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Gamer community gets its city spotlight with return of Play NYC convention

The weekend-long midtown event offers playable experiences from a host of developers.

Play NYC's inaugural convention last August attracted an

Play NYC's inaugural convention last August attracted an estimated 5,000 attendees to Terminal 5. Photo Credit: Micah Joel Photography

Game on, New York.

Play NYC, an interactive games convention for both players and creators, returns for the second year at the Manhattan Center in midtown this weekend.

Organized by Playcrafting, which touts itself as “the largest network of game developers in New York,” games of all types are playable at the con.

“We launched Play NYC last year to really give New York its own full-scale, all-games convention, and we delivered on it,” said Dan Butchko, founder and CEO of Playcrafting.

Describing Play NYC as a “carnival of games” that’s welcoming to both hard-core gamers and families looking for a fun outing, Butchko said the Manhattan Center will assume hosting duties through 2020 after last year’s Terminal 5 debut. After attracting an estimated 5,000 people last year and selling out the first day, the event moved to the larger venue, which can handle up to 10,000 visitors. More than 300 developers will be on hand.

Many of the roughly 150 games come from developers based in the greater metropolitan area, some hailing from the five boroughs. Among the local developers expected at Play NYC is SoHo-based Avalanche Studios, which plans to release action-adventure sequel Just Cause 4 on Dec. 4 through publisher Square Enix. A host of developers, publishers and streamers will be running booths, all featuring playable games.

“The entire purpose of it is to create a completely playable space featuring all shapes and sizes across all digital platforms as well as tabletop games — card games, board games,” Butchko said.

Playcrafting was founded in 2009 as a small meetup group, Butchko said. By 2013, the company was running seasonal expos four times a year at the Microsoft Technology Center in Times Square. By the end of 2016, more than 1,000 were showing up to play about 150 games — largely digital but also including tabletop.

The community’s growth indicated to Butchko, an NYU alumnus and passionate gamer, that the city needed its own dedicated games convention. Games have a small presence at big-time city cons, but the likes of New York Comic Con and the Tribeca Film Festival aren’t as focused on that audience as Los Angeles’ massive Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

Butchko likes to refer to the Big Apple as “The Final Frontier of Games” because it’s “the biggest, best city in the country, and yet it’s not typically known for its game development scene or its industry.” He notes other parts of the country benefit from “generous” tax credits unavailable in New York.

“We don’t have that here, so there are a lot of developers here that are really bootstrapping it,” he said. “There are a couple [of] Triple-A studios that have a great presence here that have sort of bucked that trend . . . [But] if we had those tax credits in place, larger studios would be more likely to set up satellites here.”

For Play NYC, the goal is to put New York City’s gaming culture on the map.

“We really want to set out to change that,” Butchko said.

General admission tickets are available on Ticketmaster for $33 on Saturday and $28 on Sunday, with two separate sessions held each day.

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