ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – With the rise of film in New Mexico, one often overlooked aspect of digital storytelling is game development. New Mexico has no shortage of animators, coders and game developers, but they often don’t have the same level of support that film and television series have from the state.
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One local game studio is making its own way into the hands of consumers. Subliminal Gaming is an independently owned and Indigenous-owned studio based in Albuquerque. They draw inspiration from their home state and focus on making family-friendly content.
Owners Shandiin Yazzie Woodward and Ryan Woodward created the studio in 2012. They both had a passion for game development and storytelling, but felt like there wasn’t a viable industry within the state. They didn’t want to leave their home, so they decided to stay and try to build up a game developer community right here.
“With the game development scene here in New Mexico, we have a lot of independent game developers who are trying to get to that professional level, some who have gotten there, including us, and some who are trying to get more towards a bigger end like a mobile game developer or things like that,” Ryan said. “We are starting to see an uptick in terms of game development here in New Mexico, but it could definitely come a long way.”
In 2015, they released their first game, which they put together while working full-time. In August of 2021, they released their second game called Button City on all gaming platforms. Fans of Animal Crossing will enjoy Button City’s quirky characters and settings. The project was a labor of love for the couple, as it took them about 4 years to make. Whenever they had a spare moment, be it after work or on weekends, they were set on creating a game that they could be proud of.
The couple volunteers with the Albuquerque Game Developers Guild which connects locals interested in creating their own games. “We have an extremely unique landscape in that not only do we have creative talent with amazing artists, from traditional to digital, but we also have amazing software developers,” Ryan said. “So much of software history has started here, but we just need to keep it. So the key thing is keeping talent here in New Mexico and helping it thrive because we already have it, we just need to cultivate it.”
Even though it falls under the umbrella of New Mexico Film, there are only a handful of established game studios in the state. “We would love to see more studios not only come here but be created here and born here and grow here. It brings in so many creative talents that you don’t necessarily find in one place,” Ryan said.
He said larger entities that support New Mexico film could support the game developer community within the state by highlighting the local talent that is already here and making the connection that New Mexico Film helps games get made. “That would go a long way with attracting studio here. It shows that creative talent can be here instead of us having to go out to the west coast,” Ryan said.