IGEA chief executive Ron Curry estimates at least 1500 people work in Australia’s product development alone, with job options extending far beyond that.
“The industry is so wide now… You’ve got the creative side, you’ve got game development – it’s not just coding – there’s producers, there’s coders, there are people creating narrative, there’s music,” Mr Curry told 9News.
“There’s the retail component, which is another group of people, then we have esports which is a different part of the industry as well. We have games that are used for advertising or health or promotions.”
A new report from tech giant Lenovo shows popularity for the industry translates to one in 12 Australians between the ages of 16 and 45 now saying their dream job is in gaming. This is the equivalent of 807,000 people.
Australian gamer, critic and television presenter Stephanie Bendixsen has been involved in the industry for more than a decade.
“As an industry it already outperforms film in terms of how much money it generates. Thinking of how much it’s changed in the past decade, it’s going to surge above and beyond film even further in terms of its mass consumption,” she told 9News.
“This current generation and the generations after it have grown up with video games much more as a part of their everyday life – it’s less something that a small group of people play and it’s now something that everybody plays.”
“It’s something people are considering, and other content creators and people involved in the world of games are making a career out of it and it’s something that seems actually attainable,” she said.
“I certainly see it being one of the main industries that people would aspire to and one of the most important industries.”
“In Australia we’re one of the only developed countries that don’t enjoy the same incentives that film enjoy,” he said.
“With the current government, it’s culturally embedded in them not to support video games.”
He took aim at the federal government for its lack of industry support compared to nations such as Canada, which has 27,000 people working in product development alone.
“We’re afraid we’ve already been left behind but that will just get worse if there’s no support given,” he said.
“It’ll create a brain drain. As we’re seeing now, there’s no business infrastructure for video gaming – our brightest and smartest talent is leaving and going offshore.”
“There’s a whole number of ways games could be used beyond pure entertainment and I think that’s the exciting part of the industry and where those transferrable skills are,” he said.
“What we’re seeing is practitioners using video games to drive a particular health outcome. We’ve seen it with Alzheimer’s, we’ve seen it with people with MS, we’ve seen it in rehabilitation units with spinal units.
“The thing with the games is the power that it has to help people to live well. It’s got the power to educate, it’s got the power to allow people to create, to connect, to play, the power of community.”
The Department of Communications told 9News in a statement the federal government “values the games development industry for its contributions to innovation and culture in Australia”.
“The Government is committed to supporting our creative industries to grow their economic impact and international presence and recognises the importance of fostering creative and digital skills as the demand for these continues to grow,” the statement said.
The department also confirmed Australian businesses innovating in games development can currently access government support through tax incentive programs, Export Market Development Grants and the Incubator Support Initiative.
“If you think about the long-term future of (films such as) ‘Ready Player One’, ‘The Matrix’ or people involved in a virtual world, some form of virtual world is an inevitability,” she said.
“The stuff that we’ve fantasised about in movies and books, in terms of the scope of virtual worlds and player interaction and involvement, we’re always pushing towards that at some level.
“What tends to happen with technology (however) is that there is a massive push towards a huge advancement and then there is usually a kickback because people worry about the long terms effects of it.”