Impressions of the Montreal International Game Summit

by Darius Kazemi on November 28, 2007

in conferences,networking

So it’s the morning of the second (and final) day of the Montreal International Game Summit. I’m here partly because I’m giving a talk, partly because Darren won a free pass and it’s a good time for us to do a road trip together, and partly because Jason totally sold me on it back at GDC.

This conference is a little weird for me, in that it’s the first conference I’ve attended where many people don’t speak English as their first language. This makes networking a little bit difficult. I find it a little awkward to just walk up to people and start a conversation. This is an insecurity on my part, and something I need to work on. The other interesting tihng is that this conference is very much local. I’d guess that 80% of the people here are from Montreal or Quebec City, although I might be way off on that. Still, it’s a lot of locals. This is a blessing and a curse. It means that I’ve never met most of the people here, which is bad because there aren’t many people I can immediately hang out with, but good in that there are a lot of new friends I can potentially make.

The conference content itself has been excellent. (I’m speaking later today, so who knows, maybe the quality bar will drop significantly.) Jon Blow gave a brilliant keynote yesterday, about the fact that providing empty gameplay to players is actually lowering their quality of life, and that we as developers have an obligation to provide quality gameplay. Jon’s example of empty gameplay is stuff like the grind in WoW, where we’re giving people rewards for the sake of rewards. Quality gameplay can be seen in something like Portal, where solving a puzzle doesn’t require the developer to give a little medal or new equipment to the player: the brain rush of solving the puzzle is reward enough. But you should listen to it for yourself.

The earlier keynote yesterday was by Koizumi Yoshiaki of Nintendo, on the journey from Super Mario 64 to Ocarina of Time to Super Mario Sunshine to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (!) to Super Mario Galaxy. It was a pretty good talk, although the problem with the presentation was that he’d hit on something really cool, I’d instantly get it (usually due to an illuminating gameplay video), and then he’d spend 10 minutes explaining it. So while there were some great points, especially about camera control. He made a great point that the spherical levels in Galaxy basically mean that the camera never has to shift very much, even when the player is moving a lot.

Ian Bogost gave a great talk on game criticism (not game journalism), and where we’re failing as a culture to provide proper criticism. I think I will write this up in a separate post, it is that important. Randy Smith also gave a fantastic talk on how to reduce save/load compulsion in players, but I ain’t gonna write it up here.

The big disappointment for me was Harvey Smith’s talk on the player’s relation to the avatar. Harvey’s a really smart guy, and I’ve said as much in the past, but the presentation was full of the kind of information that I’d expect to find in an intro to game design course. Okay, according to feminist theory, gender is performed, not natural. Great! I believe that theory! But I know that already. Okay, there’s a double-consciousness at play where the player is immersed in the game but is simultaneously aware of the fact that she’s not actually Sam Fisher or whoever. Cool, yeah. But I think my frustrations were vocalized by Randy Smith when he got up at the end of the presentation and asked, basically, “How can we apply this stuff to game design?” And Harvey didn’t seem prepared to answer that question.

But overall, I’ve been really pleased with the conference so far. I am definitely looking forward to the GAMMA 256 party tonight!


Tom November 29, 2007 at 6:33 am

I completely agree that the lack of game criticism is hurting the industry. I was planning to start a blog or podcast critiquing games, but I just haven’t been able to find the time :/

Patrick November 29, 2007 at 3:08 pm

You think thats bad, try speaking at a conference where 0% of the people speak English as a first langauge. :P

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: