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Business of Games Summit cultivates entrepreneurial spirit in the gaming industry

Wednesday, September 20 2017 12:00am

Ohio University Center for Entrepreneurship showcases career opportunities in the digital games and eSports industry

By Joel Shump

The first Business of Games Summit, hosted by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the  Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, welcomed more than 700 students, faculty, and local residents to learn about the industry of digital games on Thursday, September 14, in Baker Center Ballroom. The all-day experience showcased the rapidly growing and innovative field with panels and remarks from industry executives, entrepreneurs and pro players, as well as a vendor exhibition.

The Business of Games Summit focused on the evolution of the gaming industry, how students can pursue career opportunities, and why the state of Ohio can be the center of the game industry. The day featured dynamic guest speakers, engaging panel discussions, and an interactive exhibit floor which highlighted the local gaming companies such as Lantern Light Studios. Exhibitors showed off their latest games and technologies for visitors.

“If students have any interest in gaming whether they play them, code them or watch them, there was something for everyone at this event,” said Paul Mass, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “We wanted to show them ways to get into and work in this industry.”

Chris Volpe, CEO of Multivarious Games and co-founder of the Ohio Game Developer Association welcomed attendees as the keynote speaker for the event. Volpe focused on the current state of the gaming industry in Ohio. While students who study in this field have often left the state to pursue careers, Volpe and his team are working with other state leaders and developers to increase digital game production and infrastructure in the Midwest.

“We’re doing something that no one else in Ohio is doing,” said Volpe.

Volpe was followed by a panel titled “A Developer’s Roadmap” featuring game developers, company co-founders, and CEOs. The purpose of this panel was to discuss how to create, monetize, and publish digital games. The panel of speakers gave real-world advice on how to make a game idea a reality.

Panelists such as Austin “Shot” Lonsert, a professional player from Arizona State University, touched on the topic of digital games as a spectator sport. eSports has recently taken off in popularity with players and competitions hosted all over the world.

“Forty percent of people that watch gaming competitions do not actually play those games,” said Mass. “Even if you’re not developer or player, there are opportunities to innovate in these industries.

Daria Fluor-Scacchi, production manager at ILMxLAB, also joined the lineup of speakers to discuss diversity and women in the digital game industry. Her interactive and informative discussion focused on why women are underrepresented as developers, publishers, and players.

The event also featured a case competition where students had the opportunity to propose an eSports competition that would, ideally, coincide with the 2018 Business of the Games Summit. The winning idea, from Kristopher Meyeres featured a tournament that would, in theory, act as tryouts for Ohio University’s first eSports team.

Joshua Hong, founder and general partner of Exponential, an LA-based venture capital fund, closed the day and empowered guests with his concluding  speech: “What it means to be an Entrepreneur in the Online Game Industry.” Hong is a long-time successful entrepreneur in digital games and is credited with bringing the “freemium” economic model to the digital game industry in the U.S. After talking about his unconventional business beginnings, Hong gave fascinating insight into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, regardless of the industry you choose.

The event concluded with a reception at the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab. The GRID Lab is an innovative and creative center for students, faculty and staff research and project development. It also serves as the headquarters for the Scripps College of Communication Immersive Media Initiative, a training program that encourages students to become leaders in the immersive media job markets utilizing virtual and augmented reality. The IMI is funded by a $878,000 grant from the University’s Innovation Strategy program.

High school senior Jay Graham, of Trumbull Career & Technical Center, was among many high school students from throughout the state that attended the summit. After touring the GRID Lab, Graham decided he’ll be attending Ohio University next fall.

“I had no idea this place was here,” Graham said. “I can’t wait to schedule my official college visit, and I’m bringing friends with me.”

Why should you put the Business of Games Summit on your calendar for next year?

Whether you are a player, entrepreneur, or a business aficionado, the Business of the Games Summit had something for everyone. The range of speakers gave insight not only into the captivating industry, but also into what it takes to be successful. The energy of the event excited and educated attendees on how to break into the industry right here in Ohio and create a company. And if you truly do want to make that dream a reality, the Center for Entrepreneurship will help get you started. 

Click here to view photos from the Business of the Games Summit.

About the Center for Entrepreuership

Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship (CE), a partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.