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September 05, 2005

Electronic Entertainment and Media Center and High School in Downtown Cleveland

A couple of weeks ago, City of Cleveland’s tech czar , Michael Dealoia showed a group of gamer enthusiasts, academics, and entrepreneurs one of Cleveland’s many empty downtown buildings. He opened the tour with a vision of the building being turned into a gaming Mecca in downtown Cleveland supporting both a state-of-the-art 9,000 sq foot massive multi-player immersive and virtual reality gaming center along with another 10,000 sq feet for gaming software development and engineering companies and another 8,000 sq feet for a studio. The conversation continued after the tour and was enhanced by some super hot wings at Winking Lizard and drinks (soft drinks that is…).

If money was no object (which of course is a false premise) what could be done in downtown Cleveland to support a “break out” strategy to enhance Michael’s goal of an “edgier” more “hip” scene both for playing and working in downtown Cleveland.

First off, it comes as little surprise to learn that gaming is hot. Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art are collaborating on a gaming center in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program at Case (with support from the Case School of Medicine). The courses are all sold out with long waiting lists of students. Mark Buchner , director of the center is optimistic that the center’s activities will become pervasive not only in the EECS curriculum but elsewhere across the University. Jurgen Faust, Dean of CIA’s TIME program reports that the digital media arts program at CIA is now the largest academic offering at CIA.

Gaming is also big business. Annual revenue of the multi-billion industry now exceeds the annual box office take of Hollywood. Among certain demographics, gaming now exceeds the combined time that young people spend in front of other screens, like movies, television and “traditional” internet activity (email, web surfing and IM).

So, is there an angle that makes sense here in Cleveland? Absolutely. I think Michael’s vision is fabulous. The work/play double play is an important and necessary condition. Creating a watering hole where gamer developers can both code as well as invite other to join them for city-wide, regional, national and international gaming competitions is terrific. There will absolutely be an “X” games version for massive player and virtual reality gaming. We just need a good television producer to take the ideas and pitch them to the right executive. But, I think we may need to stretch for the rare triple play of work/play/study if we’re going to get both the necessary and sufficient conditions met. The reason for the addition of an education component comes from both design as well as economic considerations. First, here’s an idea for consideration.

Although I am speaking out of turn, I think Jurgen Faust might consider approaching his colleagues at the Cleveland Institute of Art and propose a magnet high school for digital media arts and entertainment. Case Western Reserve University could be a junior partner, along with dozens of other community assets. Moreover, I think the angle should be on gaming development for cultural communities. There is a huge and growing market for gaming software that has narratives and interactions that speak to the growing Latino market, to the African American community, and of course many other natural cultural communities. Given Cleveland’s ethnic diversity and our interest in developing a continued pipeline of international visitors/students/residents to reinvigorate our community, this may be a perfect fit. At the same time, traditional communities interested in the high school program should be encouraged not only to participate in cross-cultural curriculum but to also have an international experience built into their program of study.

The magnet school for digital media arts and entertainment is critical to the downtown project, because we need to find an anchor tenant and long term player to support the gaming effort. Graduates could find themselves at University Circle and/or in the gaming incubators and startups in the downtown facility. Graduates could also be mentoring and teaching juniors.

Another important dimension for the Electronic Entertainment and Media High School in downtown Cleveland is to identify new emerging collaborating partnerships. In Cleveland, the most obvious partners are in the music and publishing industries. Games blending music education for our major partner institutions like the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Music Settlement, the High School for the Arts, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and so forth are not only good for our marketplace but stand to be important partners in producing games for derivative and secondary markets. An early, and strong commitment to work with the K-20 text book market could also be an important strategy. The major imprints in the publishing industry from science and math to history and art history have no pipeline for educational gaming supplements to their traditional text books. There is huge pressure for this multi-billion dollar industry to adapt their traditional textbooks to meet the new education markets. Why not work on a critical mass of subject matter experts who are gamers (or gamers who become subject matter experts).

Documentary gaming, gaming for cultural communities, gaming for text books, gaming for music education, gaming for physical therapy, gaming for health education are but a handful of examples of gaming strategies that are nascent areas for business development for gaming industry in Cleveland. Combined with a state-of-the-art presentation and solutions center, and a school for gaming represents a powerful foundation upon which to explore the efficacy of such an initiative in Cleveland.

Posted by lsg8 at September 5, 2005 07:05 PM and tagged Bytes 

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