Buffalo Game Space 2017 Showcase Round-up: Bound for growth

Days leading up to the Buffalo Game Space Showcase, my initial plans were to go there, play all the games available, and do a mini-write up on each one. Upon arriving and entering the space, located in the Tri-Main Center off of Main St. in Buffalo, NY, I was immediately overwhelmed with just how many games were crammed into the 3,000 sq. foot space. A space that will most likely have to grow next year in order to accommodate not only the games being showcased, but its attendance.

A few years back, when I was working for Indie Game Magazine, a press release had come through for a Kickstarter launching the Buffalo Game Space. Having roots in Buffalo, I immediately advocated for the story to be covered, but also, I was excited at the very idea of a gaming co-work space. Admittedly, at first, I was quite envious of Buffalo—being that I am now a Rochesterian, and regardless of what we all think, there’s always going to be a little rivalry between the sister cities. I was excited that somewhere in upstate New York, a group of people were beginning to plant the foundation for the game industry’s growth, but also, a little jealous Rochester didn’t get there first. But that’s okay; we’re all in this together.

Petty jealousy aside, I now realize that the Buffalo Game Space is the beginning of something huge, and not just for Buffalo, but for all of upstate New York. The showcase featured games being developed from both Buffalo and Rochester, from students and indies.

Out of the 25 games being showcased, no two were the same. Whether or not that was a conscious choice by BGS to curate the show that way, I don’t know, but regardless, it kept the experience of every game fresh. Also, I owe this event the opportunity for me to experience virtual reality for the first time; an experience I was glad to have had in an intimate environment where I could talk to the developer directly. That communication looked something like this:

Since I unfortunately wasn’t able to take the time to write about all the games displayed, I instead chose to write about a few that stuck out most prominently.

Shotgun Farmers (3rd place winner in the NYS Game Dev Challenge), by one-man developer Waseque Qazi, is a competitive multiplayer FPS where players mow each other down with weapons made of vegetables, which use vegetable seeds as ammunition. When shots are missed, the seeds grow into new guns. Once you’re out of ammo, the player must harvest the crops for other weapons. Its visuals are simple—a color pallette and cartoony style reminiscent of Team Fortress 2—making it distinct and immediately identifiable. Qazi aims to have the game out sometime late-summer.

sniper

Whisper of a Lullaby, by Children Among Giants (a studio formed mostly of Rochester Institute of Technology students), poises on the outer layer as a cute platformer starring a sheep in a world made out of candy, cookies, and other sweets. But under the surface tells a serious and dark story of a young boy wandering the dreams of other children, who must use the powers gained from their dreams in order to overcome his own nightmares. It was the game’s juxtaposition of adorable aesthetic, mixed with an underlying serious tone that really drew me to this title.

Other games off hand that displayed promise were Space Pew Pew, Fist’s Elimination Tower, Hovership Havoc, and more. Unfortunately, there’s a lot games not mentioned here, and I apologize for that. A trailer for most of the games can be viewed below.

Come next year, I’d like to be more prepared for this event— heavily armed in hopes to write as much as I can and possibly do some video work as well. But I also predict that it’ll be even more unmanageable to tackle such an ambitious feat, assuming that the volume of games displayed will increase.

I asked Chris Langford, Vice President on the Board of Directors at BGS, via email if he foresees having to expand the space or move the event for future showcases. Chris expressed an interest in continuing to stay in the Tri-Main Center, but with hopes to expand the event into the hall ways, possibly into the lobby of the building. He was adamant that attendees were invited to see the physical location of BGS, so they can also see where other events are hosted, and get a visual sense of the coworking community.

The range of talent, style, and dedication displayed in that room was inspiring, and left me wanting more. I left wanting more events for local indies to showcase their work; more spaces for creatives to work and collaborate together. The Buffalo Game Space is living and breathing proof of the overwhelmingly fast growing community of developers in NYS. At first I was envious, now, I’m convinced every city needs a space like the Buffalo Game Space.

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– KURT

Keeping game development in New York State

“Brain-drain.” It’s a term that’s been tossed around my city of Rochester, New York for a long time. All Rochesterians, businesses, and educators alike are aware of it. It’s the idea that folks come from around the world to receive our education (especially in video game development), and then inevitably leave for work elsewhere. And in most cases, it’s the West Coast. Why? Because right now, that’s where the video game industry is.

I, admittedly, was one of them. A few years back, I left Rochester for Seattle, Washington — which at the time, I didn’t really have a reason or intention; I just wanted to go. Of course I knew Nintendo was there, and so was Microsoft, but I hadn’t known initially going there that I’d somehow end up working at the former. It was also there where I gained a newfound appreciation for Rochester. While in Seattle, I had crossed paths with a few people who went to school at Rochester Institute of Technology, and then left after graduating to work for Microsoft, Bungie, or one of the other 250 game studios in Seattle. Hearing this not only brought a much needed enthusiasm over Rochester, knowing that my small home city was pumping out credible talented individuals, but also left me begging the question: “What are they doing here? Actually, what am I doing here?” Eventually, I came back.

Now, I need to put all my cards on the table here: I am not a college educated individual. I went to a community college briefly for a degree in fine arts, but never finished that degree. With that said, I may not have educational credibility to my name, but there is credit to my work (more on that in this post). I’m also not claiming that Rochester will benefit from having my brain, but it is clear that Rochester can be more than just a hub of education, but a city of great minds, and it needs all it can get.

The brain-drain also goes beyond upstate New York, but all of New York State. In fact, New York State is just about ready to do anything to keep our young minds here. New York State governor Andrew Cuomo has created a free-tuition initiative specifically for SUNY graduates. As long as they stay in New York State after they graduate, they don’t have to pay their tuition. That is, unless they come from a family with more than a gross income of $125,000.  It’s a major catch. The plan has been met with opposing thoughts, and rightfully so: it’s pretty slippery. I don’t know if keeping graduates prisoner here is the answer, but the optimist in me wants to think it might be the nudge to shift where the industry grows next, even though, really, it’s a cheap trick.

There are efforts being made elsewhere, with less restriction to a graduate, such as the NYS Game Dev Challenge hosted by R.I.T. (I’ve mentioned this in past posts, and plan to elaborate more on it soon). The challenge is currently happening, with submissions closing on April 24, 2017. The contest is open to anyone who is a New York State resident (hobbyists and students alike).

Lastly, there’s the not-as-mentioned, as much they should be, Vicarious Visions. An Albany-based AAA game development studio that’s currently developing Destiny 2 and the Crash Bandicoot N’ Sane Trilogy.  I had the pleasure of listening to Vicarious Visions’ producer Kara Massie speak at the NYS Game Dev kickoff event, hearing her inspiring story of moving around the world from Canada to England, until she finally settled in Albany at Vicarious (her presentation can be watched below). So in short: there’s things happening here, cultivating a game industry all-its-own. It’s just a matter of educating others that it exists.

Rochester is a moderately small city, and aside from being known as a place to be educated on technology, medicine, and game development, it is probably most famously known for its culinary monstrosity the garbage plate. We can do better. And hey, don’t get me wrong – I love garbage plates. But what if we were the city of game development and garbage plates? That sounds a bit more enticing to me. And in a weird way, they kinda seem to go hand in hand.

– Kurt

Also, I nearly forgot. I started a Twitter account for VGCandC. So please, follow it.

I wrote this while sitting at Ugly Duck Coffee and listening to Future Islands’ The Far Field. “Cave” was a song that stuck out to me in particular.

What I read this week: Rumble by John Arcudi and James Harren.