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Meet Josh Delson of JDE (Junior Development Experience) in Chicago

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Delson.

Josh, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The JDE was a program I created inspired by my time at the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Within the last few years, I served GDC as a Conference Associate and learned from famous alumni about DePaul University’s former/secret DePaul Gaming Elitists (DGE). This was a program overlooked by Alex Seropian (former CEO of Bungie), who brought together faculty and students in competing in the Independent Game Festival (IGF). Many developers from the DGE became successful from starting their own studio (Young Horses) and even becoming Forbes 30 under 30 (Ashley Ruhl). The success inspired me to apply for DePaul’s program, but it was completely wiped out upon my time as a freshman in college. Every successful student was affiliated with the DGE’s four long years as a program and I wanted to experience this myself. I researched and interviewed faculty, alumni, and staff affiliated with the whole history of this abandoned program. From there I was blessed with permission for a spin-off 5th edition, the Josh Delson Experience.

This was a year-long program I started from scratch for 22 students of all disciplines. The team was created from months of interviews, workshops, and member evaluations of collaboration. My goal was to learn from creating a workspace of intense art workshops, portfolio opportunities, and festival showcases. During my time facilitating the JDE I successfully managed workshops for everyone to learn from. This consisted of over twenty game jams within two months, organized industry events from CEO speakers to studio tours, a mentorship program, independent study, and much more. In time I overlooked everyone’s school, work, and extracurricular schedules to make sure the program would run smoothly. I even designed our website (www.jdechicago.com) and handled festivals for the studio to showcase for. All created by my passion for accommodating to the needs of others.

Over time, the program was switched to the Junior Development Experience for promotional material. This was for publicity and festivals related to game arts. Within the last year, we as a studio have been experimenting the medium of video games. During the summer, we were even selected as an overall festival selection for St. Louis’ largest game festival. Right now as a studio we are working on some unannounced projects and getting jobs within the game industry.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
To be honest, there have been tons of bumps within the last year. Since we were starting from scratch, it was up to me and my peers to find mentors that can help give input on what we are doing. Every member joined with an interest in creating projects and content for festivals, but coming together would be a struggle since members had school, work, and extracurricular outside of this. With that, there were obstacles with team dynamics on certain issues. Various members would overcome challenges differently than others causing a clash of ideas.

Please tell us about JDE (Junior Development Experience).
We develop games. I’ve talked with many developers from programs and schools across the nation and something stuck with me. Game Developers either had the resources, but not the motivation or vice versa. The JDE make gamed because none of our peers were motivated in making games other than required work. Members meet together in their free time to talk about ideas they want to create. The JDE is the team environment and community in creating a workspace for members.

What we are known for is our passion in connecting with others. Since Chicago does not have that many game events compared to other major cities, we host game showcases and game jams. We always participate in game festivals as well and give feedback to other indie game studios online.

Regarding the pride in the group, I believe what makes the JDE to special is the hard work and history we as a team created. If the JDE never happened, many peers would not be where they are today. Some got industry jobs, others learned more about their true passion outside of games, and some took away the best practices when working with others. Thanks to this we have games that are being showcased to festivals across the nation. I just love being able to remind the world Chicago still has its game industry.

Thinking about what sets us apart is our pride in DePaul University. Having started there, we always promote the cool resources the university has to offer. We also share the university’s mission of giving back to our community. Some of our members even overlooked and created games to help students on the south side cope with bullying. It was really cool tying what we learned for something more than video games.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Growing up I loved spending the days outside of my cul de sac. In the 90s I lived in Lisle, IL and had so many people my age in my neighborhood. Our typical day would consist of water gun fights, pokemon card trading, exploring the park with our bikes, playing our N64, and light saber fights. Everyday felt like I learned something new in this neighborhood. My day passed by like a week and my week went by like day. Life felt like an adventure of episodes for a fake television series.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Josh Delson, Samuel Zapiain, Daniel Song, Tabby Hein, Jacqueline Passehl, Brian Eschenbrenner, Maurice Westbrooks, Edgar Camargo, Lee Rundell, Kara Contessa, Justin Piantedosi, Tiffany Whitely, Adam Griff, Andrew Bagdady, Trevor Siegler, AJ, Klopenstein Elliott Townsend, Micho Todorovich, Chris Wade, David Laskey

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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