Who Develops the Developers?: An Interview With Meggan Scavio, Part 2
Read Part 1 of this interview.
Crispy Gamer: The conference has a whole thread of sessions dealing with the current economic climate. Can you predict how popular these are going to be?
Meggan Scavio: I can't predict how popular anything's going to be. I imagine that a few of these will draw attention.
"?He likes to use GDC as a sort of launchpad for his ideas ? He's still excited about development and he comes to GDC to share that excitement."
Crispy Gamer: Let's talk about the Matthew LaMerle session. Will contracts be signed? Will deals be made? Or is that beside the point?
Scavio: If you're asking if someone like him gets business out of a session, I think it's a two-way street, and I don't mind providing that for our attendees. If you can come into a GDC session and get a deal out of it, awesome! I read a story from a few years ago about how, after winning their IGF awards for Darwinia earlier in the day, the guys from Introversion got their deal later that night at a GDC party.
Crispy Gamer: Speaking of Introversion, the Independent Games Festival plays an important part in calling attention to smaller developers and their work. Do you feel like we're at the point where we should stop talking about indie games as a mushrooming phenomenon, and talk about them as an additional leg to the industry? Do indie developers and their games need to break out of a certain perception?
Scavio: I don't know if they want to break out of this perception. There's something to be said for being indie. At the Independent Games Summit, there'll be a rant about "What Does Indie Mean?" To a lot of people, it's a particular art form, and they don't want to be considered anything but indie.
Crispy Gamer: It's a very punk-rock, DIY attitude?
Scavio: [Laughs] It's so punk! That's a good way to say it. You'll see the Mega64 guys' take on it in a video that'll play during the IGF Awards.
Crispy Gamer: One of the reasons that the indie folks probably hold onto their identities so fiercely is because of how global games are now. There's a series of sessions that deal with globalization. Do you feel like developers will readily acknowledge cultural differences?
Scavio: I think that they're going to have to. There are learnings both ways. I've been reading all of the Resident Evil 5 reviews, and that's the Japanese culture not really understanding the Western culture and how we're going to relate to that sort of content. The Japanese probably need a bit from the Westerners, and the Chinese are completely different from everybody. We do a GDC China, and they're ready to launch an Independent Games Summit and their own IGF.
Crispy Gamer: That's amazing to think about, what the independent games coming out China must look like?
Scavio: Yeah! And they said, "We're gonna do it!" I think the stuff that comes out that will be fascinating. You can do anything with this art form.
Crispy Gamer: It's funny you put it that way, because it seems like the "Are games art?" argument seems to be dying out.
Scavio: I think it's coming back! Wait until you see some of the stuff in the IGF competition. Have you played any of it yet?
Crispy Gamer: I haven't. What're they like?
"In a way, he's the perfect GDC presenter ? someone who's slightly outside the box and who's being creative and inventive and can share that knowledge with the audience.?
Scavio: They're like paintings! They're beautiful games. I think that debate will re-ignite, based on the stuff I've been seeing.
Crispy Gamer: Do you feel like that debate's even worth having any more?
Scavio: Well, you're generally preaching to the choir at some point.
Crispy Gamer: Yeah, but I understand the argument of people who want their games to be disposable, pop entertainment, too.
Scavio: I can be the same way. I read disposable books. It's still someone's sweat that went into this book, but it's not exactly going to win a Pulitzer. It's all relative.
Crispy Gamer: Let's talk about who's not disposable. GDC will have its usual share of big-name designers showing up. Do you feel like the show's a victory lap for some of them? Like, say you're Peter Molyneux. How do you stay excited about game development? And I want you to answer this question in a British accent.
Scavio: [Laughs] Peter Molyneux's an interesting subject; he likes to use GDC as a sort of launch pad for his ideas. A couple of years ago, he announced the dog in Fable II. I was visiting at Lionhead when they were working on that aspect of the game, and he was so excited about sharing that with the audience. He's still excited about development and he comes to GDC to share that excitement.
Crispy Gamer: Who else do you feel feeds off that excitement?
Scavio: Someone like Suda51, who is probably the most Western-style game developer in Japan. He comes to GDC every year, and this year he's sitting on a panel. He's not pitching any projects or anything like that. We offered him his own panel/lecture and he wanted to do something with a group instead. In a way, he's the perfect GDC presenter. It's someone who's slightly outside the box, and who's being creative and inventive, and can share that knowledge with the audience.
Crispy Gamer: What's the opposite of that?
Scavio: Well, not to name any names, we don't have talks at GDC about the franchises that roll off the assembly lines every year. Innovation's a premium at GDC.
Crispy Gamer: With regard to the innovation, I'll be going to a roundtable later this week where some of the higher-ups in the ESA will be soliciting feedback and suggestions for making E3 better. What would you say to them?
Scavio: I enjoyed E3. I was sad to see it go, and there were side effects at GDC when E3 was going away [from its old, shiny, noisy self]. We got a lot of attention we didn't want. Where Microsoft would've made announcements at E3, they were doing it here. We also had an inundation of press who really didn't understand GDC. They thought it was going to be like E3 and were, like, "Why can't we play games?"
So, I think about this all the time. They need to listen to their constituency; they need to listen to the publishers and provide them what they need. I know it's the publishers that make up the ESA board, and they probably can't come to an agreement on anything, but there's got to be a middle ground. The ESA really needs to figure out what they want E3 to accomplish and what the publishers want to accomplish. If it's giant booths again, then it's giant booths again.
Crispy Gamer: Did you say "booths" or "boobs"? That's an honest question. We are talking about E3, after all?
Scavio: [Laughs] They cut that, didn't they? I hope they listen to the press and listen to the publishers so I can go back.
Crispy Gamer: What do you think attendees absolutely have to do while they're at GDC?
Scavio: They should attend the keynotes. They should fill out their feedback forms so we know what they think works in the programming, and what they think doesn't. And I think they should drink lots of water at the parties. Alternate cocktails with water.
Read Part 1 of this interview.