GDC15: Day 3


So here’s the 3rd, and probably 2nd to last post of my GDC notes (Thursday and Friday I think I’m going to make one post.) Then we will be able to return to journaling my New Year’s resolution of avoiding killing in games. Let’s jump right in.


Rules of the Game: Five Tricks of Highly Effective Designers – Richard Rouse IIILaralyn McWilliamsDan TeasdaleChris AvelloneKim McAuliffe, and Nels Anderson

So since this one had the format of a series of micro talks with very clear quick design tips to keep in mind, I’m going to write this one as a numbered list.

1. Make emotional connections- This one I think is hard to pull off in every design choice, but if you are at least keeping this in mind for every design, I think it’ll have a pretty big positive impact on the product as a whole.

2. Look for the silver lining- This one specifically referred to other works that are by every account terrible, but must have positive aspects that allowed them to get made. If you can see those, you can recycle them into your own work where it is surrounded in other positive things.

3. This one doesn’t really have a quick punchy title. The idea is to remember the rule of threes as it applied to human’s ability to remember things. As in by keeping everything in groups of two our three, players will be able to keep track of it better.

4. Fight for the little things- Not just for the personal reason of believing in your ideas, but because the little things will help the product as a whole. Small unique moments give players things to find and to talk about. Providing players with this social currency through the game, will help the game virally market itself.

5. Don’t try to evaluate your own game*- It easy to see how developers would be too close to the project to see its flaws. The asterisk comes in when accepting feedback on the games flaws, but not accepting other people’s solutions (other as in outside the project team, such as play testers) as only you the developers really know what the game is supposed to be. Play testers and others can only tell you when you are failing on your mission or intent, but should be ignored when they start telling you what the intent should be. This talk was also where I gained the word “compelling” to replace the term “fun” when describing games. I had know “fun” was a dirty (inaccurate) word for a while, but didn’t have a good replacement before now.

Curiosity, Courage and Camouflage: Revealing the Gaming Habits of Teen Girls – Ashly Burch and Rosalind Wiseman

This was another talk that focussed on presenting surprising statistics from polling data, while leaving the audience  to decide how to use the information. So with that in mind I’m going to list out what I thought were the most interesting take aways from it. If you want to see more of it or their actual slides with statistics, they can be found here.

– So first off I want to just mention that the schooling systems that they polled did not allow “other” as an option when the students were giving there gender identity. So the data won’t really address the views of transgender people, but not for a lack of trying. Also this isn’t necessarily at the fault of the schools fyi. My mother is a high school superintendent, so I’m a bit more aware of just host absurdly political compulsory education is.

– Do teenage boys want to see more girls playing video games? Yes. Not too surprising. If more girls played games, their’d be more to talk about. Still interesting as it obviously goes against some gut assumptions.

-In addition to that, a high portion believe girls already do play video games.

-Males prefer playing as a male protagonist when they are younger, then don’t care as much as they get older. In contrast, females don’t care the gender of their avatar when they are younger, and would prefer to play as a female as they get older. This statistic acts contrary to the common marketing concern that  introducing or focussing on a playable female character will scare off the already cultivated male audience for a franchise. So that excuse is essentially invalid.

-11 to 18 year old males pretty much agree that female characters are objectified too much. We all knew this, but it’s pretty embarrassing to find out the audience knows it too. So then who is the objectification being put in the game for?

-65% of the polled girls did not self identify as gamers. But then were shown to have favorite gaming genres (that weren’t just puzzle games) and even favorite characters. So it wasn’t the fact that they don’t play games that stopped them from adopting the label, because they do.

-The term “Girl Gamer” had almost entirely positive associations for the polled males. While the term “Boy Gamer” was all negative associations to the polled girls. So pretty clearly (to me at least) the term “Gamer” has a pretty negative connotation to people “outside” the culture. This both people feeling excluded or intentionally disassociating from it. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see why. (I don’t really want to get into that stuff at the moment though, but address it a little below.)

-The last important point was more anecdotal, but still very eye opening for me. A lot of (tumblr) people will like to point out how great Frozen is as a movie, but I never really saw the appeal. It’s entertaining for sure, but I never saw anything too unique about it. Until Ashly pointed out that the success of the film for kids is that it simply has a bad ass chick with cool super powers. There was such a void that just nailing that simple concept made it a guaranteed success. Black Widow is cool but she’s as cool as Hawkeye, not Hulk or Thor when it comes to cool powers. I would say the last example before Elsa was Storm in the original X-men movies. So keeping that in mind, that’s a pretty low hanging fruit that games haven’t even really made a reach for yet.

Lastly I just wanted to list an interesting observation I had had while in the talk. I had attended it with my friend who is currently working on Rise of the Tomb Raider. I myself am working on a Sims-like, doll house-like Facebook game. So here we had to straight, cisgender, male game makers sitting next to each other, each working on games where there were only female playable characters. I thought to myself “I wonder how rare this must be?” Just an interesting thought I had.


17th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards


15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards


Let me just say I love attending the awards every year. I’ve been to GDC three years in a row now, and hace never missed the awards. For those who don’t know, these are the awards decided by a committee of game developers across the industry. So it’s our Academy Awards of sorts.

I love attending for two reasons. The first is that this is the first and/or best opportunity to attribute a name and face to the most prolific games of the year. And I am really good as recognizing faces. The awards from 2014 are what allowed me to pick people like William Pugh and Steve Gaynor out of a crowd through out this year’s conference. Next year it will most likely be members of the Monument Valley team.

The second reason I love it, is because I find it inspiring. It’s very easy watching some of the sizzle reals of games to think “I could make something that clever.” This is immediately followed by “Well why don’t you” then “Maybe I will!” It’s essentially the New Year’s celebration within video game development culture for me, prompting a new game project resolution. (And yes I did think of a new project this year, that I’ll start working on, but won’t be talking about that here just yet.)

This year two cool things happened directly related to each other. During the IGFAs, the host Nathan Vella gave a speech denouncing the the animosity, hate, and toxicity growing within the gaming community. This was met with a standing ovation. I was really glad this was tackled during the awards as I really believe it should be denounced as frequently as possible. That being said Gamergate was not named within the speech, which always comes across as awkward. We all know who people are talking about when these kinds of speeches are bing made, so why not just say it. The obvious guess is the fear of retaliation in some manner. Not necessarily in the form of the harassment or violence known to come out of the worst of Gamergate, but in boycotts and dips in sales figures more likely.

During the GDCAs however, Tim Schaffer took a different tactic. This is the second note worthy thing during the awards. During his opening Tim produced a (fake?) list of things he was not allowed to joke about during the show. The list included Canada, his genitalia or their name, and Gamergate. He responded to the list by promising not to attempt to make light of the serious subject of Gamergate, but that he could not be held responsible for any jokes made by the sock puppet that had risen from beneath the podium and was over his hand. The puppet then made a few joke about Gamergate, the type of ant. Later in the evening the sock puppet returned to tell the following joke about the Gamergate that we all know and hopefully do not love….

Puppet- How many Gamergaters does it take to make a single piece of armor?

Tim- I don’t know.

Puppet- 50. 1 to do the modeling,  1 to do the materials, and 40 to tweet that its not your shield.

Now I’ll explain this joke, because it has a lot of convoluted history behind it. #notyourshield accompanied #gamergate in an attempt to prove that gamergate was not about sexism/racism despite the consistent use of the gamergate hashtag by people saying racist and sexist things. To clarify here is an example timeline.

1. A game development professional would would criticize the representation of women or minorities in games.

2. A gamergater would then respond negatively, ranging from harassment to threats of violence.

3. The professional or someone else would point out that this kind of mindset is toxic within the game culture and is preventing the kind of improvements they were initially calling for, and denounce gamergate for its sexist and racist behavior.

4. A different gamergater, who is a minority or female, would exclaim that gamergate is in fact not racist/sexist and that saying so is just a ploy to avoid the “more serious” issue of ethics in games journalism. ie minorities and women should not be used as a shield.

So did I approve of the joke? For the most part, yes. The idea that ethics in games journalism (which is entertainment journalism) is more important than representation in games and game development is a ludicrous one, completely deserving of mocking. I admire Tim for being the first that I’m aware of to refer to it by name when addressing it in such a public setting. That all being said, I think Tim’s capable of better comedic writing.


Following the awards I then attended the Activision party. This was particularly cool because it was an exclusive party that I was able to get into by name dropping. The day earlier at the alumni event I was able to informally get invited by a recruiter I had met once three years prior. When she learned all my other friends were attending it, while my plans for that night had fallen through, she informed me that just saying she had said it was ok would be enough to get me in. So when that actually worked it was a pretty awesome feeling. The fact that it was an open bar was also cool, but more so because I knew it was being paid for directly by video games.

-Eric John E


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