Class Acts: Or Not. The IGDA, Langdell, Capps and "Policing" the Board.
The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
First, before I get into this, let me state the following up front.
1. I have been very involved with the IGDA over the past 4-5 years, acting as an executive member of the IGDA Writers and Education SIGs and have promoted the IGDA as an organization to my colleagues in those fields. I count several past and current board members as professional colleagues and friends. Professionally and personally my work with the IGDA SIGs has been very rewarding.
2. I did some early work with Tim Langdell in attempting to establish an association for game educators and researchers. Said association never got off the ground. Tim has done some good work in attempting to build linkages between the Writers Guild of America and The IGDA Writers SIG. Tim has also caused some controversy in some of the SIGs I am a member of. I did not vote for Tim when he ran recently ran, and won a seat, on the IGDA Board. I once bought Tim a hamburger in a bar in Austin during the Austin Game Conference (now the Austin GDC)
Ok, now that all that is out of the way, some thoughts...
Langdell's "Appointment to the Board": Whether Simon Carless was responsible or irresponsible in his reporting and characterization of Langdell's previous trademark disputes he absolutely got one thing wrong when he said that Tim had been "appointed" to the IGDA board. The board doesn't appoint anyone, you guys elect them (or at least the subset of you that are IGDA members). IGDA board members run for their lofty positions by self-nominating and putting up a 400 word statement on the IGDA web site, public as the day is long. As far as their qualifications go, they must be members in good standing, have been so for two years and adhere to the board code of ethics (more about that in a moment). No one in the community of IGDA members (including individual Board Members) voiced any public objections to his candidacy at any time. A majority of members voted for him. So it goes.
The Board is weak, apologist and defending it's own: Not. A board is a legal entity with specific duties, responsibilities and processes. It's behavior is strictly regimented. A board that deviates from them can be legally liable, as a group and individually, for any steps it takes. Whether individually or as a group a Board supports the actions of an individual member outside of Board business is immaterial. See more below.
"Disconnect" between Board Code of Ethics and IGDA Mission and Core Values?: Fellow Expert Blogger Adam Saltzman points to the IGDA mission and core values and opines that Langdell's behavior flies in the face of them. The current Board Code of Ethics doesn't require a Board member to subscribe to all the Core Values of the organization itself. Even if it did, it's not clear that Langdell's current action against "Edge, the iPhone game" violates the letter of those core values, whether or not you feel they violate the spirit. The nature of Trademark law requires that a Trademark must be defended or it is lost. The courts get to decide whether Langdell is using the law and his trademark as a legitimate defense of an active business entity's brand or a valueless claim made by an individual extorting others for licensing fees.
A more obvious conflict for the IGDA board arose over Mike Capps' statement last year that he supported a "corporate culture" of a 60+ hour work week. While QoL isn't directly listed in the IGDA Core Values it has been a major linchpin of the organization platform for some time.
It could be said that Capps' comments, made in his capacity as a member of the IGDA Board at the time, "undermined and impeded the activities of the IGDA" and were worthy of his removal from the board for said violating the Code of Ethics.
Whether or not individual Board Members believe Langdell is morally or ethically in the right in this instance of his business practices outside of his Board activities, there's not much they can do about it. He has not, acting in his capacity as a Board Member, undermined the IGDA in the way that Capps did.
However, there is someone else that can do something about it. That's you.
To Do List: Short and Long Term.
Short Term: IGDA By-Laws state "Any director may be removed from such office, with or without cause, by a majority vote of the voting members of the Corporation at any regular or special meeting of the members called expressly for that purpose. In addition, the Board of Directors may declare vacant the office of any Director who fails or ceases to meet any required qualification that was in effect at the beginning of that Director’s current term of office."
Again, the Board has to make a specific case to remove any officer for cause, which generally has to do with how a Board Member conducts his duties for, and as part of, the board. On the other hand, if enough IGDA members believe that an officer should be removed for any reason whatsoever (eye color, for example) they can call for a special member meeting and, if they have the votes, remove him.
Of course, you'd have to be an IGDA member to vote, so if you're motivated enough to write an article/blog, or comment on one, perhaps you'll be motivated to join up to make a change. I've seen several bloggers and commenters state that they'd consider discontinuing their membership over the Capps and Langdell instances. Resigning merely maintains the status quo. Why not get active instead?
Long Term: If you believe that there needs to be a tighter integration between the By-Laws, Board Member Code of Ethics and the Goals and Values of the organization, "Make it So." To do so, see the above call to action.
Bottom Line: You is the IGDA :-). This is not some monolithic, unassailable evil empire. It's a group of volunteers trying to support and improve an industry that often has little interest in improvment and certainly outpowers it by several orders of magnitude. The Board serves at the pleasure of its members and it is the members that make things happen.
Look at the increased visibility of QoL as an issue, look at the Education SIGs' awesome Global Game Jam, look at the THREE BOOKS published by the Writers SIG in an effort to improve the craft, bring more Writers into the field and gain visibility for the profession, look at the unsung and tireless efforts of the Accessibility SIG to bring games to EVERYONE who wants to play. There's good stuff going on out there that gets little press as opposed to the times the org gets a black eye.
Join up, roll up your sleeves, fix what you don't like and make what you do like bigger and better.