Digital gaming is big business. If you need reassurance on this point, then consider PAX East 2014, which took place at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center over the weekend of April 11-13, 2014. Over 70,000 people attended the three-day show, not just from Massachusetts and New England, but from across North America and indeed, from around the world. Forbes Magazine notes that the coveted three-day passes sold out in less than three minutes!
The convention center occasionally looked like a movie set as thousands of participants arrived in elaborate costumes from their favorite video games. Superheroes and fantasy characters blended in with thousands of students, young professionals, gaming designers and industry executives, all there to watch, learn, share, compete, and partake in this massive celebration of games.
Massachusetts has a stake in the $67 billion gaming industry, says Helena Fruscio, director of Creative Industries, a state-wide initiative to tap into the growing sector of creative arts blossoming across the Commonwealth. As part of the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, Fruscio’s job is to identify, unify and strengthen all of the creative industries in Massachusetts, from performing arts and filmmaking to publishing and digital games.
This year, 38 Massachusetts companies exhibited at the show, said Tim Loew, executive director of Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDigi). The state-designated organization stimulates collaborative efforts among academia, entrepreneurs, state government and the gaming industry while promoting Massachusetts as a place well-positioned for growth in this burgeoning field.
Loew said the MassDigi booth bustled all weekend. “We had drop-in mentoring for aspiring game developers of all ages, game demos from local companies Little Worlds Interactive, gameblyr, Moonshot Games and Catlateral Damage, area college and university students, special international friends in the Swiss Gaming Corner from swissnex Boston and more,” he said.
PAX East 2014 wasn’t just about game-playing; there were nearly 200 panel discussions, ranging from “Land My Job! Inside Advice in Getting into the Game Industry,” to “The Sports Video Game Crisis.” And a number of universities – including Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Becker College, Fitchburg State University and other schools – were on hand to discuss their digital gaming courses and programs.
One educational program that attracted attention was MassDiGI’s Summer Innovation Program (SIP), a twelve-week long paid internship of interest to college and university students from around the country who are studying game development. “Students work on teams, under the guidance of professional game industry producers and mentors with the objective of publishing a game,” Loew says about the highly competitive internships. “This year SIP received applications from 31 different academic institutions.”
Massachusetts ranks in the top five most creative and innovative clusters of game developers in the country, Loew reckons. “With over 125 studios across the Commonwealth, Massachusetts game developers are building games for smartphones and tablets, personal computers and consoles, and for entertainment as well as education and other markets. And, with more people across the world playing more games on more devices than ever before, Massachusetts game developers are well-positioned for growth.”