The Australian games industry is pretty accustomed to working with a federal government that, for the most part, doesn't quite get it. That disappointment and apathy came through in the recent response to the upper house inquiry into video games, with developers and industry frustrated over the government's refusal to outwardly support a growing sector.
But not all levels of government are disengaged. The Victorian and South Australian governments have been active of late, for instance. And on the federal side, there's encouraging signs that the level of interest in the Australian gaming industry - and knowledge - is changing.
Someone who's been talking to government lately is Jayson Hilchie. He's the chief executive and president of ESA Canada, the chief lobby group for the video game industry in Canada. Hilchie stopped by the Kotaku Australia offices earlier this week to have a chat to me about his experiences advocating for the gaming industry in Canada, and some of the discussions he's had with Australian government officials.
His visit to Australia is largely an educational one, showing Australian lawmakers the benefits Canada has enjoyed from the growth of their gaming industry (namely, the $CAD3 billion-plus the sector contributes to Canada's GDP) and how it was achieved.
But Aussie politicians, save for those from the Greens, aren't typically that knowledgeable about video games. So I asked: how much have the Australian politicians and advisers understood about video games? His response was surprising, in that it was more than you'd expect.
"We did one roundtable this morning with Michelle Rowland [Labor shadow minister for Communications and the Arts]," Hilchie explained. "It was very well done - it was really kind of organised in conjunction with Ron Curry [IGEA CEO], to bring together a wide swath of the Australian video game industry, not just here in Sydney."
"We had a conference call system, a video conferencing system, we had industry in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and the group here in Sydney," he explained, adding that the roundtable ran for around two hours and that the Labor MP was "very knowledgeable about the industry".
"What she didn't know when the meeting started, she certainly knew at the end of it. There must have been about 40 people on the line with their own perspective and story to tell about the industry in Australia," the ESA CEO said.
Considering the federal government's prior lack of interest in supporting the sector, and games in general, the conference is a positive step. It's not hugely surprising that Labor was involved, considering the party implemented the Australian Interactive Games Fund - but the widespread collaboration is a better step going forward than what we've come to expect out of Canberra.
To kick off their campaign for the byelection in the Victorian seat of Batman, the Australian Greens have announced their ideal for the local video game sector - an investment fund to the tune of $100 million.
You'll be able to hear my full conversation with ESA Canada president Jayson Hilchie, which touched on esports, regulatory quirks, the video game industry's relationship with the current Canadian government and Hilchie's thoughts on the upcoming meeting between the White House and industry, tomorrow.