Boston as a Hub for Game Development

by Darius Kazemi on November 26, 2005

in boston,postmortem

Stainless Steel Studios here in Boston just closed its doors. One of what I would consider Boston’s flagship games industry enterprises is now gone. This has special relevance to something I’ve been thinking of for a long time now, that being why the hell isn’t Boston a better place for game development?

Cutting Through the Red Tape is the best article I’ve seen on the IGDA website in a long time. It’s all about the games industry working together with local government and higher education to foster a strong environment in which game companies can thrive. It’s focused on the European situation (the article is based on a talk given at GDCE), but is of course applicable anywhere. The basic points are as follows.

  • The game industry is a big money-maker, which means that local government should take notice and try to foster its growth locally.
  • There should be closer ties between industry and academia. The industry can get its hands on research money, and academia can get access to experienced teachers for their game development programs.
  • Companies may be able to take advantage of arts grants (Funcom being a notable recipient of one such grant).
  • Local government should provide tax incentives for game developers.
  • Developers should work with local business development agencies.

Notice the proliferation of the word “local”. I admit that I may have inserted that word in my summary more often that it was implied in the article. That’s my bias.

Boston is a great place for tech startups. We have these world-class universities that pump out graduates who can basically walk up to angel investors and say, “Hey, I had a dream last night about this lion that chased me around an auto parts shop,” and the investors will give them seed money for a business. Well, not exactly. But close. Harmonix, an MIT Media Lab spinoff company, followed this model and I will make the bald assumption that they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves.

Now these universities are pumping out students who majored in video games studies or game development. Are we going to see these students start game companies here in Boston? Or are they going to head off to California to do it? My money is on California. Because we can’t keep this kind of business here.

We need things like tax incentives for Boston (or Massachusetts) game developers. The state government is not adverse to video games. I worked on MassBalance, which was a video game made at the request of a state senator. You would imagine that Beacon Hill would be full of old stodgy guys who think video games are the work of the devil. When I was over there doing the press conference for the game, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very positive attitude towards our industry. Could this good will be translated into something meaningful for MA developers? I hope so.

I’m going to be here in Boston for a while. And I plan on spending a lot of time thinking about these issues. Perhaps I’ll even do something about it. I want to see Boston become the premier spot for game development on the East Coast. I think we can do it. I know there are other people out there who think so, too. But we’re not organized, and we need to be. There are guys like me who are new to this industry, but who have some connections on Beacon Hill. And there are other people who are experienced in the game industry, but don’t know where to start with local government.

We need to get together and talk about this. Maybe start an actual organization to promote industry growth in MA. Maybe there already is one and my head is stuck up my rear? If we could get more than 20 people out to a Boston Postmortem some time, I’d like to gauge the interest of developers in such an endeavor.

Anyway, that’s my pie-in-the-sky soliloquy for this month. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll have some networking articles up soon. I promise.


Craig Perko November 26, 2005 at 9:34 pm

Not California: Seattle.

susanne November 30, 2005 at 3:23 am


so i just “pinged” your blog…

i enjoyed what you posted earlier on the perceptions between coding and designing talent involved in the production of a good technological product.

Id like to argue why the ‘tech’ world seems to be lacking heroes—i dont think it is so much related to the industry’s value of one kind of producer over another or the sheer difficulty of pocessing both coding and designing finesse…people with hero complexes become leaders…its hard to lead an industry from a keyboard…i applaud those who figure it out.

Anywho-Ill be reading you in the future.


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