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Starting a game company in Taos

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Interview with Dustin Sweet, and Isa Stewart, Jan 3 2022.

IS: So why are we starting a game company?

DS: To play games!

IS: Alright, cool. But you can play all the games you want, without starting a game company.

DS: That’s true. I could. So could you. Anyone could start a game company in Taos. I wish they would, I wanna work there.

We’re starting a game company really specifically in Taos. It’s one of the largest growing markets in the world. It’s grown steadily since 1990. It’s something that can be done from Taos that takes money from everywhere else in the world, brings it back here, and puts money into this economy.

I want to make games, kids in Taos want to make games. There are lots of people who would come to Taos to make games. Artists love this place. Programmers love this place. It’s a wonderful place to be.

IS: Also, who doesn’t want the flavor of Taos to be in a game? What even is that? As artists we get to figure out what it means to express that. What is the culture of Taos? How does that influence the games? How does it influence different genres of games? What artists, what experience and what perspectives from the people who live in Taos influence different kinds of games? I think that’s a really cool part of it.

I’m also really interested in making opportunities to work together. My heart has been there for a long time. It’s something I’m excited about offering our community, and that I want to role model more when I can.

I have this idea that people organizing happened more before I was born. I feel like at the leadership level there has been a bit of a shift that happened over the last 30 years where organizing and collaboration was discouraged, and it’s not a trait I see prioritized culturally. 

DS: I would say that was part of my experiences in corporate America. That it’s very much that sense of doing it together is something very sought after. But at a corporate level, you’re not actually trying to pay people to stick around. So you’re actually losing that sense of togetherness, you know, that purpose.

IS: As an artist, with games, and with projects in general, I think we have an opportunity to provide reasons for people to develop those muscles of collaboration.

DS: One of the things that I always had hoped for with starting a business here was to take advantage of the system that UNM and the High School have created. When I was a young, enterprising artist in Taos High School it would have been really cool if I had been able to rotate into UNM, get an associate’s degree and get placed within an industry I cared about through that system. That system is set up now, except that there’s nobody catching those guys. We’re in our fourth creche of kids through the UNM Taos program and some of the students have already gone on to do great things. The department is doing good stuff. I think there needs to be somewhere to catch and move those kids, to help them move forward.

There’s several young people who I’ve had the pleasure of teaching who are making great games right now, and making great content right now. I would love to be in a position to scoop them up, and shepherd their next set of games and really grow that here. There’s no reason why we can’t have that kind of industry here in town.

IS: By having a game company or a media company of any kind, we not only have the opportunity to, I almost want to say, ride the wave of our times in a way that helps our people.

DS: We can. The beauty of Taos as an artist destination is that people want to be here working. Even casually you see part time artists here, or artists who don’t think of themselves as full time artists, just walking around the natural beauty of this place. It calls you to pull out your cell phone. You often see people snapping photos, making paintings and doing drawings. There’s a real culture here of the muse. Exporting that to the rest of the world just takes a data line and some scheduling. I don’t see why we couldn’t do it.

We’re not trying to give away the baby with the bathwater, but if we could charge a pretty penny and actually get money flowing back into the economy that would be great.

Yeah, I’d love to build a Pixar, EA, or Studio Ghibli style facility, you know, and employ a couple 100 people at $90-$100,000 a year. That’s my dream for this thing. Let that sink into the local economy, let that be a thing.