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Taxpayer-funded video game 'falls flat'

Monday 13 May 2013 3:21 p.m.

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A taxpayer-funded video game aimed at educating young New Zealanders interested in a career in music management has "fallen completely flat", according to some in the industry.

The online and iPhone game, developed by Auckland-based game studio InGame, allows the user to manage one of four Kiwi artists including Tiki Taane and Princess Chelsea, with the aim of getting the acts to stardom.

NZ On Air allocated $287,460 worth of digital funding in 2011 to develop the Indie Music Manager video game, which was released last week.

A manager at Auckland-based indie label MUZAI, Benjii Jackson, is severely disappointed with the game, saying it will give young people a "worryingly incorrect impression of what the industry is like".

In the game, managers can hype their acts with publicity and PR, make cash from merchandising and licensing, and book support acts. It is hoped that if people like what they hear while they are playing, they will download the New Zealand tracks from iTunes.

"It was a good idea in theory that has been poorly executed," Mr Jackson says. "I don't want to speculate on where the money has gone… but it's clearly not on industry research".

"For those of us that are closely associated with managing bands and putting gigs on… it's a slap in the face".

Music promoter Matthew Crawley, who thinks the game is "terrible", says it is also misguiding people.

"The first piece of advice you are given is to 'Buy hype for your band' […] and to 'Buy your band a personal trainer'… none of this stuff in the game rings true".

But NZ On Air is defending the game. "It's visually quite attractive […] and a good way of letting people know about the featured bands," says digital advisor Brenda Leeuwenberg. "I think it's a great game […] It will be interesting to see what the response is".

However there are numerous technical glitches with the game and it even crashes at certain stages, says Mr Jackson, who is also a keen gamer.

"I hope to God the money hasn't gone to development either… It looks like something I remember playing as a 16-year-old".

Mr Crawley agrees, saying, "the graphics are only marginally better than the Amiga 500 Carmen Sandiego game I used to play".

InGame's director Stephen Knightly said when the game was released last Friday that to succeed, players would need to "know your musicians inside out and make the right choices for them. The best producer, crew or venue for Tiki Taane might not suit a hardcore act like Street Chant".

However, Mr Jackson knows first-hand that earning money for a band is not as simple as just putting on a gig.

"[The game is] completely unrealistic… you could pull in money [on the game] that is twice the budget our record label has".

The game gives budding managers $3,500 to spend at the start of the game, which Mr Crawley says is "the end goal for a lot of people".

Mr Jackson says young New Zealanders interested in working in the music industry would be better off taking a course such as those offered by training institute MAINZ.

"I understand [the game developers] had poetic license… but if the purpose is to teach young people, then that is laughable…It's such a missed opportunity".

Mr Crawley says he hopes that most of the money from the game went to the four New Zealand bands involved.

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