Students pitch for a slice of booming games industry

Gamers across Melbourne played the board game in a demonstration held last weekend. Picture by Cooper Farrell
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The public enjoyed trying out this new board game, but there are big challenges to getting published. Cooper Farrell talks to two hopeful student game designers.

The rise in interest in board games is giving hope to two Melbourne University students who last week finished the initial development of their tabletop game.

Game design students Ango Zhu and Kris Lee demonstrated their food industry game Undercooked! at the uni’s Melbourne Connect space last weekend to see how it tested with players. The game requires three players to work co-operatively to complete food orders in under four minutes.

Lead game designer Ango Zhu was optimistic about the continued uptrend of revenue within the Melbourne games industry, but worried that video games had the ascendancy.

“We would love to demonstrate our game to a wider group of people, but getting that platform in Melbourne is tough,” Zhu said.

Students pitch for a slice of booming games industry
Game creators Ango Zhu and Kris Lee with their board game ‘Undercooked!’ Picture by Cooper Farrell

Survey data released by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association revealed a 23 per cent increase in income generated by Australian game development studios over the previous year in their 2021 annual Australian Game Development Survey.

Victoria was at the forefront of studio locations, having 44 per cent of Australia’s total game development studios based in the state.

“While it’s great that the games industry sees continued economic growth in Melbourne, it’s evident that the focus is primarily founded in the digital medium and not what we’re creating,” Zhu said.

“We believe that with a good enough product, the audience for board games is still present despite a lack of current publisher interest for our game.”

Despite mainstream popularity concerns, tabletop projects have found a resurgence in internet crowdfunding, with popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter revealing that 3518 tabletop projects had been successfully funded last year, compared to 441 within the video game category.

The amount of money raised for tabletop games also increased to $US272 million, up $US31 million from the year before.

Students pitch for a slice of booming games industry

Co-lead game designer Kris Lee said the duo has shown interest in the potential benefits that crowdfunding brings for both their own game and the tabletop games market.

“Whether or not crowdfunding is a path we go down remains to be seen, but the growing popularity is undoubtedly a sign of good things to come for tabletop game creators,” Lee said.

When the game was trialled at Melbourne Connect, plenty of newcomers to the medium got involved.

Melbourne University student Rose Cowan said she enjoyed trying it out.

“Even for people like myself who don’t play tabletop games, it was a wonderful opportunity to come and play Undercooked!,” she said.

“I urge people to go out and support all types of local game developers, including tabletop, video games, even those developing virtual reality experiences.”