Saturday, January 29, 2005

Austin Envy Reversed? The New Tech/Music Center Emerges

It has become habitual for folks around the country to envy Austin as a bastion of clean, enlightened, info-age development with a really exciting ethnic music scene. Baton Rouge, in particular, has a bad case of Austin Envy with multiple visits to the city to study their successes over the years. A "young" reform group even calls itself "Austin 6." (A decisions which seems surpassingly strange on only short reflection.) But it seems that some in Austin might have caught a case of Lafayette envy. Read on.

It's welcome to see, even in the midst of ongoing obstructionism, that out of state companies are begining to make their decisions based on Lafayette's potential and its anticipated fiber-optic infrastructure. The Advocate notes that Austin-based Ninjaneering is making a move into Lafayette that UL and the city hope will become the basis for a thriving computer gaming industry in the city. The company has inked a contract with UL that will offer opportunities--while they are in Lafayette--to UL students. With fiber coming in there is no reason that those students will ever need to leave. The bandwidth will be here to move the required enourmous files around with ease. In fact the bandneck bottleneck won't be in Lafayette or on the nation's fiber backbone. It will be in Austin. (You like good music? Why not move to Lafayette?)
Part of the attraction of Lafayette is the plan of the Lafayette Utilities System to install a fiber-optic network, Zuzolo said.

'It interests us greatly,' he said of the plan. 'Lafayette is going to have the network and the pipeline for content. We have to make sure that, where ever we go, we have the infrastructure.'

.....The fact that LUS, which is owned by the people, is laying the fiber is "huge" for Lafayette, Zuzolo said.

"It's a great asset for the community, and it fits well with the goals we have, in helping business develop around the game industry," Zuzolo said.

It's great for folks outside our community to see the potential of what we are doing here--and sensible for them to move in to begin to take advantage of it.

To return the favor it's worthwhile to explicitly notice the power and potential of computer gaming. The Advocate story does a good job of that but the basic point could stand a little sharpening for our readership: Computer gaming is already, in terms of consumer dollars spent bigger than movies and music combined. Computer gaming has driven the computer industry, hardware and software for the last several generations of chipsets, operating systems, networking architectures, and graphics rendering engines. What NASA's space program was to technology in the 70's, producing everything from teflon to the technology behind areodynamic cars, gaming has proven to be for the digital age.Quite simply to be on the cutting edge of gaming technology is to be on the cutting edge of digital technology. It is where all the most advanced work comes together.

Make no mistake, this is not about "just games." It's about being out in front...which is exactly where we want to be.

Quick Update 2:30--MY BAD--The Advertiser also has a good article on this story: "Game maker courts UL," and I missed it on my first pass through the paper and Jordan Hernandez and the Advertiser deserve credit. It fills out the tale by noting the relationship to the new undergraduate curriculum in video game design and development and by linking in ATIC and LONI. The best pull qoute is the closing paragraph:

"Expanding is a distinct possibility. We'd love to open a Ninjaneering Lafayette. We'd really like for the students to have somewhere here that they can practice what they're learning and certainly the last thing you want is for the students to go to Boston or New York or San Francisco to find work," he said. "Ideally, you'd want students interested in it getting their education here, making games here and then breaking into entrepreneurship and starting a game design company here."
That's the whole point. Always has been.

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