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IGDA Interview Series: Mike Kent

Posted By Jillian Mood, Thursday, November 5, 2015
Updated: Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mike Kent is a Professor at Algonquin College's Concept Art Foundations program, freelance concept artist, and chair of Pens & Pixels. Trained in game development and concept art, Mike began his career as a concept artist and modeler in several design firms. His passion for the arts has driven him to create Pens & Pixels, a professional arts and illustration collective, with the goal of bringing concept art and illustration to Ottawa and beyond. Mike's passion and drive come from his love of sharing and educating everyone in achieving their goal with their creative careers.



Jillian Mood, IGDA: Hello Mike! Congratulations on your recent hugely successful art jam! Why did you decide to do a jam that was specifically art only?

Mike Kent: Game jams are a great medium to help grow the game development community, spawn new ideas, network and create. Unfortunately. there is a divide between the arts and game development. The divide can get rather intense and can even be seen in the workplace. As it stands, professional artists looking to connect can feel excluded from a lot of video game events due to a lack of content supporting arts interests. So I created the art jam, built around creating and visually exploring a game world.

JM: What were the main things you learned from the experience?

MK: The top things I learned from the Pens & Pixels Art Jam are the importance of community and sharing. Artists are typically very isolated. The Internet age has on the one hand connected us, but on the other isolated us to home studios. As well, it can be hard for some artists to speak out and share their ideas and artwork in a public forum. But at the Pens & Pixels art jam, the barriers fell away, and the excitement and energy of the creative people in the room empowered everyone to start share their ideas effortlessly. The arts are always stronger when you get inspired, and you sometimes get inspired by simply talking with your peers. The art jam showed all of us how open, friendly, and excited our community is. And it taught me how impressive and dedicated we can be when brought together under a single banner.

JM: Was it a one-time event or do you think you will continue hosting them?

MK: Originally, the art jam was a test run. I could not find any strong examples of similar events. Our original plan was to see how this one played out, but the attendees were so thrilled with the result that they begged me to lengthen the next one to a full 24 hours and to host it as soon as possible. So now we plan to hold the Pens & Pixels Art Jam every year and publish the work done in an art book for the public to see our results.

JM: What was the response and feedback from the artists? What was your goal and do you feel like you accomplished it?

MK: The response was overwhelmingly positive. Most of our feedback was requests to lengthen the event and add more tasks. We kept a very structured approach with the art jam, providing the jammers with a setting, a full universe and basic plot for each team to follow. They then chose the world they would visually explore (e.g., water world, dessert world, jungle world, etc.) and were tasked with creating a list of designs and concepts. They responded to this with enthusiasm and tackled the task perfectly.

JM: What advice would you give to other art communities who want to organize a similar event?

MK: Structure and result. Artists can get lost in their creativity, or even confrontational about how good one idea is over another. Providing a structure and list of expectations can help jammers stay on task. This also helps spark the creative process, and a basic setting can help spawn the intricate web of ideas that branch-off from a core setting.

JM: Do you have any plans for combining art and dev in one jam?

MK: I do! Pens & Pixels has been talking with the creators of OJam to bring our artists together with their developers to create a full team with a complete pipeline. It will be an exciting task to try and merge our two communities. But in industry both halves are essential to game creation — it is one of Pens & Pixels' goals to try and start bringing the creative and development halves together.

JM: I understand this isn't your first initiative for the art community! Can you explain what Pens & Pixels is and your goal with that group?

MK: Sure! Pens & Pixels is a professional concept art and illustration collective here in Ottawa. We host industry events, share online content and tools with the goal of growing the concept art and illustration community. We aim to draw out our industry talent and give them a space to network, learn and create, all with a focus on the professional side of the arts community. So far we have had huge successes hosting industry talks with guest like Steambot Studios (Batman, Thief) Geof Isherwood (Marvel comics/movies), art lessons and hosting the first Artist Alley at the 2015 OIGC. As well, we hope to encourage the arts community to better merge with our local game development community in order to make Ottawa a one stop spot for industry.


Join the interview series!

If you would like to send a proposal on a subject you would like to hear about, be interviewed yourself, or nominate someone, we’d love to hear from you! Send thoughts to Jillian -AT- IGDA -DOT- org.

Tags:  2015  geof isherwood  interview  jillian mood  mike kent  oigc  ojam  ottawa  pens & pixels  steambot studios 

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IGDA Interview Series: Scott Rogers

Posted By Jillian Mood, Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Updated: Friday, November 6, 2015

Scott Rogers is the game designer and creative director of more than fifty AAA games for Disney, Sony, Capcom, Namco and THQ. His games have sold over 50 million copies worldwide.

Over his career, Scott has partnered with major licensors including Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, MGA and DC Entertainment He has collaborated with amazing creators including Blur Studios, Dan Harmon, Susumu Matsushita, Tomonobu Itagaki and Tommy Tallarico. He has directed unforgettable voice talent including Nolan North, Frank Welker, Tom Kenny and Kim Guest.

For the last four years, Scott was an Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering's R&D department where he helped create interactive experiences installed in Disney's parks including: Mickey’s Fun Wheel Challenge, Legends of Frontierland and several app-based interactive games.

Scott has authored two books on game design: "Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design" and "Swipe This! The Guide to Touchscreen Game Design". Both books are top sellers and "Level Up!" is a #1 best seller on Scott's books are used as the foundation of video game design curriculums at universities all over the world.

Scott lectures and teaches video game level design at the University of Southern California's prestigious school of Interactive Media. His students have gone on to design award winning games: Threes, Where's My Water, Ori and the Blind Forest and Nevermind.



Jillian Mood, IGDA: Hi Scott! Thank you so much for doing this interview, looking back at your incredible career it's hard to know where to start!

Well, let's start at the beginning! Tell us about your first job and how it launched your career into the creative and gaming world?

Scott Rogers: Just like Lana Turner, I was discovered in a coffee shop.

I had just been laid off from my first job after college at an animation studio and was drawing in my sketchbook. A friend from school saw me and asked me if I could draw. (I can) and if I could draw using a computer (I can). However, the software he used was for the PC and I was a Mac guy at that time. (I have since converted).

He graciously lent me the use of his computer for two weeks to learn those programs. I created a portfolio of work and interviewed at the company. The team was working on this very cool fantasy-themed RTS and I got along well with them, but at the end of the interview, I was informed the position I had applied for had been given away the day before. That small company was called Silicon and Synapse and that game was called Warcraft. Yes, I had missed my opportunity to be on the ground floor of Blizzard by one day. However, with the artwork in hand, I soon found work at another company and started my career as a video game artist. I eventually became a designer, but you can find that story in "Level Up!"

JM: You have worked for some incredible companies, Disney, Sony, Capcom…the list goes on! Was the creative process different at each company or do you follow the same steps? Did each company have a completely different creative culture?

SR: It depends on the company and position I have. Working with Disney Imagineering, for example, was very different experience than the more traditional game developers I had worked for in the past. I had to dust off some skills I thought I'd never use again as well as learn some new one – I even built a tree!

I find that I prefer to collaborate than lock myself away in a "design tower" and generate work. I work better with others and I really like the energy and ideas that can come from collaboration.

I always start with brainstorming and brainstorming always works better with others. Then I do a lot of drawing and writing, taking the ideas, fleshing them out and refining them. Finally, there is a lot of back and forth with the artists and programmers and other designers and lots of iterating and honing of ideas and gameplay. I always say that "all design is liquid"; you should allow for changes along the course of the entire project.

JM: How important was game design back in the 16-bit days compared to now?

SR: It was just as important as it is now.

While 16-bit systems were more restrictive in format, it made it easier to design games – for example, we just had to "follow the grid" when designing levels. It was almost more "mechanical" since every movement or action could be fitted to a grid. Using paper maps and storyboarding gameplay is still one of the best way to plan out a game before you execute. You can spot and solve many problems at the paper stage of a design.

JM: Obviously the image of designing games for Disneyland sounds like the best job ever for a creative! Was it exciting as it sounds?

SR: It was one of the most amazing and inspiring experiences of my life. I don't know if I will ever get another opportunity to work there again, but I am proud to have it on my resume. While I was there, I scaled the heights of the Matterhorn and crawled through the basement of the Haunted Mansion. I would love to tell you more, but then the Disney ninjas would come after me. (On retrospect, I think they've replaced the ninjas with First Order Stormtroopers.)

JM: And you also worked for Japanese companies as well. Was that a culture work shock to you? How did the environment and process differ from what you were use too?

SR: I worked for the American divisions of Japanese companies, so there wasn't too much culture shock during my day-to-day job, but my work did take me to Japan several times. Despite all of its strange and wonderful differences, Japan is pretty easy for a Westerner to get around in. I found that working with Japanese developers was pretty similar to Americans. Making games is making games, no matter what country you are in. I did pick up many cultural habits from my time in Japan. If you ever meet me, ask me for a business card and you'll see.

JM: Can you tell us about your favourite (or one of your favourite) projects you worked on and why it meant so much to you?

SR: While I have enjoyed (most) of the games I have worked on, there are two that stand out.

The first was Maximo vs. Army of Zin. I had a big say in the design of that game and was really interested in expanding the world of Maximo. I am proud to say we were creating steampunk-themed characters back in the early 2000's!

But I like Maximo 2 the most, because I wanted to address the problem of challenge vs. difficulty. People complained that the first Maximo game was too hard and they stopped playing. (which is too bad, because the final boss is really good) so I went into the design of Maximo 2 with a list of 50 things I felt needed to change from the first game. I am proud to say I achieved 49 of them. In my humble opinion, Maximo 2 is a better game than the first. It is much more playable and challenging to the player. It is less cruel.

The second project I enjoyed was the first project I worked on for Disney Imagineering. Sadly, it never progressed past the playable prototype stage, but it was very innovative and would have had a huge impact on the park. The project allowed me to be involved in some amazing things. There is even something permanent in Disneyland that I can point to and say "This is like this because of our game". How many can say that?

JM: After so many projects as a game designer you started publishing books (makes sense!). Did that come naturally to you because of your career? What was a challenge you found trying to put your expertise to paper?

SR: I was asked to write "Level Up!" by Wiley and Sons. They had seen my GDC lecture entitled "Everything I learned about level design I learned from Disneyland" and felt that there was a book in there. I thought they wanted me to write a "For Dummies" book but they said they wanted the "Scott Rogers' book of game design" – I am extremely grateful for that opportunity and realize what an honor it was to be asked.

As for writing the book, it was hard work, but it still came pretty easily. I had already been thinking about writing a book before Wiley came calling and I had created a document called the "Platform Primer" that ended up being the foundation for "Level Up!" (You can find the Platform Primer at my blog at

JM: How would you explain what game design means if you were talking to a group of 5-year-olds?

SR: I have taught game design to a group of 8-year-olds and they were super-engaged and so creative! Kids are often just as sharp as adults and they usually pay better attention to their teacher! Since most of them love games, they catch on pretty quickly to how and why things work. Give them the basics and a few tools to play with and they will zoom off!

JM: And also, if you had advice for creatives entering the game industry today, what advice would you give them to have a full and fulfilling career?

SR: I am teaching a class at the New York Film Academy that preps the graduate students for employment. I tell them this:

1) Just do it. Many of these kids coming out of colleges have already done the two hardest things in gaming: They've made a game(s) and they've found a team to be a part of. It is so easy right now (in 2015) to make games and find an audience for your game and sell your game than it has ever been in the history of gaming. You don't need someone else to "invite you to the party" to make games. Make them yourself. I am proud to say that many of my students have gone on to form their own companies and made very successful and profitable games. You can too.

2) If you have to work for a company, find a project you want to be involved with. Having great games on your resume can take you pretty far.

3) Don't forget to live your life. It's really easy for people making video games to want to spend all of their time working. What's not to love about making games? However, it's not curing cancer. It doesn't have to be finished this minute. Find a company (or create a company) that makes room for your own interests, projects and people in your life.


Join the interview series!

If you would like to send a proposal on a subject you would like to hear about, be interviewed yourself, or nominate someone, we’d love to hear from you! Send thoughts to Jillian -AT- IGDA -DOT- org.

Tags:  2015  capcom  disney  jillian mood  level up! the guide to great video game design  namco  scott rogers  sony  swipe this! the guide to touchscreen game design  thq 

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IGDA Interview Series: Keith Fuller

Posted By Jillian Mood, Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Updated: Sunday, November 1, 2015

An integral part of the IGDA Leadership Summit this year was the support from Keith Fuller, who is one of the most inspiring and knowledgeable employee engagement consultants in the industry. He gave an incredible 3-hour workshop at the LS and will also be presenting at the Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS), which is quickly approaching. He was also a natural choice for our second interview.



Jillian Mood, IGDA: First, I wanted to say how amazing it was to meeting you at the Leadership Summit! Could you explain what your role was at the event and how you found the whole experience?

Keith Fuller, Fuller Game Production: It was a pleasure meeting you, too!

I was approached many months ago by a few different leaders within the IGDA. They told me a new event was being planned as a successor to my all-time favorite industry conference, the IGDA Leadership Forum. Would I be willing to help organize it?

With nary a concern about the time requirements involved, I gave an unequivocal yes. For the next several months I had the pleasure of working with folks like Kate Edwards, Tom Buscaglia, and Tristin Hightower in finding the best and most diverse cast of proven industry luminaries to participate as speakers and panelists. Start to finish, it was immensely satisfying for me for two main reasons, the first being it was a hugely successful event! The sessions were exactly what I was hoping for in terms of breadth, depth, and concrete takeaways, and many people told me afterward they look forward to attending again next year.

The second reason I found the event fulfilling is that I got to meet many Facebook/Twitter/email friends in person for the first time. I got hugs from fabulous speakers and industry legends the likes of Jen Maclean and John Vechey! I mean, come ON.

JM: What inspired you to start your own consulting business?

KF: I worked as a AAA studio developer for 11 years at Raven Software, shipping a dozen titles across multiple platforms. As a producer on titles like Call of Duty, I treasure the time I spent with enormously talented teams. However, I also experienced more than my share of dysfunctional leadership. After being laid off, I wanted to see what I could do to fix the sort of leadership problems that had plagued me and my teammates for so many years. Encouraged by others who had gone before — friends and mentors like Sheri Rubin, Clinton Keith, and Adrian Crook — I struck out as a consultant. This venture has been personally fulfilling to an extent that few ever get to experience, and incredibly challenging. Supporting a family of five with an entirely unpredictable income in an industry populated with leaders who predominately think they have no need to improve — well, it wasn't the most financially sound move, shall we say. I hope to never go back to living on food stamps, but I'm also very appreciate of the freedom and fulfillment I've experienced over the past five years.

JM: Out of all the industries, why the video game industry?

KF: It sounds — corny? cliche? — but these are my people. My first paid gig out of university was as a programmer at a game company. I've spent almost 20 years in the industry. Game developers are fun. We make products that entertain men, women, and children all over the world. Why would I focus anywhere else?

OK, I'll answer that one myself: I'd focus elsewhere because trying to get people to recognize a need for leadership improvement in games is the *opposite* of lucrative. But for me that doesn't outweigh all of the pros listed above.

JM: When a studio has reached out for your expertise, what are your first steps to help improve the culture?

KF: Every gig is different. Actually, out of all the clients I've had over the past five years, less than half approached me. Usually, I have to reach out to them, offering initial free examinations or really lightweight services as an effort to start a relationship and establish trust.

To actually improve a culture you need leaders on-board. I define culture as "the set of decisions that employees make automatically because they see leaders doing it every day". Ergo, if you want to modify the culture you need to modify the actions of the leaders. A telling first step is to ask the CEO, et al, "What are the values of your company?" If they can't tell you straightaway in clear terms, or if they don't have them explicitly written down somewhere, it's evident there isn't a well understood set of priorities driving decision making. So that's pretty much step zero.

JM: In the game studios you've worked with, what do you believe to be the top three areas that needed the most attention?

KF: Possibly the most common problem we have in the industry is our believe that being a really good contributor means you're automatically qualified to be a leader of contributors. Great programmer? Let's promote you to lead programmer. No training or mentoring needed, because clearly you have amazing leadership ability. Actually, the skill sets of contributor and leader have only the tiniest overlap, so if you don't train a new leader then the only education they get is from watching other leaders in the company — all of whom are also untrained. It's a downward spiral of inbreeding leadership incompetence.

Second, I would provide this analogy. Would you buy a car and spend every last dollar of your monthly income on the car payments, without setting aside any money for fuel, oil changes, and maintenance? Well that's exactly what we do with our leaders. Every hour of every day they spend keeping plates spinning, with no time left for developing the team members for whom they're responsible.

Lastly, I'll share the single most common response I get when I tell people that I help improve leadership. "Man, that's GREAT, Keith! Our industry really needs that! It's a rampant issue! Our studio's fine, mind you, but the rest of the industry? Totally dysfunctional! Best of luck!" I'd simply advise studio leaders to consider, for just a moment, that there is a chance — infinitesimal, astronomically improbable though it may be — that their own fecal matter might emit a slight aroma.

JM: What advice would you give to job seekers to help verify the company they are interviewing with has a great culture that they would fit in with?

KF: Man, is that a good question. I have students ask me that frequently, too. "If all of this 'values' stuff is so important, Keith, how do you expect us to know which company is worth our time?" And I think that response is the best place to start: realizing that it's not just a matter of getting your foot in the door or landing your first gig. You need to approach it with the knowledge that you are inherently valuable. As a person. And that means it's not OK to blindly put up with an environment that makes you uncomfortable or devalues you in any way. The best insight you'll get before working somewhere will come from people who've been employed there, so networking and joining communities ahead of time is a great move. That's how you can learn about the company. But it's also important to learn about yourself. What are the three things you most want to achieve? What are the three values most important to you? What are three things you will never, ever do for a company? If you approach a job hunt with even those questions answered you're already better equipped than most to make a cultural assessment.

JM: Final piece of advice, what is the one thing you would advise the leaders of game studios to do differently?

KF: Require everyone to have regular, frequent one-on-one's with the people for whom they're responsible. The single most important factor in employee retention and in the worker's own fulfillment in the workplace is their relationship with their boss. Make sure they have one.

JM: You had a very inspirational workshop at the Leadership Summit!

KF: In a stunning turn of events, I'll be talking about the importance of values [at MIGS]! Also, a primer on emotional intelligence, motivation of teams, and three tiers of feedback. I plan to tackle this all in a slightly unconference-like way, though, in that I'm giving the attendees an opportunity to upvote the topics they'd most like to explore. We'll do what they say is most important first, which I hope will increase the value they derive from the class and make the most of our time. Also, free hugs.

JM: Thank you Keith for sharing!



Upcoming interview: Allison Stroll, a senior PM at Microsoft Core graphics. Allison has experienced the industry boom and bust, shift from arcade to console, become a "real" entertainment source as Hollywood took notice, shift from PC gaming to console gaming and back to PC again. Get ready for an deeply insightful account of her experience in the industry!


Join the interview series!

If you would like to send a proposal on a subject you would like to hear about, be interviewed yourself, or nominate someone, we’d love to hear from you! Send thoughts to Jillian -AT- IGDA -DOT- org.

Tags:  2015  Adrian Cook  Call of Duty  Clinton Keith  fuller game production  igda leadership forum  IGDA Leadership Summit  interview  Jen Maclean  jillian mood  John Vechey  kate edwards  keith fuller  migs  montreal international game summit  Raven Software  Sheri Rubin  tom buscaglia  Tristin Hightower 

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IGDA Interview Series!

Posted By Jillian Mood, Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hello IGDA Community!

This is my first posting which I am excited about! I will aim to get exciting news posted on here frequently. I wanted to share news on the Interview series, if you didn’t check it out in the newsletter this past week here it is below! I am planning out the schedule and awesome people’s stories and advice to share, if you would like to propose a topic or nominate someone for the series reach out to me anytime at Jillian -AT- IGDA -DOT- org!


IGDA Interview Series: Ben Kane - 14 October 2015

We are thrilled the first interview in the series is starting with a fantastic indie success story!

Ben Kane is a independent "jack-of-most-trades" game developer and co-founder of Steel Crate Games. Ben is known for creating minor hit "DLC Quest" and more recently for his work co-creating the virtual reality bomb-defusing game "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes". Ben is a software engineer by training but has balanced all aspects of running an independent business for the past five years, sharing much of that experience in a year-long series on YouTube called Indie Chatter. These days, Ben is focused on wrapping up development on "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes" and keeping up with the wild ride of virtual reality technology.

I recommend watching this video first to check out this intensely suspenseful game!

And now, onto the interview...



Jillian Mood, IGDA: Hello Ben!

Keep Talking and Nobody ExplodesFirst, I want to congratulation you on your success with your career and the recent explosion (excuse the pun) of interest and industry attention with "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes"!

Ben Kane, Steel Crate Games: Thank you!

JM: You have had such an interesting career path, could you describe how it led you to co-founding Steel Crate Games?

BK: I've been a game developer for a little over six years now. I cut my teeth in the AAA industry with Electronic Arts before throwing caution to the wind and becoming a full-time, solo game developer. There were a few years of learning the ropes as an "indie" but I eventually hit my stride with a game called "DLC Quest". I had intended on sticking with my own solo projects, so starting up Steel Crate Games was never something I had considered. When our team came up with the idea for Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes at the Global Game Jam however, it seemed like the logical choice was to drop everything else and see how far we could run with it. That turned out to be a pretty significant event in my career path to say the least.

JM: It's so exciting that KTANE came from the Global Game Jam in Ottawa! What was the game jam theme and describe the brainstorming process leading to developing a game about defusing a bomb in VR?

BK: The theme of the jam was, "We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are." It was a difficult one to wrap our heads around. The only thing we knew for sure was that we were going to make a virtual reality game. At the jam, we had other developers come up to us and ask to try out the VR headsets we had brought with us. We obliged, and pretty soon there was a crowd of people watching one person wearing a headset, looking around on a virtual roller coaster that only they could see. We looked at the absurdity of the scene and decided to make a game where all of the passive onlookers could instead be involved in the same game as the person in VR. From there, it was just a case of coming up with a scenario where different views, different sets of information, could be fun. Bomb defusing seemed like a simple enough thing to tackle in the 48 hour jam.

JM: Tell us about the fantastic team working with you. What is the team dynamic like? What are you plans for the studio's future and will you stay focused on VR?

BK: The core team is made up of Brian Fetter, Allen Pestaluky, and myself (with fantastic music and art provided by Liam Sauve and Chris Taylor respectively). The three of us are all programmers, so it's not an ideal spread of skills, but we managed to identify our weaknesses and find help to fill those gaps. Functionally, we're all pretty good at splitting up the work and maintaining an even allocation of responsibility. If we had a hierarchy, it would be totally flat. Our studio's future is a conversation we'll be having over the coming weeks. For a while now, it's all been about preparing for Keep Talking's launch. Now that it's out the door and being well received, any plans we had might need to be revised a bit. We certainly have lots of hopes and ideas for VR, but Keep Talking might occupy a bit more of our time yet.

JM: There is so much attention and press on VR now in the industry. Do you see it continue to grow rapidly?

BK: Virtual Reality is fantastic tech with some never-before-seen-experiences and some very hefty barriers to entry to go along with it. Much of the hype right now is around the potential of VR and while we've seen a lot of promise, it's getting close to the point where VR will need to deliver more than just demos. It's exciting to know that they're just around the corner. I just hope that expectations haven't become, pardon the term, unrealistic.

JM: Congratulations on speaking at the Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) in November. Your talk title looks very interesting "Making a game nobody can play for a market that doesn't exist (yet): Lessons from Virtual Reality."

What do you think the audience will learn from your session and what do you hope to convey to keen developers?

BK: It's been a fascinating and challenging ride over the past year and half trying to develop a virtual reality game. I hope to be able to share some of what we learned making a VR game when nobody knows how to properly use VR yet, and how we demoed it to an audience that has wildly varying expectations of the technology. Hopefully it'll be an inspirational talk about how we managed to stay afloat during the early days of virtual reality gaming.

JM: You've successfully started a studio and created a game for a market that doesn't exist. Do you have any advice for indie developers looking to start their own studio for a market that clearly now exists?

BK: Staying flexible has been key to our development. Our initial schedule, and even some plans for launching on VR hardware, are laughable now in retrospect but we made them with the best information we had at the time. Try to be aware of anything you are completely banking on, and then ask yourself what you would do if that aspect suddenly didn't work out the way you need it to.

JM: Lastly, you were married last month, so congratulations! Do you and your wife play video games together?

BK: Thank you! We're actually still working our way through New Super Mario Bros. on Wii, so we've got a bit of a backlog. We tend to play board games more often however, and those are some of the biggest influences on Keep Talking's design.



Join the interview series!

If you would like to send a proposal on a subject you would like to hear about, be interviewed yourself, or nominate someone, we’d love to hear from you! Send thoughts to Jillian -AT- IGDA -DOT- org.

Tags:  2015  ben kane  dlc quest  ggj  global game jam  interview  jillian mood  keep talking and nobody explodes  migs  montreal international game summit  steel crate games 

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The 2015 IGDA Leadership Summit

Posted By IGDA, Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The International Game Developers Association Leadership Summit commenced late last Tuesday at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, Washington (US). Since many of the Summit's attendees had been involved in either PAX Dev or PAX Prime in the days prior, this event presented a nice second chance for additional professional development, and to do some off the clock socializing with industry peers.

IGDA Seattle Recruiting & Networking EventIGDA Seattle Recruiting & Networking Event

The 2015 Leadership Summit is a new iteration of the IGDA's previous Leadership Forum events that proved very popular when conducted 2007 through 2011. The event is intended to help attendees improve their leadership skills in all areas, not only as company leaders or in management roles but also from the perspective of exhibiting creative leadership.

The conference kicked off on Tuesday night, featuring the IGDA Seattle chapter's latest recruiting event, in additional to light networking for both the recruiting event and Summit attendees. A wide variety of developers attended, ranging from owners of serious games one-man studios to directors of AAA powerhouses. One attendee, Swatee Surve, was excitedly promoting her predictive healthcare application. "The next big trend in gaming is prescribed mental healthcare," Surve noted, painting a picture of the future were psychiatrists use games to discern the needs of patients, like in Ender's Game. Another group of attendees were Universe Builders Studios, who were in process of developing a space startup simulator so entrepreneurs could plan the harvesting of planetary resources. "Neil Degrass Tyson made science cool. We want to be cool, too," they said.

Edwards Kicks Off #LS2015Edwards Kicks Off #LS2015

Wednesday morning arrived accompanied by bagels, coffee, and a welcome message from IGDA Executive Director, Kate Edwards. In it, she thanked Keith Fuller and Tristin Hightower (IGDA Director of Operations) for producing the event, and introduced Jillian Mood, the IGDA's new Partner and Member Relations Manager. Edwards also thanked the event's many sponsors, including the IGDA Foundation, Amazon, Intel, Xbox, and DeVry University. She then noted that the event's schedule would be displayed by means of the Whova application, and that the established Summit Twitter hashtag would be #LS2015. Edwards next reminded attendees of the purpose of IGDA membership, asking them simply, "How will you be remembered for your work in this industry? How did you spend your time? How did you show leadership?"

Then, Summit keynote speaker Kristina Reed kicked off the conference with her lecture titled "No Spectators: How Inclusivity Catalyzes Everything." In it she discussed her long career at the Rhythm & Hughes visual effects and animation studio, and her transition into her Oscar-winning producer role at Disney. "The very act of making everybody feel welcome… increases your chance of creating something great," she noted. She also explained how company models emphasizing communicating with employees and respecting them led to increased quality of life for those individuals, and consequently to greater profit margins. "Only when a person feels absolutely comfortable will they give you their best over and over. And I would submit to you that you should never settle for less." She also revealed some unexpected sources of inspiration, like Burning Man's codified list of values, and never before seen clips from the short films Feast and Paperman, both of which earned her the Oscar award.

Reed was followed by a lecture from Rami Ismail, of the indie development studio Vlambeer. In it, Ismail talked about the "invisible obstacles" that game developers often forget to think about, like disparate access to knowledge around the world. He put it to listeners to attempt to be cognizant of these factors, but also reminded them that some failure would be inevitable. "You can't get all of it right... being visible on a global scale to all sorts of people is an impossible responsibility," noted Ismail. One example he highlighted was the concept of sarcasm, which didn't translate well into many languages. As a result of inevitable barriers like this, often communication between developers will be handicapped. Ismail encouraged his audience to keep trying to explain themselves, however, stating that "People always say 'Show, don't tell,' but actions without words create a terrible context for what you are doing."

Ismail then ceded the stage to Microsoft Studios Global Publishing General Manager Shannon Loftis, who spoke on "Creating Inclusive Content: Inspiring Teams To Do the Right Thing." In it, she described the way that Xbox's new CEO and management chain had allowed it to solve some old issues by approaching them in different ways. She also noted the way that the company had adapted to some new trends in the video game market. Namely, that women now make up more than half of the gaming demographic, and that Black and Hispanic children in North America now play more games on average than their Caucasian counterparts.

Following Loftis' talk, conference attendees were provided with a luxurious lunch buffet, and then returned upstairs to attend panels until 5 p.m. that day. After hours, conference-goers were treated with a fireside chat between Ed Fries, former Vice President of Game Publishing at Microsoft (and former IGDA board member), and Halo-icon Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer at 343 Studios.

The next morning, Summit attendees started the day with a lecture by Scott Crabtree, Chief Happiness Officer at Happy Brain Science. Crabtree described the value of specific gratitude, noting how productive it can be to convey to employees appreciation for their behavior, and the impact that it has had on your business. Later, James Gertzman, CEO and Co-Founder of PlayFab, presented a lecture on "Managing Through Uncertainty." In it, he cautioned leaders not to be too heavy handed. "Don't become a tyrannical micromanager," said Gertzman, "It paralyzes people with fear of failure."

Afterwards, the IGDA again provided a delicious lunch buffet, featuring local delicacies like fresh-caught salmon. While attendees munched on the food, Kate Edwards presented the results of the IGDA's annual Developers Satisfaction Survey, which showed progress in many areas of the field. Edwards also noted that the results of the DSS would be made publicly available at the IGDA's website, located here. Finally, after another round of panels and lectures, the day drew to a close with a series of Pecha Kucha inspired speed-panels, featuring Sheri Graner Ray of Zombie Cat Studios and Marty O'Donnell of Highwire Games, who quipped that "Two heads are supposedly better than one, but really it depends on the heads."

Finally, once the last lecture had ended, Kate Edwards and Keith Fuller gathered Summit attendees together to ask them for candid, immediate feedback. Commenting on the difficulty of soliciting such critique after conference-goers had returned home, they were eager to learn what members really thought of the Leadership Summit. Once attendees had an opportunity to express their opinions, Edwards and Fuller thanked them again for attending, and invited them to return again next year.

The IGDA greatly thanks its sponsors and partners who supported the 2015 IGDA Leadership Summit, including the IGDA Foundation, Amazon Web Services, DeVry University, Intel, Xbox, Rocket Recruiting, Events for Gamers, GamesBeat, Game Recruiter, Washington Interactive Network (WIN), and Women in Games International (WIGI).

About the Author
Author: Ma'idah LashaniPrior to attending law school at UNC Chapel Hill, Ma'idah Lashani spent nearly three years working as Community Manager at The Escapist. Since then, she has worked as a legal intern at both Epic Games and The Law Offices of Ryan P. Morrison. When she's not gallivanting around with her Irish Wolfhound, Onix, Ma'idah also moonlights as the IGDA's Community Liaison.

Tags:  2015  Amazon  Amazon Web Services  DeVry University  Ed Fries  Feast  Happy Brain Science  Highwire Games  IGDA Foundation  IGDA Leadership Summit  IGDA Seattle  Intel  James Gertzman  Jillian Mood  Kate Edwards  Keith Fuller  Kiki Wolfkill  Kristina Reed  ls2015  Marty O'Donnell  Microsoft Studios  Paperman  PlayFab  Rami Ismail  Scott Crabtree  Seattle  Shannon Loftis  Sheri Graner Ray  Swatee Surve  Tristin Hightower  Universe Builders Studios  Vlambeer  Whova  Xbox  Zombie Cat Studios 

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IGDA NC-Triangle Hosts Smash Bros Tournament Benefiting Take This Project

Posted By IGDA, Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Updated: Friday, November 13, 2015

IGDA NC-Triangle has been going through a lot of exciting changes recently, including transitioning into a new Board of Directors, rebranding their artwork, and perhaps most importantly, hosting a charity fundraiser to benefit Take This Project.

Dozens of game developers from the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill areas congregated at The Baxter Barcade last week to worship at the church of Super Smash Bros. 32 competitors threw their hats into the ring, entering the sudden death tournament for a chance to win a fabulous cash grand prize. Each tournament entry and raffle ticket cost a mere $2, with half of the proceeds being set aside for Take This, and the other half for the tournament champion.

In classic fashion, at the beginning of the night one of the Nintendo 64 controllers was deemed to be unworthy due to an allegedly “sticky” joystick. An attendee, Louis Si-Wai Ta, generously offered to loan his own controller out for common use so the tournament could be allowed to continue. Louis then went on to win the entire competition, earning the cash prize and embodying the notion of instant karma.

Raffle prizes were entirely donated by local businesses Chapel Hill Comics and Expressions. Prizes included a 12th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver, a signed Brian Posehn poster, a DC One Million Omnibus, and a hardcover copy of Armada, which Ubisoft Community Manager Justin Kruger was delighted to win.

The event was organized, managed, and attended by the new IGDA NC-Triangle Board, headed by the recently appointed Chair, Ma’idah Lashani. Ma’idah is joined by Janelle Bonanno, the Editorial Director of Gaming at DEFY Media, Grant Shonkwiler, the Producer of Fornite at Epic Games, Joe Halper, CEO of Grit Games, and Brandon Huffman, an intellectual property attorney at Hutchison PLLC.

If you’d like to learn more about Take This, which seeks to inform the game developer community about mental health issues, to provide education about mental disorders and mental illness prevention, and to reduce the stigma of mental illness, then visit their website,

About the Author
Author: Ma'idah LashaniPrior to attending law school at UNC Chapel Hill, Ma'idah Lashani spent nearly three years working as Community Manager at The Escapist. Since then, she has worked as a legal intern at both Epic Games and The Law Offices of Ryan P. Morrison. When she's not gallivanting around with her Irish Wolfhound, Onix, Ma'idah also moonlights as the IGDA's Community Liaison.

Tags:  2015  Baxter Barcade  Brandon Huffman  Chapel Hill Comics and Expressions  Grant Shonkwiler  IGDA NC-Triangle  Janelle Bonanno  Joe Halper  Justin Kruger  Louis Si-Wai Ta  Ma'idah Lashani  Super Smash Bros  Take This 

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IGDA @ E3 2015 — That's a Wrap!

Posted By IGDA, Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The game industry converged on Los Angeles in June to once again participate in the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and once again the IGDA was there right in the midst of it! With great thanks to the ESA, the IGDA is provided a booth space in the West Hall lobby area for performing outreach to anyone interested in the organization and our mission. As usual, our Executive Director Kate Edwards was there to meet and greet visitors, hold meetings with partners and studios, with academic institutions, and of course, any IGDA members. The IGDA volunteers had a lot of interaction with attendees and did a great job representing the organization.

On the evening of 17 June, the IGDA held its annual Networking Event in the basement room of the historic Figueroa Hotel. In a relaxing atmosphere with a Moroccan theme (and without any blasting music!) industry professionals gathered to catch up with one another, connect, network and just enjoy a break from the hectic event schedule and exhibition floor. Some attendees have described the IGDA Networking Event as "easily the best evening event at E3", and this year was highlighted by a giveaway of high-end keyboard hardware, thanks to a generous donation by Razer.

The IGDA Scholars also had a great time at E3! Check out the Storify at this link:

If you or a student you know would like to be part of the IGDA Scholars program, there is still time to apply to be a Tokyo Game Show/CEDEC scholar. Applications close Monday, 6th July Japan Standard Time. Apply today at

The IGDA greatly thanks its sponsors who supported our activities at E3 this year, including Intel, Tripwire Interactive, GTL Media, Birthplace Management Group, QED, BluBox Games, Razer, and the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR).

Tags:  2015  birthplace management group  blubox games  e3  gtl media  intel  kate edwards  navgtr  qed  razer  scholars  tripwire interactive 

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Leading by Example: IGDA Melbourne Chapter Lead Giselle Rosman Wins Woman of the Year

Posted By IGDA, Saturday, June 20, 2015


Woman of the Year Award

Giselle RosmanIn a world where heroes are few and far between, and promises are plentiful, it can be easy to lose faith. And yet, even in the most difficult of times, there are always a few guardian angels floating around, reminding us to hold on to hope. One such person is Giselle Rosman, IGDA Melbourne Chapter Leader and the winner of this year's MCV Pacific Woman of the Year award.

Earlier in the year MCV Pacific had unveiled a list of fifty Women in Games, highlighting the most influential females in the industry throughout New Zealand and Australia. There was so much enthusiasm for the venture, however, that the games media publisher opted to expand its list of award nominees to seventy-five. What's more, the nominees for this prize also chose its recipient. When asked, Rosman expressed that the peer-reviewed aspect of the award was particularly meaningful to her. Rosman also commented that she'd never expected to win: "I thought I would be the bridesmaid before the whole thing," she said. In addition to winning Woman of the Year, Rosman was notably a finalist in all four of the award categories.

Having broken into the industry by working in video game education, public service and community relations have always been near and dear to Rosman's heart. "I do the people aspect of things," she said. When the Australian games industry took a turn for the worst back in 2009, a lot of studios had to close up shop, and as a result many local developers found themselves suddenly out of work. It was in this atmosphere that Rosman decided to start really getting involved, feeling that "at the very least people needed to get together at a pub and have a bit of a moan." Thus IGDA Melbourne was reforged, and has since grown to be one of the largest and most active chapters to date, predominantly populated by indie developers.

Crossy Road

Rosman has also been heavily involved in Global Game Jam, and is currently a member of its board. What's really keeping her busy lately, though, is her work as Business Administrator for the indie studio Hipster Whale, creators of the hit mobile game Crossy Road. Much like Rosman's other pursuits, Crossy Road is a free-to-play game that was designed around the concepts of share-worthiness and word-of-mouth promotion. And the strategy seems to be working, too: Crossy Road has been downloaded more than 80 million times since it was first released, and has gone on to win numerous honors throughout the industry as well, including a 2015 Apple Developer Award.

When asked what wisdom she might share with aspiring, new developers, Rosman noted that the business of game production required three essential elements: "To make a game you need the idea, the skill, and the money. If you can't bring any two of those three things to the table then your game isn't likely to get made." In the end, Rosman's advice was simple: Make games, and finish them. "It's easy to start a game" she noted, "but finishing them is the real trick. Even if they're tiny little experiences, if the game is well made and polished then it will get you where you need to go."

If you're interested in keeping up with Rosman's new and exciting exploits then follow her on Twitter @jazzrozz.

About the Author
Author: Ma'idah LashaniPrior to attending law school at UNC Chapel Hill, Ma'idah Lashani spent nearly three years working as Community Manager at The Escapist. Since then, she has worked as a legal intern at both Epic Games and The Law Offices of Ryan P. Morrison. When she's not gallivanting around with her Irish Wolfhound, Onix, Ma'idah also moonlights as the IGDA's Community Liaison.

Tags:  2015  crossy road  giselle  giselle rosman  global game jam  hipster whale  melbourne  rosman 

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