With the D.I.C.E Summit running from February 17th to 20th, the event is fast approaching. Ever aware of this Develop spoke with Joseph Olin, president of organisers The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, who hopes that the event will one day rival the Oscars.To read part one of this interview, click here.
Develop: What have you learned from the previous D.I.C.E Summits, and how have you applied that to the 2009 event?
Olin: I think overall, each iteration of the Summit has given me the inspiration to continue to find ways to improve the event. The game publishing and creative communities are a very smart, and motivated group. As an event that is geared toward serving their interests, the Academy’s team is challenged to look at what and how we cover the broad number of topics available in any given year.
It’s funny…In my first guise at programming the Summit; we had eleven speakers over two days. This year we will have more than 25 speakers over two-and-a-half days. Speakers have been given the task of presenting their topic, or point of view in 20-30 minutes as opposed to the “traditional” hour-long session of previous Summits. We’ve also limited the use of panels as the ratings from attendees have been consistently and dramatically lower than those received by individuals.
As the theme of D.I.C.E. is constant – a focus on creativity in games – our challenge is to find relevant leaders from within the design and production communities to share their perspectives and philosophies. I believe that this year’s line-up truly accomplishes that and will spark plenty of conversation among the attendees. The men and women who make games are really very smart. They enjoy the Summit because for the most part, everyone in the room is focused on creating new and exciting examples of interactive entertainment.
I really enjoy trying to program for this high-charged dynamic group of entertainers. Perhaps the most important single thing I have finally learned is that you can’t please everyone; so my perspective is to do my best job in finding interesting people and be comfortable that they will collectively satisfy this year’s attendees.
Develop: Which disciplines within the industry does D.I.C.E Summit 2009 hope to cater for?
D.I.C.E. is primarily focused on design and production aspects of interactive entertainment. But it’s a high-level approach not the ground level view that many game conferences serve. We don’t feature title post-mortems, no demos of new technologies and no trade show floor.
A good example is a power-hour session from last year on game engines: should a studio build its own technology or use a third party solution. Mike Capps from Epic spoke to the advantages of licensed technology, Insomniac Games’ Mike Acton and Andy Burke shared their philosophies on why creating their own tools was the only path for their games and Yannis Mallat, Ubisoft Montreal head spoke to the decisions that lead him to make the decision to build or buy.
It was a philosophical argument rather than a technology shoot-out...which was what we were hoping to see. We really stress that the Summit stage is for sharing and showing ideas; not selling products. For the most part, we’ve done a pretty good job on getting everyone to adhere to that baseline. It’s not that the presentation of new games or technology or services is (or should be) banned. Rather it’s the context of what it is and how it is being presented.
Develop: Where do poker and golf fit into what D.I.C.E Summit offers?
It’s funny that you ask that! Do you want to join us on the links? My game is incredibly poor but I always enjoy riding around in the carts. I really think that the Golf Tournament sells out every year in as much that it’s a great event for long conversations; the perfect place to network without interruption from mobiles and Blackberry’s!
For many of our members and attendees, the golf tournament is a relaxing way to have pleasure doing business or just getting to know some colleagues a bit better. Golf also happens early in the morning and our first session starts in the late afternoon…it’s a little fun before the serious part of the days take over.
Poker on the other hand, is pure competition to see who the best is: something that just sort of seems a natural fit for the creative types! Both events seem to get more people playing each year which speaks to the social nature of competitive creativity.
Develop: Can you tell us a little about the organisation behind the summit, and its ambitions as a representative of the industry?
In the US, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences is probably the largest collection of professional game makers, publishers, technology companies and independent crafts people gathered together to recognize their best work as interactive entertainers. We view our mission, as representatives of this talented group, to be a voice that speaks to the many positives that can come through playing games to the public and general media.
In conjunction with the University of Southern California and SMU’s the Guild Hall, the Academy has a program called the Game Deconstruction Group where student designers present a critical analysis of games to studio professionals. This program is in its 4th year.
Along the lines of promoting careers in games, we launched a scholarship program in 2008 named after the inspirational professor at Carnegie Mellon, Randy Pausch. We awarded four scholarships in his name and expect to do the same in early summer. The Academy is a partner with Film Akademie of Baden-Württemberg on the “fmx” conference held each may in Stuttgart. It is one of the largest digital entertainment conferences in Europe with more than 6000 attendees.
The Academy works with the University of Torino on the VIEW Conference in Italy. With the globalization of game making, conferences such as these are a great way to reach-out to member studios and to promote their talents on the widest scale possible.
We are always looking for general opportunities to speak out on the positive contributions of games as part of today’s culture and believe that many of our talented members make tremendous ambassadors for the industry.
Over time, we expect that the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences to be as significant to our medium as the Oscars in America, or BAFTA is within the world of traditional entertainment.