Games Industry Skills Project

The Working in Australia’s Digital Games Industry: A Consolidation Report is the outcome of a comprehensive study on the games industry in Australia by Dr Sandra Haukka from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) based at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. The study responds to concerns that Australia’s games industry would not reach its full potential due to a lack of local, highly skilled staff, and a lack of appropriately trained graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills.

Click HERE to view the FULL REPORT.

Click HERE to participate in the view SCENARIO PLANNING EXERCISE (explained below).

This is the first of two reports produced with the support of the Games Developers’ Association of Australia. Over coming months researchers will develop a future skills strategy report for the industry, influenced by the results of a scenario planning exercise. Together, these reports will help to assess current and future skills needs and gaps in Australia’s digital games industry in order to identify occupations and skills sets that require employment and training focus. The future skills strategy will include short-term and long-term solutions to address workforce development priorities and issues for three to four industry scenarios of the state of the industry in 2015.

This first report involved drawing together literature, studies, policies, programs, statistical data, and other sources in three main areas: the evolution, characteristics and performance of Australia’s games industry; the international games environment; and the skilling of games workers.

Key findings

Similar to other countries with an established games development industry, the Global Financial Recession has contributed to job losses and/or business closures in Australia’s games industry over recent years. Although Australia’s games industry is likely to remain flat in 2011, some industry leaders believe it will come out stronger as studios focus on small teams and new platforms. These events have taken place in an Australian market experiencing a significant increase in video games industry revenue to almost US$3.6 billion in 2010 and strong consumer spending on games of over US$1 billion in 2009.

Australia’s games industry has a reputation as a “niche player” due to factors like its small size, staffing difficulties, reliance on overseas companies for work, and low levels of IP generation. However, some of its competitive advantages include the industry’s low production costs, cultural proximity to major Western games markets, online gaming experience, and links being forged with Korea and China.

To grow and prosper, studios must take greater advantage of increasing revenue streams from online and wireless games, adopt new business models, respond to new audiences and changing player demographics, and explore new lines of business, such as serious games and advergaming.

Australia’s games industry continues to experience serious skills issues. These issues are skills shortages and gaps; insufficient/ineffective linkages between industry and providers; rapid pace of change means workers need access to ongoing education and training; mismatch of graduate skills and industry needs; a lack of local experience and skills resulting in expensive and time-consuming overseas recruitment; critical importance of certain non-technical skills; teachers with insufficient industry experience; and shortages of structured on-the-job training opportunities. Despite the downturn in the games industry in recent years, a poll conducted as part of the study found 83% of respondents believe skills shortages still exist.

The Australian Government provides some direct support to the games industry through organisations like Screen Australia and the new Creative Industries Innovation Centre. The Victorian and Queensland Governments are the main State Governments that directly support games companies operating in these States. Overall, the level of Government investment in the games industry is not sufficient to stimulate growth or help address the skills issues.

Another poll found 84% of participants believe games courses in Australia are ‘highly ineffective’. UK’s Digital Native Academy summed up games education and training issues, which are relevant to Australia. These issues are games courses leading to an oversupply of graduates who are not industry ready; the industry lacks a strong culture of training and development; concerns about the quality of content, delivery and outcomes; games companies involved in the serious games industry recruiting from a broader and a wider range of degrees rather than games courses; and ad hoc, underdeveloped or not maintained links between employers and providers.

Some of the ways suggested to improve the skilling of games workers include courses with student showcases, salons and collaborative classes; a meta-organisation that is a single face for game-related programs and researchers; providers considering the main features of courses recognised as being excellent/best-practice, whether accredited or non-accredited; identifying the range of skill needs for serious games development for possible translation into education provision; a Games Education Fund; more incentives for the design of curricula relevant to industry, such as a ‘kitemark’ scheme linked to funding for games courses; a one-stop online repository and community site for teachers for video games and visual effects educational resources; and raising awareness of the video games and visual effects industries in the eyes of STEM and arts graduates.

Want to comment on the report and/or participate in the scenario planning exercise?

The project has already received good support for the study from games employers, games workers and the Games Developers’ Association of Australia. We encourage more games employers and workers as well as other industry associations, teachers, policymakers, and students to participate in the study by:

1) sending comments about the report to s.haukka@qut.edu.au

2) participating in the study’s scenario planning exercise that will help to develop a future skills strategy for Australia’s games industry. Click HERE for information about the scenario planning exercise and tool.

For more information about the project, contact Dr Sandra Haukka, ph 0422 119 755, s.haukka@qut.edu.au