Hey all. welcome! I am glad you find this article to be of interest to you.
Firstly, let me begin with presenting myself and also providing with context. My name is Ignacio Baldini Pescarmona, I hail from the Province of Mendoza, Argentina, were the gamedev community was tiny when I began working with it, around 30 to 40 people, with serious fragmentation within the community, moreover, they also had issues acquiring any resources and the little ones they acquired where being squandered.
Today, on the other hand, we have 3 consecutive gamedev focused events, associations aiding for travel, and government offices helping as well, access to local government (so much so that I gave a talk on the legislative body). More than 250 (and counting) devs, more than 15 studios (some with published games), the eyes of the few incubators on the local, and even national scene, and I am now having talks with various entities to create a game dev fund,
Of course, this was not only my doing, but I was the head of the spear in many regards. Since I'm here I'd like to give a shout out to Leandro Agostino another amazing lead in what is today Mendoza's gaming scene.
Thanks to comments over in reddit I realized that It would be important/smart to add some social media from our community. I can recommend our Discord which is in Spanish, and also our EVA Mendoza 2019 (conference) webpage.
As you read above, can see that progress was made within our local community in a short amount of time, but let me tell you, it was no easy feat. Furthermore, this is particularly to my local ecosystem; you might have some other issues or some other tools at your disposal. Still I believe there are some certain ground rules that can be similar regardless from where you read this.
First of all, you need to begin scouting out your local scene, people will never open the door to one lonely dev/studio; but when you represent a couple dozen or more, things start to change. This is even more obvious when dealing with government officials. They want to have access to a portion of the population, and you can be the leader of the local gamedevs.
Knowing your scene is not just recognizing the various studios, no, it also means gathering together and organizing events, as small as they might be, they are the first steps into acquiring more people to flock around this fledgling community. And with more people, more tools you will be able to unlock (think of this as a leveling system).
Subsequently, when you start gathering those other devs, try to create and use some tool to keep communications active. Open a Discord Server, a Slack, or even use WhatsApp, this really boils down at the preferable tool the local community has. We are using WhatsApp and a Discord server for instance.
Generally speaking, you will have three types of people within the group, the ones that help out, the "bulk" and the haters. The ones that help are of course, the best asset. You can use their help to begin setting up an agenda and unburden you a bit. Believe me, handling a community is no small feat. Maybe Jane can handle education, and Adam is amazing at handling and moderating the channels you use. So, if you have the people; delegate. When you start it's all peachy, and not that stressful, but as you begin to get things done stress will pile on you. So, if you note someone being cool, with energy and willing to help out (and also qualified) accept their help!
The Bulk is your main "treasury" granted they are not active skills, but they are the ones that will allow you to open more and more doors. Moreover, they will be the ones that show up to events and make use of the talks and things you coordinate, they will be the "people in the pictures" that you will use to keel selling your gamedev community. Therefore, treat them well, and they will love you for it and help out by going to the events.
The Haters are somewhat not ideal, but they will be there. Do not shut them down. keep them in the groups (unless they are a toxic stockpile of doom, in this case, just kick them out) but if they are within the group, they add more body count to it, moreover as you begin to acquire help for events and some other things they will not be able to grunt, because shit is being done. Thus, you will give them no ammo, and since you are spearheading this, they can only grumble because the main bulk of the people are following your lead. Moreover, it is always good to have critics, because they can point out some stuff that you might be doing wrong, or even provide some insight. They will be the group most difficult to deal with, but always keep in mind, they are people just as you are!
It's also real important to know, pre-hand with what institutions you can count on. Easiest is local governments, but you also need to look out for gamedev associations (be it local, national, regional, or whatever!), universities, NGOs, audiovisual institution, economic clusters (if possible those within tech, or audiovisual) and media.
This small survey will let you know to which association to aim for. Some of them will dismiss you until you reach a certain "level" while other, will look real promising but be filled with hot air, making them kind of useless.
You might categorize institutions based on the value they provide. i have some weird names for them:
"Load Bearing": institutions you can lay a ground base to work from, they are sturdy, with resources and committed.
"Onagers": institutions that have tremendous power but this might change depending on elections/resources they have at disposal.
"Announcers" those type of institutions that work well for spreading the love about the industry
"Educators": self explained, really, those who can provide you and the cluster with educational tools.
"Linkers" kinda useless institutions on their own, but with great power on the network side, they can hook you up with bigger fish.
"Leechers": while all institutions might look for something in return, some of them might not provide anything back. so be careful, some institutions might only be looking for a picture with the new cluster. keep them far, but don't break relations.
Announcer, we got plenty of local media contacts, and we also have some extras from other associations we already named.
Our best example as an Educator is Universidad de Mendoza, where Leandro Agostino is doing an insane job with the career (yep gamedev career!) and extra curricular activities.
Linkers would be POLO TIC
These are just examples to show you some of the people we are now connected with. We have a lot more, but don't need to bore you!
OK, so we now have the main idea of whats what. Now i'll write down some general steps we took, as a community to arrive at were we at today.
First of, you need to see with what resources you have at your disposal, how many companies exist, how many devs, what associations are doing gamedev things, and which ones are not, but could be helpful. Is media talking about games? if so, look for positive articles and learn who wrote it. get in touch with them!
Setting the ground work:
Once you have the lay of the land, begin setting up meet ups with the devs, and start gathering people together. make game jams, or just a day in the local park. go to a bar, but you need to know the local community.
This community is you main tool/building block/asset/EVERYTHING with these people you will be able to start creating your cluster, so hear them out, and use their help!
So first, gather them, talk to them befriend them and learn about the issues they face. Try to spend at least a month, or two. Organize various meet ups, you need to know what you have at hand.
Setting up contacts:
Once the community is out and about, you need to begin legitimizing it. the easiest way to do so is under the umbrella of a university. ask them to provide you with an empty classroom on Fridays at 8pm, so you can gather the community and make games! (this was actually made by Leandro Agostino, not me! check this article as an example: Club de los Videojuegos.)
Having a University as a backup grants you a ton of legitimacy, so, use it! While at the same time, maybe even talk to the university, you can showcase numbers of the people attending the groups on friday and they might even like the idea of setting up some sort of workshop (or if you are lucky, something even bigger!)
The Local Authorities:
So, now, you already have a community, and some foundations thanks to the university. Try to contact the local authorities. First, I'd recommend going for the mayor of the city were the university is based. You need to dazzle them so you need to go presentable. I know that we have this amazing chill industry were t-shirts are great, but people tend to perceive you with a different look if you sport, like me, a nice shirt, some khaki pants, and dressing shoes (basically go formal-sport). You will also need to have a presentation showcasing the gaming industry, and why it is imperative for the authorities to support it's earliest stage. (NOTE: I WILL TRY TO GENERATE A BASIC TEMPLATE ON A GOOGLE SLIDES FOR YOU TO USE ON A LATTER DATE)
A mayor way to insentivize authorities to believe in you is to have someone with a proven track record join you. This person can be from your home country with published games, or, if you are lucky, some big shot from abroad willing to pay his/her fees to travel and help you out.
Be smart about this. dazzle with numbers, and use everyday words. Politicians usually don't know anything about tech, even more so about games. Be polite, reply what you are asked and be concise.
Why these alliances?:
You might be wondering why am I gathering all of these allies? the objective is simple, to funnel resources (whatever those may be) into you community. Different entities will grant you different perks.
For instance, we have heavy expensive workshops payed in full by Filmandes, 50% travel costs by Pro Mendoza (yup ALL of all the expenses), I'd say that 80% of expenses of the local event we organize yearly thanks to the local government. The university provides us with a gathering spot for free. and so many others!
Keep the trend going:
As you progress, you will acquire more and more networks and people to join you. it is imperative that you allow people to take rolls and take responsibilities, if you see someone better than you in any area, let them have it. you are not in it for the glory, oh no, you are in it for MAKING MOTHERFUCKING GAMES and this will provide you with a lot of resources and a sound community to build companies from.
This article took a lot longer that i imagine writing. I am not a good writer, nor English is my first Language.
I will probably try to update the article as time goes one, and if you guys need me, just ask! i'll try my very best to help out. If you want you can follow me on twitter: @bacusan
A few thank you's:
-My beloved Wife, Agostina, and my two baby girls, Amanda and Esmeralda.
-Rami Ismail, for reading this bunch of text and provide me with a sense of "this is worth it"
-My team, guys, thanks to you I make games!
-Leandro Agostino and the community as a whole, you guys are what make it work in the end, me? i'm just a liaison.
-You, for sticking and reading up to here!