Northern Nevada is a great place to be if you design video games — casino based or otherwise.
In recent years, a number of game designers have launched, relocated or opened additional offices in Reno, including Spin Games, 3G Studios, Leap Forward Gaming and Video Gaming Technologies, joining heavyweight gaming company IGT in the Biggest Little City.
What they’re finding is a community ready to embrace technology industries and, especially important, a field of qualified applicants.
“Within the Northern Nevada area, we’ve had great success recruiting locally,” said Kent Young, the founder and president of Spin Games, which has creative centers in Reno and Bangkok, Thailand. “A few were brought up from Las Vegas and a couple from Sacramento.”
Among Spin Games’ recruits are four graduates from the University of Nevada, Reno.
“The quality of people we are getting out of UNR is outstanding,” Young said, adding that the institution is particularly strong in the math needed for game programming.
Spin Games also advertises positions heavily on Craigslist, but the biggest recruiting asset comes from its employees.
“We actually get a large number (of new employees) from existing employees who have experience working with other people within the industry,” Young said.
The existing staff also helps with the screening process by developing tests pertinent to what is done in their departments, including tests for artists and game programmers.
The size of the field of candidates depends on the position. Young said there are a lot of graphic artists in the area.
“But game designers, on the math side, there are fewer of those people with the needed skill set.”
Candidates go through a rigorous process to find the right candidate to fit into the Spin Games culture, which is one reason recommendations from existing employees are so important. But once established in the company, few leave.
“We have a low turnover, overall,” said Young. “Some aren’t a (good) fit for the culture and leave. Most stay with the company and it’s a very good culture, a fun environment,” he said.
“We invest a lot in people, in training people. It’s just a good way to run business.”
And the gaming design business is booming.
Most of the expansion in the Reno market has happened in the last few years: Spin Games began in 2012; 3G Studios, founded in 2006 by James Kosta, moved from south Reno to downtown Reno in 2010; Leap Forward Gaming was started by Ali Saffari in 2009; and Video Gaming Technologies, founded by Jon Yarbrough in 1991, opened its Reno studio in 2013.
Even long-established IGT, which went public in 1981, is constantly adding new games and adapting existing casino games to mobile and Internet platforms.
Spin Games’ Young talked to NNBW by phone from England, where he was working on an agreement with Nektan, a UK-based video gaming company.
“Northern Nevada is a growing technical center,” said Young, adding that the growth is very good for recruiting. “Tesla (coming to the Reno market) is good for a company like ourselves. It attracts technical types.”