Last night, I was graciously invited to the Wheeler Centre. It was a fun night (although I wish I’d been in a more sociable mood) and because my head is in a games + culture space, I found myself looking at the experience through a slightly odd filter.
The first thing I noticed was the breadth of the demographic in attendance. There were journalists, theatre writers, critics of all sorts, booksellers, publishers, writers of fiction, writers of non-fiction, published authors, festival directors, bloggers, cartoonists – and a single solitary games writer. It brought home for me how diverse the book ecosystem really is, and I guess as it should be given the amount of time it has been around, but it also brought home for me how narrow the games ecosystem can often be.
The second thing was the attitude towards the work evident from the writers. There were a number of jokes – some bitter – about how little writers make and how much they’d had to sacrifice to make it this far. But still they did the work. I want to return to this in a later post, not to focus on the notion of the struggling artist, but to look more closely at some of the cultural differences between other artistic forms and games because I think there are some interesting issues to explore.
The third and final thing was the broader cultural role of a medium and a sense of the reasons why some are supported and not others.
And the short answer, I realised, is rockstars.
Or, to be more specific, smart, eloquent, passionate, people who care about the medium and who have achieved creatively. People who have a certain cultural heritage and weight, and whose government support goes beyond purely economic factors and into the sense of a city or a region or a country being made up of some ephemeral fabric of ideas and hard-won accomplishment. Accomplishment that is, in some capacity, valued.
The business case is easily made, and has been made repeatedly in the past, but to really capture the eye of government and balance the arguments of established cultural crusaders, we need more than the business case – we need rockstars of our own.
But how do we do that? I want to dig into that properly in another post, but the short answer, I think, is to have more people making more things and learning from those experiences to make even more, this time better, things.