When a U.S. state joins the movement to employ gamers in making games, it's always worth some praise. When it's an entire country, it's time to break out the champagne and copies of Braid & fl0wer!
Tax breaks are a passive way to promote large development studios taking up residence and hiring locals; recently, Massachusetts took steps to add itself to the list of over a dozen states offering some sort of tax relief. Our favorite SuperSwede also reported on the UK offering tax breaks to developers there, and countries like France have long been giving the games industry similar treatments to film.
But if there's one cultural credit even greater to an art form than tax breaks, it's grant money. That's why one of the biggest moves we've seen since the Grammys is a new change in the grant guidelines for the National Endowment of the Arts to specifically include "digital games" and other interactive media. As the largest granter to art organizations in the country, the NEA is a definite milestone when considering whether a body of work is recognized and protected.
As Shacknews points out, this move (by an agency of the federal government, no less) is a bold one in the face of the ongoing Supreme Court case over California's law restricting video game sales to minors. While the National Endowment of the Arts is hardly a mouthpiece for the government, it is somewhat of a standard-bearer for what can be considered art--and, thus, free speech.
On a lighter note, it's remarkable that the decision to include games in national grantmaking comes after recent showings of acting-heavy games like L.A. Noire. If I were a grantmaker or a state financier, I'd be writing checks left and right so that more games in more genres could afford access to MotionScan technology, so that facial actors are employed in game development at a whirlwind pace.
It's worth noting that the National Endowment for the Arts won't be shelling out to Rockstar Games anytime soon--the grant guidelines state that the relevant work must come from a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, or with a studio working with such a nonprofit. Eligible works must either be about art or be particularly art-worthy themselves--and, naturally, must stand out among all the other nominees. Grants are already tricky to navigate and achieve, so small- to medium-sized studios may benefit most from these new guidelines.
A new generation of digital media is dawning around us, and gaming is again proving to be at the forefront, both industrially and artistically. Now, who's up for some Mortal Kombat?