This two parts post is an essay my fellow coleague Gabriel Rodríguez wrote a little more than a year ago as part of his videogame master in University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland.
Being a part of a master degree study, this essay is very well documented, beautifully written and easilly readable, even when the amount of information included is quite high. I have to say, this text is an example of the quality I want to achieve in this blog (or at least the major part of the texts I will write in it). All the sources are cited in the second part of the article.
My intention was to write a new post based on this essay, but unfortunatelly for me and for any game developer in Venezuela, I realized while reading it that the situation described hasn’t changed too much since the original text was written. Some future tenses are now present tenses. That’s pretty much the difference.
It will be unfair if I say: this is the situation righ now, because it isn’t. A lot of work has been done and many changes have taken place since the events told in the text happened. But the big picture remains the same, so consider this two posts as an introduction.
My work now is to update in further entries the whereabouts of the game industry in Venezuela.
Hope you enjoy the reading. I’m deeply thankful with Gabriel for allowing me to use his wonderful text.
I will also be deeply thakful if anyone that wants to use this text makes the proper reference to the original source.
Venezuela, known for its oil and current political turmoil, does not seem like the place where investing in game development studios would be a government priority. However, over the last few years many things have changed, laws specifically targeted at games, game development and gamers have been passed, the industry has grown and interest for gaming and game development in general has increased in the media. The Enterprise Council, a Government body associated with established industries such as heavy manufacturing, is interested in game development and is looking into entering the industry by creating a game company using public funds. Would this this be a sensible way of spending public funds? Is there profit to be made in a country where piracy is such a common place? Is it possible for this new enterprise to succeed?.
Venezuela is not known for its game development industry, and there is a very good reason behind that, there wasn’t one until a few years ago. In recent years many different studios have sprung up and have been fairly successful, specially in the casual and mobile games market. According to Claudio Rafaelli, artist from Teravision Games, one of the biggest Venezuelan game development studios, these start ups have benefited from outsourcing jobs from the United States of America (U.S.A.) as Venezuela has the advantage of being geographically close and on the same time zone as the U.S.A. which helps communication between companies. Being able to have online meetings during work hours, he says, is an advantage that other countries like India or China, often regarded as the biggest outsourcers do not have. Additionally he reckons that the English language level among professional developers in the country tends to be quite high also improving communication with non spanish speaking countries. On 2008 for the first time different game makers established in the country, including studios and independent developers got together and founded INVENTAD (Industria Nacional del Videojuego, Entretenimiento y Artes Digitales – National Industry of Video Games, Entertainment and Digital Arts) a non-profit association with the purpose of steering the industry into more professional ground as well as building bridges with universities in order to prepare graduates to fill the needs of the industry. Having created INVENTAD and partnering with other educational organizations like the UCV SIGGRAPH Student Chapter in the years 2008/2009 a campaign for video games education was launched with the organization of game development competitions like the Caracas Game Jam, the inauguration of the first gaming convention to be held every year in the capital and the first series of talks on game development given by industry professionals and university academics. All this efforts proved to be successful and the national gaming industry was boosted. Teravision, one of the biggest developers in the country was approved by Nintendo to develop games for the Wii and the DSi (the first studio to accomplish such a license), a game studio start-up by university students won the second place in Microsoft’s DreamBuildPlay competition and universities started to have game related modules in their curriculum.
Everything looked bright for the industry, but on August 2009 a law was approved by the Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly) to prohibit the “development, import, distribution, sale, rent and use of war video games and toys of violent nature”. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world and as a measure to reduce violent behaviour on the streets the Government passed this new law to much criticism from INVENTAD and the major development studios which claimed that the connection between violence and video games is still a heavily debated subject. According to this law a war video game would be any game that “uses weapons or where destruction and the use of violence constitute the basic element to win”. Such a broad description of what a war video game really is and the uncertainty of what this new law would mean caused some studios to move its headquarters to neighbouring countries but at the same time also placed the new game development industry on the eye of the media, giving it an exposure it had never had before and exposing the newly created studios to the general public. The law was finally passed on December 2009 and will come into effect on March 2010. So, could a game company start up, backed by an increased interest in game development by individuals and universities be successful under such a restricted environment?.