Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You're making video games where?! (Part I)

I get two reactions frequently when I tell people that we make video games out of Lexington, Kentucky and that, yes, we have a full development studio minus a sound guy (or girl) presently.
  1. In Kentucky? Why Kentucky? There's nothing in Kentucky.
  2. I had no idea that we had that in Kentucky! My son/daughter/nephew/corgi would love to visit your studio!
Why Kentucky?

Yep, I see this everywhere.
I moved to Kentucky in late 1981 after immigrating to Boston, MA from Thailand. Let me tell you that the culture shock between Boston,  MA to Campbellsville, KY felt almost as much as a culture shock as moving from Thailand to the U.S. I went from a bustling metropolitan city with an aquarium, an elementary school within walking distance, a children's museum, and a pro baseball team to a sleepy little farming community in the heart of Kentucky. We were one of two Asian families in the entire community.

Kentucky grew on me over the years. The people are loyal, the countryside is beautiful, and the pace of life is gentle, allowing people to appreciate all the earth has to offer if only one wishes to look. I left for law school in Vermont, then moved to Georgia with my fiance, and ended up in Washington, D.C. with my husband and new baby. It took me a while, but I finally got us back to Kentucky to be near my family. I chose a bigger city than Campbellsville, but I'm still in Kentucky.

By the time I knew how difficult it would be to grow a gaming company in the Bluegrass state, we already had a child in an accelerated cluster program offered by the public school system in Fayette County and another child well on her way to entering the same program. We also had our kids in competitive gymnastics, piano, art, Girl Scouts, and several other activities. I loved all that city had to offer our family and at such reasonable prices.

So, as my husband was preparing to move us to Austin, TX, I asked him to please look around here one more time to see if we could stay.

Our studio!
We met with Commerce Lexington, and they proceeded to get us in touch with the ICC and BBDP. (It's like alphabet soup just spilled onto my blog!) We met Warren, Dean, Chris, and a number of people who were extremely interested in helping our business grow despite the many obstacles that faced us. (That's something that requires its own blog post.) Needless to say, they convinced us to stay and make it work here where nothing like this has worked before in the past.

There's nothing in Kentucky!

You would be right and wrong at the same time. There really is very little infrastructure for a developing video game studio. We don't have a pool of artists and sound studios to pick through for our talent, though we've got a great group of programmers. The internet access here, to put it nicely, makes me long for a 2400 baud modem every now and then, and often, explaining exactly what we do involves a white board, three artists, and a three hundred page manual. (I'm just kidding about that last one. It only takes one artist.)

This is on our wall.
What makes it worth doing in Kentucky is that I often feel that the entire state is behind what we're doing. When we opened the doors to our new studio in May of 2012, the mayor of Lexington and the governor of the state were scheduled to be there. The mayor spoke wonderful words of encouragement, and about six TV studios showed up to film. Over forty people showed up for our ribbon cutting, and we ended up a beautiful mint julep cup from the governor's office that sits in our lobby.

People from the state stop by our Facebook page to drop words of encouragement frequently, and we end up on TV talking about our studio quite frequently. So because there's not that much competition here gaming-wise, we get the benefit of being unique, interesting, and something to be treasured.

There's also not a ton of opportunity to invest in a local gaming company in Kentucky, yet several smart investors live in the area. It's a good position to be in for a small indie studio. Many, many people are happy to see us succeed, and they do everything they can to help us do so. Kentucky's really good at promoting the things that the people feel are "their own" like UK, bourbon and horses. I'm really glad to have ended up back here and being a part of that unbridled spirit.


Diane Carlisle said...

My old boss used to tell me to take the path of least resistance. I was like, "Where's the challenge and fun in that?" LOL

Congratulations on your success and new building!

Michael said...

They'd have to pry me out of here with a depleted uranium crowbar now.

Lexington and Kentucky have been amazing to us.

Great people. Great support. It is wonderful to live in a place where you feel special and people are really invested in your success.

Anonymous said...

Kentucky is awesome!

Deborah MacArthur said...

Great article (as always). I fell in love with Lexington the 4 months I spent there. Lovely place and wonderful people.