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The 'GDC 25' Chronicles: An Audio Avalanche

gdctapes.jpg[Continuing his 'GDC 25' archival research ahead of the 25th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this February/March, official GDC historian Jason Scott unearths and digitizes late '90s audio talks on the Chinese game market, adapting games, game engineering discipline and making casual games.]

There's quite a huge amount of historical Game Developers Conference audio and videotapes in my to-do pile, so it's been a case of knocking through them as fast as possible, to turn them from decaying analog recordings into longer-lifed digital ones. A few dozen are finished, with dozens more waiting.

When you have a historical archive of a bunch of presentations from such a fast-moving field as game development, it might seem to be a matter of dismissing these historical items as "out of date" and then waiting for the latest and greatest.

But there's something to be said for listening to well-assembled, clear sessions on aspects of game-making that still hold true. Here's a few issues that have been around for some time, and continue to be relevant.

In one notable audio talk we've digitized onto GDC Vault, William Dalton lays out a CGDC 1998 wake-up call that the development environment of games need to bring in the same qualities that software has had for years in other industries.

Entitled 'Bringing Engineering Discipline to Entertainment Development', and now available on GDC Vault, he describes what happens when these time-tested best practices are laid in front of the then-still-young computer game development culture. Listening to it, it might be interesting to compare to your own group's practices and see how many points you have already internalized, and how many have been cast aside.

Elsewhere, noted puzzle designer Scott Kim's 1997 CGDC talk now available on GDC Vault in audio, 'Games for the Rest of Us' has a really amazing delivery style. As he steps through the current state of the game-creation industry and the type of games that are appealing to a mass-market, he drops asides and wry observations that keep his audience engaged and chortling throughout.

He appears to be one of the first people to use the term "Casual Gaming" in trying to describe the types of games that can be played for a few minutes at a time, and he stresses how the web will change everything, including distribution methods. Ultimately, he tries to bring attention to the sort of growing pains in the process of games becoming a truly mass-media entertainment.

With games now surpassing more and more entertainment segments in terms of size and profits, his clever and deadpan delivery makes him seem not just a prophet but a hilarious one. (Scott continues to make puzzles and has a website dedicated to his craft.)

In addition, Joey Tamer's intriguing 1997 CGDC talk 'Breaking into the Chinese Market' covers issues both cultural and technological in bringing games to the growing Chinese and Asian markets. GDC has nearly always had a business and logistics side to their talks, and in this case, Ms. Tamer (who continues to work as a consultant to companies) lays out what she's discovered in the Chinese publishing channel.

She sees the U.S. market flattening out while the Chinese market is growing (it turned out the U.S. market has had a little further to grow, but the Chinese market is definitely growing faster). If you didn't know about such concepts as how clans play a part in growing your business, what to culturally expect in negotiations, or when to drink tea, this talk covers it all wonderfully.

Finally, these tapes sometimes contain voices that have been silenced, with very little knowledge in the present day that they might still be heard on these recordings. One such voice is Katherine Lawrence, a prolific and talented writer, who wrote for animated features, created science fiction and non-fiction books, and created a number of works that were adaptations for video games, a strange genre in itself.

But in this 1997 roundtable recording, "Art and Craft of Adaptations" she walks through the process of which properties to choose, how to make a game's world feel real, and a host of other questions from her fellow participants.

She is an author in her prime, sharing her knowledge with willing students. As explained by her loving memorial site, she took her own life a little over ten years later, leaving behind a large body of work and this recording to remember her by.

I'm not sure what else awaits on all these recordings, but it never stops being interesting. And don't forget you can see all of the 'GDC 25 Chronicles' archival audio, video and scans on a special GDC website page now.

 
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