I’ve got several things to say about GDC 2010, which was, I think, one of the better GDCs I’ve attended. I usually go chronologically, but in this case I need to get something off my chest.
Every year I attend the rant. I find it simultaneously rousing and infuriating, and here’s why.
The rant does an excellent job at bringing up important issues. Chris Hecker admonishing game jammers to try and explore depth over speed. Paul Bettner sharing the very personal story of how crunch destroyed his love for games and ultimately, his studio. Heather Chaplin calling us all out for being immature man-children. Nichol Bradford issuing a call for game developers to do more to encourage math and science education. Et cetera.
But here’s what bothers me. Every year, we listen to the rants. We applaud wildly at their populist assertions and give standing ovations to their celebrations of the yet-unrealized potential of the medium.
Then we all go back to our jobs and don’t change a damned thing.
The rants are just pure catharsis without actually encouraging action. We listen, we debate, we argue over their merits, we deliver mini-rants against them, we blog about how right they are, and we noticeably modify our respect meters for the developers giving them.
But we don’t change ourselves.
All the steering committees, whitepapers, and surveys in the world won’t make as much of a difference as individuals making changes in the choices they make in their daily lives.
So I propose the following.
Next year, after the rant session, while all the impassioned speeches are still fresh in your post-catharsis mind, go out with some fellow developers. Have a few drinks. (This proposal is made easier because it’s leveraging something we all do anyway.)
And then confess your sins.
Determine which of the rants most applies to you. Of which crime against games are you most guilty. Then offer a suggestion for how you, YOU PERSONALLY can work to not commit that sin in the coming year. This is not the time for “the industry needs more women developers” but rather the time for “I will consider gendered perspectives of my own work and strive to make my games less sexually biased and demeaning.”
Then, the following year, meet up with those same developer friends at GDC. Recall your post-rant discussions of a year earlier, and share how you have atoned for your sins. If you have failed to do so, feel no shame, for these are difficult matters. But share the difficulty of your efforts so that we can all become more aware of just how large these mountains are.
If anything, it will keep the important elements of the rants alive longer than it takes for their effects to stop rippling through the blogosphere.
There’s nothing stopping you, of course, from doing this right now. No need to wait until next year’s rant — do the same exercise. You’ll have less time for atonement since GDC falls earlier in 2011.
Which just means you’d better get cracking. Let’s fix our industry.
I am an enormous cad for, in the initial version of this post, failing to credit Darren Torpey for the original idea of post-rant get-togethers, to which I added the next-year-followup. He is much smarter and better looking than I am, both of which I forgot in the alcohol-fueled haze in which I initially wrested these thoughts into written form.