Emerging from Freeplay, things haven’t particularly slowed down – and digging through my submissions, it looks I missed a few things too.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen me post this recently:
Thinking out loud: if someone started a smart, adult, critical site for writing about local gaming, would anyone write for it? Read it?
While I was only thinking out loud in response to this reactionary article from The Age (and yes, I know I shouldn’t read mainstream games coverage), I think it’s worth exploring, as much for my benefit as anything else, what I meant.
So, what did I mean?
Other creative sectors have a plurality of voices that run the gamut from news, reviews, criticism, and analysis, but for whatever reason (and I might not be looking in the right places), there seems to be a dearth of critical analysis and insight in the games space.
To illustrate, some of what I’d like to see in response to various events / articles are:
- A deconstruction of the recent 60Sox / ISIS numbers and whether or not they’re truly reflective of the state of things and whether or not a meaningful comparison can be drawn with previous studies
- A deeper look at state and federal funding decisions and the subsequent trajectories of both the projects and the studios
- An examination of the recent Australia Council Arts and Creative Industries report from a games perspective
- A breakdown of Canada’s development infrastructure before the tax breaks were introduced and whether or not the same conditions exist here
- Something like this 2010 summary of the games sector in Scotland
Some of these I’d like to write, others I’d like to hear other perspectives on, and others I know I’m not qualified to do, but I’d like to read all of them as part of picking apart some of the long held beliefs about local game development – industrial, indie, and cultural – and seeing whether or not they hold water as well as responding with a greater degree of insight when new issues arise.
Is there enough there? And is there an audience?
I don’t know, and I have questions around whether there are enough people interested in writing or reading content like this or would those sorts of articles actually find a constructive audience or would it degenerate into comment flame-wars.
Where does it belong?
Somebody on twitter suggested that this might be the place for that and I should ask guests along. I don’t think that model works because I (occasionally) like talking about other things here, deconstructing games, posting half-formed thoughts, sometimes about my writing, so I think it should be a completely new space. There’s also the question of responsibility – if someone says something contentious, I’d rather not be held entirely responsible for that. Happy to take the lumps for my own thoughts; others not so much.
This doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that would bring in vast amounts of wealth for contributors, but I also know having written some fairly substantial pieces that the ability to be paid for them makes a huge difference to their quality. I’d suggest a mix of short pieces that were unpaid, punctuated with far longer and more in-depth pieces that would be paid.
Raising the money is trickier, but I’m really interested in the Pozible model that New Matilda used to relaunch. I’m not sure how much would be needed, but it’s worth thinking about as a way of proving not only that there’s an audience out there, but that it’s an engaged and interested audience.
The question of time.
Freeplay is my main focus, but I’d like to see something like this happen perhaps as a contributor or as part of an editorial team, but I suspect if I tried to drive it I would burn myself out more than I already do with trying to build and grow a festival.
These are really just thoughts of something I’d like to see rather than a manifesto or a detailed structure. The first step in building something new is to figure out what the hell it is and this provides us with a bit more space than Twitter to talk about that.
The Australia Council for the Arts late last month published a report on Arts and creative industries. I’m only part way through reading it, but it’s worth reading because games are a fairly significant part of the first section and it continues what feels to me like is a broader conversation which is going on just outside of the games establishment and which could be easily missed.
What this raises for me in particular in a half-formed sort of way is: where do game developers fit into this conversation? Is it an industrial issue? Is it an audience issue? Is it the weird space in between those two? Or is it something new entirely?
I don’t know, but I was struck by a comment from Miranda Sawyer over on The Guardian’s piece Is the age of the critic over?
The point is that most people – especially those outside the high-culture capital of London – are involved in culture of their own choice, often of their own making. Professional critics spend their time whizzing between private screenings and secret gigs, opening nights and exclusive playbacks. Everyone else just does stuff they like, with people who like it too.
In my half-formed world, it seems to me it should be the people who just do the stuff they like. I suspect though that they’re a bit like I’m learning to become and are focused on just making the things they want to make. I do wonder though what value could be gained from injecting some of their voices into this discussion.
As part of presenting on games & culture at GCAP next week, I dug into some of the recent research on audience engagement from the Australia Council and mixed in the latest stats from iGEA and Screen Australia to see how audience engagement in games measured up to other forms.
Here’s the result:
Edit: To clarify what the graph is supposed to show: the percentage of population who participated according to the Australia Council’s reports for Music, Literature, Theatre, and Dance, percentage of population who attended the cinema from Screen Australia’s stats, and the percentage of population who play computer games according to the iGEA’s report.
Recently, the Australian Council for the Arts commissioned a number of pieces from four established performing arts organizations looking at the idea of artistic vibrancy. Three of the four pieces – On Orchestra, on Theatre, and on Dance, dissected their own practices as mediums and institutions, beginning what is hopefully a longer term conversation and evolution.
The fourth, which you can read in full here, was by Richard Mills, the Artistic Director of West Australian Opera, and it attempts to explore the wider issue of heritage rather than focusing on his company’s practice.