A GATHERING of gamers who might normally be found immersed in a virtual world aims to give local developers the skills to take WA’s budding industry to the next level, and the general public a chance to experience what they’ve got on offer.
Perth Games Week boots up this weekend with a workshop for female game developers and a series of talks in Perth and Northbridge, before moving to Fremantle’s Esplanade Hotel next weekend for a one-day industry conference followed by a games festival where more than 50 exhibitors will be showing off hundreds of locally produced games.
Games Week coordinator Alan Frasier said “a shortage in senior talent” had been holding the local industry back, as it was difficult for new studios to “get the knowledge they need”.
According to an Australian Trade and Investment Commission guide released in March this year, Australian game studios generated income of $284.4 million in 2020/21, a 26 per cent increase over the previous year. However WA’s contribution is estimated to be less than 1 per cent.
The commission’s guide laid bare the stark divide; it could find just one WA studio to include in a graphic showing the breakdown across the country.
Screenwest’s introduction of digital game production grants last year has helped some local developers get national and even international attention, which Mr Frasier said gave added importance to this year’s Games Week.
“With the new funding programs available to support for Digital Games Projects for WA studios and developers, our goal is to make sure that the studios are given the tools and resources they need to scale and be sustainable,” he said.
With growing concerns about the potentially addictive nature of gaming, along with the rise of ‘loot boxes’, simulated gambling and other in-game purchases which the Australian Institute of Family Studies warns can lead to a range of problem behaviours, Mr Frasier said studios worked with government agencies to manage any ethical issues.
Access to addictive games was regulated, particularly for underage user, while studios followed “strict guidelines” to qualify for funding and receive generous tax offsets for development.
Mr Frasier said it is similar “to how movies are written to keep the viewers engaged until the end”.
He said Games Week was an excellent opportunity for young people to listen to pioneers in the industry as well as consult with universities offering game development programs such as Curtin and Murdoch.
While the global game development industry has had its share of #metoo moments, and female developers have complained about the vile and sexist trolling they’ve had to endure, Mr Frasier said an advantage to WA’s late arrival on the gaming stage was that it was built on strong diversity.
Games Week steering committee member Caitlin Lomax said: “I’ve been extremely lucky in the last couple of years to work alongside male seniors who recognised bias of other team members and who were able to make room for my voice to be heard.”
The first event on the program is a Level Her Up: We Can Build It ‘game jam’ where female participants form teams to develop a game on a particular theme, with mentors available to help newbies with any tricky questions. The resulting games will be featured at the festival on the final day of Games Week.
by LILO MEHTA and STEVE GRANT