Board Talk – Ed Fries for June 2014

fries_160x160The question we board members get more than any other is “Why should I join the IGDA?” Why indeed? We can make the financial argument that the dozens of discounts for software and events will pay back your dues many times over throughout the year. We can appeal to your sense of “doing the right thing” for the industry by describing our many efforts in “advocacy” such as our recent public stands against copyright abuse in the King case. But I want to talk today about a slightly more subtle but no less important benefit: being part of the worldwide community of game developers through the IGDA.

Let’s face it, all of us are busy people. We love our jobs and when we are working hard on something cool (which is hopefully most of the time) we are pretty focused and heads down. It’s times like these that the benefits of being part of the IGDA community can seem pretty distant, perhaps even a distraction. But take it from someone who has been around this industry since I published my first game in 1982: Things change.

In the decades I’ve been involved in games I’ve seen everything you can imagine. I’ve seen the fall of a huge part of our industry as happened in 1984. I’ve seen the rise of regions like China to become incredibly influential. I’ve seen young testers grow up to become famous game designers. More recently I’ve seen Free To Play, digital distribution, and mobile devices rewrite the rules for our business entirely. In short, what I’ve seen is change, and if anything, the pace of change is accelerating.

People have to navigate that change. People like you. You may not think you need to know the guys at the game studio across the street, or on the other side of town. But when things change and you find yourself trying to figure out what to do next, you will wish you did.

We are lucky to work in a business that is not directly competitive. If one game succeeds it doesn’t mean another will fail. Our real competition is the difficulty of making a great game and helping it to find its audience. Even when I was running Microsoft’s Xbox first and third party businesses I had close friends at Nintendo and Sony, and those friends have helped me in the years since I left.

Community can be fun during the good times, but it is essential during the bad. The people I’ve seen enjoy the longest and most successful careers are those who stay connected with their peers. People who treat everyone with respect. People who share openly with the community. People who help others. People who understand that their competitors one day may very well be their teammates the next.

Be a part of the larger game development community. The IGDA can help.

Ed Fries, Treasurer
IGDA Board of Directors

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2 Responses to Board Talk – Ed Fries for June 2014

  1. I agree with everything that Ed talks about. Being a part of the IGDA community gives me a sense that I am part of a larger, worldwide community of like-minded professionals.

    Beyond this, the IGDA has to provide tangible benefits for its members. Discounts, industry events, and the recent restart of Wednesday Webinars are good examples of this.

    I still think there can be more. For example, my wife is a licensed counselor. The relevant professional society for her field is the American Counseling Association. Although membership isn’t mandatory for her to practice her field, membership adds to her credibility as a counselor.

    The IGDA needs to find a way to add this type of credibility for its members. I recall that when I worked in previous studios, they took almost no notice of the IGDA. As a newbie in the industry, and longtime member of the IGDA, I found this surprising. Why wouldn’t every studio see the IGDA as an essential organization? Nevertheless, it didn’t seem like the IGDA was seen as a credible organization.

    I think the IGDA has come to be seen more as a hobbyist organization, relevant to newcomers and students, but not really serving the acting professional. I think a lot of this is because the organization allows free members (unheard of in most professional societies). I’m not saying that we should remove free membership…I’m just making an observation.

    It could also be true that the IGDA is seen as a threat by many studios. The IGDA is actively involved in advocacy that supports better working conditions, proper credits for those who work on games, equitable treatment of women and LGBT members, and a push for diversity.

    What can we do to make the IGDA more credible, even essential, for the working game development professional? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some suggestions:

    * Studio membership: member studios would agree to a code of ethics, receive discounts for employee membership. The cost of a studio membership could be reduced based on the number of employees enrolled, offering an incentive for individual membership. Member studios could be prominently displayed on the IGDA web site and relevant publications. Promotional opportunities could be offered at a discount.

    * Adjudication: individual members could file grievances that would be reviewed by an ethics committee (of course, only really effective if the individual is a member of a member studio). Studios who failed to resolve legitimate grievances could be sanctioned or lose their membership.

    * Job search assistance: it has always amazed me that the IGDA doesn’t already provide some type of service like this for its members

    * Publication: the IGDA should be seen as THE go to source for information about our industry. Right now, that title is held by Gamasutra. I love Gamasutra, and I’m not necessarily advocating direct competition. But the IGDA could, for example, publish an online professional journal. This would especially fill the hole since Game Developer Magazine is no longer in print.

    So there are some of my ideas. Let’s make the IGDA an essential resource to our industry rather than a nice-to-have card in my wallet.

  2. Luke Dicken says:

    Hey Robert,
    First off apologies for not getting your comment approved quicker – predictably the notification went to my spam folder.

    I think you make some pretty good points in this, though one thing I would highlight is that we don’t currently have a free tier of membership. That said, at a lot of our events and for a number of our resources, membership is not required to participate, which could be where that perception has come from?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment! I’ll be sure to make sure that these ideas are passed on!
    Luke