Saturday, February 12, 2011

DICE 2011 in short

I'm back from DICE 2011 and recovering from intense brain-filling and long nights of inebriated schmoozing. As always, it's a high-caliber attendee list, so the quality of sessions and conversations is generally pretty good, and this year was no exception.

I'll post some longer thoughts when I get the time, but some quick notes to start:

Favorite Sessions:
  • Mark Cerny's talk: Summarized here, but that summary leaves out many of the astute observations Mark made. I had a converstation that evening with him about his comment on genre diversity ("genre diversity is the canary in the coalmine as to a segments health"), as I thought he was going to point to the heavy focus on shooters today, but instead he feels we are very healthy. Myself, I'm still not sure. Anyhow, when/if they post this session, it's a must view.
  • Bing Gordon's talk: I twittered that it was "a big bumbling disjointed spew of savvy insights." In other words, classic Bing, and well worth watching. Summary here.
  • Richard Garriott's talk: Little to do with games, but very compelling story about his trip into space. That guy is hardcore!
  • Jane McGonigal's talk: Same ideas as in her book, which I'm partway through reading, but still compelling. her talk is also on slideshare.
Other highlights:
  • Fave Jay Moore comment fron the IAAwards: "Activision, every title you guys put out makes more money than anything from anyone else and STILL no one wants to work with you!"
  • Fave moment from a talk: Garriott's showing of a video of Carmack's latest rocket, taking off, going up 2 miles, hovering, descending, and landing less than 10 cm from where it took off. Clip:

  • Bing Gordon's lifetime achievement award acceptance speech, delivered as a poem. It formed an excellent 20+year follow on to the "Can a Computer Make You Cry?" ad copy (<-- read that ad copy first if you've never seen it). I hope the video is posted somewhere, but in the meantime, here's the poem in it's entirety:

The Golden Age of Gaming
Can a computer make you cry?
How many cool things can you ship before you die?
How many best friends have been made on your development teams?
Is anything better than creating a new “language of dreams”.

If it’s in the game, it’s in the game;
So what’s in your personal hall of fame?
Are you like Daisycutter, a fire-balling wizard?
Will Disneyworld ever again be as much fun as Blizzard?

Where’d that truck come from? We transformed John Madden
Into football fanatics’ equivalent of Tinkerbell plus Aladdin.
Now that Mario and Cityville have proven to be bigger than Titanic,
Which is your game of the year, what’s your golden mechanic?

We remember the 80’s, when games were geeky, uncool.
We were the high potential kids bored with teachers, and lectures and school.
We turned Dr J into a software artist, ended “Dinkety Dink Dink,”
And when the going got tough, we took the Bard out for a drink.

25 years later, we’re an overnight success;
Boys tout their COD scores to girls, and impress.
Guild management skills get you promoted to VP,
And Phorthor pays you to play his account, if you’re at UBC.
Virtual goods and freemium have become investable, magic words
We remember when Bill Budge was the only game-making non-nerd.
Pogo-type badges are imitated these days in enterprise,
Xbox Live achievements are used in online universities, Best Buys.

FIFA camera angles are adopted in televised sports,
And Gameface avatars are showing up in all sorts
Of websites. Sims relationship ratings are the new arithmetic teachers,
Gamification is on the Fortune 500’s must-have features.

We have innovated with more ethics than those damn Wall Street banks:
With Diablo skill trees, Ocarinas of Time, C&C stealth tanks,
Battlefield commanders, Kart bananas, and Hedgehog’s gold rings.
These are a few of my favorite things.

Hey, maybe Night Trap was just a little too smarmy,
And some people were offended by America’s Army.
But we are teaching productivity, how to commit to a mission,
And the high art of Tolkien has been surpassed by Cataclysm.

You have created the new literature, a Moveable Feast,
As rich as Moby Dick, more relevant than War and Peace.
You’ve made plastic cool again, with Nerf guns and guitars;
And taught a generation of speed freaks how to outrun cop cars.

We were all once young prodigies, in need of feedback and interaction,
Now we are self-taught pre-ship marketing and revenue traction.
We’ve grown up with the business, become our own mothers and fathers,
But we still share the initial dream that “We See Farther.”

Today, our mutual industry is undergoing a bit of re-framing,
But recognize this: we’re in the golden age of gaming.
It’s because of Sid Meier, Will Wright, Brian Reynolds, Mark Skaggs, Neil Young, Miyamoto, too,
That our nieces and nephews no longer have to get a “Clue.”

We have more power than Mubarak, so we shouldn’t abuse it.
Our goal is to “make software worthy of the minds that use it.”
Keep inventing cool! There are so many creative challenges still unmet.
And, as this Lifetime Achievement dude protests, “We’re not dead yet.”

Ps Thanks for the honor, now I’d better get off,
Because there’s an after-party with Dean Takahashi dressed as Lara Croft.