Reimagine Learning

Rochester’s Impact on the Future of Game Development

Six disruptors in the gaming industry converged at our new space in downtown Rochester to discuss the future of game design and development, and Rochester’s role as a hub for the gaming industry. The panel of industry leaders shepherd perspectives and insight into various facets of the gaming industry, from education, to game design and development, to government affairs. Those who witnessed the Games Industry Panel unfold, learned from:

  • CEO Victoria Van Voorhis, Second Avenue Learning
  • Stephen Jacobs, professor and director of Laboratory for Technological Literacy at Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Assistant Director Jen Hinton, MAGIC Center at Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Director Jon-Paul Dyson, Strong National Museum of Play
  • President and CEO Jason Arena, Workinman
  • Tom Foulkes, vice president of State Government Affairs at Entertainment Software Association


Collectively, this group of experts promote the advancement of the region’s gaming industry and local New York economy.

Three major themes emerged from the panel’s discussion that highlight current and upcoming trends in gaming as well as next steps for the industry. 

Game design is on the rise 

Rochester has a forward-thinking creative class, some of which is directly related to talent needed for video game development – musicians, graphic artists, animators, technologists, software engineers and marketers.

“The Princeton Review rates the top 25 video game programs in the country, and three of them are in New York,” said Tom Foulkes, vice president of government affairs at the Entertainment Software Association. “This industry has been growing while no other industries have. It continues to grow three to four percent year after year. What we’ve been doing here in New York is pushing hard with the state government to recognize that, and to move this industry forward to help this state be more competitive in the arena.”

According to local game-makers, you can feel momentum in Rochester. One of the most promising resources are the students of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) —and more employment opportunities will help keep that talent local. 

“There’s momentum here in Rochester. People are invested in this and interested in it, so how do we take advantage of it? There’s some soul searching Rochester has to do to keep young people here. I think it’s cost of living, it’s culture, it’s bike lanes. We need to get into the mentality of young people,” said Jason Arena, CEO and president of Workinman Interactive.

Game development can happen anywhere, as long as you have the right people

Video game entrepreneurs don’t need to be in big cities anymore. Technology has evolved so that now it’s more vital to be located in places with clusters of like-minded people, and in a place that can attract and keep talent. 

“A lot of our students aspire to go to the west coast, but we’re seeing a shift in recognition that a lot of those opportunities are here in Rochester, at a much better quality of life and cost of living; we’re trying to keep the talent here, in Rochester,” said Jennifer Hinton, assistant director of RIT Center for MAGIC and CCO.

Not only does Rochester support the talent required for successful game design to occur, but the job security and employment options for game developers in Rochester rivals that of other regions. 

“What’s interesting is the hybridization that we see in traditional entertainment media jobs in this region – the game industry straddles most media jobs. Usually you see this kind of project based ebb and flow in the workplace, but here employment remains steady,” said Stephen Jacobs, professor and director of Laboratory for Technological Literacy at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Victoria Van Voorhis, our CEO, added, “We really wanted our team to have the kind of creative collisions that happen when you’re in a metro area. You can meet people from different companies and get to participate in disruptive conversations.”

Diverse gaming industries position Rochester for success

To assist in the development of Rochester’s gaming landscape, the New York state government has looked at areas where the gaming industry can make an impact and affect change. A hot topic in legislature is to pass tax incentive programs to encourage businesses to set up shop in Rochester. There are almost 200 companies in the video game design space in the state of New York that employ approximately 4,700 people.

“Rochester has world class musicians, artists and technology so we can bring together the collection of talents that are required to create educational games or entertainment games in a way that other places may not be able to,” said Victoria Van Voorhis.

The Games Industry panelists represent a variety of perspectives in the gaming industry. This collaboration feeds the pipeline of diverse gaming initiatives serving industries from education, to entertainment, to business.

“The meta narrative of games now makes it possible for Rochester to be a significant developer of games. Government funding and support has grown because of that. I think that the time is right for Rochester to prosper in this industry,” said Jon-Paul Dyson, director and vice president for exhibits at The Strong National Museum of Play.