Celebrating 4 Years of EGD
Written by Mary Joaquin
Edited by Huimin Zhuo
The care of the future of games is ours.
Esports and Game Design Collective celebrates its 4-year anniversary this month, continuing to help both the students of CUNY and beyond find their footing in the games industry.
First founded on November 9, 2016 by Kyra Wills-Umdenstock at Hunter College, EGD has grown to a community of over two thousand individuals. Though operations have moved virtually to Discord due to COVID-19, the spirit of gaming remains ever alive.
An Origin Story
Originally named the Game Design Collective, dedicated to the central goal of game design, a group of five learned Unity and intermittently played Dungeons & Dragons in a basement.
And when the group applied to be a club, there came the first of its many rejections. But when one door closes, another one opens.
Rejected for the same reasons were the groups dedicated to League of Legends and D&D. The then-GDC joined forces with these groups, taking in the E-Sports aspect of LoL to create its new name, the Esports and Game Design Collective!
From that came the rebirth of the group as the EGD, hoping for approval against all odds…!
And got rejected. Again.
Hope was not lost however. All heroes have their own mentor-type, ever ready to stretch out a helping hand. EGD found its own in Hunter College’s theater department through the Baker Theater Building, taking the wandering group under its roof.
Superheroes can have their own fairytale story too, and EGD saw its own; one very similar to Jack and the Beanstalk.
Equipped with a strong Facebook campaign, and armed with the power of promotion (and unauthorized tabling, shhh!), the group burst through the doors with around a hundred members in a year and nearly 500 by the next!
In the first two formative years of EGD, operations turned into a drop-in center. People were free to hang out at meetings and stick around to score different freebies from the budding e-board of the club.
Free League merch? You got it! Cans of Game Fuel? Take one and pass another! And how did the club show others its passion for video games? A GIANT TV…showing only the coolest game trailers, and the funniest club exclusive videos. What better way to attract video gamers than showcasing fun?
At the heart of this were the people. From those who simply popped by to have a look (which proved the big screen TV worked its magic) to those who came in to talk with its members, EGD was rapidly becoming a part of the student body.
In 2018, EGD finally got the long-awaited approval as a club.
The club skyrocketed from the hundreds to thousands in a span of a year. And with growth came necessary changes.
Nov 9, 2016: FIVE
2018: ~500; approved as a club!
2019: ~1,700; applied to be a non-profit org!
“Each year was vastly different than the year prior,” said Kyra, CEO of EGD. “We [had to overhaul] our leadership system at least twice a year to keep up with it.”
From club officers to staff to leaders, the ever-changing college scene in Hunter meant people came and went. This did not only mean that the club was developing through the people that joined. It meant that the people who have been there from the start had to adapt to new developments.
It sprung a Renaissance of sorts for both the club and these handful of leaders. The club was evolving into something new, with them at the helm. And a thousand people looking to someone for guidance is a daunting image by itself.
So came the trials and errors where leaders all learned about what had to go and what needed to stay. They slowly figured out what had to be done.
But the sacrifices were not for naught. With it came the guarantee that there were constants student members could count on; resources available at every turn, freedom to follow what path they desired through EGD, and that both are as reliable as the leaders strove to be.
From a group that worked to keep that core idea alive to a club that knew its needs and wants, EGD became a family that found its home in a budding dream.
And families never stop growing.
A Vision with a Mission
Like a box-office mega-hit once said: “There was an idea.”
At its core, EGD is just that: an idea that there is a place—a very real place—for gamers to come together. One that reflected the true nature of what a gaming community could be; something that reflected the genuineness of people interested in the several facets of video games.
Be it indie dreams or the hopes of any triple-A; tabletop or console games; any sort of design or content creation, one’s interest alone in any of these facets is enough to join.
But with the passage of time, that idea took root and sprouted, branching new ones that could not be left ignored. And its flowers needed the ability to bloom for several years to come.
It began when the club needed to address the lack of resources Hunter could not provide for the thousand-strong members. The next step was to apply as a non-profit organization.
Its aim? To help students in ways that EGD as a club could not.
“[Our goal] is to make gaming a more accessible opportunity, whether it's an academic opportunity, a career opportunity, or just casual gaming in general,” said Kyra in an interview with AnyKey as its inaugural Changemaker Grant Winner.
It remains true that games have a way of connecting people that speak volumes more than casual introductions. An icebreaker and a common interest all in one—and maybe a friendly match or two, it does not take much to get a snowball of camaraderie going.
But more than the friends that one can make through games is the journey of getting to a goal and/or passion that leads into the future.
It has long been ingrained into society’s mindset that college is tough. And it could be in several ways that are outside of the four walls of a classroom or a dorm room. It could even start way before one even steps into college as a freshman.
“We make sure that CUNY students have all the resources available to them [to address the problems that they face],” said Ben Ruben, CMO/CFO of EGD in a podcast with Litt Inc. “[There are] resources that they don’t know about and [a majority] don’t know what resources to look for or where to find [which ones] they need.
“We make sure that they know where they can find everything.”
Programs & Events
“We provide free events, educational programming, and support systems to help students as well as to get into the game industry navigate through financial, academic and emotional crises,” said Sarah Roman, Creative Lead of EGD, in the AnyKey Spotlight.
Here are some of the ways EGD helps its members find their way into the industry:
Game Studio Program (GSP)
Live the game, during college and maybe even after!
GSP allows CUNY students to develop academically and professionally in the game industry. From academics to career-oriented guidance and—the most exciting part of the program—creating a game from scratch with a quasi-indie studio.
Students choose from one of six concentrations: Game Design, Game Art & Animation, Game Music & Sound Design, Game Narrative, Game Programming, and Game Studies.
Through the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, the program also essentially creates game development majors of its participants. Talk about getting your foot—nay, your whole leg—through the door with that distinction!
And like an icing on a cake, students under the program also get industry perks.
Previous GSP perks had students meeting key industry professionals (such as John Gonzales, narrative director for Horizon: Zero Dawn) and attending exclusive events (such as the launch party for Just Cause 4).
They even got to stand toe to toe with them in games showcases!
“Seeing your work displayed among actual professionals, and people come up and play it [is] kind of a really amazing feeling [and] experience,” said a student under GSP in 2019.
For more information, head on over to the GSP page!
Esports Management Program (EMP)
Play your way into the industry!
EMP helps students find their place in the esports field, be it as a player, streamer, and even manager. EGD has its own teams for Valorant, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, and Smash: Ultimate.
Participants get access to attend industry events and conferences, receive career-oriented workshops and networking tips, and grow their roots in the esports scene all in one program!
Though the program is EGD’s newest addition, participants have already had the chance to attend ESL ONE New York, visit the office of NYXL and NYSL, meet up with the founders of kanga.gg, and get involved with the AMAs of Riot Games employees.
For more information, head on over to the EMP page!
A game event without the paywall but all the fun!
Waffle Games is EGD’s homage to all things gaming, giving everyone and everything a chance at the spotlight!
Be it tabletop games or workshops on how to tweak your passion projects, or panels with folks whose years of experience might lend a hand, there is a little bit of everything for everyone.
Both GSP student-developers and indie studios alike can come join in on the fun—all for free!
“[We] have a lot of indie developers from around the city just coming in to show off the work that they've been working on for the last few years,” said Ben in a podcast with Litt Inc. “It’s hard for them to do it otherwise.”
“For a lot of indie developers, which is most of New York City, we don't have a lot of triple-A studios here,” said Kyra in the same podcast. “They can't afford the $1,000 that is usually at the low end to exhibit at these kinds of conventions.”
“It’s about a wider mission of bringing accessibility to games; it is a very collaborative environment.”
EGD has hosted three Waffle Games to date, the latest happening online with the onset of COVID-19.
For more information, head on over to the Waffle Games page!
In the dark, there can still be light.
With COVID-19 cancelling traditional graduation ceremonies, Kyra made it a pet project of EGD to offer an alternative to new graduates.
“I thought [the virtual graduation] would be a great way to begin [working to support schools that are outside of New York City] virtually,” they said in the Litt Inc. podcast.
“It was to hold a graduation ceremony for gamers, game designers and eSports students that are about to go into an industry that is known for being extremely unstable at a very unstable time in general.”
Notable speakers for the event were Steve Arhancet, Co-CEO and owner of Team Liquid, and Renee Gittins, Executive Director for IGDA. There were also various pro players such as Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, Mounira “Goosebreeder” Dobie, and Christian “Nokokopuffs” Feliciano as speakers.
Attendees were also treated to an afterparty in the Discord server.
The event will likely be a one-time thing for EGD so its 70+ graduates from all over the country have the exclusive privilege to graduate with EGD!
For more information on the full list of speakers and graduates, head on over the Virtual Graduation page!
Gamers beat the heat—and other players—all while staying safe last summer.
Summer Series was an eight-week event from June to August that held esports tournaments, featuring LoL, Teamfight Tactics, Valorant, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and CS:GO.
It also had AMAs with industry professionals, namely VoxPox Games's Marc Anthony Rodriguez, codeSpark’s Katie Powell, game designers Atlas Chen, Kevin James Wong, David Mullich, game developer Dave Gilbert, and gameplay programmer Tom Astle.
Find out more about what they shared by clicking on their names!
For more information, head on over to the Summer Series page!
Friday Night Mashup
TGIF stands for Time (for) Gaming, It’s Friday!
(Okay, maybe that sounds like something Yoda would say but the thought counts, right?)
On Fridays, EGD hosts a variety of activities and events that everyone is free to participate in! Dupe each other in Among Us, learn how to build your custom keyboard, attend a workshop—the event rotations are ever changing and ever interesting.
Though primarily hosted on Discord nowadays, FNMs in-person were a sight to behold. Come for one thing, get into more! EGD has over 600 games in its library, with plenty of tabletop, card, and puzzle games at its disposal.
Hang out with EGD over at Discord for FNMs!
EGD Game Jam (Coming later this month!!)
For the first time ever, EGD is hosting its own game jam!
On November 20 to 22, CUNY students get to create and complete a game based on a specific theme. The EGD Discord will also host workshops and other opportunities for learning game design during this period!
Are you a CUNY student interested in participating? Make sure to sign up here!
EGD has held remote internships beginning the summer of 2020, with a new batch of interns come winter.
With various teams such as creative, writing, community engagement, operations, and more, those with a passion for games are most certainly welcome to contribute in any shape or form!
There’s more to come for EGD! Here are some programs still in the works!
Tutoring & Study Groups
The Heart of a Movement
The journey into video games only has two components: the game and the player. But the journey of entering a video game community is a bit more complicated.
Even though the gaming community never seems to quite grow from its bad reputation of lengthy discourses and general chaos, one holds out hope. After all, games are supposed to be fun! There’s more to video games than just being disappointed in things and upholding the gems of the past!
Enter those who found EGD keeping that hope alive: curious-gamer CUNY students, ones who found it through the Internet, and even ones who are not located in NYC but agreed with the values of the organization and wanted to be a part of it.
All found a place in EGD where they can be who they are and be passionate about games with other like-minded players.
“[EGD] is first and foremost a space where everyone—regardless of who they are, and what their relationship to gaming is—can come together in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Kyra in the AnyKey Spotlight.
From game designers to RPG players, from artists to tabletop gamers, EGD welcomes all, starting from college students.
College is a time prone to big life changes and the organization has had several of its own from the ground up (quite literally; EGD started in a basement after all). And EGD has certainly changed its own members.
Some have even said it was their stepping stone in their career paths!
“We have had a lot of students figure out what they want to do with their lives and declare their majors because of our programs,” said Kyra in the same interview. “And a lot of students have done internships because of our programs.”
“Being a part of EGD opened me to so many opportunities from game development to graphic design,” said one member. “I've come out of my shell because I'm surrounded by others who love video games and the game industry as much as I [do].
“I was able to network with others and talk to industry professionals and learn from them as well.”
“It has given me purpose, connected me with a larger community, and has helped me to enrich my professional skills.”
For others, it has also been a reliable source of support during the more hectic days of college life.
“It was welcoming to be able to start college and have a place to [get to] know some people or participate in events.”
“I think besides making some amazing, genuine friends, EGD has also [given] me tons of support in my roughest times through counsel and direction to aid.”
EGD has also helped some find personal growth.
“It made me go out of my comfort zone and become outgoing [and] learn to speak to people and not be an introvert.”
These testimonials only scratch the surface of how EGD has made an impact on the lives of its members. Just imagine how much EGD has played a part in over two thousand lives!
Now THAT’s an incredible feat.
Meet. Game. Thrive.
The tried and true idea of “a home away from home” also applies to gaming. Who knew! This is the feeling EGD provides for its members.
“...Any person of any race, gender, or creed can come here and get involved with games however they would like to,” said a member. “Whether it's game design, business, music, or just playing, there's a place for you here.”
Inclusion and acceptance are perhaps the biggest challenges one faces when testing the waters of a gaming community. From gamers of color to members of the LGBTQ+ community, EGD makes it a point to let everyone’s voices count and be heard.
“The org had [and still has] a very homey feeling,” said another member.
Though in-person meetings where members can all come together to play has been given a nerf, this magic is not lost despite moving online. FNMs still retain that feeling of playing alongside everyone else, especially when it comes to Among Us!
“[It’s like] a huge group of friends who [share] the same passion,” said another student. “[EGD] also [has] people from the industry in the [Discord] server so it’s [also] a large network of professionals as well.”
Esports organizations like Andbox and PlayVS; indie game studios like Anthropic Studios and Decoy Games; triple-A studios like Insomniac and thatgamecompany; and even fellow non-profit organizations like Thirsty Minds Design and Media and Onward Play are all part of the server and some even lend their voices to events!
“I learned so much about [the] gaming industry from [the] library and fellow leaders, both HQ and officers,” said another.
Whether one is a student, graduate, or already in the workforce, it is never too late to learn more. EGD has specially dedicated channels to Design & Development, Local and Virtual Events, and even Promos and Projects!
There is always something new brewing in EGD.
“At first I just thought it was a normal club but I can personally say that the non-profit org side is interesting,” said another. “There definitely needs to be more orgs like this for gaming.”
One of EGD’s long-term goals is to start chapter programs and one is currently in the works! Gaming’s reach is far and wide and EGD is taking one step at a time to spread the goodness of and in games.
There are several things people love about EGD, but there is one thing that gets the most love:
The community itself.
“The interactions, and to an extent, the people I've met are so kind and I hope to get closer once we're in person again,” said a member.
“[EGD] gives a community of peers they can be themselves around. Even as the org got larger, it never really lost its familial aspect.”
“[My favorite thing is how] open it is, where anyone can join and play some games.”
“[EGD is] trying to help the community with their career path and that's part of what they set out to do. They're just very passionate about what they do.”
“It's a judgement-free zone and that you're a gamer no matter what you play, and I think that's beautiful.”
“Just being involved with like-minded people is comforting to me as the people around me in my life don't understand the video games or the industry itself. This organization has made me feel justified in wanting to pursue a career in video games.”
EGD has also had several unforgettable events, especially in the CUNY scene.
“My favorite thing to think back on is the 2018 End of the Year party. It was the first year we operated at full capacity and what it really celebrated was getting through a year of not being recognized by the college - but doing it anyways.”
“Attending the CUNY Hack and Global Game Jam where me and my group, in between the work we would take breaks playing games like Jackbox and Smash.”
“My fondest memory with [EGD] was being a part of Waffle Games, showing the games that my team and I created. It felt amazing to sit next to game devs showing off their projects.
“I felt like I was one of them, and in that moment, I became one of them. ...It's the event that I look forward to every year!”
Virtual events and meetups also served as a highlight for others.
“Attending the Games For Change conference in the summer was fun.”
“One of my fondest memories with EGD was playing Jack Box Party on Welcome Week. I got to play games with the other HQ interns and HQ. We had to make bad jokes and it was a fun time.”
“I remember fondly of clocking in every evening over the summer and talking to new people about their experiences in games and anything else.”
“I was able to meet so many amazing people, any time spent with them are fond memories.”
EGD has only just begun its hero’s journey. And though there will always be villains to beat and problems to solve, the day will always be saved with a bright future ahead.
After all, who better to take care of gaming’s future than gamers themselves?
“We hope that in the long term, as we're able to have people more aware, we’re able to slowly change the game industry,” said Huimin Zhuo, COO of EGD, in the AnyKey Spotlight. “Dreams and things sometimes just take a little time, but that doesn't mean that they're not going to come true.”
Be part of the change!
Interested in joining EGD Collective? Head on over to our Discord to be part of the community!