“We’re in a new, dynamic era for Georgia’s media industries. We’ve seen the tremendous results of state tax incentives already for film and television establishing Georgia as the number one destination for film production, and now we see the gaming industry primed for the same growth,” says Paula Wallace, President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
In July 2017, the Georgia Legislative body passed the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act. The bill offers a 20 percent tax credit to companies pursuing film, video or digital work in the state, fueling the creative boom across the state. That credit was why Asante Bradford, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s digital entertainment project manager, estimated that 2017’s video game creation would surpass the 350 games released or distributed by Georgia-based companies in 2016.
SCAD, which enrolls about 14,000 students across campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and its international locations, has been capitalizing on the growing game design industry by nurturing talent to serve local and incoming companies taking advantage of the welcome environment.
“When SCAD launched its game design degree program 15 years ago, there were only a few gaming studios operating in Georgia,” says Wallace. “By the start of 2017, the state had more than 125 studios generating nearly $400 million in revenue.”
“Games are about more than entertainment now — they’re used to teach students about everything from the nature of conflict in war-torn areas to philosophy across the ages, and scientists tap into their potential to research cancer treatments and dementia.”
The university tapped into the mixed reality industry late last year by launching their SCAD+ business launcher, the university’s first entrepreneurial program, to help alumni create commercially viable digital products and support them through the scaling of the business. Currently cohort participants are exploring projects ranging from gaming to VR/AR and mobile experiences.
“One of the SCAD+ projects is a VR game called TSA Frisky. Players enter the role of security agents in an airport, clearing passengers and examining luggage to score points based on their performance,” says Wallace. “It’s a novel approach to explore the intricacies of VR experiences that also brings to mind practical everyday applications of the technology.”
Next in SCAD’s pipeline is conquering the world of eSports, an industry valued at $1.5 billion globally in 2017. Atlanta was recently named one of the Top 5 cities for gamers with the world’s largest digital festival DreamHack making a stop in the city within the past year and Atlanta-based ELEAGUE, a premium eSports tournament in partnership with Turner and IMG, opened its 10,000 square foot studio in Turner’s Techwood Campus to host annual competitions and shows.
“Students and faculty from our interactive design and game development and visual effects departments visited with Riot Game, creator of the international eSports phenomenon League of Legends, and their rockstar game developers, who shared their insights into the eSports arena,” says Wallace.
“SCAD students have entered eSports competitions and have competed quite admirably — SCAD will officially compete next year,” says Wallace. “We already have a League of Legends club that organizes a gaming tournament once a quarter, and students express how rewarding they find it to work together with fellow gamers.”
This focus on eSports will help students hone in on their game development skills further by being in the driver’s seat at these global competitions, where they often also have the opportunity to win cash prizes. With those 125-plus game developers at home in Georgia and an increase in hosting opportunities for tournaments, designers can remain in the state to continue growing the industry.
As SCAD continues to expand its programming offerings, other universities in the state are looking to jump on the eSports wagon as well.
“We’ve long understood the empathic power of fiction in literature and film, and gaming presents infinite possibilities to expand our understanding of the world—and the people—around us,” says Wallace. “With Georgia’s welcoming climate, the state is well on its way to becoming the global gaming capital.”
All images courtesy of SCAD