Amongst all the issues we have in our world right now, the video games industry isn’t one of the most talked about. Sure, we have major releases, we sell billions of dollars worth of consoles and games each year, but it’s not considered a priority in the eyes of the current State and National Governments. I do understand why, at least for now, that it’s not something that’s often discussed, but when the eyes of the local entertainment industries continue to fall upon Film and TV projects made in Australia (like the upcoming Thor film, for example) and not the major achievements that have made just as big an impact in the video game space.
Luckily for all involved, the Greens are keen to invest in the local industry. More specifically, they have announced a funding package that’s aimed at ‘fostering’ the talent of Western Australia, a state that has plenty of local studios working hard to make it in a State that, so far, has kept them in the dark.
Simply titled ‘Level Up WA’, the initiative would bring in various measures to introduce an $8 Million a year industry package, reintroducing the former Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF), extending the Producer Tax Offsets to include game developers, assisting in the development of co-working spaces for the state and, ultimately, fixing the NBN to be a Fibre to the Premise system.
It’s a welcome announcement, one that promises many things that I know for a fact could improve and encourage a greater level of game development in WA. It’s a scene that has slowly grown into its own little community, but whilst Victoria are keen to support the industry on its own accord and Sydney hosts major eSports events, those in WA have largely gone it alone.
So what does Level Up WA mean in the long run? The Greens are quick to point out that the Abbott-Turnbull government axed the AIGF, calling it “a huge disservice to the industry.” When you take a look at the numbers and what it created during its brief run, it’s not hard to see why.
Between 2013 and 2014, the Australian Interactive Games Fund distributed around $10 Million of its first funding level (of a planned three-year term) to enterprises, sector-building initiatives and game development. The projects that were lucky enough to receive funding? Framed, Ninja Pizza Girl, Square Heroes, Armello, Gems of War, Assault Android Cactus, Defect, Particulars, Siegecraft Commander, TownCraft, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy … that’s just some of a healthy list of titles. Along with those, many important festivals, game jams and co-working spaces were funded too.
The AIGF was then pulled but a year after being introduced, leaving the next $10 Million behind and many game developers and industry veterans scratching their heads. The entire projects was scrapped, amongst a number of cuts to Screen Australia over four years. At the time, Trent Kusters of League of Geeks (the creators of Armello) called it devastating, “We’re just getting back on our feet after a massive industry collapse in 2009.”
Reintroducing the AIGF would be a massive boost, let alone the suggested $4 Million for West Australian game developers. Based on that list above, the quality of every game funded under the initiative in just its first year is as clear as day. Just imagine what could be created if it were to return in a new, broader form.
Stirfire Studios are the team used by the Greens as an example of a local developer doing it tough, in a climate that doesn’t show signs of support. The local studio have been hard at work on their first VR project, Symphony of the Machine (which I’ve talked about in the past), but are largely doing it through their own ways. They are but one of many studios trying to make a name for themselves in WA (you can find just about all of them via Let’s Make Games), many of which are using the likes of Playup Perth to showcase their wares in a unique environment with keen players.
To have the Greens championing the cause is great to see, but the question remains whether the initiative outlined will ever come to pass. What it means is simple; opportunity. We’re in an enviable position to build and grow an industry like no other, an industry that brings in more people, more players and more potential jobs than any other entertainment medium in Australia, let alone WA. Many other countries have their own projects and funding goals, tax offsets and the like, knowing that its an area that deserves to be supported and invested in. Why not our own?
Victoria has the best support of any state when it comes to financial aid, and the results are big events and major upcoming releases that have gained fans from across the globe. It’s become a major asset to the local economy there, and there’s no reason to suggest it wouldn’t do the same here. There’s a number of local studios, groups, projects, work spaces, events and more that deserve to grow, to become more than what they’ve started with, to nurture the next generation of talent. It’s all about opportunity, and this project would certainly provide one.
We’re on the verge of a State Election. Whoever you choose to vote for, Greens or otherwise, please do what you can to contact them and inform them of your support for this funding initiative. Tell them about it, explain how it can help in numerous ways, do what you can. You can also read more about it via this link.