Magazine article Metro Magazine

Adding New Players

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Adding New Players

Article excerpt

In June 2013, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its first audit of the Australian games industry since 2007, giving us not only a snapshot of where things were at in 2011-2012, but also an indication (along one axis, at least) of how things have changed.

In 2007, the Australian games industry comprised 1431 employees--of which 1325 were full-time and 106 were part-time--and most of them worked on consoles such as the PlayStation 2 or Xbox. The vast majority (89 per cent) consisted of men. In contrast, at the end of June 2012, digital game-development companies employed 581 individuals, of whom 452 were full-time and 129 were part-time or casual; again, the vast majority were men--92.3 per cent.

There is no arguing with the significant change this represents and the way it connects with prevailing industrial wisdom about shrinkages in light of the global financial crisis and the diminishing markets for video games. Both issues are identified in the structure of the recent Screen Australia Interactive Games fund, which, along with its original intentions of helping existing studios to grow and encouraging local developers to stay in Australia rather than move overseas, must now also work to regrow what was there before.

But what isn't clear from the statistics nor admitted by the same industrial wisdom is the way these numbers only focus on a particular side of game development--one that has changed since 2007. These days, people make games outside of the much-reduced studio system and industry. No longer are games perceived as a product of the technology industry--as bound up in discussions of software and hardware, with reportage of games in mainstream media sitting alongside mobile phone news, ebook lawsuits, or breakthroughs in space technology. Game design today is seen as a creative endeavour.

This change has not come about purely through attrition, but through the efforts of people purposefully and actively establishing new ways of making and thinking about games outside of the industrial paradigm. In her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Anna Anthropy argues that the video-game industry has successfully convinced people that the only way to make games is to be part of it, joining the businesses and studios already producing games. But the response, she argues, has been to create games outside of that system using accessible technologies, distributed directly to audiences via the internet. Much like the creators of zines, who photocopy, staple and send out their work via mail, these game creators are 'indie' --operating in a similar way as independents in music, theatre, film or publishing. …

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