The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








Game designers at work in the new Game Assembly space. Courtesy photo.

Level 2
New Hampshire video game developers have a new home

By Ryan Lessard

Small video game studios have banded together to foster a burgeoning local industry, and they’ve now reached the next level in their plans: opening a workspace for developers to code, brainstorm and test games alongside their peers.

The space
The video game incubator known as Game Assembly is now located at 1117 Elm St. in Manchester, right behind the Bridge Café. Co-founder Neal Laurenza, also head of the game company Skymap Games, says they haven’t done an official grand opening celebration yet, but the space is open and ready to use for interested developers.
“We’re here for a while, at least until it fills. Right now … we can fit 25 people in this space simultaneously,” Laurenza said.
Given that not all members are necessarily full-time, the space can potentially serve up to twice that much.
Laurenza said they had originally looked at spaces in the Millyard that had similar rent (about $1,200 a month) but ultimately decided on the Elm Street location.
Co-founder David Carrigg said part of the reason was the relationship with the building’s owners, Maritime Program Group, an insurance company.
“The landlords have been super awesome here,” Carrigg said. “They’ve been really good about helping us.”
Carrigg’s company, Retro Affect, developed an indie game called Snapshot, a puzzle platformer that was released in 2012.
A newer addition to the group of core companies that has taken up residence in the space is Robot Loves Kitty, the husband-and-wife team of Calvin Goble and Alix Stolzer.
“It’s a really good location,” Stolzer said. “One of  the reasons we chose this over the other spaces that we looked at is because it’s close enough to the outside that we can actually see the sun — which is nice — and it’s also very accessible.”
Still, Stolzer and the others were quick to assure that they have big dreams for making the space cool-looking and professional.
“Everything’s very sparse. There’s no signage,” Stolzer said, pointing to the folding tables and the few desks they have set up for guest computers.
Laurenza says he wants to get more common-use gaming computers, spare work laptops and matching furniture. How to pay for some of those things is an open question.
Right now, members are charged for using the space in a tiered system. Laurenza said full-time members are charged $150 a month, part-time members pay $75 a month and infrequent visitors can simply pay a drop-in rate of $15 for a day. Full-time membership provides unlimited access while part-time allows for 10 days a month.
Some of these companies are running on investment money from various sources. Skymap had a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $21,281 with 391 backers last August to finish their inaugural game, Bacon Man: An Adventure.
And eventually, some federal grant money is expected to become available. Last September, New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord (one of three schools in the state that offers a video game development program) was the only school in the state to win $2.5 million out of $450 million in national job training grants awarded to about 270 community colleges. Game Assembly partnered with the school during the grant writing process so they could share some of the money.
“[The grant] hasn’t kicked in yet,” Carrigg said. “NHTI is still working with the Department of Labor. It’s a huge grant and there’s tons of programs that they’re doing with that.”
Carrigg says part of the arrangement will include reserving five full-time desks in the workspace for NHTI students, which he expects will start in the next month or two. That will mean a monthly revenue stream of $750 whether students use the desks or not.
Anticipating the funds, and with pooled resources, the core companies decided to move in.
“We were like, ‘We’re done waiting! Let’s do this!’” Stolzer said. “We’ve been talking about ways to raise funds and why we would want extra money. One of the things that would be super valuable to anyone here would be … to bring somebody in who’s an expert in marketing, business or taxes.”
Stolzer said they also set up a Patreon account, which is sort of like Paypal donations (which is an option already on their web page) except it creates a sort of subscription-based crowdfunding site that sets up small monthly payments deducted from your checking account or credit card. That can be found at
Stolzer said the space is important for creating a community of game designers that likely won’t exist otherwise as students graduating with the skills move out of state to find work or don’t meet like-minded Granite Staters while here.
“Otherwise, we would be working from our homes,” Stolzer said. “A lot of the motivation for coming to a place like this is the community and the change of scenery, and to have a place that you really look forward to going to and you’re excited to be there. … There’s just nothing better than that.”
Laurenza said Game Assembly plans to host a grand opening soon. 
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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