Beyond the MBA Classroom: Business in Gaming at MIT Sloan

When you select an MBA program, you are not just choosing your learning environment, but are also committing to becoming part of a community. Each Thursday, we offer a window into life “beyond the MBA classroom” at a top business school.

Launched at the MIT Sloan School of Management in May 2009, the innovative Business in Gaming (BIG) Conference brings together industry leaders, game developers, academics, and students from leading MBA schools to discuss the newest business trends and the future of the gaming industry. Its inaugural theme, “Marketing and Distribution in the Digital Age,” explored the current evolution of the gaming industry as it is set to exceed those of both the music and movie industries, and focused on creative ways to market and distribute games less expensively by using digital media.

Representatives from Google, Massive, Gamer DNA and Mana Potions participated in panels, and Curt Schilling, three-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox, was another featured speaker. Ken Levine, president of 2K Boston—who led the creation of the multimillion-selling title BioShock, winner of multiple game-of-the year awards—served as the inaugural conference’s keynote speaker. Wrote one of the conference organizers on the event’s Web site, “Few gaming industry conferences focus exclusively on the business side of the gaming industry. MIT, in conjunction with MIT Sloan, is the birthplace of companies such as Harmonix Music Systems, giving it a unique edge to lead in this area.”

In an interview with mbaMission, one of the organizers who conceptualized and organized the first BIG conference told us, “I believe that there are very few places where this could have happened. Especially in this economy, trying to fund and run a new conference is very difficult. In addition, most of the game publishers are on the West Coast and thus a business event for the video game industry on the East Coast is harder to pull off. In addition, the brand name of MIT (and MIT Sloan) really helped us pull in speakers and panelists via cold calling and personal connections within the MIT alumni network.”

The third annual BIG conference, held in March 2011, featured such speakers as Dr. Richard A. Bartle, professor of computer game design at the University of Essex; Nik Davidson, a veteran MMO (massively multiplayer online) games designer; and Ken Levine, co-founder, president, and creative director of Irrational Games. Some of the conference topics were “The Five Mistakes Every Game Designer Makes,” “The Economy of Play,” “Have Social Games Overtaken Hardcore Games?” and “The Games Entrepreneurs Play.”

For in-depth descriptions of social and community activities at MIT Sloan and 14 other top MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

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