Ask Gamasutra is a regular column that takes issues from within the video game industry, and poses them as a question to the editorial staff. For this edition: what last week's Game Developer Conference meant to the Gamasutra staff.
This year's GDC has come and gone, and if you've been following along with Gamasutra's extensive coverage
, you'll know that there were definite key takeaways.
Of course, each attendee is going to go back home with varying thoughts, feelings and inspirations compared to everyone else, as is the nature of the wide-ranging topics on offer at the conference.
With this in mind, the question for this edition of Ask Gamasutra:
What were your main takeaways from GDC 2013, and what did those ideas mean for you and the video game industry?
Looking back on the week, the clear recurring theme was the rise of the individual. This goes deeper than just the "rise of the indie" that has been happening for years now. GDC this year seemed so much more about the individuals than the corporations. And even the corporations are realizing that the video game industry is about the people who make video games.
You see this with Sony and Nintendo's developer-friendly iniatives, you see tools for game development improve, making the art of game creation accessible to people of all kinds of backgrounds. New platforms offer new opportunities for creatives. Kickstarter has also opened so many doors since last GDC, too. (It’s kind of crazy to think the Kickstarter video game boom really only started a little more than a year ago with Double Fine Adventure
This industry is back in the hands of the creators, and that's a net positive for the players, and for the art (and business) of video games. The artistic, creative undercurrent has become the overcurrent, and I’m more optimistic about the future of video games than I have been for a long time.
Editor, Game Developer magazine
Indies are in:
As Andy Schatz said during the IGF, indies are culture now, and everyone's a little bit punk rock. PS4 details, Metal Gear Solid 5
reveal, whatever - all eyes were on the folks doing creative things in games, whether they're indie in practice or in spirit (read: Journey
). Whether the money will follow is another question entirely - but it's nice to know that when you put on a show devoted to the people who make the games, it doesn't look like last year's E3 or the PS4 reveal.
It gets better:
As a longtime advocate for more discussion of race/gender/class/sexuality in and around video games, I was heartened to see that gender issues were front and center at GDC this year. Yes, some unfortunate things happened, but the sheer number of people willing to speak out about them is much, much higher than I remember in the past, and that made me happy.
Still no love for competitive games:
Never mind that organized competitive games are blowing up thanks to a wider global audience and easily-accessible live video streaming tech, or that Riot Games's careful nurturing of League of Legends
's competitive community was integral to its success over the last few years; they're practically absent at GDC. (Weirdly enough, I hear more people talking about eSports at tech shows than I do at GDC or E3.) It seems strange to me that taking games seriously as Art is a sign of maturity, but actually taking games seriously as a venue for skill development is seen as somewhat immature by comparison. Hey, commenters: Would you attend a competitive game design summit?
For me, the most important takeaway was that the conversation about diversity and respect for new creative voices -- especially those that have previously been in an underserved minority -- has become terribly important to the broader professional conversation about games.
I spoke on the #1ReasontoBe panel along with a number of amazing women, and we received an emotionally overwhelming response from the audience. Brenda Romero's resignation as co-chair of the IGDA in a condemnation of scantily-clad dancers at the Yetizen-sponsored IGDA party was a meaningful and much-discussed gesture, and I will never forget hearing Anna Anthropy give a powerful reading: Her adaptation of Cara Ellison's poem "John Romero's Wives", which deals with the issues of discrimination and diminishment women in the games space have had to face. She received a standing ovation, and that meant so much to me.
As an outspoken women on games myself, I've often felt a little anxious or alone at GDC, but this year I was surrounded by a chorus of empowerment. I was less afraid to be seen, and so were many women I met in development, from those making small, personal games about their own experiences to women who've been at big studios for years. We still have a long way to go, but to see diversity considered as among the most important issues at a professional game development event was incredibly powerful. I see the possibility of a more inclusive, safe place to work on the horizon!
I went into GDC expecting the question to be: What platform will really matter later this year? With the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox on the horizon, the potential popularity of Android consoles, tablet controller solutions, and indies focusing on PC, I expected this question to be on everybody's lips. Turns out that the platform holders and publishers are really the only ones who care: everybody else just wants to make games, and they're doing their best to wade through the platform muck with no compass.
So I found the focus to be on games, which makes sense for GDC. I don't think Andy Schatz's comment that "everybody's a bit punk rock now" really encapsulates what's going on; there's just games now; the truth is, many indies are making commercial work, the equivalent of clever pop music - or appropriating mainstream games as part of their creative process of collage. Dys4ia
uses the design language of WarioWare
in an ingenious way to give you an instant understanding of someone else's identity.
The conversation at the show was all around inspiration and creativity - even when it was about its inverse
-- and that's a conversation that I was happy to hear happening.