College Grants and Student Developers / by Brandon Driesse

Ben Spurr and Andre Edgarian are recent graduates at Drexel University with the rest of their small team at Split Side Games. They came out to PAX East with a couple goals in mind and a positive attitude(a pleasure to chat with across the 4 days): acquire a fanbase, promote the Kickstarter, and sneak their way onto Switch! I’m hearing all good things from these guys and their Kickstarter was recently successfully funded on June 28th 2019, I donated some coin myself, be sure to check out Fling to the Finish.

The 5 team members were able to apply for grants from their school to fund the trip out to Boston this year and according to Andre they received more than most students would, possibly relate to the school they hail from or the quality of their work being noticed. Either way the trip details pretty much came down to individual travel expenses and a TV(we kept it pretty vague). A lot of students don’t actually reach out to their school for help which is a shame because the university is always looking for ways to show off to the outside world and new prospective students in that never-ending cycle of overcharging us for a rent and a meal plan(personal grudge).

These guys had a perfect attitude to showcase and a perfect game to display in a convention setting. This leads to a point I never directly covered, but what games actually benefit from the roar of a convention? Not a slow RPG because gameplay needs to be fast and reach as many new players(potential customers) as possible. The game should invoke a strong emotional connection, multiplayer games do this well when you can physically see your opponents/teammates to yell at(because whispering doesn’t quite work in the expo hall). The game must also be eye-grabbing as well as heard. Split Side may have known this well in advance of their debut because perfectly prepared you could hear the catchy tunes of every levels from hundreds of feet away(actually impressive in this loud expo hall). You would turn a corner and see bright blue, yellow, and red signs, fully saturated and highly contrasting the dull interior.

Th megabooth space they earned also played a pivotal role in attracting an audience as well as save the team money, but a corner booth isn’t an instant winner. The team only had one TV set up with a laptop by the side for a mailing list, but the TV was strategically placed at an angle facing out from the corner toward a couch that seated the players, with plenty of room surrounding for spectators. Because the players were sitting a bit of a distance from the TV the game could be seen from almost any angle and distance without being obscured.

I rambled off a bunch of inferences but there are several points here. You should consider what game your making and if it works in a convention setting, how can you maximize your engagement with attendees and for student, contact your school’s department administration and see about funding. If you’re going to a con regardless to showcase then there’s no harm in applying, and if you are on the fence and win a grant that may jsut push you over the edge and land you on Nintendo Switch! There’s a ton to congratulate these grads for so be sure to do so on Twitter.