As a student at the University of Kentucky, it didn’t matter if Wes Keltner was on campus, downtown, or at a bar, the only thing he could think about was the video game industry. Keltner, a native of Campbellsville, Kentucky, believed entering the professional video game world would require leaving his home state and heading west to California.
“I couldn’t look around me and know that (the video game industry) could be done here,” Keltner said. “I wanted to see myself in a business or in an idea and that was not available to me when I was in school, there was nothing that was about video games.”
Now Keltner is the CEO and founder of Lexington-based Gun Interactive, a video game studio most notably known for the creation of “Friday the 13th: The Game.” To date, the game has more than 13 million registered players and Gun Interactive is currently working on a game based on the 1974 film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
The Courier Journal sat down with Keltner to discover three ways for locals to get involved in the video game community.
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Join the International Game Developers Association
The IGDA “is the world’s largest nonprofit membership organization serving all individuals who create games,” according to its website. Keltner said the organization is essentially a free club that meets with game developers ranging from professionals to beginners. The organization also has a library of resources for members and even offers special interest groups such as “Women in Games” and “Allies.”
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“It’s a great group to meet with and learn how games get made,” Keltner said. “Understand the different practices within game design, because there’s engineering and programming, there’s animation and art, there’s music and more.”
Check out the Eastern Kentucky University Gaming Institute
The EKU Gaming Institute is an academic setting for college students to learn the process of video game design, development, and publication. It is the first university in the state of Kentucky to offer a bachelor’s degree in game design.
“It started with a small idea of taking curriculum that already existed at (EKU) and trying to sort of push these things together to learn how games get made,” said Keltner, who sits on the board for the Gaming Institute. “And that kept growing and growing and growing until there (was) a full-on degree.”
Keltner said this program provides students a chance to use a motion caption studio and learn “really high tech stuff.” For students who want to learn video game development skills or have animation dreams but don’t want to leave the state, EKU’s program can give them a start.
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“It’s a great place to start. If you’re you think you want to get into game design, it would be a great university to go look into to see if it’s a fit,” Keltner said.
Get in the habit of ‘modding’ video games
Modding is the practice of taking a playable, existing video game and altering — or modifying — the game to have new aspects. Keltner said it can take a gamer anywhere from one year to eight years to fully modify a game as they want. Modding allows gamers and developers a solid foundation to start with when learning about video game design.
“Start with modding, instead of starting from scratch, it’s a great way to get your feet wet and understand how games get made,” Keltner said.
Keltner said the modding community is made up of discord groups and is very active on Reddit. In these group chat settings, amateur modifiers and game developers will share lines of code, discuss script writing and even work through voice-over acting, which helps create a network of video game developers.
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“They basically become full-fledged game developers,” Keltner said. “They’re just working with a game that already exists, instead of (a new game).”
Contact reporter Olivia Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @oliviamevans_
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