Worcester Polytechnic Institute To Be New Home of MassDigi
The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDigi), the award-winning center for academic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and economic development across the Massachusetts video games ecosystem, will move to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) this summer, MassDigi and WPI announced today at a celebration of MassDigi’s 10th anniversary.
MassDigi also will expand its work with students and companies in the region through a MassTech Game Prototype Matching Fund created with a new $100,000 grant awarded by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). The grant will supply funds over the next two years to match private-sector investment in MassDigi’s Summer Innovation Program Extension (SIPX). Firms will apply to work with students to turn early-stage game concepts into working prototypes, which will provide paid job experience and valuable hands-on training to students.
“MassDigi and WPI are a perfect match,” said Timothy Loew, MassDigi founder and executive director. “Since it was established a decade ago, MassDigi has built extensive connections to the video game industry, cooperated with dozens of colleges and universities, launched more than 30 games, and created pathways to jobs for young people. With WPI’s global reach and its strengths in education, project-based learning, and research, MassDigi will be able to do even more for local and regional economies.”
MassDigi has been a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center since 2011 and has secured more than $4.6 million in public and private support for its programs and activities, including those aimed at preparing young people for careers in the video games industry. MassDigi is moving because Becker College, where it is currently located, is closing at the end of its academic year.
WPI started its Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) program in 2004, one of the nation’s first undergraduate degree programs in game design. The IMGD program has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top programs in the country for game design majors, and WPI has continued to invest in IMGD with new degrees—a Master of Science, a Bachelor of Arts, a PhD in computational media, and the university’s first Master of Fine Arts.
“WPI is proud to provide a new home for MassDigi at this essential moment in their history. Together we are committed to enabling rapid acceleration of MassDigi’s critical work to catalyze connections across academia, industry, and government to foster innovation in gaming and digital media for our commonwealth and our world,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “Interactive media has already changed the way we learn, work, play, and live, but there is more to do. With WPI’s strong commitment to connecting learning and technology to real-world challenges, we see great opportunities to support the MassDigi ecosystem in fostering phenomenal growth in this exciting sector.”
“When I think of Worcester’s future, it’s the work I see happening at places like WPI and MassDigi that gets me excited,” said Congressman James P. McGovern. “As Co-Chair of the House Video Games and Esports Caucus, I hear from so many colleagues that Worcester is one of the nation’s top destinations for games education, and this good news will further strengthen our reputation for innovation and creativity.”
During the event, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the new matching-grant program from the MassTech Collaborative. The new grant builds on the long track record of support for MassDigi by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which provided more than $200,000 in support since MassDigi’s founding, including a regional priority grant from the Innovation Institute at MassTech that represented the first public dollars invested in MassDigi. In more recent years, a separate agency, MassDevelopment, has doubled those investments through the Collaborative Workspaces program, including supporting the creation of first-of-their-kind augmented and virtual reality and eSports labs.
“MassDigi has made a real impact in growing digital game development in the Commonwealth, both in terms of company formation and workforce development,” said Polito. “By supercharging SIPX with these matching funds, our hope is to expand research and development opportunities for growing design firms to test their ideas, while continuing the commonwealth’s support for programs that drive real-world work experience for our students. WPI is a perfect fit for MassDigi, as a leading hub for R&D and as a university that provides students with the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century innovation economy.”
Global video game revenue totaled an estimated $180 billion in 2020, surging amid pandemic lockdowns. More than 214 million people in the United States play video games, supporting an industry that accounts for 428,000 jobs across the country. In Massachusetts, the video game industry supports about 1,970 jobs and $455.6 million in direct economic activity. The commonwealth is home to about 80 video game publisher, developer, or hardware company sites.
MassDigi has mentored entrepreneurs such as Ryan Canuel, founder and chief executive officer of Petricore Games, a six-year-old Worcester-based games and interactive media company.
“The team at MassDigi has been there for our studio every step of the way,” said Canuel. “We started up right after college, and without their guidance and help we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
MassDigi’s work also will fit well with the vision of the IMGD program at WPI, said Jennifer deWinter, IMGD director and a professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts.
“Games have provided the framework for everything from apps that we use on our phones to virtual reality and augmented reality training for medical students,” deWinter said. “We look forward to closely collaborating with MassDigi to explore the opportunities of gaming and gaming technologies in surprising places, such as robotics, medical imaging, museum experience design, and so much more.”