Gamers Unite

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By John De Margheriti

During the early months of the pandemic, more and more people started indulging in their love of gaming in order to distract themselves, kill time while stuck at home, and most importantly, connect with their friends. 
The social aspect of many of today’s most popular games has been a saviour for many people who might have otherwise struggled to connect and have fun with their friends and families. In fact, The Digital Australia 2022 report showed that more than 75 per cent of Australians who played video games used them to connect with others during the pandemic. 
This is a huge part of why the video game sector has proven one of the most resilient to COVID-19, as increasing demand from players seeking social connection has only funnelled more revenue into the industry.

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In Australia, the video game development industry doubled its revenue to $226 million since 2016, according to results from the fifth annual Australian Game Development Survey (AGDS) 2021. The survey also revealed that the industry expects further growth locally, contributing to the growth of the global market, which was worth $AU240 billion in 2020.
The federal government is jumping on the trend with the announcement of a Digital Games Tax Offset, a scheme that grants gaming businesses earning more than $500,000 a 30 per cent tax offset. Coming into effect in July 2022, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria are already offering an additional 10 per cent tax rebate on eligible expenditure for game developers in their states.
In March this year, Screen Australia added yet another incentive with the launch of ‘Games: Expansion Pack,’ which commits $6 million over two years to support small to medium independent game studios. As part of the package, original video games across different platforms with budgets below $500,000 will be able to apply for direct funding. Applications for the Games: Expansion Pack are now open to small and medium businesses, with eligibility possibly being expanded to include larger studios in the 2022/23 financial year.

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With all this attention and money being thrown at it, it should come as no surprise global gaming revenue is worth more than the film and music industries combined. Clearly, a career in video game development is looking more and more attractive by the day. 
But in order for Australia’s games industry to properly flourish, there needs to be a strong focus on the education and career paths required to nurture top talent. Game development is rewarding, but it’s not easy. There are many different skills required, with the top talents processing a rare blend of creative and technical know-how. 
Completing projects is hard when you’re in a team of highly creative people that think in different ways and have different approaches in how they tackle problems. So is maintaining the passion and dedication it takes to bring an idea to fruition. Many good ideas, storylines, game mechanics, characters, animation and lines of code do not make it to the final product. 
In response to these challenges, the AIE Institute has been launched as a higher education provider that will be offering a Bachelor of Game Development for the first time in 2023. The degree will allow students to major in one of three areas: game art, game design and game programming, and provide them with specialised skill sets to enter the rapidly growing game development industry.
Having the opportunity to learn the best practices from experienced professionals is invaluable for new developers, and should be a key focus for any game development program. AIE Institute has strong links with the industry and offers internship placements in the final year to ease the graduate transition toward employment. Students have the opportunity to frequently meet industry practitioners in a number of seminars, projects, and tutorials.  

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A key part of AIE Institute’s Bachelor of Game Development is the simulated studio environment on campus. A third of the program is spent working in teams of artists, programmers and designers working on projects and building games. In the last semester of the degree, students can opt into a work placement internship and spend a semester working in-game studio on real industry projects. It’s a fantastic opportunity and we expect that many of the students that undertake this internship will be hired.
In order for Australia’s games industry to continue to thrive, it’s important that educators like AIE Institute are supporting the industry with skilled graduates who are ready to hit the ground running, and focus heavily on innovation through industry partnerships, and job creation initiatives, scholarly activities and dynamic teaching. Combined with continued government investment and tax relief initiatives, a career in the gaming industry is looking more attractive than ever. Perhaps it’s time for a career change? 

About the author: John De Margheriti (pictured above, main) is the chairman and CEO of The Academy of Interactive Entertainment Limited and chairman and Producer of DEMS Entertainment. In 1998, John formally established the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) as a non-profit to continue with a focus on expanding specialist education to meet industry demand in the rapidly growing areas of programming, 3D animation and related areas.  AIE now has seven campuses across Australia, the USA and online, with alumni working in studios around the world. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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