We had the good fortune of connecting with Ron Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ron, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
There are plenty of misconceptions about the game industry today. The biggest one still being games are just entertainment for kids. Not taking into account the generation that grew up, and are now showing their kids their favorite games. In 2016, the average male player was 33 as the average female player was 44. Like with other creative industries, we can see how video games have been maturing into more than just a subculture. This medium has evolved creating multiple genres, communities, monetization practices, business models, celebrities, and countless hours of content. Like with music and film, games are a form of art. We have pretty pictures, we have moving pictures, and we have immersive audio. Games actually add that next big thing, interactivity. You’re granted the ability to make a choice, the ability to control the world around you. Designers have been tugging on players’ emotions or making they’re hearts race for years now. We all play or have a memory, good or bad, tied to a game by now. You might not call yourself a gamer, but I bet your smartphone has one or two games on it. All a game is is an interactive experience. People have taken that concept and ran with it. Play an action game about greek mythology, you’ll walk away learning names and a bit of history. Play a city builder and you might pick up a few engineering and population management skills. Hospitals are using VR games to treat trauma patients. Plus, we all remember the math and typing games we played in school. Not only are games proven to be more than entertainment, they will birth the next generation of careers. Video games are on the corner of tech and art. As the internet boomed, so did the opportunities for making and selling your own games. The available resources for writing code, creating art, marketing, and building your brand are everywhere. And these skills are interdisciplinary, giving you access to other programming or artistic fields. As 2020 has shown us, the world has more and more of a demand for a virtual lifestyle. It’s time to take games seriously.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’d love to! The Indie Cluster is an organization that provides services and creates opportunities for independent game developers. We are run by developers, so we have the experience of what it takes to make a successful game. We have a passion for seeing great projects thrive, so we have created a model that deals with the business part of the industry so members won’t have to. We aid in handling the marketing, production, QA, social media, and networking needs of dev teams so they can focus on making the best game they can make. Most other online gaming communities are just websites, however we provide directed services. I’m super proud of our team and the heart of our members and partners. In the community we’ve been able to foster, there’s so much talent and enthusiasm for creativity and interactive experiences. Our mission is to never let a passion project die because of a lack of resources. The Cluster has been through a number of ups and downs. For 6 years now, we’ve been the pulse of the indie gaming scene here in Atlanta. It took some business finesse, some bootstrapping, and some friendly connections to have a recognizable platform today. We’ve attempted a number of fun but much needed programs in the past like a podcast, a summer camp, and a few stand alone events. Though without the proper infrastructure, it was hard to find our stride doing so much. What kept us going was acknowledging how we started: taking advantage of our resources to provide an easier development experience to those without access. We finally sat down and defined who we are as an organization and created a sustainable business model that could reflect that. However, instead of rolling out our ideas naturally like we wanted, we were forced to fully pivot towards it because of the global pandemic. It fuels us knowing that creators around the world need support now more than ever. With an oversaturated market, developers, students, coders, and creatives need to stand out to survive. As a collective, the Indie Cluster has created a modular community of studios. Our goal? Succeed together!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So there’re a few places we have to go check out. I’m assuming they’re in town for a big game or comic convention like MomoCon. If we’re not spending all day being proud nerds, we have to grab some food at Slutty Vegan and The Vortex. While we’re downtown, we can enjoy an afternoon at Piedmont Park. Unless we want to go to a bar in Buckhead, I’m always down for a night at Battle and Brew. We’ll need more than a couple of hours there. I’m also going to make that friend support local artists at a pop up art show, because that’s what friends are for. There’s enough fun and culture on every corner.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Plenty of people deserve credit and praise. Those that have been a member, a sponsor, or have shared, retweeted, or played one of our games deserve recognition. As the saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. I’ve had many conversations with indies, creatives, and entrepreneurs that have kept me going and taught me new things. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the people around me. Secondly to my family, as they have always been my biggest supporter. As a creative, their love and encouragement have motivated me and kept me sane. Next up, the energetic and supportive Georgia game community that has helped me grow over the years. I am passionate about maintaining this same type of culture within the Indie Cluster, a culture that creates a space for others to fail, learn, and live. Lastly, Tripwire Interactive and the Georgia Game Developers Association deserve special recognition. We wouldn’t be here without their sponsorships, period. Our partners, and the GGDA specifically, continue to contribute, guide, and grant me and others a much needed platform. So a huge shout out to them as we focus on paying it forward.

Website: https://IndieCluster.com
Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/RonJonesTheArtist
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IndieClusterATL https://twitter.com/The_RonJones
Facebook: https://facebook.com/IndieClusterATL https://facebook.com/RonJonesTheArtist

Image Credits
-Director Cam Clay -Georgia Game Developers Association

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