Panel explores gaming’s impact on Brooklyn tech economy

In terms of talent, NYC is looking up as a place for making video games.

Jonathan Bowles (foreground) of the Center for an Urban Future leads the panel "Game On! Why Gaming Matters to Brooklyn’s Innovation Economy."

(Photo by Brady Dale)

The talent pool for video game makers in Brooklyn is starting to look attractive for major game companies. One sign of that is one major game publisher, Avalanche Studios, is doing some of its development work in Manhattan, according to Charles Pratt of the NYU Game Center. Even major game publishers that have offices here aren’t building games here, so this is a sign of progress.
Pratt pointed this out during a panel at Tech Triangle University focused on video games as a sector of the Brooklyn economy. Pratt substantiated his assessment by saying that representatives from Ubisoft had told him, during a recent visit to the company’s Montreal HQ, that New York’s pool of talent was making it attractive to major game makers. That said, Pratt said New York’s most famous game thus far is a casual game known as Diner Dash, by Gamelab.
Here’s some other observations from the assembled panel in a conversation about Brooklyn’s gamemaking economy, led by the Center for an Urban Future’s Jonathan Bowles:

  • New York is so rich with artistic and design culture that game makers here have a rich aesthetic sense to draw from that leads to more compelling games, according to Nicole He. He is on Kickstarter’s outreach staff and is a general gaming fan (and roommate of one of the game makers behind Sportsfriends).
  • Games are the biggest category on Kickstarter. In New York City, $6.8 million has been pledged in New York City and $3 million of that has been pledged to Brooklyn games, according to He.
  • During the casual games boom, a shop called Freeverse in Brooklyn was having success making games. When Small Planet founder Gavin Fraser went to them about developing a game, he learned that they were getting lots of similar requests, but weren’t interested. That gave Fraser the idea to start his company.
  • Small Planet’s first client was GM, and it made Chevy Baseball for the auto giant.
  • Gamification hasn’t been subtle or interesting enough in the rest of the economy, according to James Heaton, president of the Tronvig Group. “The second wave of gamification is a little more sophisticated than it was before,” he said.
  • Kickstarter’s He also cited the quality of internet access as a problem for game makers here, but she added, “It’s really hard for people to find space to play games or make games together here.”

Money is a roadblock for game makers, He said, but Kickstarter is available to help there. Pratt also cited the Indie Fund, which invests in smaller games. In fact, it recently invested in a game out of the NYU Game Center, Soft Body.
Don’t miss our list of Brooklyn games that we (still, hint, hint) want to play.

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