PAX East 2018 Interview: Playcrafting

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With Dave Monteagudo, Northeast Director of Operations

By: Diego Vásquez, Apr. 2018

A few weeks ago, while reviewing the long exhibitor list that would soon be showcasing at PAX East 2018 in Boston, the Playcrafting booth and their PreGamer event caught my attention because of the diverse Indie games they were featuring. I can imagine how difficult must it be for small exhibits in big shows: not only because they are competing for the attention with many big publishers, but also because of everything related to cost and logistics.

Dave Monteagudo from Playcrafting generously agreed to a brief conversation about Playcrafting and their role in making PAX East a reality for these games and their creators:

DIEGO: Hello and nice to meet you! Please tell me more about yourself?

DAVE: I’m Dave Monteagudo, I am the operations director for Playcrafting on the northeast, I handle all our events in NY and Boston. My background is in film, theater and event production. I’ve always been a big believer in the positive impact of games and play. I initially got involved with the NYC gaming community making live gamified installations with a company called The Adventure Society. In 2016, we were commissioned by Playcrafting to design something for their award show, The Bit Awards. Afterwards, I found out there was an opportunity to work with Playcrafting full-time and I jumped on-board to help launch Play NYC, New York’s first dedicated games convention, in summer of 2017.

DIEGO: What is Playcrafting and how did it start?

DAVE: We started out about 5 years ago as a meetup group actually, game developers getting together and sharing feedback, which kind of grew up into the quarterly expos that we run now in NY and Boston for people to show their work and interact with gamers.

DAVE: From that we realized that there were a lot of people who wanted to learn how to make games and a lot of developers who wanted to share that with the community.

DAVE: So we started running 8-week courses on Unity and Unreal engines, that are essentially two of the most popular tools that people use to make video games, they are used by Triple-A and Indie developers, everybody… so in those courses the students make four games over the course of 8 weeks, they work with [our instructors who are] local pro developers.

DIEGO: You mentioned some of Playcrafting instructors at PAX and the games that they’ve been involved in, if you could highlight some of them why they individually make your courses great?

DAVE: For us is all about bringing together the developers and the community with people who want to learn how make games and so that they can learn and interact.

  • Kurt Bieg is the owner of Simple Machine, an NYC-mobile studio, and is a member of Playcrafting’s advisory board. Kurt launched our first ever Unity course. He’s exceptional at bringing people together. His love of creativity and passion for games is infectious. He’s incredible at providing critical feedback to help your game succeed while fueling your ingenuity.
  • MaryMartha Ford-Dieng won Playcrafting’s NYC Rising Pixel Award and Player’s Choice Award in 2017 and was showing her card game The Ultimate Clap Back. The Ultimate Clap Back has been a smash hit and was MaryMartha’s first game. Her story is an inspiration showing how hard-work and problem-solving can pay off and a great example of the healing power of games.
  • Sam Eng @snowhydragames is a long-time Learn Unity in 8 Weeks instructor and game developer and was showing his game Zarvot, being released this summer on the show floor and his other title AVARIAvs was being featured in the Kickstarter lounge. Sam is a Unity savant and is exceptional at helping students figure out how to problem solve their own projects and truly understand code.
  • Owen Leach, co-founder of Bomb Shelter Games, was showcasing their newest title Depths of Sanity in the PAX Rising Section. He’s our Boston Learn Unity in 8 Weeks instructor and is great at helping folks with little or no coding experience feel confident making their first video games.
  • Rob Canciello, Jose Zambrano and Jon Corn of Stuido Studios were showcasing their newest title The Take in the IndieMega Booth. They teach for us as a Studio. So, in addition to hitting our baseline learning goals students have the added bonus of learning how a 3-person team is able to project plan and deliver their projects. They also started out as Playcrafting students almost 3 years ago themselves. So, their story serves as a strong example to aspiring developers of what is possible.

DIEGO: So it’s about pro developers but as well about people who’re just starting, in a way that both get something from their involvement?

DAVE: That’s sort of the event side of our business, in our booth right now we have developers showing from San Francisco, Boston and New York communities. One way that we can try to make the entry point for big events like this a little bit lower for them by bringing the community together, that’s part of the strength in number mentality. Then also the expos that we run, they are a great chance for developers to get to play test their games with correct feedback from consumers. We usually have [for the ones] in NY around 1,200 people that come through the expos, [with] about a 100 games showing.  So, this is a great chance to bring communities around their work.

DAVE: We do also have some educational stuff for pro developers, these are not however regular but one-off, for example we have a Maya workshop coming up.

DIEGO: What are some of the things that make it difficult for individuals to become successful in making games?

DAVE: The commitment and the long-term vision, because depending on the scope, you can be working on a game for anywhere from 1 to 3 years including the community building work itself. You know, you’re wearing so many hats… so we’re trying to take off some of [those] hats by doing the community building and giving you direct access to a large audience. That’s what we hope to do in our events for developers – and also for them to meet other developers too, because you may be a programmer but you’re still looking for an artist or a musician that can make your game with you; there is nowhere for you to meet people that have those disciplines, hopefully with us they can meet and find each other more easily.

DIEGO: What was Playcrafting role in bringing some of these small developers to PAX, do you do any kind of sponsoring, help on the strategy or communication?

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DAVE: One of our goals is to make big events like this more accessible for developers in our communities. Playcrafting hosts an annual PAX Pregamer Party the Wednesday before PAX which allows us to help promote the game coming from Indie developers within our community and shine a spotlight on the awesome work these devs are doing. We also have connected members within our communities for help with strategy in the past.

DIEGO: Being in the business of developing games, is there anything you would like to share about a developer that has grown with you or that you’ve helped move forward?

DAVE: Oh, absolutely! There’s three developers that are showing a game, one I mentioned earlier called “The Take”, they are our favorite story: they started with Playcrafting in our first ever unity course four years ago, they met in the course and they did a game jam with us where they met other developers in the community, they like working together so they decided to make another game which was a VR Game called “Don’t Be Afraid” with another developer from their class, it now has over 225,000 downloads on the Oculus Rift store, that game allowed them to launch their studio called Stuido, and now they’re showing The Take in the Indie Megabooth. They are basically living the dream, being a 3-person team with their own studio in Brooklyn releasing their second title.

DIEGO: What do you think it’s what “they did right” to be successful?

DAVE: They were extremely proactive in seeking out advice from people that have gone down the path that they were looking to go down, they listened and they’re good at making it fit for themselves: you need to look for advise but you have to figure out how it works for you. They hustled you know… you have to be relentless and put a lot of hard work.

DIEGO: Looking at PAX East 2018, what is your take from the show, what you liked the most?

DAVE: It is really exciting to see so many people that share a passion for games in one place, because games sometimes is one person at home with a screen; it’s nice to see 80,000 people coming together because the love to play games. The environment is very positive, people are friendly, supportive, it’s been a fun week!

DIEGO: Thank you for your time to answer these questions, and please have a great show!

Read more about Playcrafting and their PAX East 2018 Booth here.