Behind: Game Developers Conference 2011

I’m back from another Game Developers Conference. GDC 2011 was brilliant. I had a fantastic time learning and networking.

I attended an interesting session about community management and creating economies of scale and efficiencies in organisations through consolidating customer support and community management departments and cross-training front line support and front line community moderators. It was presented by one of the folks from Metaverse Mod Squad, Rich Weil. I read the Metaverse Mod Squad Blog pretty regularly, as I think their team is made up of some pretty savvy community management minds.

Another session I found thought-provoking was Sheri Graner Ray’s talk on diversity in games and how the conversation around diversity has been derailed because it is focused too much on anger and negative narratives. As a result of backlash, a lot of folks in the industry don’t see diversity as a pressing issue, and they even fear bringing up a conversation about diversity because these people believe that diversity means less profits, lower quality, and an invitation to lawsuits. The takeaway message was to re-frame the conversation and focus on message clarification, visibility, and telling positive stories.

One of the aspects I disagreed with was the idea that people who belong to marginalised groups should take responsibility for making widespread change to make the industry more diverse. Like I mentioned on Twitter, social change to overcome oppression doesn’t work if society holds those without power responsible for that change. The United States government continues to be male-dominated at all levels, and has been for hundreds of years. Women would not have won the right to vote if the only folks who believed that women should have this right were women—who lacked political power to make that change a reality. No, the reason civil rights are won is not only because the marginalised speak out, advocate, and raise awareness, but also, and importantly, because those in power use their power for social good. I’ll probably expound upon this point and relate it to the games industry a bit more closely in a post on my gaming blog, but I haven’t yet had time to process it all, nor review the presentation’s Power Point slides.

One of the highlights of the week was the Microsoft-sponsored Blacks in Gaming Party, an annual event during GDC. I met the chair of the Diversity Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association to express my interest in helping the IGDA Diversity SIG in the future. I already do a lot of awareness-building advocacy from a consumer perspective through blogging, but I think it’s about time that I start contributing in some way to advocacy of marginalised groups within the games industry. I’ve chosen the IGDA Diveristy SIG as a starting point.

Another highlight was dinner with fellow members of the Community Managers Group. I absolutely love getting together with other community managers to hang out, have a laugh, and talk strategy and tactics.

All in all, my GDC was super, and I look forward to attending again.