Great Lakes Game Expo shines a light on a growing game development community

Great Lakes Game Expo shines a light on a growing game development community

This week’s GLGX aims to showcase the talents of several game developers in the region

Over the last year, hosting a Con or Expo has been difficult, to say the least. At the onset of the pandemic, events were cancelled more than they were postponed. Now, as the situation has settled and we’ve become accustomed to virtual interaction, events are popping up online more and more, especially in the games industry. Indies typically get a lot of great exposure at in person events, but transitioning to online showings haven’t been that difficult — it’s less expensive, it’s more accessible, and it provides dedicated eyes.

The Great Lakes Game Expo (GLGX) is getting ready to host its first event this week, and the journey to get here has been intriguing and surprisingly quick, but no less light on effort. Expos normally take at least a year to plan, from organizing a venue or gathering presenters. Our Pandemic Year has changed all of that, and with online streaming services like Twitch and Zoom we’ve been able to achieve a lot. The GLGX’s Steven Zavala explained to me that the show actually had its beginnings last year, when local Michigan game developers wanted to organize meetups and small events. When COVID took over, those plans fell through — until November, that is. It was at that point that the organizers realized they could work towards an online event, and one that wasn’t a consolation prize. The call was put out, and several of Michigan’s indie devs showed interest. In fact, Zavala told us, support came all the way from places like Ft Wayne.

Work and promotion was coordinated by the initial 4-5 organizers over social media, Discord, and their personal networks. Soon, speakers were locked in, games were ready to be showcased, and even great artwork was being produced for merchandise. GLGX is ready to go.

Michigan is quickly become a growing hub for developers. With several major universities, art schools, and a culture that revolves around an increasingly digital and technologically advanced automotive industry, it’s natural that games would bubble up as an adjacent market. There’s a lot of incredible talent here, and a lot of people who have grown up with gaming. The links are everywhere: Epic’s Unreal Engine is being used in automobiles, and Amazon and Google are planting hubs for research and development. Admittedly, I’m proud of my home state for how quickly the dev community has been supportive of each other and buit a network. “The sense of community is so important… maybe more so than just the games we produce,” Zavala told us. An online GLGX right now is a stepping stone towards what could potentially become a regular event, or one that could branch off into bigger shows and initiatives in the future.

The expo itself will run this week from February 18-21, and will feature work from studios, independent developers, and students. Talks will focus on things like “flipping the table” and how to run Kickstarter campaigns. Streaming events and multiplayer sessions will take place throughout the weekend. And, obviously, games will be made available for fans and the community to try. The virtual attendees are encouraged to join the Discord to be able to ask questions & interact, and to follow the Twitch channel, where the show stream will be live. It’s likely going to be a great showcase for the scene, and one that I’m personally excited about.

The GLGX kicks off on Thursday the 18th at 7PM with an opening speech, followed by a trailer reel of the projects on display.

More info about the Great Lakes Game Expo, including its full schedule, speakers, and games, can be found at: GLGX.devDiscordTwitch