The worst part about going to an industry conference on a press pass is all the no-name companies trying to contact me, begging for coverage.
They’re never any good at it. For one, they always farm it out to a third-party “PR” firm that probably consists of five people in a little room writing out form letters that vary only by the opening greeting, which in my case is almost always, “Hi J.” (This is a reason why I often sign my name by my first initial only, so I can track form letters.)
E-mail isn’t so bad compared to the jokers who call my cell phone, ringing me at my day job. I guess they figure everyone on a press pass works full time for whatever agency they’re going to the con under, but I DON’T. The guy yesterday won a prize for stupidity.
“Hi, is this Jeff? … Um … is your name Jeff? I’m sorry, I’m reading this spreadsheet in front of me … is your name Jeff?”
Game companies that want proper coverage need to 1) be a little more savvy about how to relate to media people, and 2) have products or company initiatives of actual substance. But I guess this is too much to ask of most people.
Anyway, this is how I’ll be spending next week. Expect an update tomorrow sometime.
I’d just put down a comic book with an advertisement for Bioshock last night and noted that there wasn’t a brand for Irrational Games, its developer, though there had been one for 2K Games, its parent. Now I read that Irrational is being phased out as a brand, and its respective offices are being re-branded “2K Boston” and “2K Australia.”
Never mind that 2K Games’ parent, Take 2 Interactive, used to do the same thing with dev studios it acquired, calling them “Rockstar” studios. But with all the monkey business associated with games made by Rockstar, particularly the Grand Theft Auto series by Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design) and Bully by Rockstar Vancouver (Barking Dog,) it seems like being called a “rock star” studio wouldn’t be a positive thing, at least for the mass-media buzz factor.
“The general public hardly knows the difference,” Cory Banks reports. I have trouble refuting the argument, and actually backed it up earlier today on Damion’s blog thread about Guitar Hero III. The obvious answer to Damion’s question about whether Guitar Hero had “lost its way” was that it hadn’t inasmuch as it had lost Harmonix, the original developer that’s building Rock Band with EA as its new publisher, which itself has thus far avoided re-branding even as a subsidiary of MTV.
In case anyone thought this was going to be a rant about the declining role of independent developers and how important they are to the continuing health of the industry, fuck off. The only people who really care who’s making games are those who aspire to one day work for one of the studios or report for a publication that covers the industry. (People like me, in other words.)
A quick glance at the IGDA forums, allegedly a spot where people who ought to know something about game development congregate, shows a huge morass of people who don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground.
Granted, those are from people who periodically show up out of nowhere, post a plainly ignorant thread and demand attention despite their ignorance. But really, if there’s no viable initiative among gamers themselves by now to learn about and understand the industry that supplies their primary form of entertainment, where’s it going to come from?
Maybe there ought to be an ad-hoc group like Video Game Voters Network devoted to this sort of education. Maybe it could be done through IGDA.
Don’t ask me to start it, though.
I had a good enough time for the price of a ticket, though I left early. Somewhere between standing outside in the August heat an hour before the show, then realizing I didn’t really need to because I didn’t want to stand in the deepest crush of fans nearest the stage, getting hit up by hobos (Stubb’s is a block away from both the Salvation Army mission and the other big downtown homeless shelter in Austin) and about four or five guys with signs asking for extra tickets, which they quite obviously wanted to just turn around and scalp to someone else, sucked out a lot of the fun for me.
No big deal. I saw Stardust, The Bourne Ultimatum and Talk to Me, and got the IGDA Writers SIG newsletter almost ready for the printers. Weekend seized. Save the soul from a bottomless pit, and see what you can make of it.
Last night I went to the latest open house for Austin Community College’s game development program. It was much the same as last year, with plenty of well-meaning but clueless people of all ages curious about what game development education was all about. Most of them seemed to have checked any notion that they had found a secret entrance to a glamour job at the door, thankfully, and coordinator Bob McGoldrick had further polished his pitch.
More interesting was the news that ACC is close to offering associate’s degrees in game programming and game design. Details are still sketchy about who this will be aimed at and whether credits earned toward what was originally just a non-degree certificate program, but this would already mean that proper financial aid could soon be available for game development study there. In other words, people could take out student loans to learn to make video games.
Killer. I’m probably going to be taking a class there in the fall, my third so far. Not that I needed to hear the spiel, really, but it’s always fun to go just to see who shows up. (One showed up that I didn’t expect to see. Probably no one you people know, but she’s apparently local to Austin now, moved in from Ohio. I was stoked.)
I won a Guildwars T-shirt in a drawing, too. More bonus.