Kyle Weik is an artist. But not just any artist – he’s a game designer. And contrary to popular belief, he’s one of many game-makers that work in the Fargo community.
Even Weik, who is currently working with Beach Interactive on a game called Abettor’s Letters, was not fully aware of the community of Fargo game-makers until he began meeting more and more through networking. He saw the lack of connectivity and decided to create an event that would bring everyone together, drawing inspiration from events like Startup Drinks and 1 Million Cups.
“I took that vibe, and asked how can I do my own thing on a smaller scale with a more niche audience,” he said.
What Weik created started as a Facebook group for game-makers, which by August 2014 was the Fargo Game-Maker Meetup, now complete with a slick new website designed by Weik. The group is described on their Facebook page as “a place to connect with current or aspiring game designers, creatives, and engineers in the FM area.” At the first event, 17 people showed up, and were shocked to see each other.
“Four times it was said, ‘I didn’t know there was this many people working on smaller independent games in town,'” said Weik.
The group recently held the fourth meet on November 15 at Atomic Coffee, where software engineer Davin Loegering presented a board game he is currently working on – the first board game designer to present at the meet-up. Weik posted a re-cap of the event here.
The format of the event is similar to that of 1 Million Cups: a speaker presents their project, followed by Q&A from the audience.
“There’s something I really like about having a topic, a person comes in, shares about 10 minutes whether it’s the process or what they’ve been up to – and then just a Q&A where everyone can talk,” Weik said. “It hits all these things for me. You learn something about where you live, you learn something what someone else does, and now you can network with people.”
The main purpose of these events is ultimately to get people talking – particularly, Weik said, people from two community segments that tend not to interact.
“Everyone said it’s going to be tough because there are these three archetypes of people that you need to make a game – designers and artists in one corner, developers and programmers over in another, and then you need to have business people, entrepreneurs, idea people – people that get people excited,” Weik said. “Getting all three of those types of people in one room, talking to each other, is a difficult task. Because they all have their own personality quirks.”
His hope was that, through a common interest in game-making, these three different groups would be able to unite and communicate. Not only that, but collaborate on projects as well. And just as he hoped, these connections are starting to happen.
Davin Loegering, who presented at the last meet-up, had all the developers he needed but found it hard to meet artists. Through the meetup, he was able to meet some artists to collaborate with on his project.
Yet another attendee, with no experience in game-making but a dream to create a Minecraft style math game for kids, has begun building his game from scratch and is receiving voluntary help from other meetup attendees who just want to help.
“It’s small, but we’re starting to see that people are getting together and exciting each other,” Weik said.
These connections have an importance that goes beyond collaborating on a project. They show the individual members of a community that they are not alone. This, Weik said, is what a startup community is all about.
“Doing a startup is already a scary thing. Everyone telling you, ‘what are you doing?’ and ‘get a real job,'” he said. “But I think that when you are working alone, and the rest of the world can get you down, it’s exciting to know there are other people.
I think that’s what makes a startup community so good is that we all rely on each other, and hold each other up by the shoulders and say ‘hey man, we’re all going through that.'”
Weik’s long term goal for starting a meet-up like this is to turn Fargo into a tech hub. He’s convinced people shouldn’t have to flock to the coasts to find work – instead, he claims we can build it right here in our backyard.
“It’s just no one thinks its possible – but it’s totally possible, you just gotta do it from the bottom up,” he said.
As for short term goal, he wants to keep growing the meetup and let people know that everyone is welcome. Even if it doesn’t seem like your ‘niche’ or your ‘scene.’
“You gotta jump those hoops and connect those groups,” he said. “You’re comfortable being with your clique. But the only time that great things are gonna happen is when you break those cliques.”
Read more about the Fargo Game Makers group here.
[Update: the next Fargo Game Makers Meet-up will be held at 6 PM on December 8, at Atomic Coffee. It will be an open house, where everyone can show their projects and Beach Interactive will be revealing a secret project! Sign up here!]
Photos courtesy of Kyle Weik.