advocacy conferences games industry

A brief aside: Speakers at UnConferences can sometimes be very wrong

Great writeup in PCGamer about GameCamp4, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the feel of an unconference (and google the term if you want to know more).

The first unconference I went to, the very first session … the speaker clearly didn’t know what he/she was talking about. They mouthed a bunch of nice-sounding soundbites, but way out of touch with reality. Worked out OK – the audience took over, collectively, and turned it into a great session, with lots of people providing their own knowledge.

That’s when an unconference works great – weak speakers displaced by a more knowledgeable audience.

And then we have GameCamp4. I missed the session on “crunch”. If I’d been there, I’d have cried bloody murder before letting them settle on this:

“The general consensus at the end of the half hour seemed to be that, while a lovely idea, games needed a crunch time, otherwise they’d never be finished on time. The idea that crunch wasn’t all that productive was raised, but there was enough experience in the room to shoot it down. Turns out games developers are quite happy with their battery farm conditions. Or at least, the ones in the room.”

“enough experience … to shoot it down” … WTF? Bullshit.

Let me be absolutely clear, as someone with 10+ years experience, having run teams at multiple studios, and having worked on multi-million-selling titles:

Crunch is *abuse*. Crunch is never “necessary” to finish a game, it’s something the management requires or allows, when morally they ought to be preventing it.

Anyone who says differently, first ask their job role; If they say “producer”, “manager”, or worst of all “director” bear in mind these are the roles where people directly benefit through the abuse of others; be very suspicious. It’s akin to asking a Slave-Trader whether slavery is “a Bad Thing”.

I wrote a lot more, but it came across as a rant against Mike Capps (who’s infamous for implying that only 2nd-rate developers don’t crunch) and Erin Hoffman (who’s infamous for railing against crunch, and then doing a volte face and implying that all the abusive corporates are just poor, misunderstood humans who are lovely really).

advocacy computer games games design games publishing

The 10 Games You Should Have Played

This list is WRONG (and it’s on the Internet)

…and here’s your chance to challenge it.

This was written in a frantic half-hour with 30-odd people with many different ideas and suggestions. My role was to shepherd the opinions towards a concrete list of 10. There *was* a specific agenda/aim I had in mind – but I didn’t tell people that up-front, I wanted to let them go in whatever direction they wanted.

Now it’s done, I’m reaching out to everyone who cares about this stuff, and saying:

Come up with your own rules for a top-10, define it clearly, and share your list.

Blog it, link it back here, and we’ll see what people come up with. I’m expecting a lot of variation on the inclusion-criteria for a top-10, and (hopefully) as much variation on the games people choose / reject.

Other people’s top-10’s

The original top-10

May 2011 – GameCamp 4

A few weeks ago, London was host to the fourth GameCamp – a 1-day unConference devoted to games, game-design, and game-playing.

I wanted to give a talk, because that’s half the fun of an UnConference. I wanted to do something fun, interesting, and above-all *new*. What’s the point of giving a talk you could have given at a “normal” conference?

My Plan

I vaguely remembered that Darius had once run a session on “Indie games that haven’t had the attention they deserve” (or something like that), where he’d cherry-picked some great fun games that were relatively unknown in mainstream circles, and gave them a free boost of attention.

I didn’t feel confident to do that myself,but I knew there were plenty of people at GC4 who were much deeper into the fringe of games and game-design, and no doubt *they* knew what was out there, and had played it all.

So, one quick scribble later:

“10 Games you Should have played (but probably haven’t)”


I was afraid I’d get an audience turn up and expect me to do all the work, where I needed them brainstorming and providing the ideas themselves. I could see it easily being shaped by the (lack of) variety of the first few suggestions, so I set out to come up with a wide range to kick off.

With a full TEN MINUTES before the start, I roamed the hallways, looking for victims. I spotted a few familiar faces, game designers and writers I could corral, and asked them for a quick 3 “games people should have played”.

First response I got, courtesy of Adrian Hon: “Paintball”. Ah. Thanks, Adrian. You just exposed the flaw in my title. I never mentioned the words “video” or “computer”, although I’d assumed them.

Other interesting titles I was given in the hallway included: Civilization (the computer game, via Adrian), Journey to the End of the Night (via Holly Gramazio, I think), Tetris Attack (ditto)…some good variety to kick us off.

Those 10 games in full

We had a packed room, approx 20-30 people. I won’t detail the process, but in our 30 minute slot we managed a long list, with some brief explanation of the more obscure games, and then we voted on which ones should go to top-10. Fortunately, there were 10-12 games that were CLEARLY a lot more popular than the rest.

Here’s the full list (illegible with crossings-out)

And here’s the top-10, with their respective (approximate – I was counting fast!) votes:

  1. Tetris [*]
  2. Portal [*]
  3. SimCity [*]
  4. The Secret of Monkey Island (either/both) [11]
  5. Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (text adventure) [10]
  6. Mario Kart [10]
  7. Zelda (any/all) [10]
  8. Deus Ex [9]
  9. Day of the Tentacle [9]
  10. Populous [9]

[*] = so many I didn’t bother counting; more than 2/3 of the audience.