Saturday, June 26, 2004

Keynote and Workshop at Fuse 04, the New Zealand GDC

Dunedin, New Zealand

I owe my invitation to the Fuse conference -- also called the New Zealand Game Developers' Conference -- to my friend Dani Sanchez-Crespo Dalmau of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, who was one of my first clients. He told me of his connection with Fuse and persuaded the organizers to invite me as well. I was delighted -- I've never been to New Zealand.

There's almost too much to say about it! For one thing, it was a long journey. The primary organizer was Simon McCallum of the University of Otago, and at his recommendation I stopped off in Los Angeles both coming and going, to spend a night in a hotel. Otherwise it's back-to-back 12-hour plane flights from London to Auckland, and in tourist class that was just too brutal to contemplate. So that's what I did -- which let me do a little shopping at Fry's Electronics in LA on my way through. The flight from LA landed in Auckland, and then it was another hour and a half or so on to Dunedin.

The conference was fun, with about 150 people or so, and I was very comfortably housed in the University of Otago's Executive Residence. I was also happy to get to spend some time both with Dani and with Sheri Graner-Ray and her husband. Sheri is the author of an important new book, Gender-Inclusive Game Design, and has some extremely useful things to say about making games accessible to women and girls without making them "pink." I got to hear about 55% of her talk at the conference, but then I was dragged  off for a live interview by the university's radio station.

Dunedin itself is a pretty town of about 100,000 people on the South Island. On the map it looks very much like the back of beyond, but the landscape, while pretty and uncrowded, is filled with farms and small towns. I was able to take half a day and go off sightseeing with Dani in a car that we more or less stole -- our host "volunteered" someone else's vehicle. We drove out the Otago Peninsula to Taiaroa Head, stopping at Larnach Castle on the way -- a Victorian faux castle built by the local millionaire in the 1800s. The day was glorious, and I hope to have some more pictures up here soon. In the meantime, here's a view of the long, long inlet of the sea which leads to Dunedin at its inner end.

Sawyer's Bay, as seen from the Otago Peninsula.

The landscape seemed rather like a peculiar mixture of Scotland and Northern California. The weather was pleasantly Californian, and the rolling hills and small farms felt that way also. Because it was settled in the last 150 years or so, all the buildings are recent, which again gives a somewhat "North American" feel, in contrast to Europe where many buildings are hundreds of years old (including my home!). But the inlet reminded me of a Scottish loch, and so did the bright yellow gorse bushes growing everywhere (a few are visible in the foreground of the picture).