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Interview: IGDA Names Joshua Caulfield New Executive Director
Interview: IGDA Names Joshua Caulfield New Executive Director Exclusive
July 2, 2009 | By Chris Remo

July 2, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

After several months of searching following the resignation of longtime IGDA director Jason Della Rocca, the International Game Developers Association has named Joshua Caulfield the new executive director of the organization.

Unlike Della Rocca, Caulfield does not come from within the computer or video game industry -- but he is a gamer, he told Gamasutra in an interview in advance of today's announcement.

Rather, his experience is with professional associations in other fields. Most recently, he served as the executive VP of the American Machine Tool Distributors Association.

In recent months, the IGDA has been the subject of much debate, particularly with respect to various actions surrounding members of its board of directors, and questions as to the association's specific purpose.

Caulfield hopes to bring his professional association experience to bear on those issues, telling Gamasutra he will be learning as much as possible about the industry and its members in the coming months, and adding, "We're going to work on being much more open to the membership and the industry at large."

But, unlike his predecessor Della Rocca, Caulfield does not plan on being a public face of the industry -- that role will fall to the board.

In a comprehensive interview about his role and the role of the IGDA, Caulfield addressed the organization's mission, its structure, the changing role of the executive director and the board, the IGDA's image in the industry, and his own personal gaming habits.

What's your role as the new executive director, and how does it differ from the prior incarnation of that role?

Joshua Caulfield: Well, one of the things that was important to the board during the discussions that we had during the interview process was the lack of industry knowledge [on my part]. In talking with them and doing my own research before even applying, what was clear is that the IGDA had changed dramatically over the last several years.

Jason had built a great organization, but the organization had changed, like many do. They've got some great people sitting in the chairs at the board, and those people are going to start taking on more of the role of the outward-facing industry voice, which frankly is quite appropriate in such an organization.

I am going to have a more inward, organizational focus, to make sure the ship is running.

So how did you and the board sort of those problems with respect to your industry knowledge?

JC: First off, I'm an avid gamer. I'm clearly not a game developer, and there's a big difference there, but I do understand the medium. I play a lot of games; I have a group and we play a lot of MMOs. I'm quite familair with the industry from a gamer's perspective. So that helps a lot.

And there are a lot of fantastic resources, like Gamasutra, that allowed me during the application process to study up. Association professionals have to learn a lot about different industries from job to job. And frankly, I've got 12 mentors sitting on the board of directors that I can reach out to when I have questions and concerns, and get an understanding of what's really going on.

There's been a lot of discussion in the industry recently about just what the role of the IGDA is. How would you respond to questions about that?

JC: The IGDA's mission has remained very much the same: That is, to support the professional game developer -- specifically, I believe, to serve individuals to create video games, to enhance the lives of game developers, to connect developers with their peers, and so on. Those [goals] have not changed.

What has changed, is someone who's focused on creating real value for your membership dues. One of my primary goals will be to reach out to the members and learn what's going on in their daily lives. What do they need? Do they need education? Do they need support for independents? What do they need?

[I'll be] going out and finding services, or building services from scratch, to serve those particular needs. A lot of my first six months is going to be learning. We're going to work on being much more open to the membership and the industry at large.

Can you speak on what any of those services or benefits might be, based on either your education about this industry so far, or programs from other professional associations?

JC: I don't want to reveal too much about what's going on behind the curtain, since I'd like to keep some of that for further down, but one of the first things I'll be doing is a member survey. Clearly there are a variety of [geographic] groups within the IGDA. When you have 14,000 members, they're going to start forming groups.

You'll see a lot of surveys, a lot of research, and you'll start seeing some applications available to the international crowd, as well as the U.S. and Canada. Certainly, the vast majority of our membership is in Canada and the U.S., but there's an "I" in our name and that's very important. We'll be making a lot of this available online for all members.

Most of those individual chapters you mention work entirely on a volunteer basis, and are essentially independent from the IGDA itself in operation. Do you think that structure makes sense? Would you look to change it?

JC: I think that if the chapters perceive value in working with the central organization, they will do so voluntarily, and I will seek very much to create that value for them.

Occasionally in this industry, developers propose the concept of unions, but there has never been enough stated interest or momentum to move forward significantly. Do you have any thoughts on that, and how specifically do you differentiate professional organizations and unions?

JC: Just giving me the easy questions, I see. [laughs] There are a lot of differences between a union and a professional association. I really can't say whether this industry needs a union or not, because I don't know enough about the individuals of this industry yet.

My feeling about the IGDA is that that is not really where the IGDA's mission seems to belong, and that's not the story I'm being told by the members who are actively involved in the organization.

Have you examined the IGDA Leadership Forum? Is that something you would like to expand into a larger conference?

JC: I have looked at the Leadership Forum, and frankly it's one of the best programs we're doing right now.

Yes, I would like to expand the way in which that can impact the members. I don't see us expanding it in terms of making it in terms of a giant multithousand person conference, but rather breaking it out into additional tracks.

Right now it doesn't serve all of the membership -- perhaps [we could be] doing a visual design conference, or a quality assurance conference, or a biz dev conference. I don't know that those need to be all tied [together]; they may be separate.

But also, one thing we're looking at is something like a road show, to get out to the membership -- not just in the US, but internationally finding ways to produce those locally. We have a Shanghai chapter, and I think it's very unlikely they're going to fly out to attend this forum, but maybe we can help them put something together.

That goes back to the chapter issue. Maybe if the central office can help provide services and programs around the world, clearly they will be excited about working with the international office.

What about the recently-announced IGDA magazine?

JC: I am committed to us doing the magazine. The issue will be in terms of timing and economics.

As the public face of the IGDA, how much should its board of directors hold strong personal opinions about the process of game development or the way studios should be run?

JC: With the change in style, that's going to be something that they're going to need to address, and I will work with them on figuring out the pros and cons of the level of involvement and outspokenness that's out there.

At the end of the day, we'll have some agreed upon principles, where if you're a board member, this is where you should be. But that's going to be in large part for them to decide.

I'm sure you've taken a look at the Mike Capps situation, with his thoughts on overtime and quality of life that sparked some controversy. Are there lessons to be learned there for the IGDA?

JC: I did look at it, and I think that the IGDA needs to have a better way to respond to issues like that. I don't know what that way will be yet, but I think we need to have a better process and understanding of, here's how quickly you can expect responses and how those repsonses will go. It's important for us to be fair and respectful and tactful.

How responsible is the board for the new direction of the organization, relative to you?

JC: I don't think there's a change in the structure of the role of the board, but one of the things that I encouraged the board to [adopt], and they agreed, was that I am not a voting member of the board, whereas Jason was. It's important to understand that as a professional association, the staff serves the will of the membership, and that will should be represented by their elected leaders.

You mentioned you play a lot of games. Could you elaborate?

JC: I have most of the consoles, and I pull them out when I have a little alone time, but my true love is MMOs on the PC. I'm generally an RPGer. My group just got off a stint on World of Warcraft, where I play a Shadow Priest. I play the backup healer, because if the main healer goes down, your backup healer better be ready.

We're right now playing Guild Wars, and I'm playing a Monk, so I'm a healer again. I tend to do the support role a lot.

That's very appropriate.

JC: It may or may not tie into why I am an industry association professional. That's where my love tends to lie.

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Anon Crithit
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Is it April 1st?

I mean, no disrespect to Mr. Caulfield; he must be a charming fellow; but is this the best that the IGDA board can do? Our game developers' association has hired an Executive Director who is not - has never been - a game developer? Really? Are there *no* actual game developers that can be located to serve in this role? How can Mr. Caufield possibly claim to represent us - presumably that's part of the job - in any way, to any external entities, if he is not one of us?

(Being a gamer, by the way, is in no way a qualification. If it were, then my long movie-watching experience should qualify me to be Executive Director of the Director's Guild of America.)


Alex K
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Sure the role demands game industry experience, but it also demands leadership skills, and Mr. Caulfield has that. To just pick any game developer for the role, as you implied as a possibility, could have been an even worse decision.

Dave Endresak
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The key concept here is "diversity." Specifically, the gaming industry and any official representation of it needs to diversify far more than it has to this point. It's very similar to the problems in education and teaching. You can have many people who know various areas of study inside and out, but that doesn't mean they can teach what they know to anyone else. It's far better to hire someone with excellent teaching skills but less knowledge of a discipline than it is to hire someone with excellent knowledge but terrible teaching ability. It's also much better to seek diversity by looking outside your own field of interest in order to gain new ideas, insights, and approachs to issues you face. The gaming industry is notorious for not looking outside the fields of computer science and art, and this approach is the biggest obstacle to achieving the goal of games realizing their full potential as an entertainment and educational medium.

My main concern has been the lack of focus on the international, multicultural nature of the medium by the industry as a whole as well as various academics, researchers, policy makers, and reporters. This failing needs to be addressed ASAP in order to minimize the current level of misunderstandings and misinformation that has been propagated and perpetuated over the past 10-20 years. Of course, having more diversity in the areas of development, research, policy making, and reporting would also help achieve this goal.

Mickey Mullasan
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I'd be interested to see what kind of services they can offer struggling independents and developers. Just being a sort of hobbyist club is useful for getting people together locally for drinks to gripe about their problems, yet that in itself does not merit paying any money for a service you essentially create yourself.