Aspiring entrepreneurs, techies and gamers alike gathered in several venues around campus Sept. 14 to kick off the inaugural Ohio Business of Games Summit. This event marks the start of a push to make the state of Ohio the new hub for innovation and growth within the gaming industry.
The multi-faceted event, hosted by the Ohio University Center for Entrepreneurship and the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, took place from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Baker Center Ballroom, the second floor of Scripps Hall and the Baker Center Theatre. Over 600 pre-registered attendees and over 100 walk-ins participated in the summit throughout the day.
The summit’s activities included expert panels and professional speakers from the gaming industry, an exhibit floor filled with gaming companies from around the state of Ohio, an esports-themed case competition for students and a tour of the GRID Lab.
Kickoff: “Community to Industry: The State of the Ohio Game Industry”
At 10:30 a.m., Paul Mass, the director of the Ohio University Center for Entrepreneurship, opened the summit by introducing the audience to the growth that the gaming industry is currently experiencing.
“This summit was born of the idea that Ohio University and central and southeast Ohio could create a presence in the digital games and esports industries,” Mass says during his opening remarks.
The main speaker of this portion was Chris Volpe, the CEO of the Columbus-based gaming company Multivarious Games and co-founder of the Ohio Game Developer’s Association. Experiencing the success of the gaming industry through his company prompted Volpe to focus his speech on how companies need to take advantage of the current business environment.
“Games are so broad and so powerful that they can change the world,” he says. “If we can get the rest of Ohio and the Midwest to appreciate that then we can make some big strides.”
Volpe wrapped up his speech by recognizing the barriers many startup entrepreneurs encounter when starting their businesses and the need to push through them no matter the difficulty.
While speakers and panelists occupied one half of the ballroom, the other half hosted eight gaming and digital design companies. Each organization was Ohio-based and had OHIO alumni as employees. Guests were able to vote on which company seemed the most promising with a wooden coin given to them upon entry.
Each company had a different demonstration, pitch or developing concept to show the summit’s attendees, ranging from virtual and augmented reality games to previous advertisements developed for various businesses.
Super Lame Games (SLG), based out of Columbus, Ohio, showed off GOSUMOS, a previously released game that uses a mobile app and floor stickers. James Gartland, a front end developer for SLG, demonstrated how the app uses a phone camera and the floor stickers to make a controllable character walk around the room.
GuessworkVR and Kaleidoscope both demonstrated their concepts with HTC’s virtual reality headset, the Vive. While both companies work with the headset, each markets different products.
Kaleidoscope, which is headquartered in Cincinnati, uses VR to make products and service experiences for different sectors such as healthcare, education and business. GuessworkVR, an independent development studio based in Columbus that won the exhibit floor vote, showed off a game currently in development called UNDR[H2O]. In UNDR[H20], pronounced “underwater,” gamers play as a plumber and plug leaks with various tools.
“Women in the Digital Game and eSports Industries”
Like many industries, the gaming industry has its fair share of inclusivity issues. Speaker Daria Fluor-Scacchi gave her take on the difficulties women face within the gaming industry while also expressing her belief in the potential to improve upon the field’s issues.
Fluor-Scacchi is the production manager at ILMxLAB, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd. that works on various immersive entertainment experiences, including virtual reality, augmented reality, theme park entertainment and other narrative-based experiences.
She spoke about one of her early role models, former Ubisoft managing director Jade Raymond, and how members of the gaming community posted a sexist and “horrendous” comic about Raymond that shocked Fluor-Scacchi so much she found herself second-guessing her career choice.
“I had to resolve within myself that I would not let these people drive me from an industry I spent so much time preparing myself for,” she says during her speech.
Fluor-Scacchi hopes her own success story within the gaming industry helps to inspire other young women to enter the gaming industry and follow whatever dream they have for their future careers.
Fluor-Scacchi summed up her main message with the Latin phrase, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”: “Don’t let the bastards drag you down.”
eSports Case Competition
From 2:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Baker Center Theatre, many students had the opportunity to pitch an eSport event that would occur alongside next year’s Business of Games Summit in fall 2018.
The idea behind the Case Competition was to have students compete for a chance to win prizes, while also building their resumes. The students pitched their ideas in a “Shark Tank” like environment, explaining their ideas to a panel of judges who then asked questions at the end of each speech.
Pitches included many different ideas, including a Rocket League Tournament at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium and a League of Legends Tournament hosted at the Convocation Center/.
The winner of the case competition was Kristofer Meyeres who pitched the idea of giving Ohio University an eSports team. The concept of an eSports team is simple and easy to put in place, according to Meyeres.
He stated how the eSports team could be formed by the university “potentially within the instant.”
Developer’s Roadmap and Competitive Gaming
Throughout the day, other events took place such as the “Developer’s Roadmap” panel, which included experts from various parts of the gaming industry looking at the process of game development.
The schedule of events for the summit described this panel as a discussion of “how to create, monetize, and publish a digital game.”
The “Digital Games as a Spectator Sport” panel was focused on how game competition has developed into a professional sports industry. The panel included various CEOs, industry experts and a professional gamer who discussed the growing interest in watching gameplay and how eSports is changing the nature of entertainment.
“Our eSports panel had the largest audience out of our events, and it was a very informative talk,” says John Bowditch, the director of the Ohio University GRID Lab and a key organizer of the summit.
Bowditch was very enthusiastic about the success of the summit overall, but the highlight of the whole night to him was the keynote speaker, Joshua Hong.
Hong, the final speaker of the event, is the founder and general partner of Exponential, a company that focuses on providing resources and opportunities to aid company founders in maintaining and growing their business. He spoke about his own story and what it means to be a startup entrepreneur in the online gaming industry.
“What really matters is your desire and determination,” says Hong. “That sets you apart and gives you an edge.”
After Hong’s speech concluded, the attendees of the summit were invited to an open house of the GRID Lab at E.W. Scripps Hall. This open house showcased recent projects students and faculty have worked on at the GRID Lab as well as VR and 360-degree video demonstrations.