In a little example of so much else that’s wrong with the Budget, it has also removed support for the local video game industry by cutting the Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF). That may well seem like a paltry issue amongst the changes to education, science, research, support for young people and so on – but it is indicative of the gulf between the Government’s rhetoric and reality.
Game development is a burgeoning industry. It is exactly the sort of ‘clever country’ industry that we need to move us away from dependence upon things dug out of the ground. And it is also an area where having an indigenous industry that reflects our own culture and values is vitally important. If the only characters you can play as in a game have American accents and salute the Stars and Stripes, or the wide-eyed cartoon look loved by the Japanese it’ll be no surprise when those are the values our kids learn.
The AIGF initiative was announced in 2012 and the implementation by Screen Australia only began twelve months ago. Formulated after substantial consultation with industry, the fund was designed to be an accelerator for the Australian game development industry, providing financial support for local business growth and the development of new intellectual property that would not be shipped offshore, but retained in Australia.
Not only was the Fund removed in the Budget, but the Attorney-General ignored numerous advances from the industry body over the preceding months – which suggests a real lack of understanding, or perhaps just a real lack of interest.
It is hard to comprehend a decision like this from any Government that espouses a focus on growth, innovation and industry. The Game Developers Association statement sums up nicely why the Government should be rethinking their position in some effort to align what they do with what they say:
“There is no question that the games industry is a significant contributor to the economies of every country that has a thriving game development sector; adding billions to the GDP’s of the US and Canada annually. Moreover, games are cultural products, developed by teams of highly skilled people across multiple disciplines; games now inspire other media sectors including film, television, music and literature.”
The Australian game development industry is an export oriented, labour intensive sector driven by innovation and creativity. Skills developed in the creation of games are, arguably, the most transferable of any industrial sector and as such, game developers are constantly sought by non-entertainment sectors including; healthcare, education, training and defence.
“In the development of the AIGF, the Australian game development industry took a responsible and respectful view of the opportunity,” said Mr Reed. “It was the industry that insisted on strong business cases for every application and that the program be an investment which required repayment to become self-sustaining.”