Video gaming industry jobs booming in popularity as Australian advocates fear being left behind
It's the billion-dollar industry rapidly becoming one of the most desirable career paths for Australians, yet, video game advocates fear the nation is at risk of being left behind if it doesn't support global trends.
Interactive Games & Entertainment Association says 91 per cent of Australian households have a device that plays video games in an industry, PWC says, could be worth $24 billion by 2023.
As a comparison, PWC found the global gaming market was worth $280 million in 2014. Spending on esports alone is projected to reach almost $3 billion in just three years.
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.
The report found millennials, born between 1980 and 1994, followed by Gen Z, aged between five and 25 have the highest gaming career aspiration. The industry has also experienced a surge in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 1.2 million people saying they turned to gaming for social connections.
The big boom
Australian gamer, critic and television presenter Stephanie Bendixsen has been involved in the industry for more than a decade.
She claims gaming popularity particularly among millennials and Gen-Z consumers will see it surpass film as the most mainstream entertainment medium.
Australian gamer, critic and television presenter Stephanie Bendixsen attributes the surge to platforms such as Twitch and YouTube broadcasting the industry to billions of viewers.(Supplied)
"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."
As a video game streamer herself, Bendixsen attributes the surge to platforms such as Twitch and YouTube broadcasting the industry to billions of viewers.
"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."
However, as Mr Curry sees it a lack of federal government support is holding the industry back.
"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.
Interactive Games & Entertainment Association says 91 per cent of Australian households have a device that plays video games.(Supplied)
"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."
Mr Curry said there could now be major issues in the future, where he sees an overlap between games and other mainstream industries such as the health, education and military sectors, as inevitable.
"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.
PWC says the video gaming industry in Australia could be worth $24 billion by 2023.(Supplied)
"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.
A possible road ahead
While there is yet to be a complete prototype, Bendixsen believes there is a future where a fully-immersive virtual reality could come from video games.
"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."
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Originally published: https://www.9news.com.au