Brian Wells, a concept artist, works on Cabrakan, Destroyer of Mountains, a character in "SMITE," created by Alpharetta-based Hi-Rez Studios, on Nov. 3, 2014.
Photo: Bob Andres
Photo: Bob Andres

Top 10 cities for gamers, and Atlanta tops the list

Atlanta: capital of the New South, home to dozens of film and TV productions ... and the nation's best city for gamers?

That's what real estate company Movoto said when it handed Atlanta that title for 2014.

This is only really surprising until you stop and think about it: Gaming is not just for gamers any more.

Look around and you’ll see it everywhere — from local teens, college students and adults vying for a million-dollar prizes in gaming competitions; to kids building elaborate worlds on Minecraft; to people of all ages playing smartphone and tablet apps.

While some folks have fond memories of old Atari systems, Atlanta's gaming and interactive design communities have grown in parallel to the development of sleek technologies from major tech titans.

For its rankings, Movoto considered five categories: the number of arcades per person, the number of Internet service providers per person, the number of game stores per person, the city’s demographics and the city’s membership in the Entertainment Consumers Association, a non-profit organization.

The complete list is:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Seattle
  3. Denver
  4. Portland, Ore.
  5. San Francisco
  6. Long Beach, Calif.
  7. Sacramento, Calif.
  8. Mesa, Ariz.
  9. Kansas City, Mo.
  10. San Jose, Calif.

The frequency of conferences encourages local groups and attracts gamers to Atlanta, said Andrew Greenberg, president of the Georgia Game Developers Association.

The organization sponsors gaming events across the state including the annual Southern Interactive Entertainment & Game Expo (SEIGE). Atlanta, for example, also has attracted the largest participation in “game jams,” where people create games in one weekend.

“There are numerous gaming groups around town and there are a number of gaming events like Dragoncon and SEIGE,” Greenberg said. “All of these really excite the gaming community.”

Greenberg, a former game design professor at Gwinnett Technical College and The Art Institute of Atlanta, said companies such as Hi-Rez Studios, Tripwire Interactive, Xaviant, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Holistic Design show the gaming and digital animation industry’s growth in the metro area.

The state's Department of Economic Development includes the gaming in the tax credits of up to 30 percent it offers digital entertainment companies. Those economic incentives have been partially credited with the boon in film and TV production.

What's more, Georgia Tech and the Savannah College of Art and Design were named by The Princeton Review in 2014 as two of the best places to study video game design, right here in Atlanta.

“We have a lot of good companies here making games and that stimulates a good local community,” Greenberg said.

Game design and programming programs offered by colleges such as Georgia Tech and SCAD, along with Georgia military bases with simulators, also give residents wide options for learning about and playing games.

“Students, who of course are studying how to make games and are studying technology, will also be players of them,” Greenberg said.

So the next time you're thinking about your future in gaming, don't start planning a trip across the country. Just look out your window.

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