Melbourne’s Games Industry

State Library of Victoria

Gamified Melbourne: Skills, Play and Industry in Digital Contexts

Toija Cinque, Deakin University

According to Gibb (2014) Victoria accounts for 40 per cent of Australia’s digital games industry and is home to 75 game development studios, animation houses and games industry service providers, from leading global companies through to smaller boutique developers. For audiences, digital games and game play are increasingly social and mobile across a variety of platforms. Bond University researchers Jeffrey Brand, Pascaline Lorentz and Trishita Mathew undertook research on Australia’s gaming population for the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA). Their research in Digital Australia 2014 (DA14) reported that 47 per cent of gamers are female; 76 per cent are aged 18 years or older; 20 per cent are aged between one and 15 years; and 19 per cent of gamers are aged 51 years or over, with the average age being 32 years (Brand, Lorentz & Mathew, 2014: 6). For Galarneau and Zibit (2007: 61, cited in Beavis & Apperley, 2012: 13), digital games are significant because they can foster particular attitudes towards learning, organising, knowledge sharing, collaboration and teamwork (see also Gee, 2003). Skills such as multitasking, problem-solving, creative thought and advances in cognitive abilities are also fostered. Other recent academic studies have found application for learning via games in the field of science, with work completed by Debi Kilba and colleagues (2014: 923) suggesting that ‘using gaming to present scientific concepts can engage our younger generation of science learners and get them interested in learning’. Yet other research provides encouraging data on the positive learning outcomes derived from video game ‘play’ across the academic discipline areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) (Mayo, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to critically consider creativity through play (that is, digital games and its industry as opposed to table-top forms), through the lens of games that use Melbourne as a background and advance the argument for digital games and ‘gaming’ that can be used for a number of practical purposes in the physical world.

Toija Cinque is a senior lecturer in media and communications at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Cinque’s main research interest lies in exploring the intersections between social media, digital media, legacy media and communications with other studies in history, celebrity, statistics, privacy and surveillance, public policy, media law and economics. Her works include Changing Media Landscapes: Visual Networking (2015), the co-written Communication, Digital Media and Everyday Life, 2nd edition (2015). Cinque edits New Scholar: International Journal of the Humanities, Creative Arts and Social Sciences.


Pokemon GO loads and then we see Melbourne: hyper-reality goes global

Jeremy Martino, Deakin University

Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself (Jean Baudrillard 1981 cited in Mark Poster 1988).

What would Jean Baudrillard say if he witnessed the phenomenon of Pokemon GO in 2016? What about Jorge Luis Borges? These great modernist minds would see a world where humans can co-exist in two realities, 1:1 representations of each other, just like Borges’ map from ‘On Exactitude in Science’ (1946).

Game theorists refer to the boundary that separates the real world from the non­-game world as the’ magic circle’, taken from an early description of play spaces by Johan Huizinga (Richard Bartle, 2006). A place that can be stepped in and out of when one chooses, a ring of fantasy that exists in stark, glowing contrast to the banal realm of reality. But what happens when the circle grows? When it expands to form a halo around the whole of the Earth itself?

Pokemon GO is here. Yes, the graphics are shoddy. Yes, millions of people have stopped playing. But when I walk out into Carlton Gardens at 3am to play Pokemon GO, I am in two Melbournes. The real world with great buildings, bright lights and pattering rain; and the hyper-real world, where a small innocuous sign dispenses Pokeballs and the Exhibition Fountain is a battle ground. These places possess different value in the hyper-real world, just like the cafe around the corner in the middle of four Pokestops. I never went there. Now it’s my favourite cafe.

In the park at 3am, my phone is like a beacon in front of me, a magic lens into a different, yet very real world existing around me. My eyes see a possum nibbling on some leaves, my phone shows me a Veevee right next to it. Both of them look at me.

Jeremy Martino is currently undertaking his PhD at Deakin University. His PhD, ‘Making Film History: Looking at history through a filmic lens’ is a joint theoretical/creative PhD, exploring the capacity of film to portray history. Writing a full feature script as part of the thesis, Jeremy is using the Cold War period as a focus to investigate how film can effect and affect viewers’ perspectives on historical characters and events. Jeremy is currently the editor of The Protagonist, a Melbourne-based creative writing, arts and culture journal that has just been printed. A long-time gamer, Jeremy has played video games at a highly competitive level for most of his adult life. A previous ‘Master’ ranked Starcraft player as well as ‘Legend’ ranked Hearthstone player, Jeremy is very familiar with the gaming landscape both locally and internationally.


Screenless screen culture – Melbourne’s escape rooms

Jared Orth, The University of Melbourne

Escape rooms are a physical problem solving game in which teams search for clues and solve puzzles while locked in a room or series of rooms. Melbourne has one of the highest densities of escape rooms in the world (on a per capita basis) and the number of rooms continues to grow. Drawing on elements of point-and-click adventure games (Monkey Island series; Myst; Crimson Room; 999: Nine Hours Nine Persons, Nine Doors), television game shows (Knightmare, The Crystal Maze), and screen genre and imagery, the escape room is intimately related to screen culture. The player experience is even mediated through the screen, as game masters watch and provide hints to support players through cameras inside the rooms. In this paper I will provide a brief history of the escape room and its precursors within screen. Following this, I discuss Melbourne’s escape rooms, their design, aesthetic, and thematic choices, and most importantly, their relationship to the screen.

Jared Orth is a PhD student in the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. His current research examines how mystery films arouse viewer suspicion and engage them in textual problem solving. He is also interested in eye tracking research in film, the role of genre in paratexts, and screen influences on escape room design.


Freeplay and the Field – Independent Games Production in Melbourne

Mark Gibson, Monash University

The paper offers a brief history, based on interview research, of the Freeplay games festival in Melbourne. It considers the festival as an important facilitator of movement between the fields of ‘independent’ and ‘mainstream’ cultural production. From its origins in a converted karate dojo on Swanston St in 2004, Freeplay has grown to an annual event with thousands of participants, institutional linkages with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Victorian State Library and incorporating a conference, arcade expo and awards. While the relation between ‘fringe’ and ‘mainstream’ is similar in some respects to other fields of cultural production, the games area also has some unique characteristics. The significance of ‘independent’ for Freeplay was formed initially by the presence in the 1990s and early 2000s of an aggressively commercial studio industry with little openness to alternative or avant garde cultural domains. As a relatively new field, games have also seen a higher involvement of young people than in more mature industries such as television, film and even music. This has given games a distinctive structure in the relation between independent and mainstream, offering interesting points of comparison with other fields.

Mark Gibson is Head of Communications and Media Studies at Monash University. He is currently working on a project with Tony Moore and Chris McAuliffe on the crossover in Australia between fringe, independent and avant garde cultural practice and the ‘mainstream’. He is the author of Culture and Power – A History of Cultural Studies (Berg, 2007) and has also published widely on suburban creativity, cultural literacy, television and cultural economies.