A NEW GAME: Jacob Brennan created his real-time, multiplayer cooperative role-playing game “Casual Quest” in two weeks with little more than a hobbyist’s knowledge of game design and self-taught programming skills. Brennan counts himself among the small group of independent video game developers in Rhode Island.
(Editor’s note: This is the first story in a two-part series looking at the impact of the 38 Studios LLC bankruptcy on the local gaming industry and the company’s employees.)
Until Rhode Island lured Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios LLC video game company from Massachusetts in 2011, aspiring game designers, artists and programmers in the country’s smallest state had little choice but to relocate to the West Coast to seek employment with a big-name studio or make the hourlong commute to one of the startups in Boston.
“When 38 Studios joined the mix, it was incredibly exciting for everyone,” said David “DJ” Johnson, assistant professor in the New England Institute of Technology video game design program. “Wherever there’s a large studio, within a couple of years there are more studios. We wanted to make that possible. We wanted to facilitate the expansion of the craft in Providence.”
Johnson was among the earliest members of the Rhode Island chapter of the International Game Developers Association. Founded in 2011 by Geraldo Perez, the Ocean State group looked to advance the games industry in the state and create a social-gathering place where 38 Studios employees who relocated to Providence from out of state could meet with other gaming enthusiasts – and recruit people like Perez to work for the company.
Three years later, the IGDA has outlived, though not unscathed, the 38 Studios bankruptcy, which left Rhode Island taxpayers on the hook for almost $90 million. As the 38 Studios developers who had hoped to make Providence their home scattered to find work elsewhere, the monthly meetups that had once filled AS220’s gallery dropped from more than 75 members to fewer than 20, and for a span of several months, the meetings ended altogether.
Perez launched his own mobile-games company, King Bee Digital Games, but he ultimately left the industry for a more-secure job as an IT engineer at Providence Equity Partners LLC.