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.