Overview of the Australian video game industry
Australia has been home to a video game development community for
decades, with the origin of an established industry traceable to 1980.
As with many industries, since that time the video game development industry
experienced periods of growth and significant setbacks. The industry is also
subject to strong competition from studios in other countries.
This chapter provides key background information about the state of the video
game industry in Australia and globally.
In particular, available data about the size of the industry and the people who
play video games are presented. Developments in the industry following the
global financial crisis of 2007–08 are also discussed. Finally, the
chapter outlines some other factors that are relevant when assessing the industry.
Types of games and Australia's video game playing population
The results of research and various surveys were provided to the
committee indicate that a large number of Australians play video games for
entertainment. For example, a study of households in 2015 conducted by
Professor Jeffrey Brand and Mr Stewart Todhunter for the Interactive Games and
Entertainment Association (IGEA) found that:
98 per cent of Australian homes with children under the age of 18
have a device for playing interactive games;
68 per cent of Australians play interactive games, and of this
game playing population:
78 per cent were aged 18 years or older, 71 per cent were working
age (18–64 years), 23 per cent were aged 50 and over, and seven per cent were
aged 65 years or older,
the average age was 33 years, and
47 per cent were female;
as part of their normal media usage, Australians spend an average
of 88 minutes a day playing interactive games; and
27 per cent of players have tried making interactive games using
software and nine per cent have studied or plan to study interactive games
Another aspect of the video gaming population is the people who use products
known as 'serious games'—that is, games intended for non-entertainment
purposes. Professor Stuart Smith of the University of the Sunshine Coast
provided the following definition of a serious game:
...a mental contest, played with a computer in accordance with
specific rules, that uses entertainment to further government or corporate
training, education, health, public policy, and strategic learning objectives.
Professor Smith explained that serious games are used in a variety of
sectors, including health, education, defence, emergency planning, politics,
engineering, urban planning, manufacturing and service delivery. He added:
Application areas are as diverse as engaging a person
recovering from stroke in repetitive rehabilitation arm movements, to delivering
critical incident response training to emergency personnel through to educating
a child living with cancer about the impact of chemotherapy on their health or
another about the impact of genocide in Darfur.
IGEA also addressed the social contributions that serious games can make
by highlighting research undertaken by Neuroscience Research Australia
involving 'a games-based stepping exercise designed for people with
[multiple schlerosis], to help improve their balance and their mental skills'.
IGEA submitted that the research 'is an excellent example of how games-based
technologies have real world applications, and can improve people's lives'.
Mr Ron Curry, the Chief Executive Officer of IGEA provided additional
examples of health-related serious games, including games used to assist in
dementia care and Sound Scouts, a game that helps to identify hearing
problems in pre-school aged children. Mr Curry added that the hearing game is a
successful diagnostic tool because the children 'enjoy playing it'. He argued
that the game 'drives a targeted, cost-effective health sector outcome'.
The use of games for education was also highlighted. The Game
Developers' Association of Australia (GDAA) suggested that games 'will become
more prevalent in Australian classrooms with the rollout of the digital
technology curriculum into primary and secondary school'. The GDAA noted that
this occurred followed similar initiatives in the United Kingdom and Estonia.
The Brisbane Chapter of the International Game Developers Association (BrIGDA) noted
that educational games can be designed for use 'off the shelf' for matters such
as history, or can be designed for specific purposes, such as 'to teach
students about core curriculum topics'.
In addition to games being used in primary and secondary education, the
potential for games in tertiary education was noted. Professor Jeffrey Brand
from Bond University informed the committee that an economics course at the
University of Queensland uses a game to 'help model microeconomic processes'.
Other uses for serious games include games designed to promote safety, such
as road safety games that encourage careful driving, or relate to problems in
the community, such as games about bullying.
An example of a game designed to identify 'talent and personality capabilities
of a potential employee' during recruitment was also provided.
The committee was also advised that the potential for serious games and
other applications of game technology is likely to increase significantly with
developments in virtual and augmented reality technology, and the mainstream
deployment of this technology.
Mr Curry stated that augmented reality and virtual reality 'are the next big
steps in the industry'. He provided the following example of the potential
benefits associated with the technology:
Imagine if you were a doctor studying surgery and you could
put on a mask and look like you were performing surgery. For all intents and
purposes, that is what you are doing but, thankfully, it is not on a human; it
is on a digital human being.
To demonstrate the economic potential associated with video game
development, submissions emphasised the increasing number of people who play
video games both in Australia and globally, as well as the growth in the size
of the global video game industry.
The global industry
IGEA cited an estimate that placed the global value of the interactive
game industry in 2014 at approximately US$77 billion. According to IGEA, the
same research forecasted that the value of the industry would grow to US$96
billion by 2018. Mr Tony Reed, Chief Executive Officer, GDAA, stated that the
compound annual growth rate for the industry 'is almost 10 per cent'. Mr
Reed observed that the growth rate of the industry:
...is certainly significantly higher than any other creative
sector, but it is higher than most manufacturing industries as well. Our
audience grows daily. There are billions of people playing games and new people
joining that fray every day.
IGEA submitted that the value and growth of the global video game
industry compares favourably to both:
the film industry, which has an estimated value of US$107 billion
and a 4.4 per cent annual growth rate;
the music industry, which IGEA advised is estimated to account
for US$52 billion by 2019, with an annual growth rate of 0.8 per cent.
The size of the global industry is not widely understood. Mr Curry make
the following observation:
When we are talking about games that are being released that
are bigger than all box office hits, I guess it is a bit mind-boggling for
those who are not engaged in the industry to understand how big it is.
The anticipated widespread utilisation of virtual reality technology is
also expected to boost economic activity in video game and related industries.
The committee was informed that the industry for virtual reality and
augmented reality 'is estimated to be worth $150 billion by 2020', a significant
increase on the current industry revenue of $2 billion to $3 billion. Mr Nathan
Anderson, a cofounder and the Chief Executive Officer of Start VR, commented
that the expectation is that virtual reality 'will be as transformative and
ubiquitous as the internet or smart phones'.
Professor Brand added that the market 'for interactive games products in
a knowledge economy is mind-boggling in size and scope, particularly as the
game industry, compared to other media and technology industries, 'is in its
Australian industry statistics
In Australia, retail sales in the interactive game industry were
approximately $2.46 billion in 2014, an increase of 20 per cent from 2013.
Sales were essentially divided between traditional retail sales ($1.214 billion)
and digital sales ($1.248 billion). The value of digital sales is growing
significantly, with the 2014 figure constituting a 39 per cent increase on
digital sales in 2013 (in particular, downloads of mobile games increased by 56
Although the market for video games in Australia is growing, the size of
the domestic video game development industry in Australia has decreased.
The following tables use the most recently available Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS) data (2006–07 and 2011–12) to provide an insight into the
income, expenses, production and overall employment in Australia's video games
industry. In particular, Table 2.1 indicates that although the number of
businesses increased between the two years surveyed by the ABS, those
businesses generated less overall income and employed fewer people.
Table 2.1: Digital game developers
in Australia, assorted statistics for 2006–07 and 2011–12
Businesses at end June
Employment at end June (1)
End-to-end digital game development income
Income from game development services
Income from government funding
Operating profit or
loss before tax (2)
Operating profit margin
Industry value added (2)
working proprietors and partners of unincorporated businesses
(2) The ABS noted that for (a)
operating profit before tax, (b) operating profit margin, and (c) industry
value added categories, estimates can include positive and negative values,
reflecting the financial performance of individual businesses. In this case,
the aggregated estimate can be small relative to the contribution of individual
Source: ABS, Film,
television and digital games 2011–12, cat. 8679.0, June 2013, www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/E612C796E7A5461FCA257BA50012F64A/$File/86790_2011-12.pdf
(accessed 23 September 2015); Digital Game Development Services, Australia,
2006–07, cat. 8515.0, April 2008, www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8515.0
(accessed 23 September 2015).
Table 2.2: Production of digital games, 2011–12
Production costs ($m)
Average cost per production ($'000)
Mobile and web platforms
PC and Mac
ABS, Film, television and digital games 2011–12, cat. 8679.0, June 2013,
(accessed 23 September 2015).
Table 2.3: Digital games developers' sources of income,
Category of income
End-to-end digital game
Consoles (including handheld consoles), PC and
Mobile and web platforms
Digital game development services income
Consoles (including handheld consoles), PC and
Mobile and web platforms
Royalties income for
ABS, Film, television and digital games 2011–12, cat. 8679.0, June 2013,
(accessed 23 September 2015).
Other data about the size of the industry based on research and surveys were
provided to the committee. The GDAA advised that it is aware of 225 businesses
in Australia's game development industry.
The GDAA added that the results of a 2014 industry survey indicated that:
at least 827 people were employed in full-time, part-time, casual
and contract positions; and
industry revenue from local companies in 2013 totalled
approximately $64.5 million, an increase of around 14 per cent from the
previous year's figure of approximately $56.5 million.
Victoria has the largest share of Australia's video game development
industry, with an estimated 48 per cent of the national industry located in
that state. Outside of Victoria, sizeable segments of the industry can be found
in Queensland and New South Wales; these states are reported to account
for 19 per cent and 18 per cent of the national industry respectively. South
Australia (eight per cent of the national industry) and Western Australia
(seven per cent) have smaller, but nonetheless active, video game development
Australia's industry compared to industries
Overall, Australia's video game development industry is small compared
to the world's largest industries, which, in order of size, are located in the
United States of America, Japan and Canada.
The GDAA submitted that, in 2012, the video game industry contributed
nearly US$6.2 billion to the gross domestic product of the United States
and employed 'more than 146,000 people in 36 states'.
In Canada, which features the third largest industry, there are
329 interactive game development studios and approximately 16,500 people
employed in the industry.
The United Kingdom is another example of a country with a sizeable video
game industry. The GDAA advised that, in 2013, the total economic contribution
of UK-made video games
included £1.4 billion in gross value added and support for 23,900 full-time
equivalent jobs. The industry also contributed £429 million to government
Despite the significant difference in overall population, the size of New Zealand's
video games industry appears to be similar to Australia's. According to the New
Zealand Game Developers Association, 568 full-time employees are employed in
the industry, with industry revenue of NZ$78.7 million in 2014–15 (also, revenue
in 2014–15 was three per cent higher than the previous year).
In addition to the comparisons that can be made about the overall size
of Australia's industry relative to those in other countries, it also appears
that the size of the studios in Australia are, on average, smaller than those
found elsewhere. Mr Benjamin Britten, who represented the Melbourne
Chapter of the IGDA (IGDA Melbourne) and is the Technical Director of the
Melbourne-based studio Mighty Games Group, commented on this issue. Mr Britten
observed that globally, small studios employ between 50 and 100 people, whereas
Mighty Games employs only 14 people and is 'considered quite large' in terms of
the domestic industry.
Despite the statistics about the small size of the overall Australian
industry and Australian firms, Australian-based developers have had astounding
successes, particularly in games for mobile phones and tablets. For example,
the committee was informed that in October 2015, 'five of the top 10 games in
the App Store were Australian made'.
The game Crossy Road released by Melbourne-based Hipster Whale has over
120 million players globally or, as Mr Reed from the GDAA put it, 'almost four
times the Australian population'.
Another staggering result is the game Fruit Ninja by Halfbrick, which has
been downloaded over one billion times.
Developments in Australia's video game industry
As the above paragraphs indicate, Australia's video game development
industry decreased in size between 2006–07 and 2011–12 despite growth in the Australian
games market and the global video game industry. During this period, and for
some time after it, major developers in Australia announced job losses and/or
business closures. By 2012, studios that had closed or downsized include Krome,
Pandemic, THQ StudioOz, BlueTongue, Team Bondi, SEGA Creative Assembly,
Tantalus Media Brisbane,
the Australian studio of EA Games' Visceral Games
and KMM Brisbane.
The last AAA game
developer in Australia, the Canberra-based 2K Australia, closed in 2015.
The overall composition of the industry has changed as a result of these
developments, with independent game developers now comprising much of the
industry. To illustrate this, the GDAA's submission noted that 12.2 per cent of
respondents to its 2014 industry survey indicated that their primary business
type was 'commercial game developer'—that is, the business generally worked for
third parties, including publishers. The largest category was 'independent game
developer', which 75.7 per cent of respondents identified with. By contrast,
the GDAA suggested that 'almost all of the 45 game development companies' that
were identified as part of the 2006–07 ABS survey:
...would have engaged in contract work or would have identified
as 'Commercial Game Developers' based on the work-for-hire paradigm of the
sector at that time.
More recent evident changes in the industry were also highlighted.
The GDAA stated that the results of its industry surveys indicate that the
number of respondents who described their business as 'self-owned and managed'
increased from approximately 77 per cent in 2012 to over 90 per cent in 2014.
Key factors put forward to explain the changes in Australia's industry
were the global financial crisis and the sustained appreciation of the
Other reasons cited include:
the tax incentives available for game developers in other
countries (this is discussed further in Chapter 3); and
the decline of 'middle-ground' games, with major titles developed
by AAA studios and smaller, app-based games developed by small,
independent studios comprising a larger share of the overall market.
One of the consequences of the closures of Australian-based studios has
been the departure of skilled developers to other countries. Mr Ben Driehuis, a
senior programmer in the industry, submitted that following the studio
closures, the 'majority of experienced developers left Australia to find jobs
overseas and have not returned'.
He argued that, as a result, the knowledge these developers possess has not
been transferred to recently graduated developers.
Similarly, Ms Giselle Rosman remarked that, as a result of the 'brain drain
that we had as a result of the [global financial crisis]', the developers in
the small studios that characterise the industry today are 'probably learning
things through mistakes that they could have learnt from someone more senior a
lot more easily'.
IGEA added that the reduction in the size of the Australian industry and
the number of people employed in it means there is a 'potential over-supply of
graduates in interactive games development'. IGEA explained that graduates face
'fierce competition' for jobs after graduation, with 'many graduates being
forced to work as lowly-paid interns'. The lack of jobs also encourages
graduates to seek jobs overseas. IGEA commented that Australia's situation
'sits in great contrast to the Canadian interactive games industry's concerns
which are focused on the current shortage of available talent and its ability
to source talent outside Canada'.
The above evidence about the gap between the number of graduates and
available jobs was quantified. Mr Reed advised that over 5000 students enrol
each year in games or game-related course, however, there are only
approximately 1000 'active participants in this industry'. He commented:
So we are effectively graduating five times more students
than there are people in this industry. We do not have the ability to cater to
those graduates. That is a problem for us. They will either be moved into
sectors that they do not necessarily want to be moved into or they will have to
go overseas, and we do not want to lose that talent. We have some really
Although this section has highlighted several negative developments in
the industry, some of changes to the industry's structure over the past few
years are arguably positive for many developers. For example, submitters
highlighted the potential benefits for developers and the industry as a result
of market changes that promote self-publication to distribute a game, rather
than the use of a publisher. The submission from the Queensland University
of Technology (QUT) Digital Media Research Centre explained:
Given the degree to which higher end fee-for-service business
has dried up, while essentially self-publication on the major digital
distribution platforms (Apple's App Store, the Google Play Store, Steam, etc.)
has grown exponentially, necessity has become a virtue. Conditions have crafted
an industry which is much reduced in terms of turnover and traditional
employment, but now operates within a disintermediated value chain which
radically forces the pace of innovation. Despite much commentary which treats
Apple, for example, as basically yet another global corporation 'taking their
(un) fair share of financial profits,' near-to-global dissemination via the
digital platforms on a 30/70 split of income derived represents an in-principle
better deal than the power asymmetries enshrined in dealing with the major
What should Australia's video game industry look like?
This chapter has outlined some of the transformations that have occurred
to the structure of the industry in recent years. Although the next chapter
will discuss previous government programs, overall, the remainder of this
report will be forward looking with the existing structure and dynamics of the
industry as its starting point.
As the terms of reference for this inquiry indicate (see paragraph 1.1),
the committee was asked to examine a range of matters to support growth in the
industry, including how support could be provided to local businesses, how
international studios could be attracted to establish studios in Australia and
employ local staff, and export opportunities. In doing this, consideration
should be given to whether types of businesses or activities should receive
particular attention and if there are issues facing the industry that need to
be addressed before government support can be considered. This section
discusses some of these issues.
International investment and local
Some submissions questioned whether efforts to attract international
studios should be made at all. In his submission, Dr Dan Golding outlined a
history of international companies that established or invested in game
development operations in Australia, which he argued demonstrated 'a long-term
pattern in Australia of sporadic foreign investment, followed by on-selling,
bankruptcy, and closure'. Dr Golding provided examples of successful
Australian studios that were purchased and ultimately closed by international
interests, as well as international game development companies that set up
studies in Australia for relatively short periods of time.
Dr Golding argued that, in the long-term, a reliance on international
investment in Australian game development is not in the national interest.
By now it is clear that the business model for international
companies in Australian games production is to invest when the price is right
and to sell or close when business is bad. There is little to suggest that this
model would change into the future. International companies can provide
relatively large amounts of jobs in short bursts, but Australian history has
proven this to be unstable and volatile. International companies by their
nature have little interest in building Australia's videogames industry outside
of their own financial benefit and therefore there will always be measures
outside of the local industry's control (and indeed, outside of the government's
control) when it comes to international investment pulling out.
Dr Golding concluded that the history of international investment in the
Australian video game industry means that future government intervention should
focus on 'cultivating and providing infrastructure for Australian-led
The developments in the Australian industry over the past decade
certainly suggest that foreign investment is responsive to a range of factors,
including global economic conditions, exchange rates and comparative taxation
and regulatory arrangements. Nevertheless, some submitters were optimistic that
Australia could sustain international interest in Australia's video game
industry. In his submission, for example, Mr Ben Driehuis suggested that the
value of the Australian dollar is 'key' for foreign investment. Nevertheless,
he argued that a 'thriving local industry' with talented developers will
encourage investment in Australia's industry. Mr Driehuis provided the
The more talented staff we have and the more intellectual
property those teams and studios can produce, the more likely both overseas
publishers will invest and fund games made here, but will also look to either
purchase those studios or create their own presence to obtain talent.
When asked about the ideal structure of the industry in terms of large
and small studios, Mr Tony Reed from the GDAA envisaged 'a healthy mix of
both'. Benefits from the presence of large studios in the domestic video game
development industry are evident. Mr Reed advised that the principal advantage
is that the large studios 'are great learning platforms for future independent
developers'. He explained:
The one thing that those big studios do very well is provide
training, understanding of process and understanding of business. Staff or
employees then break off and build their own companies on the back of it. That
is exactly how the Australian industry, in its current form, has developed.
Mr Reed added that industry participants would like large studios to
return to Australia 'in the long term'. However, he cautioned that encouraging large
studios to return to Australia could crowd out the smaller developers.
Working conditions within the video game industry attracted some
comment. Mr Alexander Ocias submitted that a 'huge proportion' of the game
industry in other countries is 'running unsustainably on unpaid labour'.
Accordingly, he argued that 'Australia's strong labour laws should be seen as a
point of pride, and not as an impediment'.
Despite the rights, responsibilities and entitlements provided under Australian
workplace laws, the committee received anecdotes of poor working conditions
within Australian game development studios, including examples of firms that
provided poor working conditions, had overworked employees and collapsed with
Mr Tony Reed acknowledged that, in Australia, concerns about unhealthy
and exploitative labour practices were 'definitely true eight to 10 years ago'.
Mr Reed went on to state that:
...in those very large studio environments where pressure was
being placed on developers, especially from international publishers and those
investors, they were forced to deliver content at speed. The industry did go
into a very unhealthy place. It was part of the industrial conversation, a lot
However, Mr Reed argued that labour practices in the industry have
'changed substantially since the global financial crisis and since the creation
of these smaller, dynamic studios'. He stated:
Does it still exist in Australia? No, not as far as I know,
and I am aware of all 225 studios that we have in this country. I have personal
relationships with almost every one of them. We do not have those practices
anymore. Did it exist? Absolutely. We do not deny that it did. There have been
some terrible cases. But, as CEO of an association that is tasked with taking
care of this industry, I tend to manage and watch over those companies to
ensure that does not happen. It is not something we are proud of at all, but it
is something that definitely happened.
Professor Stuart Cunningham from QUT's Digital Media Research Centre
similarly commented that the 'creative destruction' that occurred since the
global financial crisis has largely addressed these workplace issues. He
explained that, because the firms in the industry are no longer working in a
fee-for-service model for overseas publishers, the developers have 'greater
control over their working lives'. He added that the reality in the
industry now is that developers 'have got to be able to make their businesses
work', but 'their future is to a much greater extent in their own hands'.
Product development and management
Some submissions commented on the ability of Australian firms to manage
the development of a product. It was suggested that Australia has creative
talent, but often firms struggle to successfully commercialise the product.
The submission from QUT's Digital Media Research Centre noted that,
along with other factors such as policy fluctuation, the 'industry's reputation
for poor management' contributes to the uncertainty and precariousness
routinely faced by developers and their employees.
The submission's authors provided a paper on structural conditions and the
human cost of precarious labour in the Australian industry. A director of a
US-based studio surveyed for the paper was reported as commenting that 'the
work-for-hire origins of many Australian studios and developers meant that they
perhaps had not gained the market discipline of focusing on a core competency
or on a core market'. The director added:
...we've got thousands of game designers in Australia. No
problem at all, but we have very, very few experienced product managers, and
that's meant most of the attempts have fizzled out, because if you think of the
build, measure, learn cycle, we built, we didn't quite know what we were measuring
and we learned nothing.
Game developers were frank about some of the challenges they face in
managing a business. One submitter emphasised that there are 'there are many
independent game developers...working on amazing games all around Australia'.
However, he added:
Making a good game is not good enough, marketing is incredibly
important as is general business management—knowing when to hire more staff,
when to cut features to keep within budget, and how much focus should be put on
the core game versus bugfixing and polish.
I am fortunate, as I took Economics and Business Studies in
high school as an elective, and also happened to have one of the best teachers
to grace the education system. Even then, I feel ill-equipped to actually run a
business, and will almost certainly be taking an unrelated business management
course as I reach a point that I am able to sell my games in a decent capacity.
Even still, I wonder how much of the content will be applicable to game
development, and how many gaps there will be.
Others recognised limits in their ability to effectively manage the
product development process and the marketing often needed for a game to be
successful. Mr Daniel Sassen, the manager of Broken Chair Games, was
particularly upfront about the strengths and weaknesses of his business. He
Developing the game is the easy part of the whole process. It
is the marketing and promotion that goes on after the release that is well
beyond our grasp.
If some management practices are likely to have had negative
consequences for particular firms, employees and the overall industry, it can
be reasoned that focusing on improving management practices should greatly
assist the industry. The Sydney chapter of the IGDA (SIGDA) submitted
that, if many businesses are under-resourced and operated by game professionals
with little management experience or training, then the industry 'is poised for
rapid growth if the availability of funding and business mentoring are
Some submissions commented on the composition of the video game
development workforce in terms of gender and ethnic background. In particular,
the lack of gender diversity in the industry was put forward as an issue that
holds back growth in the industry and potentially threatens the legitimacy of
its case for public support. According to the ABS, at the end of June 2012 only
8.7 per cent of the digital game developer workforce was female.
An estimate provided by the GDAA at a public hearing suggested that the figure
is now 12.7 per cent.
Dr Dan Golding devoted much of his submission to this issue. He argued
that there is 'a clear disparity in Australia between the monoculture of those
who work in the video games industry, and those who actually constitute the
wider communities of people from all walks of life who are interested in video
games'. According to Dr Golding, this 'amounts to is an industry in
crisis'. He concluded that if gender diversity in the industry is not
addressed, it will result in an industry 'that is simply no longer worth
supporting in the national interest'.
Other submitters noted the history of male-dominance of the industry.
In a paper attached to the QUT Digital Media Research Centre's submission,
Associate Professor John Banks and Professor Stuart Cunningham argued that:
The industry's still overwhelmingly male-dominated production
base needs to change if it is to attract the best talent, improve balance and
sustainability, and capture value in a rapidly evolving consumption
Mr Reed from the GDAA acknowledged that the statistics about the
proportion of female employees in the industry are 'terrible'. Mr Reed added
that diversity in its entirety 'is a significant problem...not just on a gender
basis'. He advised that the GDAA is concerned about systemic problems and
is 'looking at plans to address it in our sector'. However, he stressed that
the industry welcomes a diverse workforce. He stated that the industry:
...is absolutely not just an industry for young people. It is
an industry for talent and intelligence. We do not judge people on their age.
We do not judge people on their gender. We look at diversity in its entirety.
We value new contributors to our sector because the consumers want new,
Other industry participants also recognised that the lack of diversity
is a problem. Ms Giselle Rosman, the Chapter Leader of IGDA Melbourne, pointed
out that with women comprising half the population, a workforce of only 10 per
cent women is 'underutilising' the potential that is available.
Ms Rosman also noted that games are entertainment, but they also tell
stories and 'are part of our culture'. After indicating that the stories told
through games are predominately stories from the viewpoint of white men, Ms
'I do not want to just hear those stories. I want to hear stories from a
greater range of people'.
Mr Ben Britten from Mighty Games Group made a similar point:
As an old white dude I have seen all the old white dude
stories I need to see, frankly, and I quite enjoy the huge diversity we are
seeing now come out of a lot of the indie spaces.
Mr Britten was also candid about how a development team that did not
consist of people from diverse backgrounds will struggle to develop products
that appeal to a wide audience. He stated that:
Even though we try really hard to be diverse and have our
ideas and creativity embrace as much as we can, we still find ourselves doing
that, because we are basically dudes, even though we are trying really hard not
to. If you are a studio of mostly men who are not necessarily aware of it, as
you say, that is what you are going to make. It is kind of a problem.
These environments can also facilitate the creation of games that
objectify women. Ms Rosman observed that this occurs in other artistic endeavours
as well, such as films—Ms Rosman remarked: 'they are all babes there'. Nevertheless,
Ms Rosman suggested that there is 'room for improvement' and the video
game industry should seek to address this given changes should lead to 'better
There are efforts underway to address some of the diversity issues. For example,
the committee was informed of Film Victoria's recently established Women in
Games Fellowship that focuses on 'up-skilling so that you have women in some
more senior positions in games'.
Although women are under-represented in the video game development
industry, it should be noted that there is a systemic issue with the
under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) fields generally.
This was recognised by Dr Golding, who provided the following observations:
From 2001 about 25 per cent of domestic enrolees in
information technology degrees were women. By 2014, which is when the most
recent statistics were released, that has dropped to about 16 per cent. So it
has actually dropped over the past 10 or 15 years.
Beyond that, there are anecdotal examples. I do not have
access to all of the universities, but I have spoken to RMIT, for example. They
have a more or less fifty-fifty gender breakdown for people studying games. So,
it depends. There are strategies being enacted even at the educational level to
This chapter has provided an overview of the industry to give some
context for the policy options that the remainder of the report will largely
focus on. It is apparent that Australian video game developers face both
exciting opportunities and significant challenges. The Australian Government,
and state and territory governments, could assist the industry to capitalise on
these opportunities and address the challenges. The next chapter focuses on the
roles that governments have undertaken and the case for additional government
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