March 24th, 2009

Day one of GDC 2009 is over, and I haven’t even passed out on my laptop. Maybe that’s because, thanks to all the free sodas they’ve been handing out, I was full of caffeine and writing non-stop yesterday – plus, of course, Twittering. I’ve also had the pleasure of running into a few fellow press-lings I’d never met before, including Aleks Krotoski, Alexander Sliwinski, and Alice Taylor. I still encourage anyone who recognizes me or my hair to come over and “Hi!”

Unfortunately only a few of the presentations I went to yesterday proved as interesting as hoped. Why is it that the talks with the most provocative names are always the most boring?

First I sat in on Game Design Improv, a IP-generating workshop lead by none other than Brenda Brathwaite. Since the workshop had an education emphasis, the room was full of professors. At my table, at least, they all seemed incredibly reluctant to get creative. Eventually I started talking, asking them their specialties in case they were relevant to any of my upcoming articles. Amusingly, the game they eventually made was about attracting the attention of the press. Silly inbred academia.

After that, I headed to the Habbo Hotel Post Mortem, which was disappointingly dry — as was the talk on Wizards of the process of adapting Dungeons and Dragons to Facebook. Your Own Zombie Army – Driving User Behavior with Game Mechanics and Behavioral Economics too had me less than riveted, though that I recognize that I was hardly the target audience for any of the three.

Where Were the Election Games?, a panel moderated by Heather Chaplin, was easily the most energetic session I attended all day. The topic — why political games to date have all been so shallow, and why campaigners, who put so much money toward participating in Web 2.0 media, haven’t really considered games as an advertising platform — definitely has some potential as a post-GDC article. For me, what was most striking were the sheer number of Flash games that sprung up from hatred of Sarah Palin, including one in which she shoots bears. If it’s anything like Oregon Trail, she’ll only be able to carry 100 pounds of that meat home…

Last I hit up Jane McGonigal’s serious games keynote, Learning to Make Your Own Reality: How to Develop Games that Re-invent Life As We Know It. Jane has a lot of charisma and confidence; she’s the queen of self-promotion that doesn’t feel like self-promotion, and for that I’m constantly in awe. Unfortunately, most of the things she talked about I’d already discussed with her in our interview for my Economist ARG article.

I’m headed back to GDC this afternoon, and then out on the endless development studio party scene. More caffeine will indeed be in order, though the onslaught of free drinks certainly won’t hurt.

Tags: events

3 Responses to “GDC09 day one: politics, peeps, and unfortunate boredom”

  1. Punning Pundit Says:

    The games didn’t exist (at least not for the Obama campaign) because we were trying to connect people to people. Web2.0 let us do that, but games didn’t.

  2. halfassured Says:

    The “driving user behaviour” talk sounds like an interesting /subject/, at least. What was it like? It’s a topic I find fascinating because it’s not only a game design issue but it touches on much bigger issues like real-world policymaking.

  3. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    It was actually kind of hard to parse the pragmatic advice from the “driving user behavior” talk. A lot of it was based on getting users more involved by offering them collectibles and achievements.

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