Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Big Canadian Lecture Tour!

Toronto - Rochester, NY - Montreal - London, ON - Lansing, MI - Montreal

This tour was so long and event-filled it's hard to know where to begin. I arrived in Toronto on the 17th of September. My hostess there was the irrepressible Anne-Marie Huurre of Women Wise, freelance producer extraordinaire, who graciously offered to put me up and chauffer me around.

On the 18th, I gave the Toronto chapter of the IGDA my "Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!" lecture to a crowd of about 60 or so, all crammed into a sound stage at the International Academy of Design and Technology. After the lecture was over I hurried off to Rochester, NY, where I delivered the same lecture the next day to the Rochester Institute of Technology's Honors Symposium, and one of my game design workshops to... the faculty! Yes, my host at RIT, Andy Phelps, thought it would be a good idea for some of his colleagues to understand what goes into commercial game design, so he booked a workshop for them.

That evening I headed back to Toronto again, with a brief late-night stop in Niagara Falls with Anne-Marie ("You've never seen Niagara Falls?!!") and on the 20th I gave another design workshop to a small but very imaginative group of people in Toronto. One of the game ideas I gave them was to be a fashion designer, and fortunately one of the participants was a former model, so she had a good idea of how to go about it. After it was over someone said, "You know, I thought I was going to hate this idea, but now we've designed a game that I would actually like to play. I can't believe we got so much done in just five hours."

Over the weekend I headed on to Montreal, where I gave two and a half days of design training to Ubisoft under the auspices of the Institute Nationale de l'Image et du Son (INIS), courtesy of Ernest Godin, who had invited me to come. Since this was a private event I won't add any more details except to say that I think we all had a good time, and I learned a lot from them as well.

On Thursday the 25th, I gave a lecture to the Montreal chapter of the IGDA, a huge crowd of 200 or more held in a movie theater! It was "No Twinkie" yet again, and you can read about it at .

On Friday night, I went on to London, Ontario and then to Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State University. Unfortunately the design workshop scheduled for London had to be cancelled due to a lack of facilities, but the one at Michigan State was a huge success, with about 45 participants. My host there was Brian Winn, and the logistics were handled by the good folks of the Computer Game Technology Conference which will be held next year in Toronto. Some great ideas came out of that one, too, including an archaeology game in which the artifacts you unearth actually transport you back into the past so that you can see how they were used.

That very night I had to rush back to Montreal to deliver two more days of design training to A2M, a developer of story-based games for a variety of platforms.

As I headed home I caught a whopping cold on the plane -- but on the whole it was a highly enjoyable, if tiring, trip.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Keynote Lecture at the COSIGN Conference

University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK

COSIGN stands for Computational Semiotics in Games and New Media. I was invited to give a keynote lecture, and my topic was "Transmitting Meaning in Interactive Contexts." I talked about the culture of the game industry, and also about the peculiar way in which games can transmit meaning through player activity rather than explicit symbols. This was my first academic conference, which I initially found a bit intimidating, but it turned out to be good fun. I also got a private viewing of the Hemispherium at the University of Teesside's Virtual Reality Centre -- a white hemisphere which is illuminated by six monster video projectors driven by a Silicon Graphics Onyx. You sit in a special chair at the exact focus, so the acoustics are perfect, and it gives a great sense of being there. A little dizzying at times, though!