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Intellectual Disharmony

Road to GDC

Given my current workload, blog content is likely to be less of a priority over the next six weeks as my editing chores for the new book intensify (Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames; a multi-author book on writing skills by the IGDA Game Writers' SIG), Fireball demands more and more attention, and other (sub rosa) projects fight for the scraps of my time. I don't know if I'll be writing less, or just using my blog time to work on Fireball yet - I guess we'll find out soon enough!

In the meantime, here are few quick recommendations for GDC...


"Emotion Boot Camp: Putting More Emotion into Play", Nicole Lazzaro & Katherine Isbister (Full Day Tutorial, Monday 20th March). It irks me that I am not able to make GDCs for the tutorials this year, as this one just sounds perfect. A pragmatic exploration of the emotions evoked by games, and how to encourage emotional responses in your players. I wish more of GDC was like this.

"IGDA Writer's Special Interest Group Presents: Write Club", Edward Kuehnel, Matthew Entin and guests (One Hour Tournament, Wednesday and Thursday) This is the craziest thing I've ever seen make it onto the GDC schedule and as such deserves support! Come along to a truly experimental tournament as we see writers compete to out-write each other for honour and prizes!

"Writers Group Gathering", Me (Group Gathering, Wednesday, 2:30pm — 3:30pm). I have to plug this, I suppose... but if you're in the field of game writing, you should be here. We are also planning on having a Game Writer's meal every day of GDC (more or less) so there are plenty of opportunities to foster community.

"Attracting Women to Game Development", Michelle Sorger, Sande Chen (One Hour Roundtable, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). I went to one of these roundtables last year and it was well worth the time. I'm struggling to fit it into my schedule this year, but I'm hoping to attend at least one of the slots. Also consider any of the Joseph Saulter slots on diversity. Our industry has a shocking lack of ethnic diversity and gender balance...

"Future Character Design: Out of the Lab and Into Your Game", Katherine Isbister (One Hour Lecture, Friday 24th March). Okay, I'm plugging Katherine Isbister again. What can I say. There's a shortage of Japanese game design talks this year... This is a talk about recent developments in research with implications for game design; no idea what that will entail, but I'm certain it'll be interesting.

Also highly recommended is the IGF (Independent Games Festival) - consistently the finest collection of games at any conference you will attend! Every year it single-handedly restores my faith in interactive entertainment. Makes E3 seem like vacuous marketing drivel... (unsurprisingly).

Not Recommended

"Untitled", Will Wright (60 minute lecture, Thursday). There are several reasons I don't recommend this session. The first is the appaling lack of effort made by GDC to make it seem like a good use of your time. The conference notes read (in their entirety): "Overview: Why are you still reading this? It's Will Wright." Well Raid on Bungeling Bay was okay, I suppose, but what has he done since! :) The main reason to avoid this, however, is that it will be massively oversubscribed, you won't get a seat, you might not even get in the door and even if you don't brave the crowds to attend it live they are likely to screen repeats of it throughout the rest of the conference. Unless, like last year, EA decide not to let the GDC organisers screen repeats of it. They're such friendly folks at EA, full of the spirit of loving and togetherness. :) I guess that's a third reason not to attend.

Have fun!


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I've got my ticket already, this is going to be my first GDC. I'm guessing I didn't win a scholarship, but I'm opting for a press pass, either through the Escapist or Gamasutra. Which reminds me, I've been aiming to do a feature for the Escapist's "Little Guy" issue called "Experimental Ludes, Scratchware Autuers". I want to record a group discussion by designers doing experimental things in the indie market. I'd like to have a four-way discussion with Santaigo Siri (designer of Utopia, which'll be in the Experimental Gameplay Workshop), Mark Healey and yourself, with myself as moderator. Let me know if you're up for this.

If I manage to finagle my way in on monday I'm torn between the Emotion tutorial and the sociology tutorial, which will include as moderator Eric Zimmerman. I think I'm more interesting in social simulation than extroverted play per se, I see it as a bottom up vs. top down approach to social challenge. I definetly plan on attending Katherine's talk on Friday, which I think is sandwiched between Bogost's talk on advergaming and the rant roast, which is always the key point of the conference ;)

I wasn't aware of the writing oriented stuff until now however, which piques my interest. Would there be anyway I could participate in the Write Club. At the least I'd like to attend at least one of the writer's lunchs. Keep me posted Chris.

Re: Will's Talk

My general rule of thumb is to avoid the over-crowded, over-subscribed talks at all costs. The only exception to this is when Wright is speaking, at which point I show up one hour early, typically in line directly behind the man himself! I just find his presentation style and content to be incredibly informative and engaging, and unlike many GDC talks, I find myself thinking about what he says six months down the line with startling regularity.


Write Club is open to all comers, Patrick - if you fancy it, give it a whirl! :) I'd be happy to take part in your indie panel discussion - you should email me about it so we can discuss timings. The writers' meals should be happening every night after the conference, meeting up in the IGDA area. Everyone's welcome! See you there!


Well of course there's a reason why oversubscribed talks become oversubscribed. :) I've queued for more than my fair share of the Japanese game designers and it's always been worthwhile. I think it's a safe bet that my anti-recommendation for Will's talk will not make a jot of difference to its popularity. :) Perhaps the conference organisers will have the good sense to put him in the same hall as the keynote speakers for once and there will be adequate space for all comers.

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