I arrived in SF on Sunday, January 17th, thinking I was going to have a relatively quiet week — a couple of days of attending the IGDA Education Summit, where I’d take part in one panel and an advisory board dinner… then GDC, where I’d do a couple of press things and some recruiting stuff but, mostly, just hang out with friends and attend interesting sessions. Maybe learn something about this wacky game business…
How wrong I was!
Sure, most of what I figured would happen, happened, but it never occurred to me that there’d be so many press folks who wanted to talk — I mean, it’s not like I could talk about the game (or games) we may (or may not) be working on these days at Junction Point, since we joined the Disney family.
But there it was — by Sunday night, my calendar was full to bursting with press interviews. Twenty-eight of them, if memory serves. I did a podcast (where I got to meet Paul Wedgwood from Splash Damage — awesome guy) . I did a bunch of on-camera stuff, including an Xplay thing with Adam Sessler and Chris Taylor. I talked to a bunch of print folks, too, of course (too many to link to — try Google and keep an eye on the newsstands, if you’re really interested).
And, you know what really surprised me? I had a great time. Instead of the same old questions, it seemed like each journalist came in with his (no “hers” to talk to, sadly) own set of issues and interests. The variety of questions I got was fantastic — trust me when I say I’m not used to that. It’s usually the same questions asked over and over. I spend a lot of time trying to keep myself entertained by coming up with new answers to old questions. That was TOTALLY not the case this year. The interviewers kept me very much on my toes. No telling how the actual coverage looks (since I don’t actually read the press stuff about myself — that way lies madness!). But, assuming I didn’t say something really stupid without realizing it and the press guys actually print what I said, I have to give a big shout-out to the gaming press. Great job, guys!
So, other than talk to the press, what did I do and/or take away from the show this year? The short answer is that I went to the IGDA’s Education Summit, which had some real highlights (about which, more later).
I also got to attend a handful of sessions and panels, all quite wonderful. At the high level, the show was bigger than ever (which is both good and bad) — the ratio of fans and wannabes to working developers seems to be a bit worse than in years past. I mean, I’ve never had a kid’s mom stop me at GDC and ask if it’d be okay if she took a picture of her son and me together ’cause he’s such a huge fan but too shy to ask me himself… That is WAAAAY too freaky.
As far as the various tracks went, the tech track seemed really, really strong; I paid no attention to the art track (mea culpa); and there were tons of design talks, which ordinarily I’d applaud — there were lots of people talking about story, that’s for sure. But looking at the list of talks (and, bear in mind, I wasn’t able to attend many of them, so I’m talking through my hat here), it almost seemed as if the organizers said “everyone wants to talk design so let’s load up on design talks.” When I looked at the actual topics being covered, it seemed like a lot of people talking about stuff we don’t really understand very well –which, now that I think about it, describes the situation precisely! Maybe quantity, which reflects growing interest, is a necessary first step on the road to quality. Let’s hope so.
So what sessions did I make sure I had time to attend?
I had to check out Clint Hocking’s talk on immersion (Clint being the most consistently interesting/challenging/entertaining speaker at GDC the last few years);
Noah Falstein’s interview with Sid Meier (which proved that Sid is, as he always has been, the designer’s designer and as all-around great a guy as you hope he’d be);
A round table led by Henry Lowood on game preservation — preserving our history in the form of the actual games themselves and the materials associated with their creation (one of my personal obsessions);
And then there was one of the best GDC talks I’ve attended in years — the Super Smash Brothers Brawl talk by designer Masahiro Sakurai. Wow, that was something!
I’ll post more detailed thoughts on all of this stuff as time permits, but wanted to get something out there in the blogosphere before GDC faded in everyone’s memory.