Where are the IGF 2013 finalists from?

Looking for indie-game clusters

The Independent Games Festival is one of the higher-profile events in the indie-game scene, bringing together at least a portion of indie-game developers, and awarding prizes in a number of categories. The event itself always happens in San Francisco, and many of the games reach their audiences primarily online. But are there any geographical clusters in where the games are made, or are they completely scattered wherever people happen to live? Credit goes to Douglas Wilson for sparking that question: he wonders if there is, or could be, a "Detroit techno" of videogame production, a hub of cultural production located somewhere other than one of the major financial/business metropolises.

It's a complicated question to answer, and looking at IGF awardees won't settle it, especially since IGF presents only a particular slice of a fairly complex community; further, I'm only looking here at the 2013 slice of the slice. Nonetheless, I was curious if there are any geographical clusters in the list of finalists (I include honorable mentions as "finalists"). This might suggest locations for further investigation; the IGF itself doesn't list any geographical information, making it non-obvious where all these games come from. A few concentrations of activity do seem to be present.

2013 IGF-finalist clusters

Chicago

The cultural/business center of the American midwest, and home to an indie-game scene I must admit I know almost nothing about, despite having grown up in the Chicago area myself. Indie City Games might be somewhere to find out more. Education-wise, home to the DePaul Game Dev Program and the Northwestern Creative Arts & Technology Studio.

Copenhagen–Malmö

A cross-border region straddling Sweden and Denmark (30 mins by train), though perhaps not quite yet coalesced into a single metropolitan area. Home of the world's largest game jam, and has strong institutional support for independent game production, through initiatives such as the Nordic Game Program, Danish Film Institute, DADIU, and university programs like the one I work in.

Los Angeles area

Long a center of the entertainment industry, and home to a number of big-budget game companies. A number of indie-game studios have come out of USC's Interactive Media Division. In recent years, the main IndieCade event has been held in Culver City.

Montreal

A multilingual English/French city anchoring Quebec's business sector, which includes outposts of large game companies such as Eidos and Ubisoft. A center of independent music as well as games, home to Concordia University's Game Studies and Design program, and benefitting from aggressive game-targeted tax incentives.

San Francisco Bay Area

The center of the technology industry, anchored by Silicon Valley, which includes among its ranks a number of big-budget game companies (Electronic Arts the largest of them). Home to the annual Game Developer's Conference (and the associated IGF), among many other things. Over the hills to the south, one can find the UC Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media.

Seattle–Redmond

A technology industry hub, home to Microsoft, Amazon, and more, including the big-budget Microsoft Game Studios. Also home to the DigiPen game program, the University of Washington Center for Game Science, and community organizations such as Seattle Indies.

Toronto

The biggest center of Canada's business sector, and also home to a large independent game scene, though it might be a stretch to call it "the birthplace of the modern indie movement". For more, Daniel Joseph wrote an in-depth analysis of the community and surrounding factors.

The rest of the world

The hubs above (with three or more games each) actually account for fewer than half of the IGF finalists, so indie-game production doesn't seem to be dominated by a few large cities: a lot of activity seems to be scattered throughout the world. I list the rest here, in alphabetical order by city, with some "other" collected at the end.

Angoulême, France: Narcosis and SerpenteS

Austin, TX, USA: Hundreds (distributed team, Austin/Chicago/Vancouver) and The Stanley Parable

Birmingham, England: Renga

Brasília, Brazil: Knights of Pen & Paper

Breda, the Netherlands: ATUM and Farsh

Cambridge, England: Gateways and Super Hexagon

Edinburgh, Scotland: Bad Hotel

Edmonton, AB, Canada: StarForge

Ghent, Belgium: Bientôt l'été

Gothenburg, Sweden: Hotline Miami

Kyoto, Japan: PixelJunk 4am

London, England: Thomas Was Alone

Northfield, MN, USA: Anodyne (distributed team, Northfield/Chicago)

Orlando, FL, USA: Plushy Knight

Pittsburgh, PA, USA: mindful xp volume

Portland, OR, USA: Gone Home

Roubaix, France: FLY'N

Shanghai, China: FTL: Faster Than Light

Singapore: Chrono Disfunglement

Stockholm, Sweden: Eleven

Tempe, AZ, USA: The Bridge (distributed team, Tempe/Redmond)

Troy, NY, USA: Zineth

Utrecht, the Netherlands: SneakSneak

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hundreds (distributed team, Vancouver/Austin/Chicago) and Pulse

Zürich, Switzerland: LiquidSketch

Other:

* * *

There doesn't seem to be an obvious candidate for a hub of indie-game activity not located in a major business/financial center, as Wilson envisions. On the other hand, the hubs don't seem to account for that large a proportion of the total activity, at least the total activity as measured by 2013 IGF finalists. And some major business/financial hubs are absent: London accounted for only one game, and nothing came from NYC, Paris, or Tokyo (though cultural or language barriers may account for the latter). Conclusion: I wouldn't draw any strong conclusions from this information, but it's intriguing.


Mark J. Nelson, 2013-02-11.
Comments welcome: mjas@itu.dk
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