The NYU Game Center is a unique place that sits at the intersection of academia and the game industry. Our students strive to push the boundaries of what games can be – inventing, exploring, and discovering new forms of play. Part of our commitment to fostering experimental work means providing our students with opportunities to create successful careers immediately after graduation.
The purpose of the NYU Game Center Incubator is to bridge the work being done at the Game Center with the realities of the marketplace. The Incubator gives promising projects from our graduate students the time, space, guidance, and resources they need to become successful commercial games. Our initial selection of games for the Summer 2014 pilot version of the incubator came from MFA projects – games that are in a fairly finished and robust state already after year of development. The incubator gives these projects an opportunity to focus on final polish and business and marketing strategy. By the end of the program each team launches their game in some form. This may include publishing on an existing platform, the beginning of a crowdfunding campaign, a pitch to a publisher, an open beta on their website, or some other form of public availability.
The first cohort of the NYU Game Center Incubator ran from June 2nd to August 29th of 2014 with a showcase event on September 5th. The showcase drew several hundred people to the Game Center to celebrate the launch of the first six projects. You can view the short presentations about each project here.
All of the games in the Incubator were conceived in the context of graduate school, a design space that is less shaped by the commercial pressures most developers face. Similar to other incubators like Y Combinator and Execution Labs, we share the mission of enabling small teams to realize their vision, but we see an important distinction between these commercial-focused ventures and the Game Center Incubator: The starting point of the games in the NYU Game Center Incubator is expression. This is a unique affordance of an Incubator situated within a University- this is not a program with projects that are fundamentally conceived as products. Instead, the Game Center Incubator is a reverse engineering of the business model, starting with a nearly finished game and asking: How does experimental work, reintroduced back into the pressures of the marketplace, find a successful business model?
In this way, The NYU Game Center Incubator is more than a means to help the teams in the program, we aim to provide examples of developers creating groundbreaking work that can also sustain careers. Other aspiring developers can look to the projects in our incubator to find examples of creating relationships with publishers, effective marketing strategies, innovating funding techniques and business models. Together with our Industry Partners we’re channeling our energy into these projects to build outposts on the fringes of what’s possible in game design. The Industry Partners who are generously volunteering their time today are demonstrating their leadership to the teams in the Incubator, we hope that our teams can do the same for the wider community.
The NYU Game Center is the place where talented developers committed to experimental game design go to develop the skills to lead successful careers in games. These are the projects from our 2014 cohort, we hope you enjoy playing them as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them.
Asterisk is a team-based shooter in which starship crews compete to destroy each other in pitched space battles. Each crew is given the controls of their ship, a number of guns, some drones, and are then tasked with shooting their opponents’ vessel out of the sky. The game is akin to a real-time action FTL, only each crew member is controlled by another player. The concept was also inspired by the manic communication dynamics of Space Team, the simple, accessible, yet deep controls of Star Control II, and the specialized crew tasks of Artemis (a Star Trek bridge simulator). Guns of Icarus and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime are influences as well.
Gemini is a poetic video game about a journey of two stars and an artistic expression of personal values and beliefs about life and human relationships.
In the game the player guides two stars into the heavens to light up the sky by controlling the movement of a star that interacts with another little star. The two stars dance and surf in fluid motions, explore in a mythical world, interact with a responsive environment, and overcome obstacles. The little star expresses its own intentions and its relationship to the large star. The player learns about its personality and explores how to fly in tandem with it through the adventure.
The story of Gemini is told wordlessly. It gives the player the freedom to determine the meaning of the game’s narrative and metaphors through playful exploration of the game’s setting and mechanics.
A world of Police that have forgotten what, and why, they are policing.
A collection of five games, and companion album by Stephen Lawrence Clark.
Soft Body is a bullet heaven game set in a meditative, musical world. As the player paints the world’s geometry, levels will vibrantly shift and rearrange themselves. Inspired by the simplicity and joy of twin-stick shooters and other arcade games, every aspect of the game highlights the fluid motion and control of the player’s snake-like avatars, the Soft Body and the Ghost Body. Players can control these two similar characters at the same time. This challenging mechanic not only creates a high skill ceiling but also provides the unique experience of learning how to split one’s mind–like singing and playing an instrument at the same time.
Six super hard trollcore quick restart action games that make your brain hurt and grow.
Your ship is gone. Your crew is scattered. One option remains. Gather your crew… and jump into the sun. Reunite your shipmates and lead them to the afterlife in 50+ distinctly dangerous gravity puzzles.
Incubator Media Coverage
Here are some examples of what people are saying about the games from the 2014 Incubator cohort.
The Incubator is not an extension of graduate school, it’s a new context where teams are given a structure to address the marketing, legal, monetization, and other business issues of launching a successful commercial game.
In order to create that context, we are developing genuine partnerships with individuals and organizations from the games industry. We’re starting with a small group of carefully selected partners who will collaborate with the Game Center to build the Incubator and advise the teams. This group of volunteers includes technology companies, publishers, designers, lawyers, consultants, journalists, and other game industry experts who will lend their expertise to help the teams launch successful games. More information about the ways Industry Partners work with the teams can be found on the Incubator curriculum page.
Together with our Industry Partners we’re creating a new context for cultivating truly innovative and groundbreaking games, The NYU Game Center Incubator.
Once accepted to the Incubator, the teams begin three months of intensive, full-time work to bring their projects to market. The Incubator provides scaffolding for success with structured curriculum and direct management kept to a minimum. Every member of the Incubator has earned an MFA in Game Design and is well-prepared to own their development process, so the curriculum of the Incubator foregrounds interaction with Industry Partners and unscheduled working time over traditional curriculum. At the onset, teams set a distribution goal, either public launch, a crowdfunding campaign, or pitch to publisher. Based on the chosen objectives, the final deliverable will be slightly different, in each case the goal at the close of the program is public distribution of the game.
Students in our MFA program are creating an amazing variety of work, including making digital games, organizing conferences, putting on interactive exhibitions, and more. The incubator is for the subsection of those MFA projects that are most suited for a commercial release. To determine which projects are accepted into the incubator, applying teams present their project to a large group of industry partners who evaluate the projects on three key criteria:
- Commercial Potential: Does this game have the possibility of finding success when launched to the public?
- Production Feasibility: Can this game be completed and launched in three months with the proposed team?
- Innovation: Does this game reflect the Incubator’s mission of facilitating new kinds of games?
The debut projects that have shown their ability to meet these criteria range across game genres from the exploratory, emotionally-driven Gemini to the experimental twin-stick action game Soft Body and the space rescue puzzle game Sunburn!. More information about each project, and the teams behind them is available here.
Currently the NYU Game Center Incubator is open only to MFA students, however as the department and the program expand we’ll be looking for ways to continue to foster experimental work in the marketplace. In the future the incubator may include spaces for NYU alumni or talented developers who looking for the right context to realize their creative vision.