Monday, October 02, 2006

Next part of that paper (see previous posts) follows. As you can see, I'm still in the process of tweaking it.

The government supports the local industry. But how, and why?
Australia has a international reputation for its state support of the Australian games industry, especially among European developers who wish their governments would take more of an interest in their struggling game development communities.

State funding for local developers: that's great. It's tempting to just leave it there and get on with the back patting without looking more carefully at the content and purpose of this support. This is a representative summation of the content and purpose of Australian state support of game development
as explained quite unambiguously by Marsha Thompson, Victorian Minister for Information and Communication Technology:
"The Victorian Government's aim is to encourage our developers to initiate their own concepts, which can be exploited internationally, thus ensuring increased export income and an expanded and stabilised local industry" (Thompson cited in Hill, 2006) No more, no less. Victoria is seen as the leader in Australia in terms of government support for games. Their reason for this support is clear: to grow and support the local game industry creating games for export. Supporting the industry to produce games for Australians is not part of their mission, however, and it certainly isn't implemented in practice through any of their funding programme guidelines.

Despite the attention the industry receives in Australia, only around 700, perhaps up to 1000 people Australia-wide work in game development making games (GDAA, 2003). The majority of these people work for studios owned by overseas publishers. The rest mainly work on games financed by overseas publishers who also receive the profits these games may make. It's hardly a money-spinner for Australia. Given that 95% per cent of games fail in the market anyway, it's hardly likely to be. Here is a government strategy based on creating jobs for Australians and growing the local economy that seems, in economic terms, a waste of resources that might be better directed towards other industries. One has to wonder: what on earth is the point? Well, there ought to be a worthwhile point to this state intervention and its about time this point was elucidated and implemented in the form of public policy.

Australian game content is not privileged in any state-funded industry support programs in Australia. (Well, at least none that we've ever managed to find, and we've had our eye on this issue for some years.) In a social sense, this is a wasted opportunity for Australia. Australian developers almost universally create games for export. (ICT Minister Marsha Thompson made a nice Freudian slip in her turn of phrase. Certainly, "being exploited internationally" is one way of putting it.) Many of those Australian-made games are played in Australia (as they are all over the world), but they may as well have been made in Botswana, given the character of their content. What benefit does the Australian community get from keeping 700 people employed making games for the US market? Surely there is an opportunity here: 700 developers living in Australia uniquely positioned to deliver culture to their own community.

Game developers do not make car parts; we create culture. The value of an investment in culture is primarily measured in social, rather than economic outcomes. So, what's the current value of state investment in the Australian game industry? By our reckoning, virtually nil.

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