Every year as I got more and more involved in the IGDA and its SIGs the more time I spend in meetings and the less at sessions in GDC. Still it's not that the meetings are bad (I love the folks I work with on the SIGs) and the sessions I do catch are good as I'm forced to be choosy. So here is the brief rundown on what I did catch, the people who will be good to follow and the recordings of sessions to grab.
Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber gave an excellent workshop in Paper Prototyping games that had mixed teams of professionals create and iterate on simple board and card game designs as the basis for larger game pitches and/or stand alone games on their own. Great fun was had by all and the team offered a list of 25 variations on the theme to be e-mailed out to participants. I also advise checking out their book Challenges for Game Designers
A new type of session, a quick core dump from some of the fields most interesting folks, was "GDC Microtalks - One Hour, Ten Speakers, Unlimited Ideas" this blitzkrieg bop of history, game play,social game thoughts and more left you stumbling out of the room echoing the Python Gumby's cry of "Brain Hurt!" but in a really good way. Would take screens and screens worth of text to describe. Just do yourself a favor and buy the mp3 or video file of this when it comes available from the GDConf site. You'll learn more in an hour than most people do at entire confrences.
Jesse Schell closed the IGDA Ed Summit with a speech on his recent Game Design Book The Art of Game Design: A book of Lenses though it was much more a speech on what he learned on the way, and the process of writing the book, than a plug for the text, which is plug worthy. The book is simillar, in some ways, to creativity books like the venerable "A Whack on the Side of the Head" than it is a process oriented book. Schell is always a fun presenter and this was no exception to the rule.
Carla Engelbrecht Fisher returned to GDC with a session entitled "Little Hands, Foul Moods, and Runny Noses 2.0: The Research You Should Know When Making Games for Kids." These types of presentations, that remind us that our under 18 audience isn't a group of little adults and couldn't be more valuable to our industry. Fisher's fine presentation focused primarily on interaction issues kids roughly 6thgrade and under might have with our product. If you're making E for Everyone titles and want them to really be for everyone, this is a must view set of slides. Just scroll down to the "GDC Slides" entry. If you like the slides, the av from GDC might be worth it as well.
Scott Rogers offered up an educational and entertaining presentation entitled "Everything I learned about game design I learned from Disneyland. The title says it all. As with Carla's presentation, grab the slides and then consider the av files, cuz the person always adds value to the slides :-)
The Experimental GamePlay session is a reliable source of good "Brain Hurt!" Noah did a great job of covering it so I am going to defer to him on this one.
Last but not least, RIT got a lot of press out of our Banjo controlled Rock Band play-alike "Oh No, Banjo!" You've likey seen other pics of it on Boing Boing and elsewhere, but I'm the only one with a shot of Cory Doctorow "picking away" :-)