The new Simulation Game Institute (SGI) at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus is setup to foster students’ creativity in game design at the same time it encourages them to establish companies that might ultimately find a home in Prince William County.
Christopher Ondrus, the Senior Projects Manager at the institute said the SGI helps students connect with a broader business audience seeking advanced simulation programs. “It’s an incubator for businesses that want to come in and make games based on their training or on things that they actually do, but they don’t know how to make games.”
Another goal of institute, which is one of only six similar programs in the world, is to help student researchers and developers transition into the business world. “We help mentor them,” Ondrus said. “We give them contacts. We want them to go from something really small, expand and eventually leave this place and go somewhere in Prince William County and expand.”
Scott D. Martin, the Founding Director of the Simulation and Game Institute said he believes the institute will attract other businesses as it sends students, and the companies they form, into the community. “I think it brings a new economic engine to Prince William County. This draws other companies from around the region.”
Prince William County Chairman Corey A. Stewart said building such institutions is the result of years of work between community leaders, the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, leaders in the Virginia General Assembly and George Mason University. “Prince William County is very, very proud of the partnerships that we have put together over the last several decades to create this sort of economic development.”
Jeffrey Kaczmarek, the Director of the Prince William County Department Economic Development, said the collaboration would place the county in a position to take advantage of the game development industry. “The whole idea behind this [the Simulation Game Institute] is to grow this industry in Prince William County. The idea is to have these companies grow and expand and then spin out into other locations here in Prince William.”
Prince William Supervisor W.S. “Wally” Covington, III also commented on the partnerships that helped nurture the institute and said the growth of the university has been astounding. “The transformation has been extremely quick and the success has been huge. It could not have happened without partnerships at the local level. It could not have happened without the leadership of the General Assembly and the partnerships that go back decades in helping George Mason. It takes all of us working together. “
“For us, this really is a new cluster of innovation in Prince William County,” said Covington, “Computer game design is one of the fastest growing areas of interest. This is real success.”
Alex Estep, the Art Director for Little Arms Studios, one of the institute’s young companies, said the university has provided his company with a “fantastic opportunity” to grow.
“It’s really exciting work in such a fertile environment,” There are many resources available to us in starting our companies. It’s just a huge sea of potential and talent that we get to work with and alongside.”
In October 2013, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors appropriated $32,000 from the County Economic Development Opportunity to support the SGI's location in the County.