I joined the IGEA as its Legal & Policy Lawyer a little over a year now and it has been a blast. This job has allowed me to do some awesome things for the industry, but whenever people ask me about my job or what IGEA does, it usually takes a bit of explaining.
Officially, IGEA is the industry association that represents the business and public policy interests of Australian and New Zealand companies in the video games industry. My role is to handle all things legal and policy, from writing government submissions to researching law. Yes, it is a bit of a mouthful, but even that description doesn’t do things justice. While I could sit here all day and explain everything we do to help the games industry grow locally, I thought I’d instead share a story that gives a little insight into a day in the life of IGEA.
Last week, myself and Ron Curry, the CEO of IGEA, attended a public hearing for a Parliament inquiry into Innovation and Creativity. The inquiry is looking into ways to ensure Australia’s education system meets the needs of our future labour force, with a focus on innovation and creativity. When I first got wind of this, I had only been in my role for about 2 months. I just read the words ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ and thought, ‘Hey, video games are pretty innovative and creative’. I then sent a simple email to Ron, asking: ‘Do we want to attend this to represent video games?’. And that’s all it took to get the ball rolling.
About a year later, I was attending my very first Government public hearing. It was fairly nerve-racking. I had never been recorded onto the Government Hansard, let alone asked questions directly from members of Parliament. But I am so glad that IGEA attended. Without our participation, the importance of video games to an innovative and creative economy would not have even been a part of the conversation.
Our goal for the day was simple: advocate for video games and attempt to get the Senate report into Australian game development back onto the Parliament’s radar. Remember, this was the report that made a lot of great recommendations to help the local industry, but is now over 230 overdue for a response by the Government. Yes, 230 days.
We argued that the game development industry is ripe for incredible growth and success, especially in Australia. However, we had to point out how, due to limited job availability, students found it difficult to get employment in the local industry, forcing them to move into different fields or to leave Australia. We pointed out the large disparities in government support for games development compared to other creative industries, like music and film. We argued that Aussie game developers should receive more government support on a national level, including funding, tax offsets and assistance for co-working spaces.
But what I wasn’t really prepared for is how we also had to combat a few fundamental misconceptions still held by some of the politicians about video games. For instance, one expressed concern about how, in 10 years, we may be heading for a social tsunami with video games where human connection is lost. While not doubting the sincerity of this concern, to be successful at the hearing, it was clear we had to go back to basics and explain what video games were really all about.
We talked about how games allow people to connect online with others around the world on a larger basis than ever before. We commented on how games like Pokémon Go got people out of their houses to play alongside other gamers, while describing the amazing communities built online thanks to games, where people are always talking about and playing games with each other.
It was also easy to highlight the amazing level of engagement that takes place on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, where creators broadcast themselves playing games, attracting thousands of viewers that together watch and interact in the chat. Overall, we argued that human connection was definitely not lost because of games, but it is in fact likely better than ever before – it’s just in a different form. After this, the politicians were on board! We had a great chat with them afterwards and even invited them to some upcoming IGEA events.
Of course, this was only a day in the life of IGEA. But at the very least, it helped to reinforce in my mind the great things we strive to do for those the games industry, whether they are developers, distributors or publishers. I am proud to be a part of this association and will continue to advocate for video games. They are something I am so passionate about, having played them ever since I was a child. With the rest of the IGEA team, I’m determined to help ensure IGEA continues to make strides for the industry in both Australia and New Zealand.
This article originally appeared in MCV Pacific Weekly, you can subscribe to our weekly industry touch point at no cost here.