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There is an old saying that, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” If that is true, then the Georgia Game Developers Association enjoyed plenty of life in 2012!
The year kicked off with a significant transition. Clinton Lowe, GGDA founder and long-time president, moved on to become chairman of the GGDA board of directors, I agreed to take over as president. I made plans to continue expanding and building on events like SIEGE to help our industry grow and prosper. But then life happened.
In late February, shortly before I was to take over as president, we learned that the Georgia House of Representatives was about to eliminate the tax credit that has helped to both stimulate the growth of the state’s largest game developers and encourage new ones to open shop. You can read more about the legislation and the fight at http://andrewgreenberg.livejournal.com/33898.html. Basically, it would have kicked game developers out of the credit while leaving it for movies, TV shows, videos and the like.
Leading the fight to keep the credit in place was the first campaign of my presidency. I’m very happy to report that we kept it in place, albeit with important new limits. We learned a great deal in this campaign, but two lessons stood out over all:
1. The game development industry in Georgia is a very real one, and public affairs impact us just as they do other industries and professions. We ignore them at our peril.
2. There is little that Georgia game developers cannot accomplish when working as a team. This fight took everyone, from the CEOs of our largest companies to game design students (and their parents) writing their legislators; from small developers striving to grow large enough to utilize the credits to investors attracted to our industry by those credits.
Of course, the main fight over the tax credits had to happen while we at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. We ran a booth there promoting the Georgia game industry and SIEGE, moderated a round table for the IGDA’s Business and Legal special interest group, and held innumerable meetings with all sorts of people interested in our state. Nothing like conference calls at 5 am to plan legislative strategy for the day, followed by hours of meetings, working a booth, and business dinners, all followed by party after party (just for the networking, honestly). Wake up the next day and do it again. GDC was definitely a success, as we attracted a great deal of attention for our developers, their titles and our activities. We’ll be there again in 2013, so look for us and join us for the Georgia Developer dinner.
The main way GGDA members interact is via our monthly meetings, and these were a great success in 2012. The Athens chapter had been ably run by Casey O’Donnell, and when he moved off to Michigan, Stephen Borden and others stepped in to keep it running at full steam. In Atlanta, Deborah Thomas arranged a fantastic series of presentations on everything from funding to mobile development to game art and more. Sponsors included CCP, Tripwire, Autodesk and others.
While Deborah Thomas has grown too busy with her own company, Silly Monkey, she has left us with some excellent meetings to come, including a game audio panel in January, an animation meeting in February, and a meeting with Eyes Wide Games, maker of the Walking Dead titles, in March. We are looking for a group of people to take her place, so let us know if you are interested in being one of them.
Our big GGDA meeting every year is SIEGE in October, and 2012’s was bigger and better than the previous five. We added a Games for Health day, expanded our SIEGE investment conference, brought in more than 100 speakers, and drew kudos from people as diverse as the chairman of the IGDA, the Georgia senate majority leader, game developers from across the south, and academics of all types, including a number of high school teachers. We plan to build on the success of this year’s expo, an especially critical mission since with the end of GDC Austin, SIEGE is now the largest professional game development conference in the South.
Georgia is also home to the largest Game Jam in the US, and the GGDA is a proud supporter of the 2013 event at SPSU Jan. 25 - 27. The event at SCAD in 2012 was incredible, and we can only hope the next one will be better still. Athens also put on an excellent jam this Fall.
Economic Impact Study
This year did not end with SIEGE or the Jams. We went right from SIEGE into preparation for the 2013 Georgia legislative session, GDC and more. One of our most important new tools is the Georgia Game Development Industry Survey and Economic Impact Study we have been working on since Spring. This started as a gigantic endeavor and has only grown since we started. Thanks to the accounting firm of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, we have gotten the full report into excellent shape just in time for the legislature to reconvene.
We plan to release a synopsis of the report soon, and we will make the full report available to our indie, associate, silver, gold and platinum members. Filled with a wealth of information about our industry, it is an invaluable resource for designers, students, schools, policy makers and everyone else interested in game development. It has been a boss battle to compile but well worth the effort.
The Next Level - LFM
So what lies ahead for the GGDA? Our monthly meetings and SIEGE preparations are our most obvious endeavors, but there are at least three more areas in which you might want to become involved.
1. Team Atlanta. Deborah Thomas took on a monumental task running the chapter meetings, as do Stephen Borden and the rest of the team in Atlanta. We are looking for a team to take Deborah’s place in Atlanta. They would set up meetings, work with sponsors, deal with studio heads and so on. There are few better ways to meet the state’s leading developers and employers. If you are interested in being part of Team Atlanta (or Team Savannah or Team Columbus or any of our other chapters), please contact us at president @ ggda.org.
2. Public Affairs. We know we cannot ignore the impact government has on our industry, and we must remain active in the public sphere. To that end, we and our lobbyists have been meeting with everyone - government officials, business leaders, consumer advocates, educators, journalists, lawyers, accountants ... all the way up to the governor’s office - to determine how to best protect and promote our interests. While our immediate focus remains on safeguarding the tax credits, expect us to be involved on a host of other issues impacting all of us.
3. The Spring Portfolio and College Fair. The SIEGE College Fair attracted more than 1300 attendees in 2011, far too many for the venue. We are starting a new college fair this Spring and combining it with a portfolio show for recent and upcoming college grads, seminars on breaking into the industry, a game-design competition, and maybe even a gaming tournament. We’ve been talking to the HR people at large game developers outside of Georgia and may get them to attend as well. We have not set a date for it yet, but expect it to be April or May in the Atlanta metro area. We need volunteers to help run it, and volunteers get prime placement to show off their portfolios, If you are interested in helping, please contact us at volunteers @ ggda.org.
2012 was a good year for our industry and for the GGDA, and we expect 2013 to be an even better one. While we cannot predict all of the ups and downs that will hit us in the year to come, we can confidently predict that your GGDA membership will help create a more robust and more successful industry for everyone in our state. We look forward to more life in 2013.
See you January 8 at AIA for the game audio panel!
P.S. You can follow us all year at www.ggda.org, @GGDA_ORG on Twitter and Georgia Game Developers Association group on Facebook. Check out the president’s blog at http://andrewgreenberg.livejournal.com/
Tripwire Interactive: Games for Fun and Profit
It all started with a game.
Well, let’s be fair. It all started with a mod to a game.
In 2004, an independent mod team entered the NVIDIA-sponsored “Make Something Unreal” contest conducted by Epic Games. This team created the winning entry, titled “Red Orchestra: Combined Arms,” while also giving rise to what is now Tripwire Interactive.
Tripwire – which calls Roswell, Ga., home – took the success from “Combined Arms” and turned it into a highly successful family of titles within the first-person shooter genre (FPS). Tripwire Vice President Alan Wilson is quick to point out that the state of Georgia is both a strong reason for and a benefactor of Tripwire’s success. Tax incentives provided by the Georgia General Assembly have helped create something special for the state, apart from the industry centers in California and Washington.
The GGDA has begun a series of article on local companies leading the way in building a Georgia game development community. This week the spotlight is on Hi-Rez Studios and their new massively multiplayer games. Let us know what you think!