IGDA Vancouver Relaunch!April 10 | Posted by karl.parakenings | Community Tags: developers, igda vancouver
The launch meeting of the Vancouver IGDA chapter started out well. On March 28th at 5:30, people started filing into the Think Tank at EA Canada – the swank cafeteria that would serve as the social area before the main discussion. At the far wall, Ryan Arndt, Gordon Bellamy and volunteers had set up a whiteboard for developers to write issues they were interested in discussing later in the evening. It didn’t take long before the board was full of various phrases – “Work-Life Balance” was a particularly popular one, with seven checkmarks in different inks next to it.
Soon the pizza and beer arrived, courtesy of Slant Six Games and Granville Island Brewery, respectively. At this point, most of the attendees had arrived and were catching up with fellow developers at different companies. Throughout the evening, the whiteboard continually popped up in conversation. I lost count of the number of conversations started by gesturing towards the whiteboard and asking, “So, what do you think?”
Once those in attendance had a chance to socialize and eat, the whiteboard, pizza, and keg were wheeled into EA’s theatre for the main discussion.
As the group sat down, Ryan Arndt and Gordon Bellamy introduced themselves – Arndt is the Global Community Manager for the IGDA, and Bellamy is the Executive Director. Gordon kicked off the discussion by offering a quick summary of the IGDA’s role: their central role, he said, was to amplify the efforts of developers within the community. From the podium at the front of the room, he went through the 2011 Roadmap (igda.org/roadmap2011) and explained the various developer events currently planned throughout the world.
He fielded a few questions from the audience before the main discussion, including a question about the IGDA’s presence at PAX – in the wake of Penny Arcade’s recent controversy, why attend the convention? Bellamy responded by stressing the IGDA’s role as representative and support system for its members. He outlined the diversity initiatives that are underway, and talked about the need to engage in the conversation surrounding the issue from both a consumer and developer standpoint. “We need to be thought leaders,” he said.
Afterwards Ryan read from the whiteboard and moderated discussion on the issues people most wanted to discuss. Work-life balance was a popular topic, with many opinions, responses, and potential solutions offered – the chief points were the importance of gaining and keeping benefits as a studio, compensation for overtime, a need for industry standards, treating the issue of overtime as a health issue, and the metaphor of game development as a marathon instead of a sprint.
During this discussion, problems were posed with ensuring benefits for developers – as there’s a shift towards contract work, it’s hard for the company to balance the unpredictable nature of project availability with long-term employment (salary, benefits, etc.) A potential aid that was brought up was local outsourcing and the adoption of a more film-like model for projects, including local outsourcing. A long discussion ensued over the differences between the game and film industries, and whether or not any technique was transferable between the two. Another major stumbling block was the common use of NDAs to protect intellectual property. Overall, though, one point kept coming up again and again – the need for developers to transition from the AAA model to a different one, as anecdotes kept surfacing about how difficult it was to secure investment funds to make new games because of the unreliable rate of return.
At this point, the question was raised of what, exactly, the IGDA does for developers. Gordon Bellamy stepped up once again and offered a quick overview: that one of the roles of the IGDA is to connect developers to allow information sharing and mutual support to take place. Issues which seem to be unique are usually ones that people are having elsewhere, he said, and that meant that resources and knowledge can be shared so that solutions don’t have to be reinvented all the time.
Other ways in which the IGDA supports developers are the Special Interest Groups, which drive discussion and potential plans of action towards issues that are important to developers, like work-life balance, and the cadre of developers who step up as community leaders to help steer local chapters and organize events. Basically, Bellamy said, the IGDA sustains efforts on important issues so that developers can focus on actually developing.
The meeting wound down with a summary of the community hubs for IGDA Vancouver, which included the IGDA Vancouver page and Vancouver Video Game Community group.
The next IGDA meeting will be at the Canadian Game Conference, venue to be announced. There will also be a booth at Video Games Live! For a chance to win tickets to VGL, visit this IGDA page: http://www.igda.org/vancouver/VGLTickets