Digital game design could explode in New York State, creating high paying jobs and growing the local economy - provided New York State can offer start-up businesses the same tax incentives as other game-friendly municipalities.

Game Center Panel
State Senator Martin Golden (center) joins digital game scholars and entrepreneurs to discuss how New York can grab a bigger share of the $80 billion industry.

New York State’s mix of creative talent, capital, trained workforce, and vibrant location uniquely positions it to become the next Renaissance Italy of the growing game design industry – provided New York State can offer start-up businesses the same tax incentives as other game-friendly municipalities. This was the take-away from a round table discussion held last week, hosted by the NYU Game Center, State Senator Martin Golden, and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Senator Golden and Assemblymen Lentol recently co-sponsored a bill, the Empire State Digital Gaming Media Production Credit (A.10083/S.7485), that would offset 25 percent of digital gaming production expenses, such as for property used or wages and salaries paid to game developers for areas including concept creation and game design done within the state. The goal of the incentive is to grow New York’s share of the $25 billion U.S. digital game industry, which is currently estimated at roughly one percent.
The bill has passed both houses of the state legislature, but has yet to be signed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Video gaming is the most exciting and fastest growing industry in the world – an $80 billion industry worldwide and a $19 billion in the US, growing at a rate of 6.3% per year, and we need these incentives not only to create jobs here in Brooklyn but to keep jobs here in Brooklyn,” said Golden. “What we’re proposing is similar to the tax credits we offered the film and television industries, which has doubled in size since they’ve gone into effect. We estimate that not signing this bill into law this year will cost the state $225 million in direct economic activity and 1,200 highly paid jobs in 2017 alone.”

“The turnout of digital gaming experts for NYU’s roundtable spoke to the importance the Empire State Digital Gaming Media Production Credit will have on New York’s economy,” said Lentol. “I was pleased to join my colleague Senator Marty Golden to hear the varying needs and concerns of the industry. I also applaud NYU for taking the lead and gathering such an impressive field of experts. Ultimately, the roundtable reiterated the importance of Governor Cuomo’s signing of the bill and I am hopeful the bill will be signed soon.”

The panel was introduced by Tisch Dean Allyson Green and moderated by Frank Lantz, chair of the Department of Game Design at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Lantz was joined by NYU Tandon faculty, R. Luke DuBois, Mark Skwarek and Andy Nealen, Co-Director of the NYU Tandon Game Innovation Lab. The rest of the panel consisted of a wide variety of digital gaming experts, including designers and Game Center faculty, studio owners, game designers, and digital gaming advocates in industry and non-profit arenas. All agreed that New York State has already lost some major studios to other cities that offer the industry more support.

“Most studios looking to scale wouldn’t even consider New York, so I think these steps are great because it signals to the industry that New York State is interested in attracting them and keeping them, and cultivating a more business friendly climate for the digital game space,” said Tobi Saulnier, Founder and CEO, 1st Playable Productions.

"The cultural pull of New York City attracts creative businesses, but it's clear that policy and the attitude of the government really affect the growth of an industry," said Lantz. "Rockstar, creators of Grand Theft Auto, has its headquarters in NYC because the founders were inspired by the city's energy and history. They wanted to make a game company that was as cool as Def Jam Records. But their actual game development is done in studios outside of New York because of the realities of the bottom line."

The New York University Game Center is one of three Digital Gaming Hubs supported by the New York State Economic Development Corporation. As one of the three Hubs, the others being at Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Game Center will receive $450,000 in state funding over the next three years to “foster innovation and create collaborative activities that spur new games or companies as well as providing resources and mentoring to encourage students and entrepreneurs to enter the growing gaming industry.”

NYU was a an ideal location for the roundtable as gaming and game design are areas of study at several of the University’s 19 schools and colleges, including Tisch, Tandon and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Games are developed for not only entertainment but are used to support individuals with disabilities and for medical rehabilitation.

Attendees on the panel, in addition to Golden, Lentol, Lantz, and Saulnier included:

Andrew Phelps, director, Rochester Institute of Technology MAGIC Spell Studio
Ben Chang, director, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Games and Simulation Arts and Science Program
Jess Haskins, co-chair, International Game Developers Association, NYC Chapter
David Grinjs, managing director, Defiant Studios
Luke Crane, games lead, Kickstarter
Aaron Isaksen, partner, Indie Fund
Eric Zimmerman, faculty member, NYU Game Center, Tisch School of the Arts
Nikita Hardy, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Manager, Empire State Development
R. Luke DuBois, co-director, NYU Integrated Digital Media Department, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Mark Skwarek, NYU Tandon School of Engineering, faculty
Doug Steiner, chairman, Steiner Studios
Ibrahim Yucel, professor, Interactive Media and Game Design, SUNY IT
Bill Podurgiel, Studio Manager, Avalanche Studios
Susanna Pollack, President, Games for Change
Guha Bala, President Velan Ventures
Andy Nealen, Co-Director, NYU Tandon Game Innovation Lab
Thomas Foulkes, Vice President, Entertainment Software Association

To find out more about the Empire State Digital Gaming Media Production Credit bill, visit the support page on the NYU Game Center website.

The NYU Game Center is housed at the multi-disciplinary MAGNET Center in downtown Brooklyn and encompasses faculty from various schools across the University, including Engineering, Tisch School of the Arts, the College of Arts and Science, and the Steinhardt School. Since its inception, the Game Center has become a critical hub for gamers and students in the New York City area, hosting lectures, events, competitions, and business incubator programs. For more information, visit gamecenter.nyu.edu.

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