The state of gaming in the capital region

Mar 18th, 2019

The Capital Regions’ software community continues to grow in everything from AI to local user groups. Gaming is yet another software industry on the rise in the region. Startups and large companies are choosing the capital region to build and grow their applications. We’ve interviewed three leaders from local gaming companies who are growing the capital regions’ gaming community; Taro Omiya from Omiya Games, Clarke Foley from PUBG MadGlory, and Jamey Stevenson from Tech Valley Game Space.

New York Tech Loop and Taro Omiya; Omiya Games

How are you involved in the game development community?

Omiya Games is one of the many independent game studios developing here in the Capital Region. Also, I'm working as the Executive Director of Tech Valley Game Space.

What benefits have you utilized in the area? (Common spaces, meetups, etc.)

Tech Valley Game Space's co-working office is used most often for Omiya Games Projects, we do some networking with the International Game Developers Association (Albany chapter) and we’re involvement with Digital Gaming Hub and RPI.

What are the challenges you’ve encountered in the community?

Funding, marketing, and business development.  Fairly typical of a creative economy.

What successes have you had?

Recognition on game jams, or hackathon for games.  In particular, "Suddenly, Thousands" won first place Overall in Bacon Game Jam, and "The Recursive Dollhouse" won first place in Innovation for Ludum Dare. The release of "Not a Clone" for mobile.  It is Omiya Games' second commercial release (as in, not released for free) that was in development for 2 years with a team of 7.

What would you like to see happen in the future?

More get-togethers with other indie game developers, more opportunities for funding for game projects and more guidance on marketing for game developers on a shoe-string budget. In particular, a "conflict" is that one should post as much about the game as much as possible...without actually releasing prototypes of the game, as the latter would likely convince game publishers the game is not worth funding due to low popularity (despite, you know, the prototype still in development). I also want to see some occasional mental health help in gruelingly long development cycles.

Any ask or shameless plug?

Definitely more promotion with our website, omiyagames.com

What are your social media handles? (For a shoutout)

Available on Twitter as @OmiyaGames


New York Tech Loop and Clarke Foley from PUBG MadGlory

PUBG MadGlory is the NY based branch of PUBG Corp which employs programmers, designers, and project managers. PUBG MadGlory focuses mainly on out-of-game features that allow players - and even other developers - to build new extensions for the game. Headquartered in Saratoga Springs, PUBG MadGlory is located in the heart of a tourist town in upstate NY. Walk to one of the nicest outdoor concert venues in the world (Saratoga Performing Arts Center), grab a picnic table and hang out at the horse track, or hit up the patio in one of the many restaurants within walking distance of the office.

How are you involved in the game development community?

As part of my job as Director of Operations at PUBG MadGlory, I help with initiatives that show off PUBG as a great place to work. This can mean participating, and encourage our team to participate in local Developer Networking events, such as the IGDA (International Game Developers Association). We hosted the Albany chapter of the IGDA at our office last night and had 40 developers come to network, enjoy food and drink, talk about the industry, and to play some PUBG of course!

What benefits have you utilized in the area? (Common spaces, meetups, etc.)

We host events here at PUBG, such as Sharatoga Tech Talks, and attend meetups like the Local Google Developer Group, or Kubernetes group. In addition, we often have team members travel to events like GDC, E3, PAX East, PAX West, PAX dev, and Comic Con. Furthermore, we sponsor events like HACK RPI, attend career fairs, and visit learning conferences like GDC and MIGS (Montreal International Game Summit). I personally attending Paris Game Week in France last year, and some of our team went to a Game UI/UX summit in Toronto. We love to have our team engagte the local, national, and international developer community enrich them, and bring awareness to PUBG.

What are the challenges you’ve encountered in the community?

Recently, a lot of folks in 518 have realized we all need to work together and share ideas. Previously, a lot of events were partitioned to Albany only, Schenectady only, or Troy only. We now see groups targeting all cities including Saratoga Springs, New York, and Montreal to broaden the share of knowledge and resources. NY Tech Loop has been leading the charge with this to put 518 as a whole on the map!

What successes have you had?

We've seen our team members travel farther and wider to network, learn, and share information around. In addition, this has helped us recruit top talent from all over the world and region, when they may not have previously heard of PUBG MadGory before.

What would you like to see happen in the future?

More sharing of ideas, participation in events, and coordinated efforts to grow the community.

Any ask or shameless plug?

We are proud to have developed the PUBG API https://developer.pubg.com/ that allows developers to create a free account and get verified PUBG game data to build an app or website. We even have a Capstone class from RPI building an app as their year-end project. They are crushing it!

What are your social media handles? (For a shoutout)

https://twitter.com/PUBG

https://twitter.com/madglory

https://www.instagram.com/pubg/?hl=en

www.pubg.com

New York Tech Loop and Jamey Stevenson from Tech Valley Game Space

How are you involved in the game development community?

I'm the co-founder of Tech Valley Game Space, a nonprofit collective of local game makers working together to help create a more diverse, approachable, and thriving game development community in the Capital Region. We believe that games are for everyone - our shared mission is to encourage and enable people of all backgrounds and experience levels to create games and support one another.

We run a coworking space in downtown Troy, and organize numerous community-building events and diversity-focused educational programs. These programs are hosted on-site at our space, as well as being offered at numerous other venues throughout the region, such as schools and libraries.

More generally, I am an independent game maker with personal and professional roots in the Capital Region. I grew up in the Albany area, and my 15+ year career in games began at 1st Playable Productions in Troy. I am currently working to establish my own startup game studio, Spoony Bird, which is located at TVGS.

What benefits have you utilized in the area? (Common spaces, meetups, etc.)

TVGS actually started as a weekly Meetup group back in November 2014, and are now located at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity makerspace. TVCOG has been a wonderful and supportive partner for us, and we love being colocated with them - even if people do tend to confuse us due to the fact that we both have "Tech Valley" in our names. Fun fact: TVGS and TVCOG are entirely separate organizations!

We have also been fortunate enough to have healthy relationships with various other groups that share our values and goals, such as the Albany chapter of the International Game Developers Association. Many TVGS community members have been actively involved with the IGDA Albany chapter over the years and we often collaborate with other educational partners and local groups that share our values and goals, such as Capital Region CoderDojo and Girls Who Code.

Recently we’ve received the support of the "Digital Gaming Hub," a designation which was awarded to RPI as part of a statewide program. This initiative has helped bring together a number of regional stakeholders around a shared mission of boosting economic development in the local games sector.

What are the challenges you’ve encountered in the community?

In terms of growing the TVGS community, one of the main challenges has been the fact that the game developer population in the Capital Region is spread out over such a wide geographical area. Troy has emerged as a burgeoning game dev cluster in recent years, but it can still be challenging for developers in Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany and some of the more rural areas to consistently make the journey out to Troy in order to work and attend events.

This is part of the reason why TVGS has remained committed to organizing classes and events at venues all over the Capital Region, and not solely at our space in Troy. Since our goal is to empower everyone in the Capital Region to create games, it's important for us to factor in accessibility for those that can't easily travel to Troy.

Speaking as an independent game developer, the biggest challenge of being based in the Capital Region has been isolation. Being a part of the TVGS community has helped me with this significantly, especially when it comes to making meaningful connections with other local game makers and finding talented collaborators for projects. However, it can still be a challenge to make relevant business connections related to project funding, marketing, and publishing. We all work together to signal boost and support each other with things like networking and marketing, but our region is still lacking when it comes to accessible opportunities for project funding.

What successes have you had?

Tech Valley Game Space has achieved remarkable success in a number of areas. Our community members have created hundreds of games over the past few years, ranging from highly personal artistic projects to commercial titles for mobile, PC, and web. Games made at TVGS have been praised by industry luminaries like Tim Schafer and Ian Bogost, and featured in showcases including alt.ctrl.GDC, Experimental Gameplay Workshop, IGF and IndieCade.

We are an extremely active community, so it can be difficult to pare our accomplishments down to a concise list of highlights. During this past year alone, we launched two new major programs:

ProtoStar is a fund designed to provide early stage financial support for local developers to build prototypes of original game projects. Local game makers pitch their concepts to a panel of experienced judges in order to receive invaluable feedback, and the winning pitches receive a modest funding award.

Lift Off is a diversity incubator program designed to encourage new voices in games. Our inaugural edition of the program consisted of a group of women and non-binary individuals creating games over the course of six weeks, with one-on-one support from experienced mentors. The program was met with a highly enthusiastic response from applicants, and rave reviews from our participants and mentors.

In addition to these recent successes, our ongoing events and classes continue to grow and flourish. Our regular Interactive Showcase at The Arts Center is a fixture of Troy Night Out, with many new and recurring participants every month. We run various educational programs like our Orbit mentorship groups and #include game jams. We teach a free monthly lesson at TVGS, and we teach game making classes across the region all year round.

Finally, our coworking community continues to grow each month. We have 30+ members, including individual freelancers and emerging studios like Omiya Games, Spoony Bird, Queenship Game Studios, Grifkuba, Organic AI, FlyInside, and more! We have been especially heartened by seeing multiple community members citing TVGS as being pivotal to them finding a job with a local studio and/or deciding to relocate to the area. This is all due to our inclusive and vibrant community, and we're extremely grateful for the collective success we've been able to achieve together.

What would you like to see happen in the future?

I want to see the game development community in the Capital Region thrive. I think we are moving toward establishing a critical mass, and I find that invigorating. We're not quite there yet, but there's a sense of momentum around the local game dev scene that is almost palpable.

I would like to see more startup game studios in the area reach the point of sustainability. I want our local ecosystem to take some cues from places like Dundee, Scotland - small regions with disproportionately large and thriving game development communities. I want us all to embrace and recognize game development as a cornerstone of the local creative economy.

I want to see all of the disparate organizations in the region continue to rally around a common cause. I want us all to communicate and support each other more, and make a habit out of extending a hand to one another. I want all the local stakeholders to collaborate in order to build a pipeline that supports aspiring game makers at all stages of their journey. The wheels are already in motion, but it's up to all of us to maintain that commitment to progress! I want the TVGS community to continue to grow, and to always provide a welcoming venue for indie, hobbyist, and aspiring developers that are looking to make games, make friends, and make a difference. I envision our space as a communal hub for game makers from across the region - encompassing coworking, diversity-focused education, and community-building events. I want to continue building awareness of TVGS as a communal hub where game makers of all experience levels come together to collaborate.

I want TVGS to continue playing an active role in advocating for the Capital Region game development scene, and encouraging everyone within our region to view games as a vital creative medium. I want us to continue providing opportunities for local talent to build their skills and showcase their work. I want to help everyone realize that the Capital Region is a viable place to make games.

I want to keep developing more affordable and accessible curricula, and continue working with local educators and game makers to extend our mentorship programs. My ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone in the Capital Region is given the opportunity to create a game. I believe that TVGS has an important role to play in helping to expand local opportunities for game development education.

Any ask or shameless plug?

Join the TVGS community! You can participate online via our Discord and Facebook groups, and we would love to have you join us in person if possible. All of our events are free and open to the public. You can find a list of upcoming events at techvalleygamespace.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive ongoing updates about fun upcoming community events!

We are a member-supported organization - if you appreciate what we do, please consider supporting us via Patreon at

patreon.com/techvalleygamespace. If you're interested in trying out coworking at TVGS, you can sign up via Patreon or visit techvalleygamespace.com/free to apply for a 3-month free trial. We are a nonprofit charitable organization, so donations are also welcome and appreciated! You can donate via our website.

What are your social media handles? (For a shoutout)

My personal social media handle is @dreamlogician

For TVGS, follow us on Twitter (@tvgamespace)

Instagram (techvalleygamespace)

Facebook (facebook.com/techvalleygamespace)

Visit our website at techvalleygamespace.com

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