"It turned out to introduce game dev into the agenda of public discussion, and not just condemnation," Vasily Ovchinnikov from RVI about the main thing for 2022

We continue the series of interviews in which we summarize the results of 2022 together with top managers and experts of the gaming industry. This time we talked with Vasily Ovchinnikov, the head of the “Organization for the Development of the Video Game Industry” (RVI).

Tell me, what was the year for you personally?

The year was not easy, but interesting. It turned out in a year to gather people who are ready to become the founders of the RVI and receive about 70 applications from industry representatives and experts who are ready to join us. In general, I am glad that I managed to keep in touch with many people, despite their change of residence. In the summer I was chosen to lead the organization already with a legal entity, but there were other candidates. Vyacheslav Makarov, for example. Now he is one of the founders of RVI.

I left the RFRIT leadership team, which I had been in since the foundation was founded in 2019. I am very glad to return to public work, I like it. Out of direct personal achievements, I am proud that I received the first sports category in practical shooting.

What was the year for the organization? What have you done, what in general would I like to highlight in terms of achievements?

An important date is 11.11.22. This is a kind of birthday of the organization and the day it acquires a formal identity. Previously, there was a whole year’s journey with the transformation of what it might look like with growth potential and minimal conflict of interest.

We finally decided to register the organization in September 2022. Then we tried to write to government agencies about the need to spread protection against the mobilization of “IT specialists” from game dev (studio employees, sole proprietors and the self-employed), but in the correspondence reception windows refused to accept letters from the association without the seal of the registered organization. However, the first conversations about the need to register RVIs began back in 2021. At that time, we wanted to combine well-known game studios and brands with Russian roots, but at the beginning of 2022 we had to look for another, more realistic format that would meet the new needs of the industry. As a result, it turned out to be an association of people who are professionally focused on the gaming industry, identify themselves with it and plan to grow in it. These are, for example, Gadzhi Maktiev, Mikhail Akulov, Vyacheslav Makarov, Pavel Gusev, Maxim Nikolaev, Sergey Nevsky — these are the guys who, together with the development of their business, strive to preserve the gaming industry in Russia and move it forward. We are sure that others will join the RVR. Moreover, they do not have to do it formally or publicly, we are still not a rally at the Kremlin on May 1.

One of the key things that we managed to do in a year is to go through the path of recognition of the presence of the gaming industry in the country with the Ministry of Finance. Back in February, Minister Maksut Shadaev said at a meeting with “IT specialists” that he did not know whether or not game dev refers to IT. However, later this type of activity appeared in the orders of the Ministry of Finance, which made it possible for gaming companies to obtain accreditation as IT, as well as to claim a number of benefits and a deferral from mobilization for their employees. Although, unfortunately, these measures did not apply to individuals, sole proprietors and the self-employed.

It also turned out to introduce gamedev into the agenda of public discussion, and not just condemnation, as it was before. Throughout the year, with our support, sessions were organized at key forums and events — SPIEF, WEF, RCN in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk. There were also numerous round tables and meetings, including with the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. Maybe it has something to do with the effect of the emergence of the state’s interest in regulation and influence on the industry.

Vyacheslav Makarov’s fundamental interview about games for parents and teachers was published in the religious publication “Thomas”. It went well on school parent chats and, I hope, had a positive impact and answered many questions and stereotypes.

I am a little annoyed by how the results of our research on gaming in Russia with NAFI were distributed. Many took huge figures from it about Russians spending on video games, but ignored the remark that this is not the actual volume of the market. This is the opinion of people about how much they spend on video games, (and the figure is most likely three times more than real spending). How much of this money remains in Russia cannot be calculated in state statistics at all.

Also, the founders of RVI, inspired by the ideas of the St. Petersburg “Indicator” and even enlisting its support, created a club in Moscow for indie developers. An Indie Go space has appeared on the basis of the library on Argunovskaya Street, where they communicate, study, and pitch projects. It turned out that even investors from venture funds were invited to pitchings.

Plus, we took some kind of unaffordable education track in game development. In collaboration with Roskultcenter, MIREA and Scream School, we held a four-hour meetup and a continuing stratsession. We gathered universities, officials, developers at them — we argued together, discussed what was happening and debated what was wrong with the training of personnel in the gaming industry. As a result, a package of recommendations was formed for the Ministry of Education and Science. But all this, at best, has the potential to be implemented from 2024. It’s cool that at our meetings, many people solved their personnel problems, in addition to speaking out to each other’s faces.

How have the working conditions for the organization changed over the year?

In 2022, many realized the importance and prospects of game development as part of the creative economy and began to actively engage in it. In November alone, both Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and the head of the Ministry of Finance Maksut Shadaev at the same time at two different events (Digital Innopolis Days in Tatarstan and Digital Diamond in Yakutia) publicly declared the need for the development of the gaming industry in Russia. Institutions and working groups under the authorities have also begun to form. I think it’s not bad, but only time will tell. In any case, we will monitor and participate to the best of our abilities and resources.

There was also a downside — interest in games has grown not only among those who sincerely want and can help. Everyone remembers the superficial statements of some deputies and ministers condemning video games. It’s good that such initiatives have remained only in the news. But we need to be ready to defend ourselves against such attacks in a reasoned manner in the future and not allow the industry to be harmed for the sake of populism or simply from ignorance.

There was a question of regulating video games. Now we are building a dialogue with those who are preparing projects so that their initiatives reflect industrial interests as much as possible. For example, if Russia is going to introduce age ratings for games, then we will ask to synchronize them with international rating systems, such as PEGI, and not create restrictive measures.

What are the organization’s plans for next year?

During the holidays, we launched a crowdsourcing project to form a detailed strategy. We plan to complete this work by the end of January.

What is important for the development of the association is to grow the base of experts and participants, increase their involvement and influence in decision-making. Continue to influence the education system for game developers and look for additional investments, acceleration and entry points to new markets for the industry. We will begin to form a system of events, which has suffered greatly over the past year, and support those who are ready to hold them in the regions and existing communities. We will continue to work on popularizing game development in society and tell on all possible platforms that video games are good and promising for entertainment, career and investment.

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