Louisiana Technology Park in Baton Rouge has netted six video game developers so far _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU students Craig Jones, left, and Michael Morgan, center, of video game company After Hours Lab, discuss 'Space Shrimp' at Louisiana Technology Park's Level Up Lab. At right is Sophie Crane, a Baton Rouge native studying art in New York. She's a 3-D animator on the project. Game characters Grub and Shwil are on the laptop screen.

The Level Up video game lab has been given tentative approval of $96,000 by Research Park Corp.'s board of directors for an expansion that it hopes will boost the local gaming industry.

Cody Louviere, who founded King Crow Studios, a local video game company, said he wants to see the local video game industry develop to the point where people working in it can make it their primary profession, instead of something they do along with their full-time job.

“There’s an amazing community of creative people,” he said. “I’m trying to help them with job creation and training and give them an opportunity.”

Louviere wants to use the money to help local independent video game companies develop business plans and work on their pitches. The money also would help pay for a business consultant on the West Coast, who is plugged into the industry, and pay for Level Up to attend major video game conferences in search of job opportunities.

“I want to focus my entire attention on this fully on the next year and see what can be accomplished,” he said.

The Level Up lab was established in the Louisiana Technology Park incubator on Florida Boulevard in 2013 through a $75,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state partnership that creates economic development opportunities across the Mississippi River Delta. Right now, there are five fledgling digital media companies in the lab, working on games, apps and other content.

Genevieve Silverman, interim executive director of the Research Park Corp., which is over the Tech Park, said Louviere approached the organization last year about growing the mission of the Level Up Lab. Byron Clayton, who stepped down as executive director at the end of 2017, was very interested in his ideas and wanted him to present his funding request to the RPC board, she said.

Silverman said she’s “very much supportive” of the expansion because its entrepreneur-driven and leverages investments that have already been made.

“This sets Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Tech Park as an indie game hub, which is a lucrative and forward-looking field. It sets us apart,” she said.

Louviere’s plans could also be self-sustaining, since he plans to pay for the consulting and marketing services by collecting a percentage from each contract a Level Up tenant lands to develop games or software.

The RPC included the money in the revised 2018 budget, but wants to make sure Louviere’s plans don’t overlap with any services being performed by Louisiana Economic Development or the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. The RPC’s executive committee is expected to vote on the funding at its February meeting.

Although the RPC is committing the entire amount to the expansion, Silverman said it will review the funding each quarter and decide if it should continue.

“We want to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” Louviere said. “That will determine what we do in 2019.”

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.