Game Development and Community in Chicago

October 25, 2011

Did you know that three major iOS games have been released in the last three weeks by three Chicago area game studios? Fact is, we didn’t know about the other developments either and that bothers me.  

My studio, Robomodo, last week released “In Time The Game”, a tie-in to the Justin Timberlake movie opening this Friday. The week before was“Scribblenauts Remix” by Iron Galaxy Studios and “Dark Meadow” by Phosphor Games Studio. All three are considered major games for iOS. How did that happen without us knowing about it? 

This brings up something that has been a concern of mine for some time, the idea of community and transparency. A lot of us in the Chicago game community know each other pretty well yet there is very little sense of community outside of some bar meet ups and the occasional IGDA meetings. These meetings are great to socialize but not a whole lot of meat to them. People are under NDAs and such so that is understandable, but people are very reluctant to discuss ways they have improved or solved certain issues that we all encounter.

I have been making the rounds lately talking to various tech companies outside of games and the personality seems very different. There tends to be more of a sharing of ideas with different companies. Granted, they are not giving away their secret sauce, but that’s not what is important. What is important is the idea of a person putting stuff out there and be willing to share some thoughts. That creates great energy to others which comes right back.

My “world tour” of Chicago tech really exposed to me how old school thinking a lot of us game people here are. I attribute a lot of it to the fact that many of us came from the old Midway Games days where teams within the building did not even know what the others were doing.  The world has changed in the games industry, especially with independent studios on the rise. Here in Chicago we are not competing with each other, we are now competing against places like Montreal where they can pour in people by the boatloads thanks to government subsidies. We need to find a way to look at our various resources and not be afraid to ask others for some help that can be returned later on. I have been to a couple of tech incubators and see how they share various resources and it is really inspiring. I am not expecting some hippy commune of game companies, but really just trying to set some ground rules that allows us to open up to each other better.

So I guess the big question is, what are the next steps? What practices have you all implemented with your “competitors” to help each other out. If I hear crickets, we’re doomed.