The Midwest Game Developers Summit (MGDS) is an annual game development conference held in the Midwest. The conference centers around local Midwest developers getting together to share their knowledge and experience with their peers and with aspiring developers.
What is the story of MGDS?
In 2012, two students from Wisconsin started a simple conversation around one question: why aren’t there any major video game conventions in the Midwest? There were game development programs offered at several local universities and two AAA development companies --- Raven Software and Human Head --- located nearby in Madison, with several more in neighboring states, but there was no event where these developers could come together to share their knowledge and exhibit their games in the Midwest itself. If you wanted to learn new tools as an aspiring game developer or simply see the latest and greatest AAA and indie games in development, you’d have to travel to either the east or the west coast, spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on plane flights, hotels, and food in addition to pricey passes for admission. From this discussion, an idea for a new video game industry event was born.
Last year, the Wisconsin Game Developers Summit was held at UW-Milwaukee, drawing in over 300 attendees and 40 speakers from various fields and studios in the video game industry. Human Head, Volition, Flippfly, The Amiable, and more were all in attendance, giving various presentations or exhibiting their games. WGDS was a good start to the beginning of a game developer event held in the Midwest, but it’s scope was relatively small as a Wisconsin only event. Relinquishing grant money from UW-Milwaukee that would have kept the event exclusive to Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Game Developers Summit was rebranded as the Midwest Game Developers Summit. Our new name better represents our goal of creating a Midwest centric conference where AAA and Indie studios, students, and up-and-coming game developers can share their projects, network face-to-face, and have fun sharing their passion of video games. The desire to reach this goal is why we are here now, asking you for help to take the first steps to making our dream a reality.
Why go to MGDS?
MGDS is the biggest video game development conference in the Midwest that maintains quality in terms of speakers and experience, without breaking your bank in order to attend. We provide speaker presentations, panels, workshops, and an exhibition floor for attendees to learn new tools to improve themselves as game developers and to demo video games that their peers have been laboriously working on. You can experience an indie game success like Race the Sun, view cool student projects like Tetrapulse, chat with industry legends like Tom Hall, and bump elbows with developers from AAA studios like Volition to see if you have what it takes to make it in the industry, all wrapped up in an inviting environment for little cost to you.
Who is involved with MGDS?
The Midwest Game Developers Summit is primarily ran by students and recent graduates --- from University of Wisconsin School System, ranging from Milwaukee to Whitewater to Stout --- and consulted on by various IGDA organizational leaders. We are young, talented individuals studying to be producers, designers, and engineers. The video game industry isn’t something we just want to be a part of; we want to make a direct impact by molding and shaping it into something greater together.
Why pledge on Kickstarter?
By pledging through this Kickstarter, you are helping us take the necessary steps to make MGDS an annual event and grow into an industry standard. We can’t build an empire overnight, but we can make significant progress with our first entirely self-funded event. Helping us succeed will give us more sway with developers throughout the industry and allow us to bring in bigger and bigger names for you to see and interact with. Helping back MGDS right now also gets you benefits for this year, with great prices for a single day or weekend passes. The regular single day pass is $40 and the regular weekend pass is $60 without any extras like the special lanyard or t-shirt. By pledging on our Kickstarter, you will be getting the lanyard and t-shirt for free. We also have special group rates that are exclusive to Kickstarter with a three pack of weekends passes costing $150 and a five pack costing $250. These group rate discounts will not be available outside of Kickstarter and are a great way to attend with a group of friends or as a small development team at a great price.
Risks and challenges
The Midwest Game Developers Summit has come a long way considering this will be its first official year being branded as MGDS. Last year, we were branded as Wisconsin Game Developers Summit and were funded primarily through a UW-Milwaukee grant. MGDS, while staffed primarily by student volunteers, still faces some limitations that come along with higher education. Our student staff still have other academic responsibilities, graduation requirements to meet and working off-campus.
Our team may be small, but we aspire to be the go-to conference within the Midwest. It is a challenge at this point because of how large other game developer events are, and their established industry presence can be difficult to overcome. We counter this issue by hosting a local and affordable conference here within the Midwest.
When it comes to the conference, we are challenged with finding AAA speakers from high profile studios, getting in touch with local indie developer studios, and obtaining AV equipment for the speakers at the venue. All of this, while still trying to keep our conference low cost while maintaining high quality standards.