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University of Michigan game development professor Austin Yarger is a favorite on Cronicle Press, for introducing our readers to new indie games and AR/VR tech coming out locally. Yarger recently completed his project to turn a list of 60+ gaming studios in Michigan into a database, and we want to share it with you. The website is MichiganGameStudios.com.
Pinball Pete’s is a favorite arcade of both Ann Arborites and Lansing residents who have fun memories of gathering with friends around the venue’s classic arcade games for the last 44 years. The first Pinball Pete’s was founded in Lansing, Michigan, by creator Tim Arnold, in 1976. The Ann Arbor Pinball Pete’s is a downtown mainstay, and one of the few gathering places for young people in the city that isn’t a nightclub.
This last week, we made it out to Professor Yarger’s student video game showcase in Ann Arbor, which highlights games from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan students. Games ranged from multi-player space pirates Space Subterfuge to a game call I’m a Chopstick, where two chopsticks attempt to get dinner to the table. (“We are not responsible for any relationship troubles that arise due to gameplay!” the creators warn in their trailer.) If you couldn’t make it out to the expo, you can still check out the trailers from games including Light’s Out, Apotheosis, I’m a Chopstick, and others below. There were well over a dozen games on hand, many of them extremely cute or fun to play.
Hands down, our most popular posts in Cronicle’s first 6 months have been the feature on indie game design studios in Michigan from University of Michigan professor Austin Yarger, plus all the followup interviews of game designers from Finji Games to Heart Shaped Games to Dreaming Door. We caught up with Yarger again recently to ask when his popular student gaming showcase was taking place. Turns out, we were just in time.
It’s been a while since we played a scavenger hunt, but these days augmented reality seems just the thing to make these old-fashioned games fresh again. Plus, on our phones we don’t have to get in trouble deciding if we should follow a clue like “find the oldest bones around” by taking forbidden photos in the dinosaur museum or asking an old guy crossing the street to take a selfie with us…. Closing out our summer series on Michigan-based gaming studios is Scavenger, another student launched out of the University of Michigan OptiMize program that has continued as the co-founders Kyle Zappitell (CEO) and Harry Stephens (CPO) and other team members moved to LA, New York, and Chicago. Co-founder Kyle Zappitell tells us his startup Scavenger is an augmented reality scavenger game app that allows users to combine augmented reality and real-world gaming to win cash prizes. For now, the testing zone for the game is based in Chicago, but other cities are coming soon.
Chris Karounos is the co-founder and creative director of Abaca Games, a new startup out of Ann Arbor that is based in his masters research in sustainability, in which he focused on tropical agroforestation. He says he had the opportunity to launch a new video game called 10 Degrees (coming September 3rd) that helps support reforestation through game play when his startup was accepted into the University of Michigan Optimize incubator program.
Sometimes you hear a Michigan “we had to leave because of the economy story” and it makes you happy, because success lay elsewhere–and then you still got to welcome them home. This certainly is the case with Finji Games co-founders Adam and Rebekah Saltsman, a husband wife team with a group of game developers who have won awards from a BAFTA to the Seamus McNally Grand Prize from the International Game Development Awards in 2018.
How’s your summer going? The students are gone, Art Fair traffic isn’t in Ann Arbor yet, and it’s time for more video gaming fun. Heart Shaped Games founder Scott Brodie recently sat down with us to talk about the Michigan studio’s upcoming release: We Are the Caretakers, an afro-futurist sci-fi game that follows the journey of a group of wildlife caretakers discovering everything they thought they knew about their role protecting the environment is wrong. Check out the trailer below.
Gaudium is an Ann Arbor-based gaming studio that creates classic anime-style games. We sat down recently with founder Andrew Yang to ask what everyone has been asking us lately: how do you grow a gaming studio in a smaller market like Michigan? Gaudium’s current game, Armor Blitz, looks pretty mainstream for such a small studio. It has an anime trailer (shown above) and can be downloaded on Google Play (4.2 stars with 2800+ reviews) or you can play online on Nutaku.