GDC 2012 Education: “Incubating Indie Games at University”

Posted by: Robert Yang

I went to some of the GDC Education summit talks. I doubt Gamasutra was there, as Education talks are among the least attended at GDC, but these talks still deserve coverage, so here it is!

Jason Della Rocca headed a “game incubator” summer program at Concordia University. It was 8 weeks, from July to August, and he thinks other universities should run similar programs.

Judging from a cost-benefit analysis, he thinks the program is definitely worth it. It only cost the university about $50,000 (a $1,000 / month stipend * 11 participants + workspace rental + support from Ubisoft) which, as far as university programs go, is incredibly cheap. Benefits-wise, it helped the university’s image / brand for game design, it strengthened a relationship with Ubisoft, and it helped boost local Canadians indies by pairing them with industry mentors / advisers / networks. (One of these projects was FRACT OSC by Phosfiend Systems.)

In running the program, he found that all the projects were usually much too ambitious, and he had to help the developers manage their expectations. He also lamented the lack of diversity among the applicant pool: because the incubator required them to submit a prototype, only gamers / people who already knew how to make games were there.

At the end of the incubator, they had an exhibition, and all the participants invited their friends and loved ones and such, and good times were had.

Della Rocca also said something about the ineffectiveness of the multinational game industry presence in Canada – my notes are unclear. I think his point was about large developers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft using Canada as a workforce, that all their record-setting profits from their games never returns to Canada, and flows to the US / France instead. He urged Canada to strengthen its “homegrown” industries, and maybe local universities are large-enough institutions, poised to help local game developers. (I think he said something like that.)

Anyway, Della Rocca is running the summer incubator again for summer 2012, so if you’re a Canadian indie you should totally apply whenever that times comes around. (And if you happen to be a high-ranking university administrator, you should run a summer incubator of your own too.)

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