It is always fascinating watching the Georgia game development community grow and prosper, but 2014 stood out for many reasons. As we write this, "I'm Positive," a game about living with HIV, developed by GGDA members at the HHS Game Jam we sponsored, is making national news for its skillful handling of a complex subject. Long-time GGDA member Hi-Rez Studios is preparing for one of the largest eSports events in the United States, with more than $2 million in prize money up for grabs at its January SMITE world championships in Cobb County (remember that GGDA members can use the code “GGDAFTW” for half off tickets). The GGDA has been crisscrossing the state, making presentations to legislators about the growth of our industry. All year long, our members have been doing what it takes to stand out both within our industry and without.
The year began with more than 200 Georgia legislators voting to extend the Interactive Productions tax credits and only eight voting against. Few bills see this kind of bipartisan, universal support, but the state's game industry has been proving its worth. In addition, the GGDA has been working with Gov. Deal and other organizations to extend computer programming education both in colleges and in grades K-12. Our proposal to have computer programming count for more than just business electives in high school has received strong support, and appears well on its way to being adopted statewide. Gov. Deal’s call for computer programming to become a tuition free pathway at the state's technical colleges (sorry, not including Georgia Tech) has also gained traction.
While competitive gaming goes back years (who remembers LAN parties?), only recently has it gained mainstream attention, and SMITE’s success shows why. From its launch party at the beginning of 2014, which both sold out Center Stage in downtown Atlanta and attracted viewers worldwide, to its North American World Championships at the Cobb Energy Centre, to the upcoming world championships, SMITE is setting the world on fire while galvanizing eSports interest in Georgia. Even Coca Cola got into the act, hosting an eSports tournament at its Atlanta headquarters.
Now interest in eSports is growing around the state, and the GGDA is looking to support more such efforts in 2015. If you are involved with such, feel free to reach out to us for ways we can work together.
Games for Health
GGDA members have continued to be in the front of this growing movement, and hundreds of you showed up once again at the HHS Games for Health Jam in September, this time to make games on HIV. The GGDA helped arrange producers/mentors for the 16 semifinalist teams, while the five finalists (“Attack on HIV”, “Flux”, “HIV Run”, “I’m Positive”, and “The Neighborhood”) were announced at our Games for Health Day at SIEGE. The teams had until December to finish their games, and all five teams created excellent titles. The CDC even selected I’m Positive to continue studying to study its efficacy.
SIEGE grows and improves every year, and 2014 proved an exceptional year for the Expo. We received wide attention for our keynote speaker, Zoe Quinn, and her presentations were a strong addition to the weekend. In addition, our SIEGE Investment Conference attracted its strongest array yet of both companies and investors, and we received praise from all corners for how well it went. As always, we heard the most praise for the SIEGE parties, with the panels coming in a close second.
We are meeting early this year to discuss possible changes for SIEGE2015. If you have ideas, please feel free to send us your input.
In 2014, we had active chapters in Athens, Augusta and Atlanta. Meetings covered a wide spectrum of game design issues, engines and speakers. These included the return of EA’s Jesse James Allen, playtesting opportunities, inside looks at Microsoft’s BizSpark program, and more. Of course, many of you come out for the networking opportunities, and we are looking to expand those as well.
The first meetings of 2015 are already scheduled - Jan. 5 at Wonderbar in Athens, Jan. 13 at SCAD-Atlanta, and Feb. 10 at AIA-Dunwoody for our annual Game Audio Shootout. We are trying to ensure another great mix of professional development and networking sessions, so be sure to let us know what you want to see.
We had some changes in 2014 that helped make the GGDA a stronger association. Chris Klaus from Kaneva took over as our Chairman and Alan Wilson from Tripwire joined our board of directors. In addition, we expanded our SIEGE leadership team and expect great things from it. We also extended our partnership with the IGDA’s Atlanta chapter and look forward to more combined events with it.
On top of our other activities, we are looking to host another Spring Portfolio Show, put on more indie game expos and bring more great speakers to Georgia. What would you like to see in 2015?
-Andrew Greenberg, Executive Director
P.S. You can follow us all year via www.ggda.org, @GGDA_ORG on Twitter and in the Georgia Game Developers Association group on Facebook.