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SiegeCon and Georgia Game Development

November 3, 2007

Last month, I attended SiegeCon in Atlanta, a game development conference that targeted south-eastern game developers. While there were lots of interesting speakers and panels, what was most valuable for me was seeing the actual size of the Georgia game development community. In fact, it was invigorating. It’s easy to feel isolated here as a game developer, particularly in Savannah where I’m based. So, the opportunity to network with well over 200 game developers within a few hours of home was nothing short of amazing. Until SiegeCon, many attendees were unaware of how large the development community in Georgia is – there are to over 50 game development companies including the likes of CCP and GameTap here, and EA has a lab within the Savannah College of Art and Design where students work on projects currently in development. Kotaku recently wrote about Georgia game development, in fact.

Over the last year, the State of Georgia’s been reaching out to the game development community in hopes of luring more companies and talent to the state, even offering a significant tax break to companies that make the leap. According to the Georgia Video Games’ site, “Qualifying game developers or publishers are eligible to receive a 9% base tax credit on all expenditures within Georgia, such as labor, materials, and services, as well as a 3% credit on single, project specific employee salaries within Georgia facilities.”

This may lead some of my fellow developers in Austin, Boston, San Francisco and so on declare, “Okay. But seriously, Georgia?”

So, yes, that’s a valid question, and one I find myself fielding on a regular basis. It’s not crazy, though. First off, there’s an ample pool or art, programming and design talent here. From the Savannah College of Art and Design to Georgia Tech, the state’s putting out plenty of industry-worthy individuals. Homes in the Savannah area run around $200-300K out on the barrier islands where I live, a figure that wouldn’t get you into the garage of a crackden on the west coast. It’s even cheaper in-land. Oceanfront and riverfront places will run you in the $400K to $1M range, so we have that kind of property too. All in all, the quality of life is really quite good. There’s a hip art and music scene, particularly in Savannah, Athens and Atlanta.

As a developer, I am also aware that it takes more than cheap housing and a music sceneĀ  to get developers to re-locate, though. For many, it is that question of community, the question SiegeCon inadvertently addressed and answered. Developers want to be around other developers, and not just for networking opportunities, either. If your company goes belly up, it’s nice to know that there are other opportunities down the block that won’t involve you packing up everything you own – again – and moving across the country. Developers also like to hang out with other developers, something that happens regularly enough in Austin where I visit from time to time.

By gathering the community in Atlanta, SiegeCon has done what no government program could directly do – create a sense of community vital to developers here and the growth of the industry in Georgia overall. Wisely, the Georgia Office of Economic Development supported and even partly sponsored the event.

For more info on Georgia game development see GeorgiaGamerz.com.

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