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March 20th, 2006 - Game Developers Conference by Reid

Game Developers Conference 2006
Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose, California

On Monday I woke up around 6am to be sure I had time to shower, eat breakfast and receive my speaker badge at GDC. I was due to speak for about 1 hr during a day long tutorial called Game Not Over: Expanding the Market Through Accessible Games. This tutorial session was put together by volunteers from the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG. We have members all over the world dedicated to research and development of how to make games accessible to those with various disabilities. My own specialty is closed captioning in games due to the fact that I am a gamer, game developer and hearing impaired.

I brought my camera along so I could take pictures of my time at GDC '06. The fountain in front of the San Jose Convention Center is really nice. Many times I wanted to run through it in between sessions, just because I'm a sucker for waterfalls/fountains.

Game Not Over sign in front of lecture room
Sign for the Game Not Over Tutorial at GDC 06

After I got my badge, I hurried to the presentation room where the tutorial was being held. I saw this massive sign in front of the room and quickly took a picture because I was psyched to see my name on it. We had a large group of presenters who each had an area of expertise. I thought everyone did a fantastic job and I got the sense that the audience learned a lot and really appreciated what we had to say. It was a very uplifting day after seeing all the cool developments we had to share regarding how to allow disabled gamers to experience the wonder and thrill of gaming.

 

My area of expertise is closed captioning in games and I gave a slide presentation with videos throughout discussing the past, present and future state of closed captioning in games. I also demoed Doom3[CC] to the audience (15 - 20 people?) which was a nice practice session for the rest of the week where I had to demo the mod on the main GDC concourse in the Doom3 Mods booth.

Game Not Over classroom
Game Not Over presentation room at GDC 06

The presentation actually came out to be exactly 1 hour in length, simply amazing considering I didn't get a chance to run through it myself and see how long it was. I hope to make the presentation available online, but with all the videos I used it comes to over 100MB! In summary, I said that only three games in the history of gaming feature true closed captioning and that I want more dammit! After the whole tutorial day was done I received very positive feedback on the presentation, which means I'll be presenting the material again in the future when the opportunity arises. That might be GDC Europe or some other conference or who knows... talking to another game developers about closed captioning would be fantastic. GDC '06 showed me that I can speak in front of people without much fear, so long as I know my material well!

Reid and Michelle breath a sigh of relief as the day ends
Reid and Michelle at GDC 06

Before we left GDC for the day we gathered for a group photo (which hasn't been sent to me yet) but I did have a photo with Michelle Hinn who is the chair of our Game Accessibility SIG.

Next, we all went for drinks at The Fairmont which happens to be the place to hang out at GDC. I ended up talking with Jon who works on Game Jam for the BBC. They are doing some very interesting things with captioning video and putting it on the web. Apparently, the laws in the UK and Europe are much more strict than in North America. If someone wants to make a game there for educational purposes, it absolutely MUST have accessible features. If there are students in the classroom that cannot play the games, then the classroom can't use it. I think this will turn into a major motivating factor for educational game developers in North America.

<BEGIN RANT> Our school systems are very slow to adopt new methods of teaching children but they are going to have to adopt interactive games or else our country will be flushed down the toilet. The students are not engaged anymore, they have shorter attention spans, but more importantly, our world and society moves much to fast for a teacher to read out of a text book that became outdated a week ago. Games are one solution to educating our children for today's and tomorrow's world and it is the work of the Game Accessibility SIG that will help developers get their games into classrooms all over the country/world. I'm not talking about the traditional educational games most people think of, the kind with cartoon graphics and low production values. I'm talking about the World of Warcrafts that can used to teach high school students about social dynamic theories and using games like Half-Life 2 to introduce the concepts of physics to 10 year olds (without all the violence of course). <END RANT>

After the enlightening talk with Jon we all went to Gordon Biersch for good American grill food. While waiting to be seated I talked with Richard and Sanders who are two Game Audio Design teachers in the Netherlands as well as co-founders of AudioGames.net. Richard asked me if when I captioned the sound effects for Doom3[CC], that I was trying to be descriptive or capture the essence of the sound? I honestly hadn't thought of the fact that those are two entirely separate ways to caption a sound. I just naturally went with my gut feeling, which was to capture the essence of the sound. My philosophy throughout development of Doom3[CC] was to give hard of hearing/deaf gamers whatever means necessary to let them experience the sounds of Doom3 just as a hearing player might. This philosophy applied to the captions of sounds and the visual sound radar used in the mod. Another word for this approach is Onomatopoeia - a word that imitates the sound it represents. I believe Onomatopoeia is essential to closed captioning, to providing hard of hearing and deaf gamers with as close an experience as a hearing player would have. It's an area I need to study more.

We all finally finished eating and I left a bit early because I was exhausted. I wanted to go back to the hotel and prepare for Day 2 of GDC. I ended up going to the Game Design tutorial by Ernest Adams, which was excellent.

In my next update, I'll focus on Day 3 when I showed off Doom3[CC] to the conference attendees and then later that night went to the IGDA/IGF Choice Awards show in hopes that Doom3[CC] would win the award for Best Doom3 Mod of the Year.

-Reid


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