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Is ‘Slower Lower Delaware’ to blame for the lack of a statewide indie gaming scene?

Game developer Matt Sharp loves his downstate hometown but wonders if it's one reason the state's indie gaming scene hasn't taken off.

Momiji Studios in action. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by Matt Sharp, founder of Momiji Studios.
I am dreaming of a world in which when someone brings up indie game developers, everyone’s first thought is, “Oh yeah, they’re probably from Delaware.”

OK, so that might sound like a stretch but let me tell you how we can make it a reality.
First, I’ll give you a brief summary of my “game developer timeline” so you believe I have some credibility to talk about this topic. My story was pretty typical of gaming culture — I started gaming before I was a sentient human, I wanted to make games just like every gamer does and I never stopped being a kid. I guess the atypical part is that I really followed through and became an indie game developer.
I saw RPG Maker 2000, a game engine, when I was 12 years old and that was it for me. I never really made anything that wasn’t garbage until I finished a PC game called Lucid Awakening in my senior year of high school. It wasn’t great by any standards except maybe just for the fact that it was a finished game from RPG Maker with a substantial amount of gameplay.
After trying to be a normal human being with jobs and an associate’s degree in computer information systems, I eventually decided that I had to do game development full-time. There was no other option for me. Thus, Momiji Studios was born.
I quit my job at a bank and went full time into development on Lucid Awakening 2, which I had been passively working on for a few years. It finally saw a release on Steam in 2015. Before the release of Lucid Awakening 2, I had delved into Unity, another game engine, and the mobile games market with Cubey Sphere on Android and iOS in 2014.

Momiji Studios exhibiting.

Momiji Studios exhibiting. (Courtesy photo)


It’s amazing to see your own growth right in front of your exhausted eyes. I have gone from making a small game on RPG Maker that no one played to a full sequel released on Steam. I started out presenting at a convention with 30 people to setting up at the amazing MAGFest in National Harbor, Md. with 20,000 people. Keep pushing and never give up, no matter how much that sounds like a cheesy tag line from an anime lead character.
Unfortunately, indie game development is not a solid way to make enough money to live despite what some people think. I heard about an opening at Wilmington University for a game development adjunct instructor. I hadn’t taught much besides some game development summer courses for kids, but I figured I’d try anyway. I typed up my own curriculum, went in confidently and got the job.

###

When I say there is not much of an indie development scene in Delaware, I really mean there aren’t many finished games coming out of this state, or at least they’re not celebrated and given attention by the majority of the people here. Fortunately, what we do have is a vast amount of talent, passion and determination. We have to ask the obvious question then: “If there are so many talented people who have the potential to create great work, where are the games?”
I believe one explanation is “Slower Lower Delaware.” I was born and raised in that legendary region and I can confirm everything this term represents. People are very relaxed, content, genuine, kind, loving, and yes, slow. Nothing about this is negative. In fact, I wish more people could be like them. Go there and have conversations with random people to see what I mean.
I knew I wanted to make games since I was a little, slower, lower lad playing Super Mario Bros., and I have known a huge amount of people who have had that same dream. As a result of the nature of the area, aspirations that go outside of the norm can often times go unfulfilled. This is typically not because of any sort of discouragement from the population (I never faced a bit of adversity from my family, friends or community to do what I wanted; I only saw support and genuine interest) but just because it is completely acceptable — encouraged even — to take a “normal” job and settle down with that for the rest of your life.
I don’t want to speak much for Northern Delaware since I’ve only lived here for three years, but from what I’ve seen, the general feel of this side is more active and less stagnant. I’ve met several game developers since I moved, but I’m sure that is more attributed to my social bubble being mostly from the Wilmington University game development program where I teach.

Let's shine a light on the game development talent that exists in Delaware.

The convention scene in Delaware also needs more attention. There are quite a few scattered around the state and spread throughout the year. Just like everything else in this state, they are typically small, friendly and welcoming. My first convention was Hashi-Con in Bridgeville, Del. The first year saw maybe 30 people attending, but it’s been growing ever since. We need to promote these as much as possible because they are bringing the nerd community together. Hashi-Con, in particular, filled a large convention and community gap since basically anything south of Dover Comic Con was pretty dry for any meetings or events for the anime, comic and gaming population.
I’ve seen immense talent from my students and affiliates at Wilmington University. Down the hall from my classrooms is a room called the “incubator.” It is a room filled, wall-to-wall, with nerdiness and good vibes from Heavy Key Studios, where awesome games are made. I also had a few students who formed a company called Luna Wolf Studios with at least one great title released. That’s just a sampling of the artists who can create immaculate UI (user interface), musicians who can craft great tracks, programmers who can solve almost any problem or create any system, designers who dream up fresh ideas and motivated, determined individuals who could easily go straight to leading and managing an entire development team.
I know these creators aren’t the only ones in Delaware. This means that we need more programs, encouragement and education in all parts of Delaware to bring out the creative, powerful spirits that have been suppressed or undiscovered. The talent is there, the potential is there, the games are there — they are just in hiding. Let’s work together to bring them out.

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