The Great Canadian Video Game Competition

TelefilmCanada has launched The Great CanadianVideo Game Competition. This competition will see selectedsmall development teams (10 in round one) supported and shepherdedthrough the process of bringing a video game from concept toretail, seeing them mentored by some heavyweights of the Canadiangame development market, along with some very substantial “prizes”(e.g. up to $250,000 to create a “playable prototype”, and then upto $500,000 in matching funds, apparently matching privateinvestors, to bring it to market).

As a taxpayer, I have mixed feelings about this. Not only is theCanadian game development industry already relatively strong, thisseems like a very precarious contest for a government agency to beinvolved with: Telefilm would be eviscerated by the party of theday if they brought a game like Going Postal or Grand TheftAuto.

It’s not my industry, so I haven’t read the guidelines, butperhaps they have a “family friendly” disclaimer in therequirements (explicitly or selectively).

Speaking of video games, in the earlier days of softwaredevelopment, every clever developer generally dreamed of riches inthe realm of video games. The hacker itch was generally scratchedby making a cool new technology demos (I recently reminisced withthe Steem Atari ST emulator,and some of the demos — then running against an 8Mhz processorwith limited external supporting chips, unlike PCs today which havetremendous parallel processing with hugely powered I/O, graphics,audio, networking, and support chipsets themselves vastly eclipsingthe original power of the ST — are impressive even today), thoughfew developers had the follow-through to build a complete game.Still, there was a seeming endless onslaught of hundreds orthousands of games every month. People like John Carmack naturallyreleased their hacker urges by buildings games like CommanderKeen.

Now the amateur/beginner game market is mostly dead (yeah itstill exists, but it is nothing compared to what it was in the 80sor 90s). If you’re a clever programmer now, your dreams of richesare that you’ll create the next Reddit or Slashdot or Fark, andmost of the hacker focus is on “AJAX” or PHP or Python or .NET.

Quite a remarkable shift, and in many ways it’s a tragedy.