During the last 10 years, digital games — on mobile, PC and console devices — are one of the fastest-growing and most exciting forms of entertainment in the world. Today, further supercharged by the pandemic, games are clearly a cultural force and big business and it is clear that Rhode Island has the energy, talent, and expertise to capture more than its fair share of this $200 billion global industry.
Across the Ocean State, young people at colleges and universities like New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) as well as others such as the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University and Bryant University are studying how to design and make games, publish them, and market them — and in the case of esports, play them at a high level. Rhode Island is also home to industry leaders in game development and publishing — big and small — such as Hasbro, ABCya, Drool and related enterprises like Sproutel. At the grass roots level, groups like the Rhode Island chapter of International Game Developers Association (IGDA RI) host regular meetups for game designers. That mixture of entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative energy are the preconditions necessary for success.
Recently, NEIT, home of, according to The Princeton Review, one of the top game design academic programs in the country, convened The Ocean State of Play, a roundtable discussion on the future of games in Rhode Island. The event brought together local game industry veterans, faculty, and entrepreneurs as well as nationally recognized thought leaders. The participants came up with many exciting ideas about how to grow the game industry in Rhode Island. Recurring themes included the need to develop more Rhode Island-based talent and a bigger game industry employment base. These two goals are interdependent. The game industry needs talent, and the talent needs career opportunities.
The need for game design talent goes beyond computer programming and digital art. Successful games also need musicians and composers, user interface and experience designers, project managers, producers, storytellers, security experts, and much more. The Ocean State of Play told us that although our universities teach all of these disciplines at very high levels, leadership is needed to coordinate and promote these efforts to maximize the industry’s growth potential in Rhode Island.
NEIT is committed to providing that leadership by forming a new collaborative initiative within Rhode Island. This initiative was recently hosted at NEIT and provided more detail about the new initiative’s programs and included a conversation with participants about plans to assure statewide academic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and economic development across the Rhode Island games ecosystem. Collaborating with other Rhode Island universities, along with industry leadership and affiliates like Innovation Studio and IGDA RI and with neighbors such as MassDigi, the initiative will align the people, resources and ideas needed to establish Rhode Island as an important northeast hub where game designers, publishers and players can level up.
We must keep our young talent in Rhode Island. We must support start-up game companies and attract new businesses to the state by demonstrating a strong commitment to nurture and promote the entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative spirit in Rhode Island. Beyond entertainment, this new initiative will also explore so-called “serious games” and “gamification” to improve the quality of people’s lives and the efficacy of business outcomes. Initial areas of focus will include entertainment, healthcare, educational content delivery, and workforce development. By working with Rhode Island colleges and universities, along with affiliates, the initiative will build a community of support that will retain and attract talent and jobs to the state. These new opportunities will spark entrepreneurial dreams and help them find their future in Rhode Island.