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In this monthly series we invite brilliant people from the game industry to curate their top 5 videos from the GDC YouTube archive.
For November, we bring you the top picks from Frank Lantz, director of NYU Game Center and a veteran of the game industry. He's also known as the founder of Drop7 developer Area/Code which was acquired by social game developer Zynga in 2011.
"I love these two talks because they are deep dives into the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts details of game design as a process. This is the kind of high-level analysis of craft that I want from a professional design conference. Too often we tell simplified, abstracted, idealized stories about our process.
"Jaime's stories feel more like the messy and complicated texture of reality, full of intuition, trial and error, trade-offs, and ambiguity. Also, when Jaime talks about how he cultivates his sensitivity to nuance and guards it as a limited resource that gets used up by exposure to certain sensations, it changed my whole perspective on the role of the designer. Classic."
"I love going to art talks because they are often more grounded in the practical, step-by-step aspects of creative problem-solving. Firewatch is one of the most visually beautiful video games ever created, and in this talk you see exactly how this beauty was achieved. From Olly Moss' gorgeous concept art through the constraints and affordances of the tools and engine, Ng demonstrates a consistent, low-key brilliance in deft, stylish, execution."
"This talk was amazing. I'm still thinking about it weeks later. First and foremost it was a genuinely informative talk about a complicated and interesting topic -- the algorithmic muck that coats the floor of the mobile ecosystem. Secondly, the hoax/stunt/conceptual media art piece that it documents is cooler, more creative, more interesting, better designed, and more fun than most of the games featured at GDC. Thirdly, it's legit funny, with many [laugh out loud] moments.
"Furthermore, it engages with complicated ethical questions without falling into standard, lazy stories of good vs. evil. They convey a powerful, persuasive moral position not with a sermon but with a joke. They didn't point and scold; they dove in and laughed. This talk was a nature documentary about the digital organisms that thrive in the bottom-feeder trenches of the phone game biome, and they're gross and disgusting but they're also weird and cool and beautiful.
"And, like all great games, this experiment was a work of science fiction, a glimpse of a nearby future in which scripts and bots interact at every level of the digital marketplace, harnessing the turbulent flows of content channels and ad networks, searching for coins. The happy ending of this talk was not that these guys have any big lessons or major insights, but that they had the presence of mind and the social context to walk away, to make a deliberate choice about the kind of games they do and don't want to make. So should we all."
"A deep dive into how to build a successful CS:GO map. Wonderfully detailed exploration of how designing a level for a competitive game combines a thorough understanding of game dynamics and a nuanced appreciation of visual aesthetics. Also, Sal Garrazo is the guy who came up with the idea of showing player outlines in the CS:GO observer view, which utterly transformed how the world watches this important esport. He's a hero!"