Our political system is, in very, very basic terms, a push and pull between the left wanting to spend money and the right wanting to save it. However, providing funding for the video games industry offers the Liberal party two things they appear to love and value above all else.
I’m talking about jobs and growth.
Simply, and I’ll go into more depth later, we are at a perfect time to turn Australia into a strong industry for video game creation, at the very least, and a hub for technological advancement if we play our cards right. Malcolm Turnbull is either interested in this industry, or he is a liar.
I can say this emphatically, by referencing his very first speech as Prime Minister in 2015:
“We must ensure, in the years ahead, as the world becomes more and more competitive, and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative…
We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility and change is our friend, is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage.
There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian…
We will ensure that all Australians understand that their government recognises the opportunities of the future, and is putting in place the policies and the plans that will enable them to take advantage of it.”
Turnbull took his very short first Prime Ministerial address to emphasise how important the future of technology would be to our country. And it’s true. We are currently living through an explosion of technology, unparalleled ever in our history. We currently use technology that was little more than a dream when we were children, so imagine what we may see in the next few decades. To be at the forefront of this wave will not only be exciting, but hugely beneficial for a country watching one of its most profitable industries wane.
We should be agile. The video game industry will likely be worth nearly $100 billion by 2018, and is growing at 10% annually. This is a massive pie that we are not getting much part of. The global financial crisis devastated the major studios’ presence in Australia, but there has been an increase in smaller studios to fill that void. Despite that fact, there are far fewer Australians employed in the industry – 1,431 in 2007 compared to 581 in 2012 – and the now infamous 2014 budget cut the Australian Interactive Games Fund which provided $20 Million in funding to developers a year.
But why should we fund non-essential, profit-based industries? It’s an ever-present question in the Australian entertainment sector. Some entertainment industries appear to have an unhealthy reliance on funding, when a hardline capitalist ideology would argue that you must either make your work earn its keep or make it cheaper. I agree to a large extent, but there is an issue. With much of the entertainment industry – and especially game development – the problem is that almost all of the work must be put in before its creators can see even a cent in revenue. This means that to start a company, one must either make no money for a time, or must work outside their other work commitments, and for many this is simply unfeasible. While it is not impossible for a development company to become full-time of its own volition, funding would allow more to get on their feet more quickly, and tangibly grow the industry.
The real question is not how funding would help the industry, but why it is important, and that is exactly why Greens senator Scott Ludlam led a senate inquiry into this very issue.
In an informative article on Kotaku, Ludlam notes the consensus his inquiry reached regarding the reinstatement of the Australian Interactive Games Fund, or something like it. He also points out that the industry wants to stand on its own feet, but the aim of the funding is not to supplement the income of people whose product will never return enough money, but to jump start the industry, to make Australia a place where game development is an exciting and viable career option. That will only be the case if we have a strong industry, and the industry will not take hold without some help with that first step.
Jobs and Growth. They’re right here. If we make the Australian industry vibrant and buzzing, it will ride the surge seen by the industry worldwide. The growth is there, we just need to make the jobs to go along with it.
But it is not only the games industry that stands to benefit from this funding increase. Computer literacy is fast becoming a highly valuable skill for many diverse industries. If we are agile enough, a bursting games industry could encourage the next generation, inspired by the allure of actual jobs, to learn skills such as programming, graphic design, coding and so on. A myriad of other industries stand to gain if we can give young women and men these practical skills.
Grand Theft Auto 5 grossed $1billion in three days. To put that in perspective, Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke box office records for the highest grossing opening weekend, with only half as much money made as GTA5.
The money is there, I only hope that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are agile, innovative and creative enough to recognise this.