Some tips for future GDC speakers, panelists, and presenters (to make my life as a photographer much easier, and my photographs of you much better):
1. Don't hide behind your podium.
1.a. Panelists: Don't hide behind your microphone/open laptop.
2. Don't stand there with your hands in your pockets.
2.a. Do something *interesting* with your hands while you speak.
3. Don't touch your face while you're talking. This includes no thumb-sucking (I deleted that picture) and rubbing your nose (I might still have that one).
4. Panelists: Don't look bored while another panelist is speaking.
5. Don't call out the photographer, referring to him (or her) in the third person while he/she is (a) still in the middle of the audience, and (b) still in a position to take further pictures and/or ratchet the flash up to new, unseen levels of power.
5.a. If you *do* call out the photographer, don't then demonstrate a pose/facial expression you *don't* like to be photographed in. At least, not while the photographer is still armed has his camera ready.
My camera is ready. I have a couple new lenses to play with, a new monopod to prop them up, and a new bag to carry it all around with. Now to get the rest of my packing done...
I'm planning to shoot the expo (of course), the keynotes, the awards ceremony, as many sessions as they'll let me into, and anyone famous (or semi-famous; or just cute) that I manage to bump into. Plus, I'm sure I'll make a lot of crazy-ass, arty-to-the-point-of-pretentious shots and make a Japanese tourist look detached and uninterested (no offense to any Japanese tourists who maybe reading; you probably have better glass than me).
I arrive in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. I'm hoping I'll get some "local color" pictures, as well. I walked through Chinatown last time I was there (2005), but I didn't have my camera with me.
I'll be posting selected pictures in my blog here, as well as on my Joe Indie blog. And the best shots will also be posted to my photo blog. And pretty much everything I shoot that's in focus and doesn't seem inappropriate will be in the GDNet GDC galleries.
Not only does David Michalson's name seem a lot like mine (David Michael), but he resembles one of my younger brothers. I mentioned this to him, but he didn't really believe me, I think. Here's the proof:
GDC Awards Ceremony
I shot nearly 300 pictures at the Independent Game Festival Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards. Here are some of the highlights. Drew Sikora has full coverage and a lot more pics (no link yet).
Just noticed that all my photos in the gallery are being squashed. The display software is forcing all of the images to be 4x3 aspect ratio...and I shoot 3x2. Plus, it's screwing up the vertical format shots.
If you want to see my pics, you'll have to see them here, I guess, in the blog.
Can Games Make You Cry?
Jesper Juul says, "That's a dumb question."
Juul, editor of the Game Studies journal and author of Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (MIT Press, 2005), was the keynote speaker for the second day of the Serious Games Summit.
Even now, Juul insisted, at the very moment he gave his speech, thousands of people around the world are crying over games: because their character died, they were booted from a clan, or they had just lost. Players cry over games all day, every day. Next question?
Game designers may not accept this outburst of emotion as genuine, though, because the crying isn't from the predefined content. Instead, it's stemming from user-created factors, like social status, and from user-created content.
To Juul, this is just another failure of the "classic" model of game design, which focuses on specific goals (with specific failures) and fixed sequences of events. Juul sees the future in games like The Sims 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where players have no specific, required goals and are free to explore and play as they see fit. Or to put it another way, players are free to express themselves within the game.
All in all, it sounded like Juul wants game designers to focus less on creating specific experiences for players and instead create worlds and systems for players to create their own experiences and expressions.
I don't think he was specifically saying that the fixed, linear games are bad. But he certainly considers them "old school" and that the future is in designer-facilitated, player-created worlds.
At least, I think that's what he was saying. :)
In the last few minutes of his talk, he spoke on how what he had talked about could be applied to serious games. Open-ended games like this, he said, could still be used to push players in specific directions. The difficulty in reaching player-selected goals, though, must be carefully measured to ensure that the desired learning is taking place. Finally, he pointed out that while open-ended games can be used to teach systems and general skills, they are probably less suited for coursework that requires a lot of memorization.
I also learned in this session that you need to have a "dot" on your badge to be taking pictures. Except maybe not. Either way, I have a dot now, and will be sure to constrain my picture taking to the first 5 minutes (ish) of the sessions. Wee...
Serious Games Summit Reception
This was the only party I went to last night with enough light to take pictures. The GDC Mobile reception had the lights dimmed, and the Infospace party was a frickin' cave.
GDC 2006 Day 1 - Afternoon
I saw some NVidia guys putting together a development test "phone". I had never seen one of those before, so I took some pictures. They were doing it to show off some new chip-thing-or-the-other but I just thought it was interesting to see what a "phone in development" looked like, compared to the final, shipping produce (see picture #3).
I attended Ian Bogost's presentation, "Politics, Religion, and Ideology: New Approaches to Biased Games." He talked about the typical range of most video games, comprised of "graphical rules" (movement and collision) and "simulation rules" (input and state change). For games that explore a complex issue, he saw a need for a new approach. I would've taken better notes...but my computer...was...well...safe and dry back here in the hotel room. I'm prepared for tomorrow, though: I bought an umbrella.
Serious Games Summit - Opening
Philip Rosedale's keynote address of the Serious Games Summit primarily consisted of describing Linden Lab's Second Life...to a group of people who largely are already aware of it. He did provide some interesting statistics about the players/users of Second Life:
median age 32
Also, I think I heard him say that Second Life had 160,000 subscribers.
Second Life is really taking off, Rosedale said, attributing that to finally reaching a "critical mass" of users. This critical mass was especially important to Second Life because the game world is almost entirely user-create. Without a critical mass, he said, you don't get self-ignition. "More is different."
He sees Second Life as having a "steering wheel on the future", helping to shape the future of online games and virtual worlds. And you have to admit, they've built something pretty interesting. He didn't mention their plans for when the current game world fills up (which from information he gave today, I expect will happen before the end of 2007).
For me...I learned that I needed to bring my detachable flash. Just having a fast lens isn't enough, because the lighting in the ballrooms is, well, dreadful. So I came back to the hotel to get my flash...and got stuck here, waiting for the rain to let up.