GDC: Day 2

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Sorry for the delay! I quickly came to realize that doing a live blog among the hustle and bustle of GDC was a bit unrealistic. I would often find myself staying up into the wee hours of the night trying to finish a blog, and I was already averaging around only a few hours of sleep a night. Therefore, I had to postpone the daily blogs about GDC until after the event. No need to worry though, I took notes, and the event is still quite fresh in my mind. Let’s continue on with day 2!

I was on schedule to work another two shifts on Tuesday. One was “Storytelling in DC Universe Online,” which I’m sure many of my friends would find fascinating. It covered the importance of narration to engage players and make them feel like they were part of the DC world. The other shift was for a session that was part of the GDC Education Summit. It was called “Beyond the Dialogue: Perspectives on Industry and Academia.” It had speakers Matthew Burns (University of Washington), Frank Lantz (NYU Game Center), Richard Lemarchand (University of Southern California), and Jane Pinckard (University of California, Santa Cruz). It was more relevant to educators than students like me, but it was still a very fascinating talk!

They addressed several questions. The conversations that surrounded these particular questions struck a chord with me:

  • What is game design?
  • Are schools graduating more students than there are jobs available?
  • Are schools keeping updated with the latest commercial technology?

It was interesting to note that a struggle game design professors frequently face is getting students to think outside of the box, or in other words, the console. Many students at the beginning want to just recreate the games they grew up playing, instead of pushing the envelope and using more creative concepts in their game projects. As a student, I have observed this in myself and in others. It is true that we often want to recreate the games we love. Often that’s what brought us into the industry to begin with. However, I totally agree with the professor’s need to get students, such as myself, to explore new areas that video games haven’t addressed yet. Without a push for creativity, the industry will only stagnate.

Another thing I found really interesting was how the speakers believed that the idea of crunch time was being taught in schools. They suggested that this can be counteracted by embracing a bell curve of work instead in school projects, which would further down the road be passed onto the workplace and improve working conditions for game developers. They also brought up diversity (a theme I was pleasantly seeing throughout GDC) as a key subject to focus on in educational gaming programs. By addressing these points, the speakers believed we can truly get the video game industry to evolve. I can’t help but agree with them.

Academia is definitely important for promoting the growth of the industry. First of all, having game design degrees in academia have helped games to be taken more seriously by society. Gaming researchers and educators have made it their mission to discover what makes games relevant to society. As a result, there has been several breakthroughs. One great example being a game called Foldit which solved the complexities of protein folding which alluded scientists for years. In the commercial realm, many great, influential games have their roots in academia such as Portal, World of Goo, and Journey. The session also pointed something else to me: the skills and tools of game design is not just relevant to the game industry, but also to a wide variety of fields. My blog here can only cover so much, so if you have access to the GDC Vault, this is a talk I recommend checking out.

In between shifts, I had the chance to visit GDC Play. GDC Play was showcasing a variety of indie games made by emerging developers. Monsters Invade: Oz by Little Box Apps, which earned Best in Play, was definitely my favorite. It took the Wizard of Oz story and combined it with Pokémon mechanics that were fine-tuned for an amazing tablet gaming experience. I was fond of the art style and amused with how they showed HP as a transparent colored liquid inside of the monsters you fight and capture.

Melior Games Inc. from the Ukraine also had a game I really enjoyed called The Little Prince. I liked it’s hand-drawn, story book appeal and its focus on nonviolence. It’s apparently based off of a very traditional children’s story over in the Ukraine! I also loved a game by the Turkish game company, Nowhere Studios. It’s called Monochroma. Particularly, I loved its artistic direction which combined elements from both Limbo and ICO. Spin the Bottle by KnapNok Games in Denmark was pretty great too. I highly respected these developers for using the Wii U’s technology to achieve a unique gaming experience. One that barely made any use of the television and causes players to engage with each other. If you ever go to GDC, definitely be sure to visit GDC Play to check out some amazing upcoming games from all over the world. I could unfortunately only cover a fraction of what was on display.

I never did end up going to that IGDA party, and from what I heard about it the following day, I’m glad I didn’t go. I went to another party instead, which was very “interesting” to say the least. Let’s just say the Japanese band Peelander-Z is probably the craziest (and deafening) band I’ve experienced. I quickly learned that super loud parties are not the events to go to if you want to meet with people. For some people, this might be their cup of tea, but it definitely wasn’t mine. Luckily, I had a much better party experience with G.A.N.G. later on, which I’ll cover in my blog for day 4!


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