Becker Video Game Industry Forum Has Leaders Talking

Published on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Mass High Tech reporter Rodney Brown said, “It took little Becker College in Worcester to get Massachusetts elected officials to commit to action on boosting the video game sector in the Bay State,” in his article covering MASS Impact, a leadership forum on video games, economic development and job creation, on Tuesday, October 19.

Becker College convened the forum to engage the video game industry, government and academia in a discussion to foster the growth of the video game industry cluster in Massachusetts. President Robert E. Johnson touted Becker’s Princeton Review ranking as the number one game design school in New England – and number four in the nation – to the assembled audience in the main room and an overflow room simulcast in the Weller Academic Center. As an outcome of the forum, Dr. Johnson emphasized the need for Massachusetts to “position itself on the right side of history and stake its claim as a global leader and competitor in video game design and development.”

Brandon Butler reported on panels’ characterization of Massachusetts’ video game industry as a “sleeping giant” in the Worcester Business Journal.

The forum gave the video game industry, represented by Hank Howie, president of Blue Fang Games; Monty Sharma, general manager of Vivox; Ken Surdan, vice president of operations at Turbine; Ichiro Lambe, president of Dejobaan Games and Jon Radoff, CEO of Disruptor Beam, an opportunity to speak with a collective voice directly to federal, state and City of Worcester legislators.

Surdan opined that game company infrastructure was “almost pure talent,” and that talent was coming from the state’s academic institutions. In addition to Becker, academia was represented by Mark Claypool, Ph.D., director of game development programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Dean Terence Flotte, MD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Radoff warned that Massachusetts, as a video game hub, could already be in decline and that it is investment capital that pushes companies, like facebook, to other states.

New England Cable News’ Kenneth Craig pointed his camera at Becker game design students who were showcasing their work at the event. Students Adam Dezago, Sean Dutton and Torrey Kimball were showing their Governor’s Race game, a road race that pits Governor Deval Patrick and his challengers in November’s elections against each other and foes Red Tape and Pork Barrel Spending.

Panelist Michael Cavaretta, attorney with Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendelton and founder and chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum Game Special Interest Group (SIG), pointed out that video game technology reaches far beyond entertainment, including employee training and product testing.
Becker president Johnson has often made the same point when talking about the Becker video game development programs. Graduates and students of the Becker programs are doing work in health care and education, as well as video game companies, in Massachusetts and in other states.

Government officials in attendance included Massachusetts State Reps. Vincent Pedone (co-host of the event along with President Johnson) and Brian Dempsey, Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Worcester City Manager Michael O’Brien and U.S. Rep. James McGovern.

Rep. Pedone said it was clear that “the video game design and development industry deserves – no, requires – our attention.” He went on to identify the ability to develop fruitful partnerships as Massachusetts’ great strength and the key to moving the industry forward.
Partnership was the most tangible outcome of Tuesday’s leadership forum. A working group will distill the take-aways from the day’s panels and continue to promote discussion and results between business, government and academia.