Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Lunch in NYC

The following article was written for the IGDA Newsletter.

Several years ago, I decided I would move to New York. Driven by nostalgia for the places I remembered from childhood, I was under the mistaken belief that I missed seasons. I fared alright in the hot New York summers (nothing compared to Texas, really) but the bitter cold winters were something I could do without. I had already spent years in Boston and had experienced the joys of driving through blizzard conditions on the Turnpike.

All the times I would move, I would seek out my local IGDA chapter. It’s the best way to find out about a local game scene. Some cities, like Boston, have monthly meetings while others are not as active. I did not know too much about what was going on in New York City at the time and so, I very enthusiastically volunteered to set up the IGDA Alternate Reality Games SIG meet’n’greet in New York City. There, I met game designer Brandon Van Slyke, then at GameLoft, and independent developer Dave Gilbert, who had just released a game called The Shivah. Together, we would form the Social Committee of the IGDA NYC chapter.

But, as life got busier, I found that I did not have as much time to volunteer. My job as a Lead Producer was demanding plus I was working freelance. The hours were long and so was the commute. There were nights when I would skip dinner, preferring to sleep instead. I felt sad that I never had time to see my friends anymore.

That’s how Wednesday Lunch began. Even when it was held on a Tuesday, we still called it Wednesday Lunch.

Wednesday Lunch ensured that I at least ate on Wednesdays and that I had this social time to see anywhere from 3 to 12 friends at one time. It helped that at the time, a good deal of the bigger game companies in New York City were clustered in one area. As well as GameLoft, you could find Large Animal Games, Kaos, GameTrust, Atari, Arkadium, and Oberon all in walking distance. I guess you would call this area the Garment District. It was close enough to Herald Square and 34th Street to be an easy commute yet away from the crowds. You could even walk to the one block affectionately known as K-Town or Koreatown. There were also the media companies, like MTV, Lifetime, and HBO up near Times Square, one subway stop away.

Wednesday Lunch really started small and sometimes, it was just Brandon and Dave. There was no stipulation that people had to be from the game industry but most of the time, it worked out that way. We encouraged people to bring a friend and so, the circle of regulars got larger and larger. Lunch was nothing fancy, just whatever was the $6 lunch special at a Chinese restaurant.

The producer in me really liked how I solved this issue. Although I couldn’t party all night or go to events, I had found a way to get back a part of my life that I had felt was missing. Even if I met a person for one time at Wednesday Lunch and never again, I enjoyed the company. I never really saw Wednesday Lunch as networking, but I suppose some people did.

Eventually, our lives changed. My company moved offices. Dave was enjoying success with Wadjet Eye Games. Brandon moved to Albany. Thus, Wednesday Lunch faded away due to impracticality.

I still think of it fondly. I’m not sure I could have held Wednesday Lunch in a different city. There’s something about New York City and being in walking distance of almost everyone you know. It was such a routine: a weekly occurrence at the same restaurant, a time to catch up with news (in person, not on Facebook), and a way to connect with friends new and old.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.


Post a Comment