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Ask Not ...
Canadian Content

Dana Massey | 7 Nov 2006 11:02
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Because of these stars, Canadians know they can grow up to be comedians and singers. They know they have a chance. The same cannot be said for videogames.

Does anyone know Ubisoft is working on Assassin's Creed in Montreal? How about Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia? Many Europeans would be outraged to learn that EA's cricket, rugby and FIFA Street franchises are created in Nova Scotia. They even make NBA Live in British Columbia! How, then, can young people outside the United States ever get fired up about making videogames, if they don't realize so much is going on in their own back yard? Most people have no idea where most blockbusters from the big corporations are developed and assume the answer is in the United States. Outsourcing tends to be a dirty word in the U.S., so it's in the corporate interests of companies like Electronic Arts not to promote the fact that Canadians build many of their most "American" products.

This is why governments need to provide more grants, loans and awards to local entrepreneurs who want to start their own companies and pursue their own dreams. Their products may or may not be blatantly homegrown, but they don't need to be - people from the area will be able to pick up on colloquial nuances in a company's product. Over time, this kind of grassroots initiative can make rules that demand a certain percentage of games on shelves be produced locally. The media is bound to pick up on these peculiar little companies, and eventually, the average local gamer will know he is playing a game made by someone just like him. Just like Canadians know Jim Carey (and Pamela Anderson ... sorry about that one) came from a background like theirs, they'll know that these games do, too.

A big difference between the gaming industry and most others is that in most other creative endeavors, the government has some control over distribution. In games, it has no control whatsoever. The model, again, is the movie industry. There are no rules that force movie theatres to stock local content, and the government certainly encourages big Hollywood studios to film in Canada, but, at the same time, they help smaller Canadian companies produce movies. In fact, Telefilm Canada currently has $93,000,000 (or $79,000,000 more than "new media" gets) to help fund Canadian films. This doesn't even begin to count the amount of money given to American companies who film in Canada. Check the end of your favorite Hollywood blockbuster's credits. You'll probably see a Telefilm Canada logo at the end.

Governments exist to protect and serve their people and their national identity, but it takes more than a fat wallet to do so. It is up to the government of India to give young Indians a chance to be anything they choose; it is up to the government of Switzerland to make sure the Swiss have similar opportunities. To do that, people need at least a glimmer of hope to forge their own path in whatever field they choose. When it comes to the arts, countries like Canada have done a good job of promoting that belief in fields like literature, film and television. Now it's time for them to catch up and start giving interactive media the same attention. Only then will a little child know, no matter where he's born, that one day they can create the next Mario.

Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for MMORPG.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.

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