Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup
TGI: Power in the Making

Russ Pitts | 13 Oct 2009 11:52
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According to Macris, the Triangle offers great weather, abundant local talent, a surplus of higher education opportunities, a strong IGDA chapter and "close access to world's best game engine providers, including Epic, Emergent and Vicious Cycle," all of which combine to serve as a giant lightning rod for videogame companies looking to expand - or start up - in a region already burgeoning with talent. And TGI will be there to greet them when they arrive.


"Our region was voted 'Number One Next Boom Town' by Business 2.0, 'Number Two Best City to Live, Work and Play' by Kiplinger's, and 'Number One Best Place to Live in the U.S.' by MSNBC. In short, we already had all the elements to emerge as a major game industry hub," says Macris. "We have an infrastructure of support services familiar with the game industry, including legal, accounting, marketing and customer service firms. We are a low-cost, high-quality-of-life region with home prices that are less expensive than comparable hubs such as Austin, Seattle, Boston or San Francisco.

"The Triangle is also the world capital in game engines, with three out of the top five game engines developed in our region. We're also the market leader in serious games and advanced learning technology, developing new interactive applications for military training, medical assessment and education - not to mention traditional development of first- and third-person shooters."

In other words, the pieces were already in place for the Triangle to become a world-class power center for videogames. All that remained was putting the points on a map and drawing a line between them.

Ninety Degrees of Separation

A few years ago, the heads of all of the major Carolina-area game companies had a simultaneous realization: Nobody knew they were here. Naturally, this concerned them.

John Austin, Vice President of Emergent Game Technologies (and VP of TGI), describes the beginnings of the TGI as almost accidental. Somebody at Emergent suggested holding a local career fair, partly out of frustration, but partly just to see what would happen.

"At the time, virtually all of the local companies were hiring, and we didn't want to just steal each other's people," says Austin. "The career fair was held in November 2007 and succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. At that point, we knew were onto something and organized the Triangle Game Initiative."

The founding members of TGI included Epic, Emergent and Destineer Studios on the game side, NC State University representing the region's higher-education infrastructure and Themis Group, publishers of The Escapist. Before long, TGI managed to attract the attention of Wake Tech, another prestigious local school, and Wake County Economic Development, aka "the government." That's when the wheels really started turning.

Earlier this year, TGI held the first-annual Triangle Game Conference, a gathering of the region's industry leaders, creators and consumers, an event Wayne Watkins, Government Relations Director for TGI, calls "hugely successful."

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