Victoria is in the middle of election season right now, and a large chunk of the country is set to follow with more state and federal elections in 2019. And as part of their campaign, the Victorian Liberals have made a play that we can expect to see more of in the coming decade: a pitch to gamers.
In a release earlier this week, the Liberal opposition government announced that they would be maintaining existing funding for the screen and video game industries in Victoria, while looking at new opportunities to expand state support for the sector across multiple avenues.
The release didn't contain details of any additional funding, although they did note they would "provide new funding" for makers of applied or serious games. As for the video games sector, the opposition pledged the following:
- Work with games industry representatives and relevant Victorian tertiary institutions to ensure that game development courses meet industry expectations;
- Continue to provide direct assistance to developers for the marketing and promotion of their games;
- Provide new funding for developers of "applied games" that have safety, health or education benefits;
- Lobby the Federal Government to expand the eligibility criteria for the existing 40% production offset to include games projects or introduce a new offset that applies to games content
- Continue to support major events such as Melbourne International Games Week (started by the Liberal Nationals in 2014), and the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) (brought to Melbourne by the Liberal Nationals) and the annual Games Connect Asia Pacific conference as well as the attendance of games industry developers at major international conferences and events.
- Review screen industry training courses through University/TAFE to ensure that industry practitioners are receiving training that is fit for purpose;
- Fund the development of a new "Filming in Victoria" locations resource (including a mobile app) to consolidate location and other relevant filming information
Supporting existing measures, particularly when they're successful and beneficial across multiple fronts (tourism, export, growing local industries and so on), isn't something that should be praised per se. Taxpayer funds should go into projects that work, especially if they're projects that mean a lot to the state. And with millenials now becoming the largest voting bloc across all of Australia, and gaming the most prominent form of entertainment and play for singles, couples and families across the country, all of this really makes sense.
What's interesting about it is that we're getting closer and closer to political parties starting to properly pitch to gamers. The mainstream understanding of gaming, and gamers as a general audience, is still exceptionally infantile. But the value of that group as a bloc, particularly as political parties themselves become refreshed with staffers who game plenty in their own spare time, is slowly but surely growing over time.
And on the plus side: at least there's an announcement about something. Daniel Andrews' site (because caretaker conventions during an election restrict what announcements and policies can be released through the official site for the Victorian Premier), featured no announcements or policies relating to the Victorian games industry, or screen industries at the time of writing. The closest is the announcement of a $12.5 million investment into a performing arts centre at Gasworks Arts Park, but given that the screen industries contribute $1.4 billion to Victoria's GDP and employ tens of thousands of Victorians in full-time equivalent roles, the industry deserves a little more love.
So if anything else, maybe this just gets Labor to mirror the Liberals' approach. Maybe it encourages them to commit to slightly more funding. Either way, it's a sign of the times, and slowly but surely, those times could be good for local developers.