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Key quotes from GDC's fiery Indie Soapbox session
Key quotes from GDC's fiery Indie Soapbox session
March 19, 2014 | By Simon Parkin

March 19, 2014 | By Simon Parkin
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Ten speakers took to the stage at GDC yesterday afternoon to each deliver a six-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. It’s one of the conference’s most popular sessions and this year each speaker addressed a packed auditorium, often concluding his or her rant to a blaze of applause. Here are some choice quotations from the session.

Kert Gartner, who makes video game trailers for indie game developers spoke on the subject of maintaining creativity when becoming a new parent. "Is it possible to be a good parent and a good creator simultaneously?" he asked. "I certainly wasn't prepared for how mentally exhausting having a baby would be. Social media presents the happy side of parenting, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Satisfaction from being a dad is different to satisfaction of creation. Perhaps the biggest struggle is to be present at home."

"I asked some of my favorite indie developers what their experience [of parenthood] has been," Gartner explained. "Adam Saltsman, creator of Canabalt said: 'The big thing that helped us was enforcing a schedule. When I’m working I make work/time precious. I value my work time a lot more the less time I have.'"

"Derek Yu told me that having a child has increased his focus while at his desk. He said: 'Being a parent is the ultimate co-op game. I hope you've chosen the right partner.'"

Zach Gage, a dame designer, programmer, educator and conceptual artist from New York delivered his soapbox via video, having been called home early from the conference. “Games more than any other medium are direct representations of ourselves," he said. “If corporations are people, then so are games. They represent the kind of friends we want to have around us."

“When you’re still working on games when you don’t know who you are it can come out like somebody else. The beautiful thing about games is that they offer a second chance for us to make ourselves. We can use them to grow ourselves. Through our work we have many chances to remake ourselves. We can iterate. As our work grows so we grow.

"Pay attention to how success and failure treat your games. I believe that if you look after yourself, your games will follow.”

“The greatest games are the ones we never truly understand because humans can never truly be understood. Every game is a fuck you to stage fright. Every game designer is an astronomer because every new game is a new universe.”

Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra’s editor-at-large talked about how the disruption of content delivery methods has affected both game-makers and writers who cover the industry alike.

“The barrier for game development is much lower than it used to be,” she said. “There’s no longer the need for so much privilege to have access to hardware. But a sustainable full-time living in games is increasingly tough. The economy forces us to decide who we are and what we are doing here. Writers have some of the same challenges we see in game development: Self-marketing, self publishing, coping with visibility."

Nika Harper, a community manager, author and video personality encouraged attendees not to discount repeating important lessons and truths through their work – even if they’ve been heard before. "Old news is still news to someone," she said. "You never know when they need to hear it. That’s why art can be timeless – either it captures a moment or it goes on speaking to the human condition."

"Any moment can be a person’s first impression. Repeat the good lessons, because someone hasn’t heard them yet, and they certainly haven't heard them from you. It's not about being the first to do something – it's about someone's first experience with it; you might be the only way that a person can hear an old message right now. Just because something’s been said before, doesn’t mean you’ve nothing to say. It’s all been done before but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bear repeating."

Shawn Alexander Allen, a game designer, artist and writer from New York City talked about his frustrations with the lack of diversity in video game development both within blockbuster development and the indie game scene.

"We live in a time when a young black child can envisage becoming the president of the United States or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but not a game developer. Even the indie scene has a huge problem with diversity."

Allen continued by promoting a number of minority game developers he respects, listing their names and creations. He finished the talk by urging GDC to ensure that no fewer than one-third of talks are given by women, no fewer than one-third given by minorities, to "have an activist/ advocate of color on the planning committee" and to "demand that talks discuss cultural implications of products instead of just talking about sales."

Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest talked frankly of her experiences of being abused on the internet for her work. "The internet is part of our workplace now," she said. "For some game developers it’s the only community they will ever have." Quinn revealed that she has talked to around 300 people who used to harass others on the internet and now no longer do. "The number one reason that people gave for their actions was the fact that they "depersonalized the subject of their attacks."

She encouraged victims of online abuse to "take a break and be ridiculous. It helps to talk to people who have nothing to do with games at all. Helps to realize that there’s life outside of video games."

She recommended that victims save "the worst of [the abusive comments] and do dramatic readings in goofy voices. Humor is one of the best possible tools we have to heal ourselves and others."

"Don’t feel back that these things are affecting you," she said. "Your feelings are valid; asking people to grow a thicker skin doesn’t do much but make those people feel bad at another thing they've failed at."

Finally she said: "Don’t invalidate your own feelings just because you are aware of your own privilege. Use that knowledge as a positive thing. Make sure to take care of yourself. Instead of feeding the trolls let’s feed each other."


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