Tips for getting involved in the video game industry from the CEO of Gun Interactive

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As a student at the University of Kentucky, it didn’t matter if Wes Keltner was on campus, downtown or in a bar, the only thing he could think about was the video game industry. Keltner, a native of Campbellsville, Kentucky, believed that entering the world of professional video gaming would require leaving his home state and heading west to California.

“I couldn’t look around and know that (the video game industry) could be done here,” Keltner said. “I wanted to see myself in a business or an idea and that wasn’t available to me when I was in school, there was nothing to do with video games.”

Now, Keltner is the CEO and founder of Lexington-based Gun Interactive, a video game studio best known for creating “Friday the 13th: The Game.” To date, the game has over 13 million registered players and Gun Interactive is currently working on a game based on the 1974 movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

The Courier Journal sat down with Keltner to find out three ways locals can get involved in the gaming community.

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Join the International Association of Game Developers

Employees at work at Gun Interactive, video game company, maker of Friday the 13th: The Game. October 4, 2022

The IGDA “is the world’s largest non-profit organization serving all game creators,” according to its website. Keltner said the organization is essentially a free club that meets game developers ranging from pros to newbies. The organization also has a library of resources for members and even offers special interest groups such as “Women in Games” and “Allies.”

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“It’s a great group to meet and learn about how games are made,” Keltner said. “Understand the different practices in game design, because there’s engineering and programming, there’s animation and art, there’s music and more.”

Learn about the Eastern Kentucky University Institute of Gaming

Cody Chatham, graphic designer for video game company Gun Interactive, works on a design.  October 4, 2022

The EKU Gaming Institute is an academic setting for students to learn the process of designing, developing, and publishing video games. It is the first university in the state of Kentucky to offer a bachelor’s degree in game design.

“It all started with a little idea of ​​taking a program that already existed at (EKU) and trying to bring those things together to learn how games are made,” said Keltner, who sits on the Gaming Institute’s board of directors. . “And it just kept growing and growing and growing until there (was) a full degree.”

Keltner said this program gives students the opportunity to use an animated caption studio and learn “some really high-tech stuff.” For students who want to learn skills in video game development or who dream of animation but don’t want to leave the state, EKU’s program can give them a head start.

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“It’s a great place to start. If you think you want to get into game design, this would be a great university to study to see if it’s right for you,” Keltner said.

Make a Habit of “Modifying” Video Games

Modding is the practice of taking an existing playable video game and altering – or modifying – the game to give it new looks. Keltner said it can take a gamer between a year and eight years to completely modify a game the way they want. Modding gives gamers and developers a solid foundation to start learning video game design.

“Start with modding, instead of starting from scratch, it’s a great way to get your feet wet and understand how games are made,” Keltner said.

Keltner said the modding community is made up of discord groups and is very active on Reddit. In these group chat settings, hobby modders and game developers will share lines of code, discuss scripting, and even work through voice acting, which helps build a network of video game developers.

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“They basically become full-fledged game developers,” Keltner said. “They’re just working with a game that already exists, instead of (a new game).”

Contact journalist Olivia Evans at [email protected] or on Twitter at @oliviamevans_

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