Board Talk – Luke Dicken for February 2014

2 February 2014

dicken_160x160Hey all,

My name is Luke Dicken and I’m one of your directors here at the International Game Developers Association. I’ve been on the board for just over 9 months now and I wanted to take a moment to tell you a little bit about that as part of a new monthly post from one of us to hopefully give some insight into what happens behind the scenes.

“The IGDA” is often referred to as if it’s some sort of giant monolithic black-box entity, but that’s not really the case. The IGDA Board are the top layer of the organisation, and we’re the people who are nominally calling the shots. Once we figure out a high level of the “what” we should be doing, Executive Director Kate Edwards steps in to make it happen and figure out the “how”. Right now the board comprises 7 people and we’ve got a pretty diverse range of talents and experiences in terms of our backgrounds in the games industry. Developers, producers, designers and even a lawyer working in the industry are currently part of the board, and we all contribute in different ways. It’s important to remember that the Board isn’t paid – we’re volunteers just like the majority of the rest of the organisation. In fact, we only have two paid members of staff, Kate and Operations Manager Tristin Hightower.

With 7 people all on the board, the vast majority of what we do day-to-day comes down to discussion. We can’t all be pulling in different directions, so we talk things out through email and conference calls. Ideally we come to some sort of consensus on what needs to happen, though sometimes it just has to go to a vote and the majority gets their way. However what that means is that who is on the board is massively important, which is why the elections matter so much. I feel really lucky to be working alongside people who care about the organisation as much as I do, even though we don’t always agree on things.

So what sort of thing do we discuss? Well,let’s take one recent example that resulted in a big win – the website. When I first joined the board, there was a proposed contract in play for a website costing around $50,000. The board sat down to take a closer look at this proposed contract and in the course of that a few concerns were raised about issues like ownership, portability and maintainability. We spent a lot of time talking it out and ultimately decided to go for something very different instead. We went from the vote to change course in early May to having the new site up and running – at a significantly lower cost – on 1st October, not quite 5 months later. Of course very little of the actual work was handled by the Board, we determined what we wanted to do and Kate and Tristin worked to figure out the best way whilst reporting back on their progress. It was a great team effort and highlights just what we can achieve when we all pull in the same direction!

As the first board member to be elected from outside of North America, one of the big things I find myself doing regularly is representing the non-US point of view. It’s hard because it’s very easy to slip into a US-centric approach when thinking about the games industry without even meaning to. It’s something I feel that the IGDA has done in the past and it’s something I’m having to work hard to avoid myself. I’ve been a chapter leader for IGDA Scotland now for over two years, so I try to remember to get some distance and look at things from the point of view of our chapter, rather than simply the Board view – and also to look at it from the perspectives of other chapters around the world whose different circumstances mean they have different needs.

There’s still an awful lot of work to do though. The organisation has a long and checkered history with as many lows as there highs, but what I’d really like you to take away from this post is that whatever you think of the IGDA, the people involved are trying very hard to make a difference!

Yours in service,
Luke Dicken