Federal Politicians Are Starting To 'Get' Video Games

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.

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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.


    A stark contrast to the U.S and Trump, who are about to come down hard on Video Game violence.

      Considering the same media they are talking about is shown in other countries including here what that actually means is that there is something mentally wrong and inferior with Americans, the poor things just can't cope with what the rest of the planet can. haha

      Just read a great article about this, apparently Obama had the exact same response after Sandy Hook. Not so much looking for anything to blame other than guns, just making sure all bases were covered. Biden was to lead the meeting and was going into it very negative about the industry, but after counselled with the research and facts, Biden, being open minded, accepted the facts and that there is no real causal link between violent video games and real life violence.

      Of course, how Trump reacts is anyone's guess but it might be a bit optimistic to think he approaches it as maturely as Biden...

      None the less, they are a lot more liberal there, with ratings an industry run initiative and not mandatory to enforce. So there probably is some wiggle room for extra, reasonable regulation, and given the facts seem to be well established at this point (given how many people have tried to scapegoat video games over the years) I think even Trump will find it hard to come down too hard on them.

      I think Trump like all before him are just trying to give the impression that they are doing something until everyone forgets about the issue again (until the next one)

      At the end of the day, the US games dev industry is far more healthy than the Aus industry, an industry that until recently couldn't even make games that weren't suitable for minors. Even given Trump, its hard for Australia to find any high ground when it comes to games.

      But this is a positive step. 3Bln extra in GDP (or .5%) isn't to be soughed at in these times of low growth.

    Basically it goes to show something that really shouldn't be that surprising - the Government only pays attention when some international CEOs/Executives say we could be making more money

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