Nov 24, 2014, 8:00am EST
By: Lauren Hertzler
Staff Writer – Philadelphia Business Journal

A new Discovered and Developed in PA ( D2PA) grant totaling $750,000, will help three state universities boost the local digital entertainment and video gaming industry.

Drexel, Carnegie Mellon and Harrisburg universities will get $200,000 each to further their interactive media programs. Much of the remaining $150,000 is planned to help create a statewide video and mobile game conference.
The purpose of the conference is to bring together stakeholders in the gaming industry, academics and government, said Drexel’s Frank Lee.

Lee (the man behind Tetris on the Cira Centre) is a professor at Drexel and co-founder of the school’s game design program, as well as head of the ExCITe Center’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio.

In a phone conversation Friday, Lee explained that it’s been his mission for years to grow the mobile gaming industry in Philadelphia. He wants his students to get jobs in the area, and stay, instead of “running off to Microsoft in Seattle or Zynga in California,” for example.

Lee started out trying to achieve his vision by taking a “top-down approach,” he said. He wanted the local and state government to allow tax breaks to lure big video game companies to the area. Although bills have been introduced, Lee said the idea hasn’t come to fruition.

He still has hope for that plan, but Lee has also decided to pivot the idea a bit. He’s now arguing for a “bottom-up approach,” he said. It has become the vision of Lee’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, where he invites college students to get involved early on with the hopes they turn into seasoned mobile gaming entrepreneurs by graduation (and hopefully build out their companies locally).

“Basically, it has them take risks while in the safety net of [college], when they don’t have to worry about rent or health insurance,” he said. “I’ll be ecstatic if one becomes like Angry Birds and makes it big. I don’t care if it doesn’t, either. Mainly because my purpose is to have them learn by doing.”

That’s the type of outlook Lee wants to share during the collaborative game conference, which he said will aim to bring not only the three aforementioned universities together, but colleges across the entire state.
“Each of the schools are experimenting about how to grow video gaming entrepreneurship in our region,” Lee said. “We want to make that knowledge open to all universities.”

Lee said the three universities are aiming to hold the first conference next fall in Harrisburg. The idea, Lee said, is for the event to become annual and rotate between the three locations.

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