(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
Greg Lobanov was 19 when he first stepped into the local game scene.
“I think everyone saw me as sort of an oddity because I was so young,” he wrote us via email.
It was the International Game Developers Association Philly showcase during Philly Tech Week 2012 and Lobanov was showing off two of his games. Before that night, he didn’t know that a Philly indie gaming community existed. His community existed online, with a group of Canadian game designers he met through the internet and would meet up with at events abroad.
The following year, he did another showcase, one held in West Philly and organized by Cipher Prime developer Aaron Chapin. That’s where he meet Cipher Prime’s Will Stallwood, whom he remembers “got very into the game [Lobanov] was working on, laughing and screaming as he died and retried,” he wrote.
Stallwood invited him to Philly Dev Night, the weekly game meetup Stallwood and his friends organize, and the rest is history: Lobanov, now 22, has been a fixture of the Philly gaming scene ever since. (He won the 2013 Philly Geek Award for Game of the Year and recently won Philly Dev Night’s Profit Game Jam, which challenged developers to make a game in two weeks that could earn the most money of — play his game here. He also stayed close with Stallwood, embarking on a cross-country biking trip with him and others last fall.)
But now, he’s leaving for Vancouver to try something new. Find his Exit Interview below.
How did you come to live and work in Philly?
I was born in and spent basically my entire life around the greater Philadelphia area. My mom moved here from Russia the year I was born; all my earliest memories are in northeast Philly. I came into the city on my own when I enrolled at Drexel University and shuffled through apartments in West Philly. [Editor’s note: He also hired himself for his own co-op internship. He was the first digital media major to do so.]
Game making had always been a longtime passion of mine, but it was a while before I realized there was a community for it in my own city. I had built up a solid clique of Canadian game designer friends through the internet and met them in person at abroad game events before I was ever aware of meetups in Philly. But once the Philly game community and I found each other, we became nigh inseparable.
So yeah. I grew up around here, went to school here, and made my life’s work here. Now I’m moving to Vancouver.
What’s next for you? What prompted the move?
On paper my life might not change much. The projects will be new, but the work and lifestyle will basically be the same. I’m in it for a change of scenery, new friends and mentors, and new inspirations.
Anything that could have been done to keep you here?
I love Philadelphia. There’s not really anything that I felt missing there; I guess to Philly I’m basically stating that it’s not you, it’s me. It feels time to journey a little. And anyway, how can I honestly love a place until I’ve tried somewhere else?
Can you share a lesson with us that you’ve learned during your time here?
I spent my early years making giant storied adventure games with little regard to anything but scale and scope. It was Philly developers who showed me the value of small experimental projects and crafted polish on something microscopic over something massive and rough. I took those values to heart, and I saw my games get way better through those learnings. There’s value in both ways of creating, but I only could become the best I could be by learning both.
What was your proudest accomplishment during your time in Philly?
I went from being a total nobody in the games industry to a small somebody after I spent some time learning from the developers here. My small polished puzzle game “Perfection” was my first breakout hit with showcases abroad and my very own Philly Geek Award. I’ve topped myself since then, but I think it was the single biggest step I ever took.
Favorite tech scene memory from your time in Philly?
Every Thursday near 3rd and Chestnut, the developers in town all get together and have a little party we call Dev Night. My fondest tech scene memories are all there, and there’s not really a single one to pick out. It’s lost somewhere between nights where we made games in time limits by the seats of our pants, the partnerships we slapdashed together to make them, jolly shared drinks, and exhilarating rounds of a game called Towerfall.
What’s your favorite place in Philly?
I love midnight bike rides on the Schuykill and nighttime views of the city. My favorite nighttime perches are on the steps of the art museum and on the hill behind the Mann Center.
Will you be back?
Philly will always be my home. So I’ve no doubt you’ll see my face in these streets again. I think I’d like to settle elsewhere for a time, and maybe come back some day as a more wizened master who has something to teach.-30-
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