Over the last month, fellow CHEGhead Eric Wheeler and I attended two video game events—D.I.C.E. Summit and the Game Developers Conference (GDC)—featuring lots of information not only about the latest titles, but also about classic games and the history of the industry.
While at D.I.C.E. in Las Vegas I heard great perspectives on game history from Mark Cerny, Bing Gordon, Bill Budge, and others. The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AAIS) also hosted their annual Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony, where they inducted Bioware founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk into their Hall of Fame. AAIS recognized Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk for their long history of creating such outstanding games as Baldur’s Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. AAIS also gave Bill Budge a Pioneer award for his creation of Raster Blaster and Pinball Construction Set and honored Bing Gordon with a Lifetime Achievement award for his 25-year-long executive career at EA and his recent work at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.
Last week, I attended GDC in San Francisco. In honor of its 25th anniversary, GDC featured a series of classic game post-mortems delivered by the creators themselves. I couldn’t attend all of them, but I did hear Toru Iwatani describe his creation of Pac-Man and see the early Pac-Man graph paper sketches he displayed in public for the first time ever. I also gained new appreciation of Marble Madness after I heard Mark Cerny recount the technical and design challenges he had to overcome in creating it. At another session that day, John Romero and Tom Hall’s talk renewed my awe of Doom and had my fingers itching to blast away demons.
Speakers covered some great European games, too. Peter Molyneaux described the difficulties he faced programming game characters’ pathfinding between points in Populous. He also explained how those challenges inspired the creation of the land-raising features in that game. And Eric Chahi explained his multi-year development of the polygonal pioneer Another World (released in North America as Out of this World).
Fittingly for GDC’s 25th anniversary, Chris Crawford, the man responsible for the very existence of GDC, provided a program highlight. Crawford launched the conference, known then as the Computer Game Developers Conference, in his house in 1988. Creator of a variety of important computer games such as Eastern Front and Balance of Power, Crawford is one of the most insightful thinkers on computer game design, and it was a privilege hearing him discuss game design and play. His book Chris Crawford on Game Design sits next to me as I write.
These talks proved pointed reminders of the industry’s growth. Dozens of participants arrived at Crawford’s home 25 years ago, and today the conference attracted 19,000 people. And yet, despite this exponential growth, a desire to create the best games still animates the conference.
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits