If you’ve read the about page for Play Till Doomsday, you know that the approach we’ve taken to address the culture of digital games is all-encompassing. This project aims to bring together the different perspectives of all the individuals, communities, institutions and companies that weave together the fabric of digital games culture.
Obviously, some of the different parts that make up that culture don’t always see eye to eye. This is no more apparent than in the relationship between the businesses who aim to make profit from selling games and those who aim to approach games as something more than just consumer goods, as creative expressions or objects of cultural significance. One of the mandates of the PTD project is to reach out to all sides and get them to share perspectives with each other and foster understanding about how the economic and creative aims of any cultural industry are often intertwined, even if at odds.
At the recent Interactive Exchange 2010 (IN|10) conference in Toronto, I spoke with Jesse Divnich about how the financial side of the digital games industry conceives of games as cultural artifacts, how its analysts may fit into a wider culture of gaming and what impact Canadian consumers have in the games marketplace.
Divnich is the vice president of analyst services for Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), a games industry research and market analysis company based in San Diego, California. Before joining EEDAR, Divnich worked as an independent consultant and analyst for various clients with financial stakes in the interactive media industry. By most accounts (if his multiple appearances on and references in Bloomberg, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal, Industry Gamers and Gamasutra are to be indicators of clout) he’s good at what he does.
A recent Toronto Star story about the accomplishments of the Canadian games industry details how economic support from governments has fostered a strong and growing game development sector within Canada, while tax breaks have enticed foreign publishers to set up shop in cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, bringing thousands of highly sought after info-economy jobs with them. However, after noting the technical competence and multi-billion dollar prowess of the Canadian interactive media industry, the story laments that “the video game is a medium still searching for cultural legitimacy,” in Canada and in general. The piece wraps up by suggesting that the “video games industry has found the money” but “its quest for meaning continues.”
This perspective supports a very generalized theory about the mainstream acceptance of creative industries that I’ve mentioned here before. For a form of pop culture to receive mass acceptance and respect, and to flourish financially and creatively, the theory suggests that it must satisfy at least three conditions:
I spoke with Ian Kelso on Sunday, August 29 at Fan Expo 2010, shortly after he was featured as part of a panel addressing the state of the local games industry in Toronto. Ian is president and CEO of Interactive Ontario, an interactive media industry trade organization dedicated to fostering the growth and prosperity of digital content creators within Ontario. We discuss here the role and mandate of Interactive Ontario, government funding opportunities for interactive media creation, digital games as cultural products, the state of games at Fan Expo and industry events like it and how changing models of digital content creation and distribution may encourage more social acceptance of video games as forms of cultural expression.
Brady Curlew (BC): Can you please introduce yourself, your organization and its mandate.
Ian Kelso (IK): My name is Ian Kelso, I’m the president and CEO of Interactive Ontario, which is an association of 250 companies in Ontario working in interactive entertainment, creating intellectual property for digital platforms. These companies make not only video games but also mobile media, online media and e-Learning products.
In terms of our mandate, Interactive Ontario is a non-profit organization and our purpose is to primarily serve our members. Our membership is made up of all growth companies, so a lot of what we are concentrating on is finding ways of accessing public-sector and private-sector financing for them, and we work a lot with the government on programs and tax credits but we’re also trying to train investors and venture capitalists about the industry. We’re also involved with cultivating talent and making sure our schools and universities are putting out the right kind of talent for the industry. Those are the two main functions – we do some marketing, working with the Interactive Ontario brand, going to different markets and shows around the world.
Gamasutra has posted an interesting feature that explores how government support of game developers is affecting the industry within Canada and around the world. Do Canada’s tax breaks harm development and poach talent from other jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom?