On April 29th 2021 SaskInteractive held a virtual Town Hall to communicate with the Interactive Digital Media (IDM) community in Saskatchewan. This was the first Town Hall the organization had held, and was promoted as a chance for the organization to connect with the community and for the community to have its voice heard. With SaskInteractive being the government agency responsible for advocacy and representation of the industry within government having the organization engaged and informed by the IDM community is vitally important to its proper function and having the industries needs met by government policy and actions. The Town Hall left a lot of questions unanswered.
We prepared a series of videos providing a direct question by question response to the Town Hall. This includes critique of SaskInteractive’s procedures, actions and answers, the Town Hall methods and format, and direct answers to questions including citing references for our positions. Hopefully these videos will help clarify some of the issues raised in the Town Hall and can serve as a guide for more positive and useful actions, procedures and policies at SaskInteractive, and a more informed and able IDM community in Saskatchewan.
For background, you may want to watch our Saskatchewan Creative Tech Ecosystem explainer video series first. It explains the mandate of SaskInteractive and the other government agencies, such as Creative Sask and Innovation Saskatchewan influencing the sector.
You can view the text chat archive here: https://saskgamedev.com/saskinteractive-april-2021-town-hall-text-chat-archive/
The official video recording can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/rjhjmwovy61adca/zoom_0%20%281%29.mp4?dl=0
An official transcript of the event can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yjz2cjsy09mx2eg/Town%20Hall%20Transcipt.pdf?dl=0
Part 1 – Preamble & Survey Questions 1 to 3
In this first part we have a small preamble about the event and a small amount of information about SaskInteractive, have some comments on the format of the Town Hall, then deal with the first three survey questions and the response SaskInteractive provided to those submissions.
Question 1 – How has Covid affected the industry?
We provide some industry reporting on the effects of the pandemic and resources to assist devs.
Question 2 – How do you feel about the Gamedev industry in SK?
We talk about SaskInteractive’s support of the industry, their mandate, and the desperate need for advocacy for the industry.
Question 3 – How do you feel about funding for the IDM sector?
We help contextualize the answers to the provinces situation, and help explain the need for properly designed programs for industry and SaskInteractive’s role in funding.
Part 2 – Survey Question 4
In this 2nd part we discuss some funding options brought up by SaskInteractive for the IDM sector in Saskatchewan, and how well, or little they suit the game development industry including the CMF, Creative Sask Equity fund, MIST, STSI, Conexus Venture Capital, Investors, and Loans. We also talk a bit about the Creative Saskatchewan IDM funding advisory council and its role in supporting the industry.
Question 4 – How can SI support and benefit you?
We talk about the various ways that people suggest SaskInteractive could help the industry in Saskatchewan, and the ability of SaskInteractive to do so. We talk about public engagement, advocacy, and education.
A particularly poignant topic we discuss is the idea of a digital media incubator, a topic near and dear to our heart, and highlight the existing services provided by SaskGameDev in lieu of a formal incubator existing (yet).
We look at SaskInteractive’s financial transparency, or lack thereof, and the obligations it has, plus offer multiple solutions for them.
We discuss jobs, salaries, and competitiveness for the Sask Tech scene, and the increasing challenges and questions a world of remote work is creating.
Part 3 – Survey Questions 5 & 6
Question 5 – What SaskInteractive initiatives or engagements do you want?
Biggest response is once again funding, a constant response to all of the questions. If you want to know more about the Creative Sask Equity fund, the official link is listed above in Part 2, but here’s the Leader Post article of industry critiquing it: https://leaderpost.com/news/saskatchewan/deal-maker-or-breaker-sask-game-developers-give-new-equity-fund-mixed-reviews/
Networking also came up, so we addressed how SaskGameDev and the Global Game Jam both offer great opportunities for people to engage in, and the extra benefits of something like the GGJ Regina event.
The need for SaskInteractive to understand the industry comes up a few times, so we talk a bit about that, and segue into the need for them to advocate for the industry, and the challenges of IDM having a foot in the art world and a foot in the tech world.
The question also highlights the need for Sask-appropriate programming.
Question 6 – Could SaskInteractive do anything differently?
Again funding is consistently brought up in the survey results.
We talk a little about the webinar series SaskInteractive held last year.
A few posted answers mention the lack of clarity about SaskInteractive’s programs and actions, so we talk about the SaskInteractive website and take a look exploring their services.
Part 4 – Survey Question 7
Question 7 – What could SaskInteractive do differently?
A notable submission from the community here was a “community jumpstart” event, so we talk a bit about the previous Begin Quest event SaskGameDev (at the time ReginaGameDev) held that brought together folks in Regina to talk about the important and ability to get the gamedev industry going in Saskatchewan.
Also we talk a bit about a HUGE event that has been planned and unfortunately was put on hiatus due to Covid. SaskGameDev is committed to doing big community involvement and publicity events, but Covid has sadly meant all those plans are currently on hold, but they will be coming!
Further conversations about visibility and transparency of SaskInteractive come up, along with the importance of SaskInteractive being an advocate of the industry and supporting gamedev businesses.
We also take a look at the SaskInteractive financials and provide a bit of insight in the recent history of program funding and other spending at the organization, raising serious questions about the handling of the public’s money at SaskInteractive, and the reason why there is so little program support available now.
Part 5 – Community Chat Questions
In this fifth part we get to the live questions from the community, via the text chat, as selected by the SaskInteractive moderator.
Top of mind is what SaskInteractive will do to create jobs in SK. Sadly the answer here was pointing to the Labour Market Economic Impact study done in 2019 and no other answers are provided, despite even being asked a follow up for specific actions.
We take a brief look at the LMEI study to explain what it actually means for the Sask IDM industry, including showing a decline in jobs in SK in 2015-2018. We show how badly it represents the tech sector. How it fails to fit the SaskInteractive mandate. As well as how badly it fails to actually serve the purpose it was created for.
In the next question the topic of remote jobs comes up. Unfortunately there appeared to be some confusion about the meaning of the term, so the answers from SaskInteractive once again offered little help or insight. We go on to show the supports available from SaskGameDev, with direct services including resume and portfolio reviews and practice interviews. To provide some tangible answers we take a look at the SaskGameDev website to show handy resources for remote job hunters to directly help gamedevs in Saskatchewan.
The next question dealt with program funding, which again the official responce entirely relied on their once a year $500 Global Game Jam Regina sponsorship as the only example they could provide of supporting the community and industry. We take a look at the SaskInteractive finances again to show some changes in their accounting practices likely due to policy changes at Creative Sask on their funding relationship with SaskInteractive.
Lastly we deal with a community question about SaskInteractive’s support for game releases in Saskatchewan. The official response clearly shows a total disconnect from the industry and a total failure to support releases, which as we covered in the Saskatchewan Creative Tech Ecosystem explainer video series is clearly a legal mandate of the organization. We show how possible it is to know whats happening in Saskatchewan by looking at the SaskGameDev website and its listing of Sask-made games and Sask-based game companies.
Part 6 – Community Questions & Wrap Up
In this final part we deal with a number of questions from the community and provide some important context and insights about the issues raised.
We talk about the need to compete with the world, but also the need to understand our own situation in Saskatchewan in order to develop policy that suits our unique position and challenges. The discussion turns to the funding and issues with Saskatchewan competing in national programs like the CMF – Canada Media Fund.
We deal with SaskInteractive’s lack of communication, transparency and commitment to the sector. The fact that SaskInteractive excuses the lack of supporting local game releases with phrases such as “we won’t know about the small news bits”. To address this key issue we lay out why it is absolutely unreasonable that SaskInteractive isn’t aware and engaged with the industry with high paid dedicated staff and organizational funding to do exactly that. This includes some talk about in-person events and ability for the board to be informed by the stakeholders.
We talk about gamedev education as SaskInteractive fails repeatedly to provide any actions or vision to help create jobs and continually relies on pointing to a report about 2015-2018 and on the fact that educational institutes exist. We cover the gamedev specific offerings and offer some distinction between the educational partners in the province that was lacking in the official answers.
We hope these videos help inform you about the IDM industry in Saskatchewan and its current situation. We hope to see positive changes made to the Town Hall format, SaskInteractive’s policies and practices and most importantly in the lived reality of Saskatchewan’s digital creators. If you’d like to know more about any of the topics, check out our other articles and videos, and if you can’t find what you need, feel free to reach out to us and ask questions. We’d love your feedback and would be happy to help you out however we can!
For More Information
Go to our Saskatchewan Creative Tech Ecosystem explainer video series for more info about government agencies and their mandates.
Check out the Careers page for useful resources for Remote Job hunting and learn about SaskGameDev services.
See our Media page for a list of media stories about the Game Industry in Saskatchewan.