"I will take the ring to Mordor…”
So said Frodo Baggins in the epic The Lord of the Rings, but unlike our Hobbit friend, I do know the way! As your new Executive Director, I can certainly empathize with a challenge that’s mine to bear with only one possible path: forward. Perhaps this isn’t the traditional way to start an inaugural blog post, but once we’re better acquainted, you’ll find it to be only fitting.
On day one of our journey together, I’d like to introduce myself, set forth some of my major goals for the IGDA and explain my approach to communication.
Let’s start with a little bit about who I am and my background. (For an unabridged version, browse my site’s About section and/or my LinkedIn profile.) The short story is this: I’m a gamer who became a geographer and corporate strategist. I’ve been around long enough to remember when "Pong” appeared in a local department store in the distant past, and for some of us it was no less momentous than the black monolith appearing to the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Games and interactive media have since been a strong influence on my career path, which at one point had me sharpening my design skills with the goal of being a conceptual artist for Lucasfilm (I really wanted to work on something Star Wars-related!).
Instead, I blended my love of the creative and the empirical in cartography and geography, which landed me at Microsoft to work on Encarta Encyclopedia. After creating the company’s internal Geopolitical Strategy team and working on the great majority of Microsoft’s games and other products, I left in 2005 to create my own company focused on content culturalization. While I’ve helped various companies like Google with cartographic sensitivities and cultural issues, the great majority of my consulting work has been focused on the game industry. This is where I found my true synergy, combining my love of cultures with my passion for games. And what about that initial goal of mine? I had the pleasure of working on Star Wars: The Old Republic; the circle is now complete.
As far as my involvement in the IGDA, I joined the organization in 2004 and have since become a lifetime member! I founded the Game Localization SIG after noticing its glaring absence in the pantheon of SIGs and I chaired that group since its inception in 2007 to late 2012, where part of my duties included co-organizing GDC’s Localization Summit since 2009. In addition, I was actively involved in the board of directors of the Seattle chapter, and I received the IGDA’s MVP award in 2011.
Now to talk goals. There is no glossing over the fact that the IGDA has experienced churn. The industry faces both internal and external challenges, and at times it has seemed that we should have been more decisive and resolute. For some, this has left lingering doubts about our relevancy and it has shaken their faith. But this is all I will say about our past: it’s part of the process of maturing as an organization and from this day forward, my thoughts are focused on the future of the IGDA. I encourage you to join me in the process of tapping into the potential of this organization and driving things forward.
So, what does the future of this organization entail? Here’s a brief preview of what I aim to accomplish:
- Reemphasize the "I” in IGDA: We are not a U.S.-only organization that happens to exist in other countries; we are an international organization that happens to have a large U.S. membership. We will improve our inclusion of people, best practices and creativity from ALL chapters worldwide by better managing the communication and execution of ideas to and from IGDA leadership. This starts with direct access to the Executive Director (see below).
- Reassert the IGDA’s relevance: The IGDA will be more proactive and visionary as a force in our industry. We will reassert a thought leadership position for issues affecting game developers and to achieve this, I will rely on our vast SIG-based expertise on key topics.
- Reiterate the IGDA’s value proposition: We can demonstrate the value of our membership through stronger partnerships and incentives internationally, nationally and locally; an IGDA membership should benefit members at any level, from those in major studios to indie developers. And yes, we’ll finally get the website issue resolved, a task already in progress.
- Reinforce the IGDA as a professional collaboration: I see a membership of incredible volunteers being proactive to engage and feeling empowered to act on their initiatives. Our mutual respect for one another – regardless of our genders, ages, nationalities and so forth - needs to be an example to those who play our games.
You’ll come to find that I deeply value the importance of communication. Frequent, personal, and honest conversations have been the cornerstone of my approach toward many challenges throughout my career. I intend to apply that same philosophy toward moving this organization forward. Expect to hear a lot from me in blog form and otherwise. I love to communicate and I hope you do as well, because the first thing I’m going to ask you to do is to talk to me.
Here’s what I’d like to do to upgrade communication around here, for starters:
- Sound off and speak up! Yes, I want to hear any pent up frustrations about the IGDA, but I have just one request: don’t identify a problem without trying to offer a solution. I do want to hear ANY feedback, but I most appreciate the constructive type. Board member Sheri has already set up an IGDA feedback web form for collecting this information, so I strongly encourage you to use it for this purpose (yes, starting right now!).
- Weekly office hours! Beginning the week of 14 January 2013, I’ll be offering Executive Director office hours so I’ll be available to you on a regular basis to answer your questions and discuss issues. You’ll find me on Skype with the name "IGDA_ED” during the following times (I will adjust these times and days if necessary):
- Asia-Pacific: Tuesdays, 0400-0500 (GMT) / 1300-1400 (Tokyo)
- Europe and Africa: Wednesdays, 1700-1800 (GMT) / 1800-1900 (Vienna)
- North America and South America: Thursdays, 2300-0000 (GMT) / 1500-1600 (Seattle)
So, let’s get moving! Fortunately, like Frodo, I won’t be going on this journey alone and I’m very glad to have you with me. Together we’re going to set the IGDA on a path to become the kind of mature professional association it needs to be for game developers of all kinds. This process may have growing pains along the way as we revise some of the ways we do things, but we will be in a better place as a result.
Finally, for those who celebrate any holidays this season, may you have a peaceful and enjoyable time. I’ll be back in 2013 with another post to really get this journey started!