Written by: Lainey Huffman
Edited by: Shania Kuo
The EGD Collective HQ and Waffle Games committee are excited to be bringing Waffle Games 4.0 to the community on April 9th, 2021! Over the past four years, Waffle Games has become a huge convention equipped with educational panels, speakers, and even gaming tournaments to showcase career paths and opportunities within the gaming industry - all completely free for students to attend and learn from. However, Waffle Games wasn’t always what we see today. Back in 2018, when EGD held the first Waffle Games , the only people in attendance were students from CUNY gaming clubs. It was classified as a “mini-convention,” and EGD was still just a club with no official title and no funding. So, how did Waffle Games go from a small club meeting to its current status?
During EGD’s first year of weekly meetings, current CEO and Event Director of Waffle Games Kyra Wills-Umdenstock wanted to keep the ball rolling after a successful Halloween party. Their plan was to create an event held in the spring that could match the energy of their fall semester, but there were no holidays to center the event around. They asked themselves: what’s one thing that college students can’t say no to? Free food. Since EGD was still an unofficial club without funding or a budget, Kyra knew they had to get creative, noting that: “I looked around my dorm room to find something I had a lot of. Waffle mix. I planned that event in only 3 weeks.” The first event was on a much smaller scale than what we see of Waffle Games today - members from other gaming clubs in CUNY coming together to eat waffles and discuss expanding the event for the future of the club. The building was only accessible to CUNY students and renting out a space would have been too expensive for a club with no funding; however, that didn’t dissuade the team from proving how valuable EGD and gaming education were to the college. Kyra and the other CUNY gaming club leaders discussed their desire for Waffle Games to become a CUNY-wide event, and the convention’s mission was solidified for Waffle Games 2.0.
According to Kyra, during their planning, the committee always kept in mind the core values they wanted Waffle Games to exhibit: accessibility to students, exposure for small and diverse creators, and education on career paths in the gaming industry. Waffle Games 2.0 became a large success, and students from NYU, New School, Purchase, Pratt, and St. Johns were caught trying to sneak into the convention. This prompted the committee to take the convention to the public for Waffle Games 3.0 in 2020.
Since careers in the gaming industry aren’t very accessible, students aren’t always aware of the career paths they can take, so they don’t try to seek them out. As Kyra stated, “many of our students didn’t know they’d be able to go to college, so they didn’t really think about what they wanted to major in, and many don’t know that games are a possibility.” With this in mind, Waffle Games focuses on helping students learn the opportunities available and help them get to the next level through networking and exposure. Through hosting educational panels about different fields/areas in the gaming industry, students who attend Waffle Games can gain this knowledge completely for free. Students in attendance were and still are the primary target audience for Waffle Games, but the convention has also granted exposure to student and indie game developers. It has become a place where these developers can gain a spotlight, whereas most gaming conventions showcase Triple-A names already well known.
Since the beginning of Waffle Games, the committee’s intention behind which speakers and panelists were displayed at the convention was to bridge the gaps between different areas of the gaming industry. Through doing so, Waffle Games has promoted a space to exchange ideas openly whether you are a student, hobbyist, or a professional. The committee selects panels and speakers showcasing all different aspects of gaming, so there is something of interest to everyone. Our HQ and committee have noted some of their most memorable speakers at past Waffle Games conventions. For example, CMO of EGD Collective Ben Reuben noted Anne del Castillo, the Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in NYC, as one of his favorites. Kyra found Will Roberts to be a highly memorable speaker. At Waffle Games 3.0, Roberts did a talk called “VR Esports: Designing Competitive Spacial Games,” and he actually did the talk in VR since the convention had to go virtual. Each speaker and panelist both educate and encourage students in attendance to reach their goals in the gaming industry - whatever field their interests may be in.
Even though the committee and directors are always busy making sure everything goes according to plan behind the scenes, Waffle Games has still brought enjoyable experiences to them. For example, Ben notes that even after being completely exhausted from running Waffle Games 2.0, “people came up to me and told me how much they loved the event and planned to come again next year.” Additionally, Kyra says that “I don't really get to participate in the event since i'm putting out fires in the back, but seeing the photos from that event and hearing from some of the event staff that they overheard people talking about how cool it was makes me really excited to put it on every year.” This type of feedback from attendees is what makes the tireless efforts of the Waffle Games committee and EGD HQ worthwhile.
Our Waffle Games committee and EGD Collective HQ unanimously agree that Waffle Games has been more than able to uphold its core value of promoting affordable and accessible career paths for students. Exposure and networking are two of the most important things when it comes to finding a career in the gaming industry, and a primary aim of Waffle Games has always been to allow students to achieve these goals. According to Kyra, most students attend their first industry events through EGD, Waffle Games being a main attraction among EGD’s events. The convention has been able to expose students to possible career paths that they never realized were options before attending Waffle Games. Since Waffle Games is completely free, unlike most gaming conventions, this exposure is super accessible for students. Programs Coordinator Kai Hei Wong notes that “The experience of Waffle Games is an introduction to student creators and indie developers. If someone is interested in the games industry, but they don't know how to start or enter the field, I think Waffle Games is a great crash course.” Since the beginning, Waffle Games has been created and upheld by the hard working committee with one central idea in mind - the benefit of the students who attend.
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