UW-Whitewater students host game development convention

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Jake Magee
Thursday, July 10, 2014

WHITEWATER—UW-Whitewater students are importing a taste of the gaming industry culture from the coasts to the Midwest.

The second annual Midwest Game Developers Summit is the product of work by students in the UW-Whitewater Media Arts and Game Development program. Last year, UW-Milwaukee hosted and funded the event, known then as the Wisconsin Game Developers Summit.

The convention focuses on educating students, networking with professionals and showcasing work.

As part of their capstone class, a group of students at UW-Whitewater decided to rebrand the event and expand its scope to cover the Midwest, not just Wisconsin. Each student is filling several roles to make the convention go.

“There are a lot of great devs (developers) in the Midwest who never get to shine. It's great exposure and an opportunity for these devs,” said UW-Whitewater student and summit cofounder Travis Garski.

Similar conventions such as the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco can cost thousands of dollars to attend and boast more than 20,000 attendees. Only a few hundred people attended last year's summit in Milwaukee, making it more “personable,” said Andrew Matt, recent UW-Whitewater graduate and event public relations representative.

“It's accessible to anyone who's aspiring to be a game developer. It's not pushing developers out of the market by price or location,” Garski said.

The students moved the event to Oconomowoc. After giving up their UW-Milwaukee grant, they turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The students started a 30-day campaign with a goal of raising $8,000. By the time the fundraiser ended April 4, they'd raised $11,255.

“We saw the opportunity for this business to grow bigger,” Garski said. “Although UW-M was a great resource … we just needed a bigger venue and needed to do this thing on our own at this point.”

Several studios and industry heads are attending the event to present panels and interact with students. Ben Mathwig, a UW-Milwaukee graduate and summit co-founder, is among them. He works for Volition, the company responsible for the best-selling “Saints Row” video game series.

Panelists will discuss how to break into the video game industry and teach students to make themselves marketable. Students will get the chance to display their work before professional developers in the convention's exposition hall, Garski said.

“Students can show off their games without breaking the bank. They'll benefit by marketing their product and showing it off and getting feedback,” he said.

“It's not a huge corporate thing,” Matt said. “It was made by students who are passionate about the industry, which is pretty cool.”

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