Thursday, February 05, 2009

Can Australian government become more playful?

I'm a keen PC and console gamer, as are many of my friends around the same age.

In fact I've been playing electronic games since about the age of 8 - which means I've been playing for about as long as the average Australian gamer is old (30 years old).

While my parents feel I am a bit strange to be playing games at my age, actually I am in the majority. 68% of Australians play PC and console games (and 88% of households had a device for playing PC or console games), based on the Interactive Australia 2009 report from Bond University, conducted on behalf of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA). Links to the report are below.

Now these are not people who simply pick up a game controller a few times a year. Half of all gamers play daily or every other day and another quarter play once a week, for an average game session of an hour.

Games are also not the teenage male preserve that some people appear to believe. 46% of gamers are female, with games such as The Sims, SingStar and Wii Fit doing a great deal to widen the demographics.

70% of parents play games - alongside 80% of their children (including mine).

About 84% of Australians aged 16-25 play computer and console games. That's almost as high as the number who watch TV or surf the internet. And 52% of those over 50 years classify themselves as gamers. That's more than use the internet!

In fact Australians paid twice as much on PC and console games as they did on movies in 2008 - $1.9 billion dollars, continuing a growth trend for games that has been reported over the last five or more years (incidentally music sales were much lower than movies).

Finally, 75% of gamers say interactivity in games makes them more educational
than other media.

So given the huge interest in gaming by the Australian public, shouldn't government be getting a little more playful in how it presents information?

Gaming in the public sector
We've already seen some successful gaming initiatives in Australian government, notably by the Department of Defence, who has developed a series of games to attract, interest and engage younger people to sign-up for a military career.

These mini-games have been quite successful, although they are not as large a production as America's Army - the US Army's game, which is as well-designed and polished as commercial game titles (and also quite fun).

There have been some other game-like entertainment activities produced by Australian agencies from time-to-time, particularly by Queensland Transport who has a kids' entry point similar to the US Federal government's

However there have been few attempts to provide solid entertainment-backed education or communications strategies for adults by the public sector. Maybe it's a dignity thing, but it seems that many Australian government agencies aren't yet ready to let down their bureaucratic hair and be playful.

I hope this changes in the future. In fact if gaming continues to grow I believe it is almost inevitable. I'd hazard a guess that the majority of public servants - like the majority of Australians, play games at least semi-regularly. As the average age of gamers increases (from 30 years old), so will the willingness of public sector organisations to experiment with more interactive and fun ways for citizens to engage with government.

Then again why wait?

I have been deeply involved with games throughout the last thirty years, so figured I should point out my bias here.

I am an avid player of games across online, PC, console and mobile platforms (often with my children), and a frequent visitor to the world of Azeroth (along with 10 million others).

I also have a background as an editor of an online gaming publication, in game review writing and in game design, both for commercial games (one as lead designer) and game-based activities for 'boring' companies (including many on this page - try out the rock concert!)


  1. I find it unbelievable given those statistics that we don't have an R 18+ rating for games..

  2. I'm eagerly awaiting Sims 3 so i can rejoin those ranks ;)