Sunday, March 4
After a horribly long flight through Sweden, Denmark and Germany, we finally reached San Francisco Sunday night after spending more than a day in total for all traveling. While all the flights went very smooth in terms of connections, it still was a canned feeling especially on the flight to the US, were you really wish you could afford something more than Economy if you have to be on a plane for more than 11 hours.
It felt really good to get off the plane and take the cab to the hotel, which also seems pretty nice (thanks to Kari’s choice). All Scandinavian people are staying in the same hotel so that also gives it a home atmosphere. We fetched some food that night and I already felt very good finally living in a big city again (even if it is just for a week). Noticed a lot of homeless people on the street. Craig being a perfect role model, of course, gave them some change. Turns our most of them are really friendly to talk to.
Monday, March 5
Deprived of sleep and super excited I got ready for my first day of GDC, having considerably higher expectations of this event than any other academic that I know. First thing in the hotel lobby Craig introduced me to Olivier Lejade, who was very nice Frenchman that had formed a company called Mekensleep and just showed me a game on the Nintendo DS, where you control a little guy to push a bubble through a labyrinth. Impressing game design. Glad he invited us to take a taxi with him to Moscone Center. Really hope he found a publisher. I felt refreshed meeting a driven and bright person like him to start GDC.
What did I expect from GDC?
After getting our registration bags and badge holders, we went up to level 3 in Moscone West, where Breakfast was served. American Bagels and Muffins were the delights together with some tea and coffee. Funny thing about coffee was that I already spotted the Americans at the Entrance (they came in clusters) by carrying their Starbucks cups like Lady Liberty her torch. While I am big fan of that shop, too, I totally forgot how much it is part of the American lifestyle. But back to Breakfast, where I had an awesome choice of assorted tea and (my first time encounter with) Strawberry flavored Philadelphia. Yummy thing on bagels that is.
IGDA Curriculum Workshop Sessions
First, Doug Church of EA gave a nice little prep talk on how industry and academia should collaborate better. Did not get me too excited about everything, but gave good insight into American game industry thinking. I still get a bit tired, when those talks turn into preaching rather than communication. But my overall impression of his talk was quite good.
Next thing up was a little design workshop session with Nick Fortugno of gameLab. Somehow, I got the feeling that the gameLab people – albeit being very bright – get a little too excited in front of a crowd. The game we played with paper clips and cards was fun to redesign though.
Then I decided to have lunch not as a working thing, but more like a networking thing, where I talked to Shauna, who is currently establishing contacts with academics for her small company that works with GPS systems. Also had some discussions with other teachers in game development. I understood that quite a larger number of American game schools are direct-to-job training facilities and really not much of them are focused towards research in games. And, really, most of the researchers I met came from Europe (or at least had a European background). At least, they all cook with water. No major surprises there.
Next thing up was the workshop like session on teaching methods. Nice to see Tracy Fullerton in person, after reading her Game Design Workshop book. Still you get the feeling that those few American researchers are kind of an in-group, where they silently agree on certain approaches to things. This led me to my first conclusion of GDC: Like on an academic conference it is nice to go there and actually meet those people that you otherwise only read papers from. It is also a good reality check on how their ideas are currently going and what their real focuses are.
In the workshop I joined a team on building interdisciplinary student teams, where we collected some case studies from all the participating researchers. I am not really a big fan of “you have to do it like this and then it will work” punch-in-your-face rules. Good thing we could settle on a few points that were rather good suggestions than straight rules. What annoyed me a little bit about many of the participants of the workshop was that some of them were really turning this thing into a popularity contest. (Nothing more annoying than a 10 minute commercial about oneself and not sticking to the assigned topic.) However, we did not get to present our stuff because some people just took way too much time to (not) make their point (but rather advertise themselves).
The SIG overview that ended the thing got a nice introduction from Susan Gold, who also seems like a very nice and calm woman, who can organize things well. Unfortunately, the whole thing slowly turned into some sort of tech guide for wiki editing, where I really felt misplaced and had to leave to chat with Craig. We shared the opinion that if people would like to contribute to the SIG, they would probably do it, no matter what and the wiki is not the technical barrier that keeps them away, but maybe rather the complicated recognition and reward system of the SIG. (I kept wondering a bit on how that “board” that sat in front of us came to be. I mean they sure worked a lot together voluntarily, but how come most of those are Americans? And are all of them paid by CMP like Beth?) Sure, lots of questions there.
The stressful day ended with a nice reception at the top level and we chatted a bit with other researchers, which turned out to be a really fun talk.