Meeting Robin Hunicke, Chris Avellone and Sheri Graner Ray at the Game Connect Asia Pacific 2012

An amazing event! I also made a number of valuable industry networks.

This is so delayed that I might cringe, but unfortunately I’ve been up to my neck in competitions, networks, and preparing for Disney next year, that I have been unable to post what a wonderful conference this was.

So, from the 22nd to the 23rd of October, Melbourne was fortunate to host the 2012 Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) event. It was an incredible experience; networking with people in the industry who I would not have dreamed to have met, not at least as a student. Since the Game Masters Forum, I have realised more and more that these events and conferences are crucial opportunities to speak to high-standing members of the international games industry – students, take note!

The first day consisted of an informative opening about ‘finding the feeling’ in experimental game design from Journey producer Robin Hunicke. Such a lovely and gifted spirit, not to mention incredibly savvy and quite open-minded about her approach to design and innovative mechanics. The advice she offered was above invaluable. When developing games in which new ideas and experimental design is prominent, it is imperative to trust in yourself and constantly iterate and reiterate your design. Obviously, everyone has their own process and order of steps in production, but the key thing to note is to break your mechanics down to the basic idea – the ‘feeling’ so to speak. Once you can locate and work on that main idea – that light bulb in your mind – the rest will fall into place, and the patterns in development with occur naturally.

Later that day, Obsidian creative director Chris Avellone conducted a design masterclass to a large audience. I was completely blown away by the attention to detail the studio had considered when designing games like Fallout: New Vegas. Playing that game when it was first released (2 years ago now), I was just a mere player who did not take into account all the work that I was overlooking. Now, I sat attentively listening to the thought process that went even into the graffiti designs that were placed around the environment, what they insinuated, and how they could send an underlining message to the player. The visual cues to lead the player through the environment was impressive, and I suddenly realised that I also had been a victim to their visual lures and player manipulation (Obsidian, you won). Also, one can only imagine the time and effort that went into designing all the conversation branches and general narrative in that game – including DLC – and Chris stated the importance of managing a large team that was collaborating together to ensure everything was consistent. Right down to the standards and parameters used. All communication meant everyone in the studio had to be on the same page. He recommended Microsoft Sharepoint for team and project management, as well as becoming well-versed in the likes of Xcel, Word and Outlook. For ambitious producers like myself, he pointed to David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity and Gina Trapani’s Upgrade Your Life: The Life Hacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better.

That night, ACMI kindly lent the Game Master’s Exhibition to the GCAP12 after party. I was fortunate enough to spend most of the night with Robin Hunicke, and have the opportunity to congratulate her on ‘Journey being the key evidence in the argument of games as art’, in which case she burst into tears. After an exchange of contacts, we walked through the exhibit, looking at all the games and merchandise on display, observing the history of games – as well as playing an awesome collection of arcade machines – and then finishing off the night with some Dance Central 2. Despite the fact that I had already visited the exhibit already, it was still an incredible experience. I did not let Robin go home until she played Journey herself, in which case a very large crowd gathered to watch.

The next day, Sheri Graner Ray opened with her popular discussion on women in games, and the need to change the current state of a male-dominated industry. She also discussed the need to increase diversity as a whole. I felt so in awe from her speech, being a part of the minority myself, and did not hesitate to have a long talk with her afterwards. She gave me so much advice, including how to advance myself in the industry without feeling intimidated by the seemingly colossal obstacles which lay ahead, and also pointed me in the direction of Game Mentor Net, a mentoring website used to partner aspiring game industry members with experienced and notable individuals. I just signed up and highly recommend it to others – there are some very good industry names on there waiting for proteges!

During lunch I spotted Chris Avellone and seized the opportunity to talk with him. I told him about my ambition to become a producer, and asked for his advice in seeking opportunities in the American industry, knowing full well that Australia’s current climate was so much different, and I probably have tons more to learn. He turned out to be one of the nicest guys I have met. He promised to introduce me to some of the producers as Obsidian, of which he has kept his word (more on that later!)

The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Sheri Graner Ray and Chris Avellone; just sitting and listening to what they had to say, surrounded by a small handful of others who also saw the benefit in skipping the other lectures to spend some time with the two industry greats. Sincere apologies to those lecturers who I had missed!

Overall, a great event, and I’m sure anyone else who attended would say the same. I left with a spring in my step that night, and incredible ambition and enthusiasm for my adventures next year. 2013 cannot come quickly enough!

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  1. The More You Dig Deeper Into The Industry, The More You Realise That You Were Miles Away In The Beginning | Estelle Tigani

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