I’m currently sat at LAX waiting for a flight, so this one might be a bit rushed. I haven’t really slept properly all week either, so it might be disjointed. I apologise in advance. You see, this week I joined 45,000 of my close friends and attended E3. Those of you who know me know I’m an AI researcher, so it might seem like an odd choice for me to jump on a plane and fly halfway round the world to essentially look at some games. As with all things, there’s a story (not a great one) and that’s what this post is going to be about.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is probably familiar to most of you. What you might not be aware of is that as well as their outreach within the professional development community, they offer support for students, and the culmination of this is the “IGDA Scholars” program. Up until this year this has been a system by which students could apply to be given entry to GDC by the IGDA. Out of hundreds of applicants, 25 are selected based on a general impression of excellence. The scholars meet up at GDC and have a great rewarding experience. This year, the program has been expanded, and the first stop of this expansion is E3.
Again hundreds of students in game-related disciplines across the world submitted their applications in the form of a set of short (250-500) word essays, primarily on the topic of their volunteer efforts within the GameDev community, out with and why it was important for developers to help each other. For E3, only 15 were chosen drawn mostly from the US but also Poland, Australia, India and as you might have guessed, Scotland.
The official start of the week was Monday morning, but Sunday we got into the BAFTA Life in Pixels event, comprising an interview with Will Wright and subsequent meet and greet. Monday morning, we met up with the IGDA’s Gordon Bellamy and Jack Bogdan and the scholarship proper kicked off with access to the major press events : MS, EA, Ubisoft, Sony and of course the subsequent party hosted by Sony. We started Tuesday at the Nintendo event, were taken to lunch by a group from the EA Internship Program and then hit the show floor. Tuesday night we got into a very exclusive MS Kinect event hosted jointly by Kinect Creative Director Kudo Tsunoda and USC showcasing innovative new interaction demos for the Kinect sensor. Wednesday and Thursday were spent on the show floor dashing from booth to booth to meet with a variety of people as part of a very packed program. On Friday, with the show over, we still had a lot to do – an extremely interesting meeting with the Creative Artists Agency in Hollywood to talk about agent representation for developers and studios (a topic I will definitely return to as I realise it’s controversial) followed by lunch and a meet and greet at EA Los Angeles where we hooked up once again with a lot of the EA Internship guys and got more insight into their work process and corporate lifestyle, as well of course as a visit to the very fine (and well priced) company store where I stocked up on games and some EA branded merch. As a short aside, last month I ended up having a few pints out with Richard Evans and had to admit that I actually hadn’t played The Sims 3 – situation now addressed for a single dollar, (thanks EA) and after watching AIGameDev.com’s interview with Rez Graham picked up a copy of Sims Medieval to investigate the difference in style between the two. Cheap and educational! :)
The show floor is of course where the action is at E3 and I mentioned earlier that we’ve had a very packed program, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak to that a little bit because both Gordon and Jack have worked very hard to make this one of the best weeks of our lives. We’ve been places and seen things that I wouldn’t have dreamt of, from getting a private screening of Batman at WB and Skyrim at Bethesda, a Q&A with Glen Schofield of Sledgehammer, access to the Sony Computer Entertainment Europe room on the second floor where there were no lines at all to play with a PSVita. The list of things we’ve done and seen is huge, but even longer is the list of people that we’ve met and connections we’ve made.
At the initial meeting on the Monday, Gordon Bellamy described us as the future leaders of the industry. At the time I felt like it was a bit of a stretch (and kind of intimidating), but now I think it’s something for us to live up to. The IGDA has done so much for us this week and opened doors we never could have on our own – now we have an obligation to not let that work have been in vain. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to repay them for their work, but I can at least tell you about it and spread the word of the IGDA.
I’d encourage all of the students reading this to seriously think about applying for the IGDA Scholarship program. It is so much more than entry to your chosen event, and even the group of chosen Scholars alongside you will be interesting and amazing people who will grow into career-long friends and possibly colleagues. Maybe you don’t think you have what it takes, but maybe you’re like me and far too critical of yourself. Maybe you don’t have what it takes right now – look at the application form and understand the kind of student they are looking for and tailor what you do in your free time to match. I promise, you will have a once in a lifetime experience that will be well worth the effort.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my head is full of ideas and inspiration, and if I don’t write some of them down, I might explode.