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Interview: IGF Chair Kelly Wallick to host IGF Awards at GDC 2022

The longtime IGF Chairperson will be hosting this year's Independent Games Festival Awards, live at GDC 2022 in San Francisco!

This is going to be an IGF for the books. The Game Developers Conference organizers are thrilled to announce that longtime IGF Chairperson Kelly Wallick will be hosting this year's Independent Games Festival Awards, live at GDC 2022 in San Francisco!

Kelly Wallick has worked in the tech and video game industry for over a decade. She’s the founder of the Indie MEGABOOTH, Chair of the Independent Games Festival, and a Partner at the 1Up Fund. In addition, Kelly is proud to serve on the GLAAD Media Award Advisory Board. She’s a passionate believer in the strength and impact of community and implementing long term change to support creative, unique, and diverse voices.

Kelly has served as IGF Chairperson for several years, but this is her first time hosting it! To celebrate, we sat down with Kelly to talk about her excitement (and nerves!) over hosting IGF, why she's excited to return to the event in person, and where she hopes to see indie games in the next few years.

Below is an edited, condensed version of our interview:

GDC Staff: Congratulations on hosting this year's IGF Awards!

Kelly Wallick: Thank you!

GDC Staff: You've been part of IGF for awhile now. How does it feel to be stepping into the spotlight as the host of the event for the first time?

Kelly: It's something I think, in my mind, I always wanted to do, but been a little nervous to do it. It's a big stage, it's a big audience, and being up there doing something that's really important to the industry and just kind of being up there alone for that amount of time seemed a little scary. But it's something I've always secretly wanted to do, so I feel really excited to be able to take this step to do it—and walk a little outside of my comfort zone.

GDC Staff: What do you remember about your first IGF Awards?

Kelly: My very first one I attended was a few years before I became Chairperson. I think it was—I don't want to say overwhelming, but it was bigger than I expected. I felt very blown away by the whole thing; sitting kind of far back in the audience and watching, I think Tim Schafer might have been the host that year. Just hearing and seeing the games celebrated, and getting a good understanding of how important this was to so many people and how big the game industry was, because I was also new to the industry, was really exciting. To go from that memory to standing on the stage and hosting it is pretty surreal.

GDC Staff: It is the first time the game dev community is getting to be in person together for IGF in two years. What are you most looking forward to?

Kelly: Honestly, just seeing people. I've really been desperate to see most of my friends in the game industry, that I haven't physically seen in person in two years. Also, I do a lot of events work—at least I did before the pandemic—and there's something about being in a group of people and the energy and excitement that goes along with that, that I've really been missing. It kind of feels sweet that the IGF Awards might be one of the first times that so many folks in the game industry are going to be able to get together and celebrate something together.

I think it's gonna be interesting and fun, maybe a little emotional, but I'm most hoping to have joy.

GDC Staff: You've had an incredible run as Chairperson for IGF. What would you say are your proudest accomplishments?

Kelly: This is super dorky, but one of my proudest things that I've done is I systemized a lot of the processes for how we do stuff behind the scenes. How we QA the games, how we do the judging process and the jury process. I really like creating systems and structure out of a bunch of disparate pieces. That was actually something not too many folks are exposed to, but I'm really proud of it. It's kind of well-oiled machine at this point.

The other thing I'm really proud of is I worked really hard to try and diversify the folks that we're inviting to do the judging and the jurying, and to try and get a lot of different voices included in the conversation.

GDC Staff: Since coming on as Chair, what have been the biggest changes you've seen in the field of indie games?

Kelly: I think there was this idea that, to do indie games, you had to be doing it with no money and very little resources. I think there are still teams that can do that, and that's interesting and can be celebrated, but I think it was also exclusionary to a lot of people who didn't have the financial resources to be able to do something like that, or had family obligations or things in their life that they needed to take care of that required they be compensated for their work.

I think having more funding and opportunities inside of the indie game scene has been, to me, a positive change in a lot of ways. Obviously there can be negatives as well, too, but I think that it's generally been good.

It's also been great to see the indie game side of the industry mature and grow, and have a lot of these really big conversations about [topics like]: how are we making games, who are we hiring to make them, how is it getting distributed, what is our place in the industry? Just getting a higher level of education, knowledge, and business acumen that's been growing over time. And so now when new people come in, there's a lot of new support systems, infrastructure, mentorships, and opportunities for them to be able to be successful that weren't there even five or six years ago.

GDC Staff: Where do you hope to see the indie game industry in the next few years?

Kelly: That's a good question. I think that right now it's a very interesting time for the game industry. I keep likening it to the Eye of Sauron is upon us. There's a lot of people from a lot of industries that are shining a light on the work that we're doing and wanting to get involved. My hope is the indie community continues to be leaders in that field—culturally and socially what's important to us, what our values are, and how we honor the creative process.

To go back to what I was saying about the funding, I really hope there's more avenues and resources for people from all different walks of life to be able to make and create games, and that the indie community continues to be supportive of those efforts.

It's a good time [for indie devs]. There's a lot of drive for content. There's a lot of subscription models, and other things, where can you get a lot of content. In the indie community, for sure, people are turning out crazy, interesting, wild stuff from all over the world, at a much higher rate than AAA studios could ever keep up with. I think there's a lot of opportunities to do really cool experimental things, try out new stuff and reach new audiences. I hope we just continue in that trajectory, and keep having the conversations we need to have around DE&I issues, crunch, compensation, work, values, and all those kind of things.

The Independent Games Festival Awards will take place at GDC on Wednesday, March 23 at 6:30pm PT (with a simultaneous broadcast on GDC Twitch). The IGF Awards will immediately precede the Game Developers Choice Awards, which recognizes the best games of the year across all sections of game development. Both the GDCA and IGF ceremonies are available to watch for all GDC 2022 pass-holders.

GDC returns in-person to San Francisco, March 21-25—registration is now open! For more information on GDC 2022, including our virtual options, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC22 hashtag on social media.

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