There was an Extra Credits episode that came out recently titled Global Gaming - Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. Most of the video talks about Mexico, but starting around 3:30 it moves on to Argentina and Chile, stating that there are small, struggling, vibrant indie game development communities in those two countries which are already having an impact on the global gaming community. It goes on to predict that those communities will continue to make small games which will be unique products of their cultures but be enjoyed all over the world.
Since I have some Argentinian gamer friends, I linked the video to them on Facebook and asked them for their input. They, in turn, linked the video to other friends of theirs and an interesting discussion on gaming as a part of Argentinian culture ensued. All relevant parts of the discussion (i.e., actual discussion minus my thanking the participants and the like) are below, minus full names. V is the only female in the group.
Note: Glaring grammar mistakes corrected to improve readability. The whole conversation was conducted in English, which is the native language of exactly one person involved (me). For what it's worth, everything was perfectly understandable even before I read it, but E asked me to correct his grammar for this and I felt like I should correct everyone's if I was correcting one person's. So I did. Originally I had planned to just correct for capitalization and spelling.
E: It's pretty much true. In Argentina video games are still considered pretty much a child thing. Maybe mobile and console social-family-style-games are slowly growing in society each day. It's hard to convince people that videogames (like puppets) are fun, have good stories, amazing art, awesome soundtracks and a lot of work behind them. And, of course, that it is a good activity for adults, not only kids. The gaming public is not like that of Japan or the USA, but, to be positive, things are changing each year (thanks to the internet, I have to say). There's a lot of people who love to play games here anyway, but the problem is our economy. 1 dollar is equal to 10 Argentinian pesos, and that makes buying original games very difficult. Mobile games are more popular (because of the money, as I said), and, of course, so are pirated games. But there's not a pirated games seller on every block so downloading from the internet is the best choice (it's different with movies... there are a looooot of pirated movies in every market, shop and grocery store).
So, is it a good country for game industry? Yes. Not the best... but the messed economy will kill (like it's killing right now) any possibility of getting original games.
On the other hand, there are a lot of indies making games, and very original games, btw. But, again, the economy plus the "games are for kids" stuff leaves you no chance to produce and distribute your own games and to grow as a company... much less to get some money to live on.
At least, that is what I see and feel as an Argentinian gamer.
M: I agree with E for the most part. I do have two things to say. First 1 dollar = 6ish pesos, with all extra charges included. Second, more and more adults play video games now, and girls are starting to do so, but it is still frowned upon by them. It takes time for people who aren't gamers to realize what it is to be one and that you are not just wasting your time on a childish thing. Every year, more and more games are produced with a higher level of adult content, so gaming is not just for kids anymore. I dare say otherwise. But yes, the gaming industry is growing here, at too slow a pace for my personal tastes, but consoles are the ones that are pushing that limit.
G: In my opinion, even when games can be considered childish things, Argentinians are well known for giving a s**t about foreign things, though, usually, so yes... you'll find a maybe not huge, but still very passionate market here. Even so, with the dollar between 6.5 (official) and 10 (street value) marks, the sentence "RUN, YOU FOOLS!!" (Gandalf voice and everything) comes to me very strongly. After all, passionate people are not often the most wealthy ones.
V:†In my opinion it's more about a cultural factors than economic ones, and im not saying by that that Argentina is in a good economic position or that potential players are all wealthy.†
Im going first with the shortest point: we like piracy! We dont pay... if theres a way to download it, crack it and make it work as good as the original, most of Argentinians won't consider paying for it. Only if you are a collector, you really love the game, or you have enough money to spare on it, you would consider getting the original version. And its not because we are cheap people -- we aren't; Argentinians waste crazy money on a lot of things -- but more because there's a wide-spread mentality that if it's obtainable from the internet it's freely given... why pay for something that's free? For the cute box? To support a foreign company? There are tons of games that people I know wouldnt pay to play, but yet those people are very interested in them.†
I know that E tests a couple of games a week if not more. I'm sure that he wouldnt buy them and his game consuming would dramatically drop if he had to buy each game. And I dare say it's the same for every Argentinian gamer I know. There are not a lot of gamers in this land, but those are passionate, curious and even with a lot of potential to develop their own games. But there's not enough of a market to make a living. Actually, as far as I know there are only two schools that teach game design, and their content is kinda poor and the tools are obsolete.
And I get to the second cultural point. Argentians are people with traditions (not fanatic patriots but with deepset habits), and it's not at all seen as a good thing to consume foreign stuff enthusiastically (I must say it actually really depends on your social position and "provincia" [which is like a U.S. state]). The only foreign things that you can consume without being seen as a weirdo are movies, and that is for movies from the U.S. If you are passionate about cinema from other countries you go weirdo again. So, you can be a total freak about soccer or cars and thats soooo cooooll! But if you speak with passion about a game in front of non-gamers, without any doubt people will stare at you like there's something wrong with you, you fail at something or you have no life, regardless of the real time you dedicate to it.
Because, as the guys pointed out before, games are for kids... it doesnt matter if you try to explain there are adult stories, interesting designs and great music. It doesnt matter if you say there are some games that challenge your mind or promote teamwork and friendship. If you dedicate time to play, you are a loser! Not to mention that if you say you pay [for the games]... you are retarded and insane, you've got no responsibilities in life, or you are still inmature... so, it's a matter of time until you get married, have kids, grow a beard and do something manly men do.
And now i get to the third point... women. I can count with the fingers of one hand the true female gamers I know, and by that I don't mean dedicated chicks that are always searching for the lastest game from that unknown company, no... I just mean girls that play for their own entertainment and because they want to. The rest of the women I have known that play any games do it to please their significant others... its something the other person likes, so they spend time together sharing that activity. But they'd rather be doing something else or it wasn't their idea.
So, there's double social pressure... a society that thinks you are irresponsible, and your chick that pushes you to do something different because she doesn't really care about gaming. Needless to say I'm not talking about casual, simple phone games... as E said, those are more accepted.
To grow a market here there's something cultural that needs to be changed, and that will be on the next generation... it started with our own, but not strongly enough to be respected as a usual entertainment activity.
And... I forgot to say: games are for kids, but considered unhealthy entertainment anyway, or at the very least not the first option to offer a kid.†