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Game on
Proposed video game incubation hub may help new NH industry thrive

10/30/14



Between its educational opportunities and its number of dedicated gaming enthusiasts, New Hampshire has the potential to develop a thriving video game industry. 

New Hampshire Technical Institute and Southern New Hampshire University offer video game degrees for the state’s emerging designers and enthusiasts. There are also plenty of hobbyist designers, part-time contract workers and several companies that develop professional products. 
All that’s missing is a local place for people to come together, so they don’t end up going to established video game locations, like Texas, Los Angeles, Montreal and Boston, say game designers Dave Carrigg and Neal Laurenza, who are spearheading an initiative to open a video game incubator in Manchester. 
“New Hampshire has a lot of people who are interested in or are making games,” said Laurenza, who is  a co-founder of Skymap Games and an adjunct gaming instructor at SNHU. “But they are often people who work in remote teams. Most migrate away from the state [to where] there are places where people can co-work. We think that by having a co-working, incubator space and community space we can retain more people here and bring some developers who are here out of woodwork.”
The duo hope to have an incubator space called Game Assembly up and running in the Manchester mills  around the end of the year. It would be a non-profit organization that has community space where developers can work full time and also do outreach for high school and college students and hobbyist game developers across the state. 
“The biggest benefit is it’s certainly a lot less lonely, but also it’s been shown that there’s something like a 60-percent productivity increase when you’re surrounded by other people also working,” Laurenza said. “In addition it’s great to look over to the person next to you and get feedback, or troubleshoot some snippet of code.”
The idea came after Laurenza started connecting with other local game developers and initiating meetups. The meetups were wildly successful and eventually became a chapter of the International Game Developers Association. The most recent one attracted more than 70 people. 
“I started talking to those people and they would all love to have a place to work,” Laurenzo said. “There’s a lot we want to do here, rather than [watch] people get pulled to Massachusetts.” 
New Hampshire presents a lot of unique opportunities, Laurenza believes, including perks like better tax rates and a lower cost of living than some large cities and a large pool of qualified talent. 
The incubator will have space for full-time developers and part-time students and hobbyists who want to drop in once or twice a week. They also plan to set up programs for interns from various local universities.  
“Then we would like to have anyone interested really use this space as a resource to find out more about the video game industry,” said Carrigg, who owns Retro Effects in Meredith. “I get emails all the time from parents that have kids interested in video games, and there’s no one they can talk to in the entire state.”
The developers are now working on securing enough funding to turn the vision into a reality. Recently the New Hampshire Institute of Technology promised to set aside $50,000 from a $2.5 million federal grant it received to help kick-start the incubator. The funds become available in January and will be used to help build the office space. 
Carrigg has begun to reach out to local and state government offices to see how they could help too. Other states have tax credits for the video game industry, and something like that would be helpful, he said. 
“The state is definitely ready for something like this to happen, and it probably has been for the past two or three years,” he said.  
 
As seen in the October 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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