It's not like Philly couldn't be a hot gaming town. Under Mayor John Street, the municipal government is just about to roll out a citywide wireless Internet service. How cool is that? You'd expect that kind of large-scale geek chic in San Francisco, Seattle or Austin, but Philadelphia?
And, of course, Comcast -- fat pipes and all -- is headquartered in Philly. As we move fully into the online game era, it seems like that connection could be leveraged somehow to create gaming partnerships. Although, to be honest, the giant cable provider never could figure out how to make G4TV work as a stand-alone video game network. Then again, nobody else could, either.
If the politicians really want to attract game development dollars to the city, there are some steps that can be taken. Tax breaks would help, although these would need to be enacted at the state level, since the Philadelphia city government is perpetually broke. We've already seen incentives for game developers passed by legislatures in Louisiana, Georgia and Wisconsin, to name a few.
It would also be nice if one of Philadelphia's major universities stepped up with a killer academic program in the gaming arts. There are a lot of good schools in this town -- the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple and St. Joe's, to name a few. Too many of those grads leave town when they get their diplomas, the much-lamented "brain-drain." Philly's best and brightest techies are being lured to places with sunnier climes and more satisfying opportunities.
Across the state, in Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon has a great game-oriented academic program, which has in turned spawned some promising start-ups nearby. How good is CMU? A couple of years back no less a gaming deity than Will Wright told me how impressed he was with the Carnegie-Mellon program.
There is, of course, something of a chicken and egg dilemma here. Do the game companies come first and then receive city support? Or does the city roll out the red carpet on the theory "if you offer incentives, they will come?" Like most cities, Philly goes all-out to attract and support Hollywood production companies. Why not do the same for video game developers? After, all, the movie people leave town after the shoot is done. Game developers will put down roots, hire local employees and pay taxes.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Dennis McCauley is Editor of GamePolitics.com and writes about games for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Opinions expressed in The Political Game are his own. Reach him at