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Local indie studios seek to put Miami on the map of the video game industry

Local indie video game studios aim to make Miami a gamer hub

GaCuCon, a video game expo and cruise, seeks to showcase Miami's gamer community.
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GaCuCon, a video game expo and cruise, seeks to showcase Miami's gamer community.

A group of indie developers wants to put Miami on the map of the U.S. video game industry with an all-things-game culture event that seeks to foster a community of enthusiasts and showcase the local talent to the rest of the country.

The GaCuCon — acronym for Game Culture Con — began Wednesday with an expo at Dave & Buster’s in Dolphin Mall and continues aboard a three-day cruise that sailed Friday with gaming fans and enthusiasts of the video game community.

The expo attracted creative studios and fans who got to network with professional video game players and try out new virtual reality games, Windows consoles and table role-playing games.

“In other states, people think that Florida is only about real estate and broadcasting,” said Vanessa Velásquez, art director of Sleepy Dragon, a Miami-based studio that develops video game apps for mobile devices. “That’s the reputation … but there’s a lot of local talent, and events like this help us get our names out there.”

Velásquez said the video game industry in South Florida is growing, and GaCuCon organizers are trying to get national attention.

“The idea is to get the South Florida video game industry known,” said Frank Velázquez, who co-founded GaCuCon with Andru Fratarcangeli. “We have been working on this for two years, to show that there are studios here, to attract more investors and to help the industry grow.”

The idea is to get the South Florida video game industry known.

Frank Velázquez, GaCuCon co-founder

Local talent often leaves South Florida looking for employment opportunities in other states. With more investors interested in the local market, new contracts and jobs would emerge, encouraging the local talent to stay, Velázquez said.

“We have invited a lot of the indies from our South Florida community to basically show all the hard work and the dedication they are putting out there,” said Fratarcangeli. “We want to basically show that there is an industry down here, the talent it drives, and we are gonna make some things happen.”

We want to basically show that there is an industry down here, the talent it drives, and we are gonna make some things happen.

Andru Fratarcangeli, GaCuCon co-founder

Iván Rodríguez, from local studio NPC Publishing, said events like GaCuCon are important because “there is no game scene in Miami.”

In South Florida, local studios have scarce opportunities to present their work, and often at venues that are not exclusively for video games, like the Florida Super Con, where they share the scene with artists from other industries.

Some studios from outside the state also presented their products at GaCuCon, like Cloudberry Kingdom and Stardust Vanguards. There were also presentations from Florida studios out of Miami, like Game Beasts, based in Orlando, and Soulkeeper, from Fort Lauderdale.

“We’re trying to bring all games into Florida,” said Marcell Benevento of the marketing firm Nice Intelligent Gamers. “If you only do Florida things, nobody is coming down here.”

The Weston-based Helm Systems presented the virtual reality game The Soulkeeper, one of the main attractions of the event.

“Finally, it’s picking up,” said Myron Mortakis, president and founder of the Helm Systems studio, which opened in 2005. “The local game dev [development] scene is happening.”

Follow Abel Fernández on Twitter: @abelfglez

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