Melanie Stegman spent 10 years as a biochemist working in Washington D.C. When she decided to change careers and become a developer of science-based computer games, she knew that she had to move to Seattle.
Robby Zinchak, owner of Archive Entertainment and developer of the retro-styled 8BitMMO game, knows exactly what attracted Melanie to the area.
"Seattle is actually one of the best places in the world right now for the independent game developer's scene," he said. "We have a huge movement here with a lot of local indies."
That's the biggest reason why both Zinchak and Stegman are at the Mariott Redmond Town Center, attending the 7th annual Power of Play conference hosted by the Washington Interactive Network (WIN). They're here to demo their products and listen to speakers who work for the A-list gaming companies in the region -- Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft's Xbox, among others -- offer tips on issues like marketing, protecting intellectual property, pitching to investors and using social media to build fan communities.
Zinchak is a part of WIN's REACTOR program, a gaming startup incubator.
"They have been providing us a lot of support in terms of getting us networked with different business entities in the area, getting us connected, providing us mentorship, getting us office space, obviously some strong coffee and some ramen instant noodles, that sort of thing," he said with a smile.
A 2012 WIN-commissioned study showed just how big the game developer community is in the 30-square-mile region in and around Seattle. Calling it, "the most competitive region in the U.S. for doing business in games," the study showed some 16,500 employees working at more than 300 companies, and pump in $9.7 billion in revenue to the local economy.
All that gives Seattle the largest concentration of game developers in the country, with an annual growth rate of 18 percent in the number of game companies since 2007.
It's not all fun and games for every Power of Play attendee. Don Alvarez, president of Accelerated Pictures, is here to market his FilmmakerLIVE app, which uses gaming technology to provide a tool for building animated storyboards for video directors.
"It's used by filmmakers to plan and pitch their films," Alvarez said. "Every filmmaker fundamentally has to start out like an entrepreneur, trying to land the resources they need to make their films. It doesn't matter whether you're a 10 year-old kid and you're in 8th grade and you're trying to convince your buddies to make something for YouTube, or whether you just did a $150 million picture. You still have to plan to get people involved in your films."
For Stegman, it's about making plans to market Immune Defense, a strategy game for PCs and Macs that will launch in March. She and her partners at Dynamoid Apps received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the game. It's for those who want to educate themselves about antibodies, pathogens and proteins, but in a fun way.
"That's my market," she said. "People who like a strategy game, who like the challenge of clearing the board, but who don't want to waste their time just fighting off another set of zombies."