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‘We want to be the home of indie games in America’: Philly Game Forge 2.0

It's an ambitious plan to retain college talent and market the local indie game scene to a broader audience.

This year at Indiecade — “the Sundance of video games,” as one local developer put it — three Philadelphia games were chosen as finalists out of more than 1,000 submissions. (One even won.)

All three of those games were built, tested and played at the Philly Game Forge, the Old City hub for game developers. That’s a testament to the city’s burgeoning indie game community, said Cipher Prime cofounder Dain Saint.

But now it’s time to do more.

Led by Saint, Cipher Prime cofounder William Stallwood and PHL Collective founder Nick Madonna, a group of local developers are plotting “Philly Game Forge 2.0.” It’s an ambitious plan inspired in part by what they call misguided efforts to get tax incentives to attract big budget game studios to grow the local scene. (The Videogame Growth Initiative was one local effort that worked toward this.) That’s not what Philadelphia needs, they said.

Instead, it needs something that builds off what’s already happening. To them, that’s an incubator for game developers. Madonna and Saint envision Game Forge 2.0 as a place that student developers can come to learn the ropes of launching their own businesses, so they don’t graduate and think they need to leave for a city with a big game company like Montreal or San Francisco.

They want students to realize that it’s possible to sidestep the mainstream gaming industry. Instead of asking, “Where do I work?” they should be asking, “How do I start making games that I want to see out in the world?” (Drexel professor Frank Lee is already working on this with his Entrepreneurial Game Studio, which just got a $200,000 state grant.)

Game Forge 2.0 will also launch a marketing campaign that brands each of its games as made in Philly. (It reminds us of what Radiotopia is doing for podcasting.)

“We’re creating the thing I wish was here when I started,” Saint said.

nick madonna dain saint

PHL Collective’s Nick Madonna (left) and Cipher Prime’s Dain Saint are leading the charge behind Philly Game Forge 2.0. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

So what do they need now? Funding. Space.

The team is in the process of applying for grants, devising other funding models like a pledge drive and looking for a space that’s bigger than the Game Forge in Old City.

Saint and Madonna won’t be quitting their day jobs to run the project. They plan to keep on making games.

“We want be the home of indie games in America,” Saint said, and Philly is the perfect place: “It’s the general rebellious, independent, ‘fuck you’ spirit that Philly has.”

Companies: PHL Collective / Philly Game Forge / Cipher Prime

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