Jesse Brown has published an article that has enraged the entire Canadian games industry – and rightly so! Brown wrote a piece called Grand theft tax break that is based off of a New York Times article on tax breaks in the USA for the video game industry there.
Brown’s piece ignores a lot of the great stuff that has come out of the video game industry here in Canada. Torontoist has a really good rebuttal to Brown that among other things points out how Toronto had an indie scene before Ubisoft came to town:
In Toronto, tax incentives make sense; our local industry is fledgling relative to those in Vancouver and Montreal. In fact, Ontario has smartly focused on supporting the industry here with tax breaks and grants and has tangible results to show for it: Toronto is now a rising star in the games world. However, what convinced Ontario to invest? It’d be hard to argue that the success of Vancouver and Montreal wasn’t a major factor. So, while Brown would like a Canadian industry of our “own,” the presence of one was undoubtedly catalyzed by the draw of foreign corporations, which brought along their knowledgebase and visibility.
Brown also called game developers slobs (essentially) which is just insulting and has no merit. Village Gamer has a good response to that:
These people – to whom Mr. Brown referred to as “code monkeys” and “grunts” are my friends, and it is these “grunts” who help to bring entire worlds to life, whether it is in an adventure – and sneakily educational – game like Assassin’s Creed, or an educational game that is sneakily fun like those coming out of Vivity Labs’ Fit Brains – all of them are built on top of a foundation built from computer code. Even the military relies on “grunts” to get things done, and done well, Mr. Brown.
What’s more is that Brown assumes that people who are working in the games industry now will inevitably lose their jobs when tax breaks get better elsewhere. I don’t think that’s true. In manufacturing, jobs do go elsewhere (look at NAFTA), but when it comes to the culture industry we can also create more culture no matter how many companies are here (unlike cars).
A lot of the companies that have produced best-selling games here have gotten a helping hand from the government but they have also helped the industry throughout Canada by bringing and attracting talent. People who wanted to get into game production use to leave the country but now, thanks to the tax incentives companies are coming here to access that talent.
If the big companies leave we’ll still have talent that can produce top-quality content because they’ll have the know-how and the connections to it.
The game industry is helping to retain (and attract) culture-producing people to Canada and that’s good for everyone.