Jarryd Huntley leads game development in Midwest


Alexander Gray/Iowa State Daily

Jarryd Huntley, developer of “Art Club Challenge.”

Alexander Gray

Iowa State’s Game Development club hosted a lecture Wednesday for independent game developer Jarryd Huntley.

Huntley hails from Ohio, where he teaches online classes, is the head organizer of the Cleveland Game Developers and is working on a new game for smart devices. He has spoken at multiple events and attended 14 different conferences in 2016. He is also writing a book.

Cleveland is not traditionally known for its game development scene, but Huntley said the Midwest is currently undergoing a change.

In the past, game development has primarily taken place on the West Coast, with a few companies based on the East Coast. Thanks to Huntley, and developers like him, there is a rapidly-growing game-dev scene in the “flyover” states: the Midwest.

Huntley has been an indie developer for the past three years but didn’t always plan on being one. An avid gamer since a young age, he experienced his first development experience in a Nintendo 64 game, “Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.”

After putting in a difficult password that he said “required like eight arms,” he was able to alter properties of the game, including changing the gravity and walking through walls.

In college, Huntley was a computer science major, and his interest in game development returned during his sophomore year.

From there, he participated in game jams (similar to hackathons) and showed off what he was working on at Ingenuity: an art, science and technology festival in Cleveland.

One of Huntley’s biggest steps was attending the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco three years ago. He was able to get free tickets because of a connection he made on Twitter, but he only had two weeks to plan the trip and had nowhere to stay once he got there.

Eventually, he was able to rent an Airbnb house with five strangers, many of whom were industry veterans. There, Huntley was able to make friends who were able to connect him with even more people at the conference.

Huntley’s mentor told him that to start a company, he would have to move out west. This devastated him and made him feel like all the effort he had put in was for nothing. With some encouragement from his friends, he was able to move past that and start working on games again.

A large part of Huntley’s success is due to all of the connections he has been able to make over the course of his career. A point he kept going back to over the course of the lecture was about how he made friends everywhere he went.

“The ends of the game industry began to curl on itself,” he said.

The reason he was at Iowa State was because of a friend from Belgium. Both of them attended a game conference, where Huntley saw her chatting with a student from Iowa State named Zach. From there, Huntley met Zach, who invited him to speak here.

Staying consistent is also key. Maintaining those contacts and attending those conventions yearly has made him a familiar face.

So, why the Midwest? Why Cleveland? Not only was it already his home, but he was also able to advantage of his location. Ohio is a central location in North America, making it less than a day’s drive to about 40 percent of the country, which makes it easy to attend conferences and meet other developers.

Development in these “flyover” states is a growing industry, which he has helped to cultivate, growing the Cleveland Game Developers from about 20 members when he joined to the 200-plus who are in it now.

Cleveland also has a significantly lower cost of living than a place like San Francisco, for example. In a budding game development company, every dollar counts.

Huntley finished his presentation with one final statement: “Why the Midwest? Because the Midwest is best.”