Prologue: Why Form Philadelphia Game Lab? [PGL Post-Mortem]

It may be useful for me to describe why I started PGL.

I had been working on a virtual currency startup, called superfluid, that I’d co-founded with a brilliant and funny Serbian physicist in Philadelphia, and the “futurist” Douglas Rushkoff in New York. It was built on concepts of community currency leveraging productive efforts toward greater value for participants, as well as insights from game industry experience of in-game economies and collaboration. -Diametrically opposed to something like Bitcoins. A lot of our thinking came from prior work like LETS and Ithaca Hours. Economists and accountants loved it, but humans felt it a bit alienating, despite our best efforts. We realized that to make it right we’d need to move to NYC and dive in full bore to make or break it. We ended up not wanting to make that leap, and it was at around the time that I was actually starting to like Philadelphia. -A city I’d been born in, but never really cared for until the repopulation of this millennium.

So, here I was,with senior level game industry experience in a city with no real industry presence, in a family situation that made moving non-trivial, and of an age that made joining an extant startup socially unlikely. I put some thought to how I might possibly be best useful here: I have experience with getting things done, and game industry relationships that could be useful. I have been funded and helped people get funding for business in the past, although I am in no way a person to have the funds to write the check myself, and I obsessively tell people that I am not and have never been in a position where I can tell someone to write a check expecting that they will.

At the same time that those are my own strengths, I very much saw the city’s strengths in the growing creative class that was so active and impressive in forming new initiatives in everything from food and beer to street events.

With this as background, I decided that I would work to form an entity intended to help connect local technology and creative humans and companies with game industry opportunities, in the belief that this was the best way for me to be of use here, and hopefully form an environment for a productive future. At the moment I was doing this, there was a heavy interest from investors in workspaces, largely driven by the success of Brad Hargreaves and his collaborators in General Assembly in NYC. This likely inclined my thinking toward this sort of model, and Philadelphia Game Lab was created as a 501c3 with a mission of housing and encouraging such activities. The housing was never the important part, but it did seem like the part that people could hold onto and understand better. We also began to hold the Grassroots Game Conference in support of the concept.

 

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