When people think of Oklahoma, right or wrong, they tend to think of cowboys, oil and tornados. What they don't often think about are elves, epic battles, zombies, grand tales of heroism and other fantastical things. For you see, these creative endeavors couldn't possibly exist here...could they?
While it's true that historically there hasn't been substantial development in Oklahoma, there's an obscure military simulation, Call of Duty, that has its roots in Tulsa. I didn't think you'd be familiar with it, but I heard it sold a few copies here and there. The exciting thing is that development is starting to emerge once again, and as an active member of the game dev scene for many years, I've had the unique position of both witnessing and taking part in a recent groundswell of activity in and around Oklahoma.
Think, just this time last year my mentioning of game development in Oklahoma City would often receive a befuddled look in return, as if to say "surely none of that sorcery goes on here." Oh what a difference a year can make! The tune has changed dramatically in a very short time, and the game development community is quickly gaining steam and an identity of its own.
Rise of the Indie
I could easily write an entire series on the nuances that shape a city or region into a gaming hub, but we'll save that for another time. What it really boils down to is simply reaching a critical mass of developers that make the effort to rise with the tide.
This is what we are now seeing with the emergence of independent developers such as ourselves, Bonozo, Divine Knight Gaming, Eyeshock, For Better or For Worse, Last Guy Games, LionSteel Games, opGames, Reia Interactive Studios, SkyHaven Studios, SurviveTech Games, Tornado Studios and more. The video game market is a tough place to play for indies. However, all it takes is a push to get that snowball rolling, and that is exactly what we are seeing in today's Oklahoma game development community.
Oklahoma Game Developers Meetup
A core mission of GoldFire Studios has always been about building a vibrant game development community in Oklahoma. We took a big step towards that goal with the launch of the Oklahoma Game Developers monthly meetup this past March. We had met many people that had dabbled or were interested in game development, but the problem was that nobody knew each other.
The last 10 months have seen incredible speakers, workshops and networking that have gone so much further in growing and unifying the community than we could have ever imagined. We now boast more than 150 members from all over the state, and even more impressively, we've consumed over 500 slices of pizza! Let's face it, no game development community is complete without a little pizza bonding now and then.
Oklahoma's current gaming revolution isn't just about the game developers. In fact, game players and fans have just as important a role as the developers in the growth of a vibrant community. Nothing put this on display this past year more than Oklahoma City's first major con catering to anime, pop culture and video games - Izumicon. We were thrilled to be one of three local developers on display, and you couldn't help but feel the buzz in the air from the nearly 3,000 elaborately costume-clad attendees.
In another exciting sign that the snowball is growing ever larger, another major Oklahoma City convention will be held in March of 2014 - SUPER! Bitcon. Where Izumicon is all about gaming excess, SUPER! Bitcon is about taking a step back and enjoying the glory of video games past. We are also extremely excited to be participating in a panel with several other local developers, and we expect to see another impressive turnout as local interest in games continues to balloon.
Growth of Degree Programs
While it is great having a growing critical mass of indies, the tide does eventually go back down, and there needs to be another source to keep things rolling besides the melted snow. The best game development hubs tend to have easy access to fresh talent, generally in the form of focussed degree programs in universities and specialized schools.
This is the area that Oklahoma has sorely lacked for far too long, but in much the same way that a critical mass has been found with the indies, one is being carved out in the academics. Many schools around the state are now introducing game design programs, and we even boast one of the top 30 game design schools overall at Oklahoma Christian University.
It is important to not give the wrong impression. Even though all of these positive things are happening right now, the Oklahoma game development scene is still in its infancy. There is much growing up to do, but I now firmly believe that all of the pieces necessary to build a productive gaming hub are finally in place. The real question is which of you will be the next to stand up and join all us for the journey?
GoldFire Studios is an independent game developer located in downtown Oklahoma City. Our newest game, CasinoRPG, was the first from Oklahoma to be successfully funded on Kickstarter. Head to casinorpg.com to try it out for yourself!