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).

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Adams appointed to editorial board of ACM Computers in Entertainment magazine.

I'm proud to report that I have been invited to join the editorial board of the Association for Computing Machinery's Computers in Entertainment magazine. The ACM is the most respected professional society for people in the computing-related professions in the world, and until the IGDA, the only professional society that I was a member of. It has long overlooked computer gaming, but I'm happy to say that is beginning to change, and I expect great things from its magazine. I'm honored to be in the company of such luminaries as Alan Kay, Craig Reynolds, Nicholas Negroponte, and Seymour Papert.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Industry Chair at the Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology conference

Singapore

ACE conference logoMany years ago I met a woman from New York who complained that Palo Alto, my home town, was too clean. "I don't feel as if I can just throw a gum wrapper on the sidewalk," she said. That tells me more about you than about Palo Alto, I thought. I was just as glad she felt constrained not to litter in my town.

A lot of people say the same thing about Singapore, the home of the ACE Conference, but I liked it. It's tidy, orderly, and looks as if the people who live there care about it. I was expecting a crowded city of skyscrapers, something like Manhattan, but Singapore separates its skyscrapers in and interleaves them with lush tropical vegetation. This was my first visit there and I'm already looking forward to my next trip.

View of Singapore skyline
Singapore through my hotel room window.

I had the honor to be selected as the industry chair of the SIGCHI Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology conference. I gave a keynote lecture on the future of the game industry, and I heard a lot of interesting research on computer-human interactions. Some of it was blue-sky and had no immediate commercial application, but nevertheless it was valuable experimentation. One of my favorite items was the ActiveCube (below), developed by the University of Osaka. The cubes snap together and transmit data among themselves and each one knows where it is with respect to the others. It's kind of kind of like intelligent Legos. A computer can read the collective group of blocks and display them on a screen in any environment you like, so as you rearrange the blocks, the resulting object appears on the screen.

Photo of Active CubesThe highlight of the conference, though, was a presentation about an electronic game board that can reconfigure itself for any game. The board itself is an LCD display. It which where each piece is and what it represents, so if you move a piece, it knows that it has moved. Someday it may not be necessary to buy a different board for each game; you'll buy just one and the board will display the game you want.

I'm hoping to go back to Singapore for some teaching or consulting in the near future.