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GDC 2013 Recap

This post shall be re-constructed in no particular order from my half-notes and reveried insights...

March 26th:

1) Small insight: No matter how often I hear it or it occurs to me, I am always surprised at how multi-form, ephemeral, and subjective the entire process of game design is. At DiGRA, this notion came up a lot whenever people compared the number and variety of game design curricula. At one point the conclusion was that game industry folks know how to make games but aren't overtly aware of exactly how they successfully accomplish this. This same notion is apparent in the West at GDC. And that's a comment on the game industry as a whole. Now, in terms of fashioning dynamic, interactive game narrative and incorporating that into the current production machine, then it REALLY gets case-by-case.

2) On Warren Spector's talk: In the mere span of 25 minutes, Warren Spector manages to champion the cause of the storytelling potential of games while simultaneously admonishing the industry at large for being too slow in reaching that potential. In closing, he dared the geeky lot of us to do better. 25 damn minutes. That is absolutely capital.

3) The official GDC app allows conference attendees to check in to accumulate points for attending sessions. Then in true gamer fashion, we are ranked against each other. I am currently rank 25. I am uncertain about rewards. We shall see how this plays out...

Facebook - The official GDC app allows conference attendees to check in to accum

March 27th:

1) I just sat down in a talk called "Storytelling as Problem Solving: Defender's Quest" and the moderator announces that the speakers are "Lars and James." I instinctively crane my neck to see if it's Metallica.

2) Getting settled in for the "Game Educator's Rant." Eager to meet Prof. Jose Zagal, who is on this discussion panel and whose journal article in the Canadian Game Studies journal "Loading..." I just coincidentally read prior to heading out. I still find it trippy to be able to talk directly to the source about the source material. (post talk) This was probably one of the best talks I have seen so far. I almost started moshing.

March 28th:

1) Mark Cerny: (paraphrase) the industry is currently putting out around a thousand games a week.

2) Numbers have swelled at GDC Day 3 as the Expo opens up. On top of that, there are a ton of vendors, lunch wagons, and all manner of businesses offering free lunches, drinks, candies, everything. It's a marketing onslaught with the atmosphere of a festival. And to top it all off, the religious zealot with the megaphone is outside Moscone West screaming about Jesus, Hell, and the 10 Commandments. Sadly, he is not offering any freebies.

3) In his Post Mortem on the original X-COM: UFO Defense, Julian Gollop shows the only remaining/surviving piece of production material left from that design period--the original concept artwork that Microprose created for the game. Of course sprites in circles are the ones that made it into the game. In particular, Gollop felt that the design process in this case was a little odd because he had to choose the look of the characters first, then design their functions, features, and powers based on the way they looked, making as he called it, the "function fits form" approach.

4) Went to Burger King for breakfast on the last day of GDC, and heard the song "Cupid" by Sam Cooke playing on the PA. I had always associated this song with San Francisco ever since I became obsessed with the movie "Innerspace" (Martin Short, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan) when I was a kid. It turns out that Sam Cooke and SF have no real connection, save for the Innerspace one. Still, I felt this was a very fittingly nostalgic moment.

5) Just finished up at the session entitled "You Don't Need a Degree to Make Video Games" by Conan Burke. Very insightful. Made me question my damn life.

6) I just heard a disturbing story. During the Q&A of Jill Murray's (Ubisoft) Assassin's Creed: Liberation session on Writing Diverse Characters, one of the questioners had related a story about how he had been writing a great deal of content for a game in production, when one of the other production team members had objected so vehemently against his inclusion of a character who changes genders at some point in the fairy tale and lives a happier life, that she threatened to quit the project. Instead, the writer himself quit and took with him all of the content he had created for the project.

March 30th:

1) Had a pretty damn awesome dinner with an old friend, Godfrey. After spending the entirety of the delicious meal talking about Big Trouble in Little China, we capped off the great dinner with mystical fortune cookie fortunes.

Facebook - Straight up - this guy is my brother.jpg
Facebook - My fortune was slightly more cryptic.jpg
Facebook - "The rainbow's treasures will soon belong to you.jpg

March 31st:

1) Made it to the gate at SFO, now enjoying a sandwich before the flight. Will miss many friends, family, and food from the States. I also miss the comfort and adventure of living in my new home country of Japan. Many thanks to my mom, Darlene, for coming up to SF so we could spend time together since I am overly remiss in my purposeful avoidance of Hawaii. I wouldn't be doing the things I am doing now without your constant love and support. Hope I can continue making you proud. Love you mom. Also extremely great to meet up with my Bay Area family, Uncle Dana, Aunty Marilyn, Derrik, and really awesome to finally meet Vero, Sophia and Criston. I think I need to get into Skylanders, for real. Love you guys. Very gracias to my friends Christine, Erwin, and Tony for an uber evening of reminiscing over Italian food. I forgot about that whole teaching Tony the bass guitar for food bit. Quick note, the photo below is a reproduction of the candid one that was snapped 14 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Will definitely miss you guys. Also muchos thanks to Godfrey, who I formally designate my unofficial official brother. When you can pass the time waiting for a seat at San Tung by pretty much quoting over half of the movie Ghostbusters, then you had better designate that person something. Eat vegetables, get rainbow treasure. Be wary of traps. * * * As I sit enjoying my sandwich, there's a guy with a super American accent bragging to his friends over cellphone about just how "Hollywood" the GDC was. His vernacular was littered with "likes" and "dudes." A poet soul, most decidedly. At a nearby travel goods store, a large group of young Japanese homestay students are so caught up in their own travel adventure that they don't realize that many of them have inadvertently cut in line. I wonder about my own life and realize that I am somewhere between these two cultural and developmental waypoints: a once-young man, who was always a fanboy at heart, who through the experience of homestay and international travel, developed a taste for the world beyond the blue expanse of the Pacific, who eventually found himself living abroad and loving it. But I look at these two types of people in these two random, oddly-relatable situations, and I have to wonder if I am "cutting in line" without being aware of it. Am I caught up in my own adventure so much so that I am just getting in other peoples' way? Of course, I have no idea. I can, however, take comfort in the fact that at least I know that I should be aware of such things. I am grateful for that perspective, especially since it allows me to reflect on life in general and inspires me to do more and to work harder (hopefully without cutting in line, too). If anything, I know that my friends and family will keep me properly "in line." Will report back again when I touch down in Kansai.


About the Author

PhD Candidate in Japan, researching Narrative in Games. Responds favorably to Thrash Metal, Karaoke, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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