India’s audio-visual, gaming, and comics (AVGC) sector needs some serious support if it is to “achieve its potential of [creating] 20 lakh jobs”, said a government task force report on the industry. Education, skilling, research, and market and technology access need to be improved for India’s AVGC sector to thrive, it added.
What’s this task force?: The “AVGC Promotion Task Force” was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the 2022-23 Budget speech, and constituted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in April 2022. It was chaired by Apurva Chandra, Secretary at the MIB. Various industry stakeholders were also consulted while preparing it. Annexures to the report include draft national and state policies to regulate the sector.
Why is MediaNama covering this broad report?: Well, we cover gaming. The task force has clearly got big plans for the sector across education, skilling, and research and development. So, we’ve distilled the seven most important policy planks for the gaming industry to look out for. Note: some of these are gaming-specific, and others are for the larger ‘AVGC’ industry to keep an eye on.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is receiving public feedback on the report until February 10th, 2023 (the notice says 2022, but we’re sure that’s a typo, given that it was issued a week ago). Email yours to email@example.com. In exceptional cases, post it to: Director (Films-I), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Room No. 665 ‘A’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi – 110001
How fast is gaming growing in India?: Pretty fast, says the task force. India’s gaming industry is expected to touch a $3.9 billion market value by 2025, it noted. The growth is fuelled by rising penetration of cheap smartphones and data, more research and development, and growing PC and console gaming too.
Why is the government excited about the AVGC sector?: Aside from the economic benefits, the task force dedicated a sizeable chunk of the report’s introduction to one thing: culture and soft power. “It is essential to note the various ways in which AVGC sector could play a role in showcasing India’s culture and heritage on a national as well as global scale,” the task force observed.
Is this the only vision document for the gaming industry?: No. The government recently proposed a new framework to regulate online gaming in India. But, it was more industry-focused—looking at how gaming companies could develop safe games for the Indian market, among other things. This report is a zoomed-out perspective. It looks at creating jobs and curricula for online gaming. It talks about educating kids in school about games. It’s simply figuring out how to transform all sorts of Indian institutions to support the sector’s growth—which is what makes it different.
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1. Widening market access
A new gaming expo: The government and industry can collaborate to undertake a national campaign increasing public awareness on the sector. This includes holding “annual international AVGC expos” and an “annual Gaming expo” held in collaboration with the gaming industry. The expo can cover:
- FDI in gaming, knowledge exchanges, employment creation
- Gaming start-up festivals to showcase platform work
- A “Game India Hackathon” to exhibit games based on “Indian themes”, and to “encourage creation of high quality Indian IPs by small businesses, start ups and independent game developers”.
Framework for skill-based gaming: A national framework for online skill gaming should be developed to protect consumer interests and ensure structured growth. “For various classification of games such as, casual games, real money games and e sports, relevant regulatory and market development support may be provided by the Union Government,” the task force added.
The vision ahead: The government should also publish “a Vision document on promotion of AVGC Sector in domestic and international markets with focus on market potential for each sub sector, industry friendly policies, employment generation, content creation, center state partnership, promoting Indian heritage and culture among other areas”.
New nodal agencies: MIB should collaborate with other ministries to set up India’s first “National Center of Excellence for AVGC” which will be established as a nodal agency focusing on education and training standards for the industry, among other mandates. Regional Centres of Excellence can be set up in collaboration with state governments too.
2. Improving educational programs
Starting from the bottom: School students should be exposed to subjects like colour theory, music awareness, local and folk art forms, among others. A practical assessment pattern—as opposed to a written exam—can be considered for these subjectives. Media and entertainment studios and labs can also be set up on campus.
Standardising qualifications: The MIB should work closely with the Ministry of Education to develop a holistic and standardised AVGC educational framework. Uniform degrees need to be decided too. The National Council for Education Research and Training may be advised to develop books on AVGC subjects.
Streamlining higher education: For standardisation’s sake, undergraduate education in the sector can be a four-year program, while graduate education can last for two years. The Indian government can also assist in developing gaming faculty. AVGC courses can also be offered as electives. At the graduate level, “a mechanism for easy access to funding and support from the industry to research scholars in the gaming sector may also be facilitated for talented students and researchers”.
Defining standards: AVGC curriculum should be developed according to international standards. Curricula in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia can be studied.
3. Widening skilling and mentorship
Defining industry jobs, qualifications, and integration: Include “applied games” in school curricula, said the task force. “This would not only create a permanent demand source for the non Pay 2 Play gaming sector in India, but also create opportunities for expansion of Indian educational games in the global market,” it added. Financial incentives for companies developing applied and educational games can also be considered. The task force also considered:
- Establishing a University Grants Commission-recognised (UGC) higher education curriculum for the sector, with a focus on practical skilling.
- Industry-governmental collaborations on future frameworks for job creation, faculty development, and qualification packs for the AVGC sector.
- Standardise skilling initiatives across the sector, by bringing AVGC under the National Skills Qualification Framework.
Skilling in school: Vocational courses that include AVGC should be expanded and streamlined at the school level. Basic knowledge of the sector can be introduced through hackathons and gaming design competitions. Some teachers should be particularly well trained in the sector for “delivery of the curricular content and for mentorship and identification of talent among students in each school”.
- Signing Memorandums of Cooperation with developed AVGC markets—like the United States, Japan, and South Korea—to provide long-term internships for AVGC professionals in India.
- Signing Memorandums of Understanding between global technology vendors and AVGC associations recognised by the Indian government for training and building business relationships, among other interest areas.
Recognising past knowledge: Prior learning and knowledge of the sector should be recognised before embarking on an educational journey. “To promote Recognition of Prior Learning, the certificates currently issued by MESC [Media & Entertainment Skills Council] need to be broken down into credits mapped to the credits of the UG programs which can then be stored in the Students’ Credit Bank,” says the task force.
Training the trainer: The AVGC industry can also collaborate to develop a trainer’s portal that facilitates “train the trainer courses to ensure trainers are up to date with real time demand in the industry as per international standards”, among other objectives.
Industry involvement: The task force was clear that the industry may need to step in as faculty in upcoming educational platforms. “This will help the sector to be more industry focused and produce job ready graduates,” it noted, while suggesting various entry mechanisms and career progressions industry experts can follow during this transition. The industry should also work closely with vocational institutions to “ensure linkages between skilling demand and supply”. It could also develop a job aggregation platform for the wider sector.
4. Increasing access to technology
The importance of IP: Gaming companies’ awareness of the larger intellectual property ecosystem should be increased. This can be done by encouraging start-ups to file for patents and trademarks, state-wise awareness workshops, and creating a “single window portal for all information, programs, and guidance” on intellectual property rights. “A platform for pro bono legal and technical consultation on OP protection for developers and designers,” can also be set-up, noted the task force.
Switching to subscriptions: “Companies offering AVGC technology products, including software, may be requested to move from a traditional license and maintenance model to a subscription based model,” noted the task force. “The companies may also be advised to make it easy for customers to purchase with try before you buy programs and some add on capabilities The subscription model is envisaged to provide better entry level pricing and the ability to add features as customers mature and gain value from the initial experience This will lead to expensive software not becoming a financial barrier to adoption of new .. technology”.
Catering to the companies: Incentives to develop software and hardware for the Indian market can also be offered, while the government should take steps to prevent piracy of AVGC software. The industry should establish incubators for early-stage start-ups across cities, while a funding plan to “evangelize new and emerging technologies” at higher education institutions can also be considered. Technology acquisition should also be financially supported.
Research and development: The Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs scheme can expand its focus to the AVGC segment. Educational Institutes of Eminence can also set up AVGC research and design labs. A research and development grant scheme for industry-led consortiums can also be funded through the National Research Foundation.
5. Creating a financially viable AVGC sector
A separate gaming fund: “Government of India may commission a ‘Game Development Fund’ along with Industry to promote and educate consumers/players on responsible gaming,” noted the task force.
A new mission: Policy measures and funding for the sector can be routed through the “India AVGC Mission”, designed in coordination with the Ministries of Finance, Electronics and Information Technology, Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and the industry.
Allocating funds: State-level scholarships or CSR programs to support students, research labs, and institutions operating in the sector can also be considered. Funds for AVGC curriculum upgradation and skilling should also be allocated. Tax breaks can also be considered to boost the sector.
6. Create in India
The down low: A “Create in India” initiative can be launched to give a “needed impetus to content creation in India”, particularly in vernacular languages too.
Gamifying content: “Entertainment and Gaming Industry producers should be encouraged to convert successful films (box office/ critically acclaimed/ popular character etc into games through a dedicated mechanism of cooperation between the entertainment and gaming industry,” the task force recommended.
Creating hype: Content reservation provisions can be enforced to promote local content and help it compete domestically and globally.
7. Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Building with Bharat: Frameworks to identify “model districts” where the AVGC industry can be established can be developed. AVGC-centric polytechnics can also be used to develop the regional industry, alongside “twinning programs” between educational institutions in towns and cities.
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