PAX AUS 2015: Scott Ludlam says the government isn’t working hard enough to support local devs

Greens senator Scott Ludlam had some very choice words for the Australian government on the Boss Level panel at PAXAus on Saturday, saying in no uncertain terms that they are not doing enough to support the local games industry.

In Ludlam’s words, the Australian government sees games as “kid’s stuff” and are therefore difficult to convince of its importance and usefulness as an industry. Ludlam holds out hope that a forthcoming governmental inquiry into the local industry will be the spark needed to affect real change and impress the right people. He was quick to temper expectations, though, saying that while inquires frequently lead to significant changes in political mindsets, “there’s also a chance they’ll just toss it out.”

In Ludlam’s opinion, getting involved is the key to success. He encouraged everyone who turned up to speak to their local member of parliament and discuss with them in an adult, rational manner, their thoughts on the Australian games industry and why our best digital artists and developers are not being properly represented in government.

This was  sentiment echoed by CEO of the IGEA Ron Curry, who used the R18+ debate to highlight the way hearts and minds can be changed to reach a positive result. “When we moved from ‘give us our games or we’re gonna kill ya’ to actual rational arguments — that’s when we started seeing a shift.”

While Ludlam, the only politician to attend the show in any official capacity, was enthusiastic in his praise for Curry and Game Developers Association of Australia CEO Tony Reed and their ongoing efforts lobbying for change in Canberra, he also clarified that he felt there were still plenty of ways to create dialogue.

In Ludlam’s view, a large part of the problem comes from the age gap between the average gamer and the average politician and that we may just have to play the waiting game for now. “In 10-15 years people in this room will be in parliament and then we’ll be able to have more interesting discussions.”

According to Tony Reed, on the occasions that the local industry had scored a political win was when politicians had actually met with developers and worked to understand the kind of work they were doing. He recalled bringing Simon Crean around on the concept of a local games industry that was supporting and investing in which led to the then-Federal Arts Minister creating the Interactive Media Fund, a $20 million allocation for local developers. The initiative was designed to be self-sustainable within three years of its inception but was among the many scrapped programs in Joe Hockey’s first federal budget.

Reed took Crean to the now-defunct 2K Australia and gave him a preview of Bioshock Infinite which was in the early stages of development at the studio at the time. He says the game blew Crean’s hair back and was instrumental in proving that the local industry was to be taken seriously.

With a conservative government still in power, Ludlam thinks the nation is in dire straits in terms of policy but even he is willing to admit that newly-minted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is an marked improvement for those who want to see growth in Australian technology.

What can developers do in the meantime? The panel agreed: Keep working. Keep creating. Make amazing games. Efforts like that will make the value of the local industry undeniable and that’s when hearts and minds will begin to change.

Author flown to PAXAus courtesy Tiger Air, with accommodation provided by Accor Hotels and YHA Australia.