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Gaming industry attempts to take off in Ohio

By Laura Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Writer

When Miami University students download a new game app, they may be aiding a burgeoning video game industry in Ohio that attracts talented college students and graduates.

George Kovach, a game designer from Youngstown, Ohio, designed Mega Moves, a board game and Apple app that combines chess and checkers. Players have to roll a dice and capture the other player's pieces.

Kovach said anyone can play the game, from college students interested in chess to young children learning numbers and critical thinking.

"My games - they have depth and playability," Kovach said.

Kovach launched it with Multivarious Games out of Dublin, Ohio.

Chris Volpe, head of the Ohio Game Developers Association, hopes Ohio will become the next big location for the video game industry.

"Central Ohio and Ohio in general really could be the next hubs for video games, and we could make a lot of jobs and a lot of money," Volpe said.

Volpe said the Midwest, and especially Ohio, has a large pool of talented young college students and graduates interested in game design.

President of Miami's E-Sports club, senior Stelanie Tsirlis, said she wants to go into the gaming industry, preferably on the marketing side. She said she doesn't know if she wants to find a job in Ohio or go out to California where the industry is older and more established.

Tsirlis created the start-up All-Mid, an E-Sports company that brings E-Sports tournaments to the Midwest, especially for college students who can't go to either coast for events.

"We decided we wanted to make a big event in the Midwest because a lot of the gamers here aren't catered to because it is a very coastal thing," Tsirlis said. "We wanted to give them the opportunity to feel like a part of a larger community and know that the industry, the gaming industry, cares about them, too."

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Volpe said Ohio is a prime location due to overhead costs being much cheaper than other traditional locations like Silicon Valley. The cost of living in Ohio is also relatively low.

"Students have a huge role in wanting to create small groups and teams to make games," Volpe said.

There have been many recent video game and media startups in Ohio in the past five years, such as Sidebolt, ClickShake games and Gear5 Media.

"It's really exciting that the momentum is growing and we're getting more and more people that love to make games," Volpe said.

President of the Video Game Design club, senior Nathan Smith, said another advantage is that Ohio is in the middle of the country, so it is cheaper for enthusiasts and designers to travel here than to the coast. It also allows start-ups and companies to draw talent from all over the country.

Smith said there are two sides to the industry - AAA publishers and Indie producers. AAA publishers are large companies that pour millions of dollars into developing a single product, while Indies are small games put out by one or a few designers.

Commercial success among Indies and AAA companies are greatly varied.

Smith and Tsirlis said game developers in both industries are usually very passionate about their jobs or Indie projects, even if in the Indie world developers are not able to make a living off of it.

"These are people who are more passionate about their pursuit and their job than they are about living," Smith said.

Multivarious Games was created in January 2011. Volpe said he has about two or three college students from Ohio universities intern at his company every semester.

The Ohio Game Developers Expo is a convention for game vendors to show off their developments and game enthusiasts to come revel in their love for gaming. It draws visitors from around the Midwest and even the country. Volpe said they have 70 vendors at this year's expo and 36 sessions of workshops, speakers and panels.

Nine universities will be represented at the expo as exhibitors, including Miami.

The expo will take place at COSI in Columbus Nov. 6-8.