The need for rockstars

Last night, I was graciously invited to the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards by the Wheeler Centre.  It was a fun night (although I wish I’d been in a more sociable mood) and because my head is in a games + culture space, I found myself looking at the experience through a slightly odd filter.

The first thing I noticed was the breadth of the demographic in attendance.  There were journalists, theatre writers, critics of all sorts, booksellers, publishers, writers of fiction, writers of non-fiction, published authors, festival directors, bloggers, cartoonists – and a single solitary games writer.  It brought home for me how diverse the book ecosystem really is, and I guess as it should be given the amount of time it has been around, but it also brought home for me how narrow the games ecosystem can often be.

The second thing was the attitude towards the work evident from the writers.  There were a number of jokes – some bitter – about how little writers make and how much they’d had to sacrifice to make it this far.  But still they did the work.  I want to return to this in a later post, not to focus on the notion of the struggling artist, but to look more closely at some of the cultural differences between other artistic forms and games because I think there are some interesting issues to explore.

The third and final thing was the broader cultural role of a medium and a sense of the reasons why some are supported and not others.

And the short answer, I realised, is rockstars.

Or, to be more specific, smart, eloquent, passionate, people who care about the medium and who have achieved creatively.  People who have a certain cultural heritage and weight, and whose government support goes beyond purely economic factors and into the sense of a city or a region or a country being made up of some ephemeral fabric of ideas and hard-won accomplishment.  Accomplishment that is, in some capacity, valued.

The business case is easily made, and has been made repeatedly in the past, but to really capture the eye of government and balance the arguments of established cultural crusaders, we need more than the business case – we need rockstars of our own.

But how do we do that?  I want to dig into that properly in another post, but the short answer, I think, is to have more people making more things and learning from those experiences to make even more, this time better, things.

5 thoughts on “The need for rockstars”

    • Thanks Andrew.

      I think awards are part of it (and hearing people talk about the awards last night affirms what you’re saying – they’re made out of nothing :)), but I also think that finding ways to insert ourselves into the broader cultural conversation is part of that too. That’s why I’ve started blogging more and why my main focus on the GDAA board is on greater cultural engagement. It’s a long process though, but I think it’s one that needs to happen.

  1. You find me a bat and I’ll more than happily bite its head off for the industry cause! 🙂

    Seriously though, I think you’re spot on and more should be made of the pioneers in the industry past and present. I saw the UK Develop Awards opening movie ( recently and while I’m not saying this is the way to do things, it was interesting how certain industry individuals were showcased in it.

  2. I think a key reason why accomplishments aren’t yet valued is that the government (and the community in general) aren’t sure what to look for. Should we be praising people who excel in the business side, creating successful ventures? Or should be we focusing our attention on creatives that achieve worldwide recognition of their work? Which elements of which games will be used as building blocks for the future, and which will be left by the wayside?

    Personally I think just the act of development and releasing an original game which includes within it an artistic expression of the creator is a pretty massive achievement these days. There isn’t yet a common, accepted method of creating an original game, and trailblazers (like Neil and Andrew) are accomplishing something significant, at least in my mind.

    • I don’t think it’s an either / or sort of thing. We’re in an entertainment industry so there should be a symbiotic relationship between the commercial and the creative. I’d argue that part of what is giving us trouble locally at the moment is that we’ve focused, and celebrated, the business side a little too much and lost site of the creativity. That’s part of why I’ve started blogging more seriously, it’s part of why Eve & I took Freeplay on, and it’s part of what I hope to do within the GDAA.


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