Gaming, just the thought of it makes you think about Asia, leading the way worldwide since the 80’s. They made Nintendo a thing back in the day. Sony also became a gaming giant in the 90’s. Americans only appeared on the scene once Microsoft released the Xbox. Now, in these times of indy and mobile gaming, new game developers have a chance of competing.

Big time game developers such as Blizzard, Valve, Nintendo or Bethesda -to name a few- remain at the top. However, indy companies have risen and forged their reputation, such as Costa Rica’s Green Lava Studios. Furthermore, 19 Tico gaming developers represent over 25% of the technology industry in the nation. They managed to achieve this over the past five years.

These companies have the government to thank, Costa Rica’s foreign trade promoter qualify them as essential for the economy. Currently, almost half of these new entrepreneurs export their games, since the national market is a reduced one.

Gaming is a form of art

The concept of art has evolved since the first half of the 20th century and now is evolving again. Back in the 1930’s cinema became the newest form of art, 80 years later, gaming is seemingly taking that place. The next step in entertainment makes the user a part of the experience, he can now feel the art. Not only that, players can express through playing and make art themselves.

To achieve this kind of quality experiences to customers, the game needs a ton of work. Specialists in design, programming, storytelling, artwork and animation require total harmony. When this happens, instant classics like The Last of Us, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Bioshock and other franchises emerge.

Costa Rica is not only about game developing, their digital tech concentrates on 3D and 2D animation. This talent sells its work outside of the country but gives green numbers to the economy.  “Video games are not seen as something serious. We’re not seen as if we had real work.” Says Pablo Monge, founder of Headless Chicken Games.

Monge adds that behind each game is a lot of investment and sophisticated work. Actually, gaming is a $99 billion a year industry with 2,21 billion players, when art meets industry, it means money. Costa Rica tries being a part of that industry and has reached markets such as Europe and the US. Their high level of work puts them apart from China or India, big producers at lower prices.

Indie gaming means money for economy

One of the biggest myths in society is that you can never work doing what’s fun or it shouldn’t be. In open minded societies, that mindset is changing, but Latin America is all about tradition. “Work is supposed to be hard and not fun”, that is what conservative people still say. That is a hurdle for newer ways of work in Costa Rica. But gaming, once considered “a waste of time” overcame every judgment it had.

Fair Play Labs, a Costa Rican developer published last year Color Guardians on the PS4 and PS Vita. It’s scheduled to enter the Japanese market on PSN and Xbox One. CanuArts praises itself with their game Lithium: Inmate 39, that’s due in September for PS4. This one features a Virtual Reality chapter. Likewise, Headless Chicken Games was the first company in Latin America to develop VR games for Playstation.

Through government support, Costa Rica sees the industry potential of these activities. In past years, it plans events and boosts programs that can open up doors for more local entrepreneurs. In fact, there is a Costa Rican triplets team that handle three different areas, the Cartín Brothers.

Alberto, Felipe and Andrés Cartín lead the company Tree Interactive. They related themselves with the gaming world by using their specific skills. Felipe likes drawing, Andrés’ passion is programming and Alberto focused on design. Tree Interactive offers services, both locally and abroad, in sound effects, concept art, game development, and apps.

The paths to gaming development

The gaming industry has two ways, through art or software. An example of this is the Digital Animation School at Veritas University. They affirm that since 2009, the number of students has doubled, from 170 to approximately 370.

If the chosen path is programming, the University of Costa Rica and Costa Rica Tech represent the options. The Cartin brothers have more than their companies success, they actively participate in government activities that seek gaming develompent in the country.

Costa Rica has a bright future ahead of them with the gaming industry. It welcomes the people that believe in doing that they love, when that happens, nothing but great results await. If some say that life is a game, ¿why don’t we have fun with it? Taking it seriously and responsibly. Breaking old beliefs is never easy, but since the future is now, seizing the day is always the best approach.