Today, 17 December, marks my 3-year anniversary as Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association! When I started in this role, I quoted Frodo Baggins (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) by stating that “I will take the ring to Mordor”, in reference to what I viewed as a challenging but necessary task ahead – to help the IGDA evolve into the kind of organization we really need and want as game industry professionals. As we’re fast approaching the end of 2015, I wanted to reflect a bit on where things stand in that journey, not only with the past year but with my time so far leading the IGDA.
Like Frodo, there’s a good chance that I didn’t fully comprehend the implications of agreeing to take on this role at the time, and without a doubt, it has brought forth a lot of challenges but it’s been a great opportunity to grow my understanding of the complexities around our ever-evolving art form. The game industry and the IGDA have seen a very active year, full of challenges and opportunities to which we’ve risen with a renewed energy and purpose. We entered the year with in the midst of a disruptive social event around game developer diversity and revealing the weaknesses of online spaces when harassment and threats are allowed to go unchecked. It was an eye-opening experience for many, both within and beyond the game industry, and it brings to mind another key reference from Lord of the Rings:
Frodo: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”
Gandalf: “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Despite extreme levels of accusations, harassment, and even threats against myself and the IGDA, we decided that the episode would in no way deter us from our goals of helping game developers reach their full potential. Nor did it affect us in any way of being an active advocate on behalf of developers on key issues – such as the strong emphasis on diversity this year. In fact, the IGDA and the game industry has emerged with a new awareness of the importance of diversity, and a new level of commitment to seeing things change in a positive direction.
As for the IGDA specifically, I’d like to highlight some key activities over the past year or so:
- Our Developer Satisfaction Survey, launched in 2014, had another iteration in 2015 and has proven itself to be a key source of data for research on developer opinions and perceptions. The survey has continued to gain respondents and attention, being quoted in major media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
- The IGDA Foundation and IGDA partnered with Intel in their broad “Diversity in Technology” initiative, to help change the landscape of the game industry and increase its diversity. We’ve spent 2015 ramping up numerous efforts that will come to fruition in the near- and long-term.
- Our communities continue to grow and thrive. We’ve launched many new chapters around the world, including: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Tehran, Tunisia, and Turkey, as well as new Special Interest Groups (SIGs) such as the Analog Game SIG and the Romance and Sexuality SIG.
- Expanded our presence in many industry events, including our major activities at GDC, E3 and Gamescom.
- Launched the new IGDA Leadership Summit in September 2015, a renewal of our previous Leadership Forums of the past, and had a really successful event.
- Supported numerous programs in our community, including the IGDA Scholars, mentoring, event promotion, and facilitating new strategic partnerships with groups such as Cybersmile, Take This, Ukie, BIU, and others.
Regardless of various challenges - both expected and unexpected - I can say with all honesty that the past 3 years have been among the most rewarding in my professional career. I consider it nothing less than an honor to be leading an organization of such incredibly passionate and skilled people; chapter and SIG leaders, volunteers of all kinds, and members - students and professionals from all around the world. And of course, it’s been empowering to work alongside our phenomenal staff, Director of Operations Tristin and Partner and Member Relations Manager Jillian, as well as collaborating with our Board of Directors to effect real change in the industry. We have a great team of people leading this organization and we’re in an excellent position to move forward on a lot of initiatives.
Where do we go from here and when does the "ring" reach its final destination, i.e., when do we reach our goals? From my perspective, there is so much yet to accomplish and I’m not sure where the end point will be; it really feels like we’re only just getting started. Some of the areas in which you’ll be seeing changes in the coming months include:
- Beyond diversity, we’ll be renewing our push on other areas of developer advocacy – such as work/life balance and uncompensated crunch time
- Providing some great new member benefits and opportunities
- Improving the way our IGDA communities are run, as well as helping you know more about what’s going on in the IGDA universe at any given time.
- Implementing more professional resources for developers, such as our new insurance program as well as mentorship opportunities.
- Continued research on developer opinions and the key needs of game professionals, to help guide our priorities as an organization and as an industry.
One last point I’d really like to emphasize: the phrase “game industry” really means you – the individuals who comprise this field. So whenever someone says the “industry” needs to change or the “industry” should do this or that, it really implies that some level of action and commitment needs to happen with each and every individual – regardless of your specific function within the game sector. That’s really the essence of what the IGDA is about: being an agent of change - as an organization, as Chapters and SIGs, and most importantly, as individuals. Be prepared to see the IGDA be even more overt in its leadership around changing the way how game development works.
As I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and speak at numerous events and visit IGDA chapters, the enthusiasm for our interactive medium is overwhelming. We as game developers are truly fortunate to see such energy poured into our work every day; it’s not typical for many career paths but it’s very typical for artists like game developers. I’m really excited for what lies ahead, and if you’ve stuck with me this far, I hope you’ll continue as part of our own fellowship of the ring.
Thank you for your support of the IGDA through your membership and even more so, through your volunteer efforts if you’re able to give the time. As always, we welcome your feedback on how to better serve you!
Thank you and best wishes for the holidays!