require internet access. Learning to code or design does not require ultra fast internet. We live in Australia where our internet is slow but does the job, not in remote Africa.

            Come on, at least have a clue when you spout your cry baby bullshit.

              Internet is a MAJOR factor in game development. We are limited by shitty internet every day. Without fast access to the internet we can't check online API's, google bugs, download updates, download assets, use cloud builds, use offsite version control, upload builds, watch tutorials, try others games for ideas + many many more uses. There's a reason the Game Industry was very excited about the NBN.

      'you are view point'? Make you are own damn games?

    Development is a huge industry for sure and can bring in a massive return from investment. That being said, it is also highly competitive with many projects ending up on the back benches as would-be developers struggle to cope with the rising cost of living in Australia.

    I myself am learning development to fill in the gaps I am missing to be able to make my own things in the evening. After work. After family. Because these days a student or applicant will rarely be looked out without a hugely impressive folio and/or titles released.

    With government backing, studios can afford to take more risks on new prospects.

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