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GDC Preview: Get Sidetracked With Sub-Conferences
GDC Preview: Get Sidetracked With Sub-Conferences
March 5, 2007 | By Brandon Sheffield

March 5, 2007 | By Brandon Sheffield
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More: Console/PC, GDC

As part of Gamasutra's preview of this year's Game Development Conference, Game Developer Magazine features editor Brandon Sheffield highlights a number of this year's sub-conferences catering to more specific sectors of the industry:

GDC is host to several sub-conferences with tracks and sessions dedicated to specific subsectors of the game industry. All are occurring on March 5 and 6 this year.

GDC Mobile kicks off with a keynote from Digital Chocolate CEO Trip Hawkins, in which the former Electronic Arts and 3DO president talks about innovation in the mobile space. But is mobile actually worth anything? “Mobile Games: A Strategic Review of the Sector” aims to assess that. Paul Heydon, managing director at Unity Capital, a corporate finance advisory firm, will discuss recent mergers and acquisitions, future trends, growth factors, and other features of the mobile landscape.

MMOs have been pegged as a future trend by a number of people in the mobile sector, and the always-unique Gamevil will share lessons learned from their development of a mobile MMO that has 50,000 monthly subscribers in the game’s native South Korea. There’s also the “Mobile Game Innovation Hunt,” in which independent mobile game developers can pitch their game idea to a panel comprising publishers, carriers, developers, and journalists. The pitches must be done in three minutes, which when combined with the prizes and prestige should make for an entertaining session. Could this be mobile’s answer to The Game Design Challenge?

The Serious Games Summit has a very interesting keynote this year, from Square Enix chief strategist Ichiro Otobe. The talk will focus on the company’s entry into the serious games arena, which actually marks the first time a massive traditional games company, let alone a Japanese one, has made a (pardon the pun) serious entry into the field.

The serious games space is full of innovative ideas right now, and “Location-based Learning with Mobile Games” is a prime example. In this talk, Nickelodeon’s Karen Schrier will describe how an alternate reality game called Reliving the Revolution allowed students to use GPS-enabled PDAs to investigate Lexington, Mass. in order to discover who fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington. In keeping with the historical theme, MIT is providing a postmortem of their game Colonial Williamsburg: Revolution, which used a commercial game engine from BioWare’s Neverwinter Nights.

Of course the biggest mental stopping block in all of this is the question of whether these games actually do what they set out to do. To that end, there’s “Testing Assumptions: Creative Approaches to Gathering Evidence of Serious Game Impacts,” an appropriately long title for this panel of academics who will attempt to shed some light on the situation, hopefully with some real-world examples.

The Casual Games Summit has two full-day, single track programs, expanded from last year. Highlights include a roundtable from Sony Online Entertainment, Microsoft, and PlayFirst about viability of downloadable casual games on console, a discussion of the anatomy, demographics, and value of casual games from Steve Meretzky of Blue Fang, and a roundtable on casual game startups.

The IGDA’s Education SIG Curriculum Workshop is the last of the two day sub-conferences, and this one’s aimed more at academics—though developers can find useful information as well, especially those who are interested in providing internships or speaking at schools. Speakers at the workshop include Doug Church from EA, Tracy Fullerton, professor at University of Southern California, and Doug Whatley of BreakAway among others.

[This story originally appeared in the February 2007 GDC preview issue of Game Developer magazine.]

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