Bamboo Cyberdream

a panda wanders the electronic landscape

Disruptive Construction

Last week I was invited to speak at the UVa Scholars’ Lab on, more or less, the topic of my choice. I was thrilled to get asked to speak at my alma mater, but picking a topic was tricky.

It had to be something:

  • broad enough to appeal to digital humanities scholars who may not necessarily follow games
  • engaging enough to interest people who do follow games and would likely end up coming to the talk because they saw “game designer” on the poster
  • unrelated enough to my work at Bethesda that I could talk about it without tipping our hand as to our current project

In the end I decided to talk about procedural content, its current place in game development, and where it might be going in the future. I could try to sum it up, but here’s a video of my slides set over the audio from the talk.

My own feedback:

  • I still talk way too fast.
  • When speaking off-the-cuff, I have a tendency to preface too many statements with “I mean.” I should to work on that.
  • The “character choices” segment is still pretty hazy and doesn’t make its case very well.
  • My final conclusion could benefit some from more concrete examples, even if they have to be hypothetical.
  • I need to do better keeping up with the blogosphere, even when spending all my free time prepping a presentation, since I only found out after the presentation that Clint Hocking has been making most of my final points, in a characteristically far more thoughtful and articulate way as part of his Click Nothing Tour ’09. Ah well.


  • Joe Gilbert and Bethany Nowviskie from the Scholars’ Lab for inviting me.
  • Liz Bernard for making an example animation for me.
  • Jesse Schell, who first introduced me to the Innovator’s Dilemma.
  • Joel Burgess and Ben Cummings, who served as invaluable sounding boards and test audiences. If you didn’t like it in its current state, you would have hated it before these guys were able to tell me all the problems it had. :-)

5 archived comments Why no more comments?
  1. J. L. Sabino wrote:

    Loved the talk, Shane!! I don’t feel qualified to comment on the content but I, novice that I am, was totally engaged. I think my main criticism is an aesthetic one: I think the slide background you chose is a distractor, but I’m not sure why (maybe it’s the texture? Maybe I need more sleep?) I am getting that Christensen book you recommended asap!

    Posted November 10, 2009 at 12:56AM
  2. Jessica M. wrote:

    I only heard the unpolished version pre-presentation, but I learned a lot and thought the slides were very well done!

    Posted November 10, 2009 at 2:56AM
  3. Shoa wrote:

    Thank you for posting this presentation! I actually liked how fast you talked – coupled with the animation in the slides the presentation kept my non-video-gamer interest. Do you recommend Facade?

    Posted November 10, 2009 at 11:59PM
  4. sjml wrote:

    “Recommend” might not be the best word. But it is free and interesting and certainly worth checking out. They do a lot right, but a lot wrong. I’m happy to discuss in more depth at some point. :-)

    Posted November 11, 2009 at 1:26PM
  5. Chris wrote:

    Shane! I loved your talk. My little bro listened to it too. As someone inundated by Powerpoint presentations, thank you for being an excellent and interesting presenter, both auditorily and visually. Sometimes at school, I fantasize about Powerpoint never having been made. But it is truly the presenter, not the program, at fault.

    Remind me to ask you about that Dwarf game.

    Posted November 22, 2009 at 8:28AM