Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Why Games in Manitoba?" Conference in the news

By Jose A. Rueda

Fortune Cat Games Studio and the Virtual Reality Centre presented the "Why Games in Manitoba?" Conference at the Industrial Technology Centre on February 27, 2007 hosted by the Hon. Jim Rondeau, Manitoba Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mines.

The objectives of this conference were:
- to raise the profile of the games industry and its potential in Manitoba, and
- to provide senior decision makers with ideas about applications in sectors other than entertainment.

This conference was organized by volunteers to provide senior decision-makers with valuable information about key aspects of the games industry and stimulate ideas about the potential of this industry in Manitoba.

Manitoba has a lot of talent applicable to this industry and fabulous facilities for advanced interactive applications and simulation such as the Virtual Reality Centre.

The program included demonstrations of well-known commercial games and two Made in Manitoba educational games.

So What? What can we learn from this conference and why games in Manitoba?

- This industry can employ many people in high paying jobs in Manitoba.
- Video games require cross disciplinary teams with talented individuals and we have a lot of talent in Manitoba in many areas such as music, engineering, architecture, history, geography, energy, mines, culture, arts, education, medicine.
- Young people want jobs in something digital and in games in particular. They are not looking forward to spending 15 years in training and education after high school to eventually get a job in a Manitoba high-tech company, for example, that may or may not be there when they graduate or that may only last a few years because the company may run out of funding. Young people want jobs now and they want good salaries and a challenge (not a retail sales job).
- Young people and their parents crowd the digital media program booths at open houses in local educational institutions. Other programs receive comparatively little attention.
- Young people know how to reach young people, not advertising companies or tv stations because the generation has changed. Young people spend less time watching tv than generations before since tv became a mass market medium.
- Jobs in the games industry have generally speaking low barriers of entry. Talent is number one.
- These jobs can truly be done from anywhere in the world and for clients or companies anywhere. For example, a 14-year old from a farm in Alberta sold a game with the assistance from an agent for a very large sum.
- Some of these jobs can be done over weekends and pay very well.
- It is very difficult to enter the games industry in the main stream, so a place like Manitoba can carve many niches in areas such as the ones demonstrated at the conference (casual pedagogical game, transportation, medical simulation, education and training of youth, culture, teamwork development).
- Manitoba needs to help enthusiastic talented young enterpreneurs become successful professionals in this industry. It is very difficult to make a good living in this industry as a developer unless the develper has a day job and develops games for pure fun.
- In summary, the games industry is a solution of the economic problem that governments and communities are going to face with the young digital generation.
- Status quo: people will continue to leave and not enroll in our postsecondary institutions for their education. Many parents talk about their teens interested in cool high paying jobs in other jurisdictions. The economic cost of this can be measured in billions.

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