This is a personal blog post from EDAC’s executive director, Owen Brierley. This is the first in a series of posts about the video game industry, Edmonton’s relevance in the video game industry, the importance of language as new policies are adopted and the importance of finding common ground with other media forms while still maintaining a distinct video game production industry.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya
We are in a time of fascinating transitions, growth, and revolution.This is a worn out statement because it is true. I have had the privilege of working in digital media production for many years. As a producer I have been involved in every part of creating digital content. I have become accustomed to being the outlier. The “experimental stream” as the Canada Media Fund would call it. In recent years, this has been changing. More and more regularly, my involvement with more traditional media forms has been increasing. There is a growing desire from various other media sectors to embrace the interactive media form and include it.
One trend has been to replace the term motion picture with media production. Another has been to create an all encompassing term called screen industries. More recently, the term content creator has found its way into more and more discussions.
All of this is a result of a good-natured desire for traditional media to find common ground with the burgeoning video games industry and realize some effective overlaps in areas of funding, professional development, and advocacy.
Unfortunately, one of the problems is the misunderstandings that arise from shared terminology. For example, I have heard many traditional media people and their advocates make the following statement, “we really want to engage content creators and gamers.” This rolls off the tongue in very casual ways in networking conversations but speaks volumes about how far we have to go to find common ground. There are two things that are revealed in this relatively innocent statement. First, the term gamer is a broad term that lumps both consumers and producers of video games into one collective. You would rarely aggregate movie-goers and movie producers into one lump, but for some reason, those who produce video games and those who enjoy playing them have one generic term applied to them. It would be like calling Charlie Chaplin a really great movie-goer. The second challenge the above statement offers is the delineation between those who create content and those who are involved in video game production.
The challenge with the term content creator is that it is used to delineate a subset of screen industries producers from others. For example, in conversation, I have heard the statement, “we are looking to engage content creators and gamers.” The implication here is that those who create games are not content creators. A little further exploration reveals that the traditional screen industries (film & TV) have self-identified as content creators and seem to feel there is a difference between what they do and what the “gamers” do. (sarcastic quotes intended)
It is a dangerous kind of rhetoric and one that has the unintended effect of dividing rather than unifying.
So, what is the big deal? Why belabour this, what seems like, fine point of difference in terminology?
Here’s why: video games are very big business. The big franchises bring in Hollywood blockbuster revenue.
Here are the top three franchises and their approximate gross revenue:
- Assassin’s Creed – ~$2 Billion video game franchise (with film and animation offshoots)
- Mass Effect – ~$1.2 Billion video game franchise
- Dragon Age – ~$900 Million video game franchise
So, back to the issue of delineating game designers from content creators. It’s incorrect and needs to stop. Content creators exist in all forms of media production and should be recognized as such.