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|    Advocacy

The Game Developers Conference Advocacy track presents a number of topics that address new and existing issues within the realm of social advocacy. Topics covered range from diversity to censorship to quality of life. With these sessions, we hope to offer a forum for discussion and ultimately a place to effect change for the development community.

Advocacy Track sessions are accessible by all GDC pass types.


Games for Change: Turn to Face the Strange
Colleen Macklin (Parsons School of Design)
Games need to change. Because of how games are changing. Games are addressing serious social issues even more seriously than serious games, generating new and strange experiences. And many games made for social change or learning are simply doing it wrong. We're entering the "third wave" of games for change and it's time to get with the movement! Even if you don't consider yourself a games for change-ist, this talk will shed light on your own practice, and how what you do, whether you are aware of it or not, is implicitly tied to this shift in games for change and change for games more generally. This talk includes a micro-history of games for change ranging from ancient Egypt to yesterday, odd and strange comparisons between games like Foldit and The Witness, and a few predictions for a future that still has games in it.
Jedi Mind Tricks: Cognitive Biases in Game Development
Daniel Menard (Double Stallion Games)
A crash course in the cognitive biases that affect our game development teams, especially independent developers. This course will give you the tools you need to understand people and build teams with better culture and happier developers. Have you ever wondered why luck seems like such a major factor in the success of a game or studio? Have you ever felt like an impostor while leading your team through development? Have you tried to motivate your team with mixed results? Learn about the surprising ways your brain can trick you, how they relate to game development and how to avoid these traps. Each of these cognitive biases will be discussed, supplemented by relevant psychological and behavioral research.
Leading a Creative Life in the Land of "No."
Bob Bates (Independent)
Whether or not you believe in the Indiepocalypse, leading a creative life as an indie is *hard*. Wherever you turn there are people telling you, "No." Your game can't succeed because it doesn't have the right business model, or it won't be discovered, or its genre is unmarketable, or whatever. This talk, from veteran Infocom, Legend Entertainment and Zynga designer and current indie Bob Bates, acknowledges the challenges that creative people face and gives specifics on how to overcome them. It details steps to building a creative life, and gives practical advice about managing your day, your project, and your anxiety.
10 Ways to Make Your Game More Diverse
Meg Jayanth (Freelance)
How can games be made more diverse, respectful and inclusive? This talk will discuss ten ways to do just that. From doing the research, to an integrated approach, to design, to being aware of context, making diverse games is a PROCESS involving not only story but art, design, and production. Drawing on her experience writing the anti-colonial steampunk adventure 80 Days - named Time's Game of the Year 2014, awarded IGF 2014 Best Narrative, and nominated for four BAFTAs including Best Story - Meg Jayanth will talk about making diverse and respectful games from a practitioners' perspective, using specific and approachable examples. This talk will show that diversity cannot simply be an afterthought - game creators need to engage with ideas of inclusion, representation, and cultural respectfulness in every aspect of the game's world-building, design, mechanics and narrative in order to have a real impact.
Depression-Proof Studio Culture: A How-To For Mental Wellness
Russ Pitts (Take This, Inc.)
One in four adults in America experience some mental health issue due to factors such as long hours, workplace isolation, and transitory employment. Due to the nature of highly technical and creative work, that figure is higher in the games industry. Possibly as high as 50%. Mental health issues accelerate burnout and drain productivity. Depression alone accounts for over 200 lost workdays a year, at a cost of billions of dollars in productivity. Game studio culture can accelerate or exacerbate symptoms of mental illness, and many emotional ailments can worsen in the game industry workplace, resulting in tragic outcomes. This 1-hour lecture will offer simple, effective advice on how to de-stigmatize mental health issues in your studio; help yourself and others create a positive work experience; effectively reach to those who may be suffering silently; and create a culture with a positive resistance to mental health issues.


Kate Edwards
Kate Edwards is the Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), appointed in December 2012. She is also the founder and principal consultant of Geogrify, a Seattle-based consultancy for content culturalization, and a unique hybrid of an applied geographer, writer, and corporate strategist, built upon a passion for global cultures and media technologies.

Formerly as Microsoft's first Geopolitical Strategist in the Geopolitical Strategy team she created and managed, Kate was responsible for protecting against political and cultural content risks across all products and locales. In the Microsoft Game Studios, she implemented a "geopolitical quality" review process and was personally responsible for identifying potential issues in all 1st party games between 1995 and 2005. Since leaving Microsoft, she has provided guidance to many companies on a wide range of geopolitical and cultural issues, and she continues to work on games such as the Dragon Age series, Modern Warfare 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dance Central series, Mass Effect 3, Halo 4 and Ryse.

Kate is also the founder and former chair of the IGDA's Localization Special Interest Group, a former board member of IGDA Seattle, the co-organizer of the Game Localization Summit at GDC, and is a regular columnist for MultiLingual Computing magazine.
Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris
The Tiniest Shark
Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris is a game designer and programmer, and founder of indie micro studio The Tiniest Shark. She is also an Assistant Arts Professor at the NYU Game Center. In 2013, she released Redshirt, a critically acclaimed satirical simulation game that uses science fiction tropes to explore social dynamics. In addition to social simulation, her research interests in games include the aesthetics of interactivity and its relationship to critical play, in which she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Portsmouth, UK. She is also CCO of Mobius AI, making tools to help developers create rich autonomous characters & procedural narratives.  She has a strong interest in encouraging diversity in game development production and practice, and participates in outreach programmes around the world. She was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2013.
Siobhan Reddy
Media Molecule
Siobhan Reddy is Studio Director at Media Molecule, the band of creative minds behind the hugely successful and innovative LittleBigPlanet game franchise.

Aged just 18, Siobhan relocated from her native Australia to the UK, an early fascination with fanzines, technology, pop-culture and entertainment leading her to the UK games industry, which she entered as a Production Assistant at Perfect Entertainment on DiscWorld Noir. By 1999 she was with Criterion Games, where she consistently shipped high quality titles including Burnout 3 and Burnout 4.

In 2006, seeking a new challenge and the opportunity to be part of a close-knit and creative team, Siobhan joined the newly-founded Media Molecule. The small studio would go on to do big things, including winning dozens of awards for LittleBigPlanet, LittleBigPlanet 2, Tearaway and Tearaway Unfolded. Currently in the works is the hotly-anticipated Dreams for PlayStation®4.

Siobhan is gratified to have been recognized for her work with a number of accolades, which include being named one of the top 100 most powerful women in the UK by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and the Qantas Australian Woman of the year in the UK, both in 2013. In 2016 she was awarded the MCV Women in Games Creative Impact award.