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.