I’m a Game Developer From St. Louis. No, Really. Stop Laughing. It’s Not a Joke.

March 31st, 2014

The indie game community is something that I am immensely proud to say that I’m a part of. In the years since I first became involved in indie games, I have grown a continually deeper respect for the global community, and have been fascinated by the games, talent, and people that I have been exposed to. The community has shown incredible strength and support in advocating for equality and diversity in the games industry as a whole. However, recent experiences have brought up a whole new issue in the games industry that we never expected: location-based discrimination.

A lot of attention has been brought to the St. Louis tech and startup worlds in recent years. Missouri (and specifically, St. Louis) has been credited as the fastest-growing technology scene in the nation. We have our fair share of incubators, accelerators, and nationally-lauded grant programs. Aside from the tech industry, St. Louis is a beautiful city with low cost of living, great entertainment, respected universities, and renowned landmarks. Even the Huffington Post found over two dozen reasons to love St. Louis. But when we venture out beyond the local community, we’re met with friction.

Friends of mine, Butterscotch Shenanigans, attended the 2013 Captivate Conference in Austin, where they asked keynote speaker Warren Spector about his recommendation for getting connected with a mentor in the games industry. His response?
“Move out of St. Louis.”

On several occasions at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, my studiomates and I were met with surprise, puzzled looks, or condescending remarks when we divulged our hometown. “You’re from where?” This sort of reaction, in my opinion, goes against everything the indie games community should stand for. It’s alienating, immediately puts us on the defensive, and is the very sort of situation that imposes a serious case of impostor syndrome on those of us who are working hardest toward a stronger game development community.

We don’t have a lot of huge, established game companies in St. Louis where game dev hopefuls can gain large-scale studio experience (though there are a few). What we do have is intense passion for the art of game development, along with a welcoming, supportive game dev community — one that made up the 4th largest Global Game Jam site in the country this year. Coming from almost exclusively indie backgrounds, this gives St. Louis game developers a unique perspective: we don’t have preconceptions about what game development is or should be; we can rewrite the rules around what works for us. There is no right or wrong way to create art, nor is there a right or wrong place to create art, so why should games be any different? I find it quite inspiring that so many of us are overcoming these obstacles and teaching ourselves from scratch; we’re diving in head first without a big corporate entity to hold our hands on the way, braving the unpredictable indie waters without a lighthouse.

And frankly, we’re doing it really well.

6 Responses to “I’m a Game Developer From St. Louis. No, Really. Stop Laughing. It’s Not a Joke.”

  1. Good!

    I have moved to St Louis 3 months ago, this is my first city in USA because I am from Mexico, I really did not know anything about St Louis but in the last meeting that I went in Riot Games I know about some people that work in the industry. Recently I launched a video game in the AppStore, it was my first game and I developed here. I hope to be part of the game developer community and improve my skills.

  2. Stuart says:

    Carol, this is WONDERFUL! The indie dev community in STL has been an incredible inspiration and resource. Keep up all the good work!

  3. Andrew McCarroll says:

    I was just recently in St. Louis. I actually had no idea that major gaming companies were there. I have been looking for opportunities to begin my career in gaming, unfortunately I hadn’t found out anything. This has been a great help. Other than Riot games could you please let me know what other companies are in the St. Louis area.

    • carol says:

      Hey Andrew! Thanks for reading!

      Riot Games and Simutronics are the two largest game studios in STL, but there are also studios like Graphite Lab, Lumate’s IDC Projects, Pixel Press, and PigOut Productions, all of whom occasionally hire interns and employees.

      Regarding opportunities separate from getting hired at a studio, Butterscotch Shenanigans just launched the inaugural session of their 8-bit Dev Pipe game development mentorship program, for those already involved in game dev but are interested in getting more serious about publishing independently. There is also a St. Louis Game Jam coming up that can offer great insight and education in game dev!

      The best way to get started in Game Dev in St. Louis, though, is to get involved in the community and participate in the events. You can always find a list of industry events on the IGDA St. Louis website!

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