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March 24th, 2006 - Game Developers Conference by Reid

Doom3[CC] in action at GDC 2006
Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose, California

Friday arrived much to fast for my tastes. I was just getting accustomed to the routine of GDC. However, Friday arrived and it was to be the last day of GDC 2006. Through an interesting schedule conflict, I had to demo the Doom3[CC] mod while the Game Accessibility SIG had a group gathering in the IGDA member area. Being that it was 9am, neither the demo booth or the IGDA member area were particularly busy. I was free to walk back and forth between the two area, which were very close thankfully. Throughout the morning, especially after 10am, I met more people as they walked through the IGF area to see the games before they were taken down for good later that day. I'm looking at my stack of business cards, it's not a huge stack, but it is a stack! It was a real pleasure meeting everyone and wish I had clones of me so I could talk to even more people, to get the word out about the mod and closed captioning for games in general.

At 1pm my demoing shift ended and it was time for the Last Man Standing mod guys to take over. They did a great job demoing their game and even got MTV and Spike TV(I think) to interview them. Sunnovabitches! ;) From 2:30p to 3:30p I went to another Ernest Adams presentation titled, "A New Vision for Interactive Stories". It was a very interesting talk and I really hope other developers try to push in the the direction he proposed. Basically, it was to stop trying to create games that can fulfill every gamers ultimate fantasy, to do anything in a game world. His take was that, games aren't meant to everything well. If we want to tell compelling stories in games, we have to focus our development efforts on doing what is necessary to support our interactive narrative. That may mean we slap the player upside the head and say, "That was dumb, either you stop being a jerk or don't play at all." Because, when they buy the game from us, they have this expectation that we deliver a certain experience, especially if it's the next Half-Life game. Why then shouldn't we expect the player to fulfill the role of the avatar we give them? They expect us to give them a world to act within, and we should expect them to play the part to the best of their ability. When I play HL2, it's my role to be Gordon Freeman, not a clown that likes to juggle physics objects in the air. Ernest also talked about technical ways to thread story through a game experience, that I won't go into detail here.

For the last session of the day, and of the week, I attended the "Game Studies Download: Top 10 Research Finding". I must say, unfortunately, that I was not thrilled with the research findings. It seemed to be knowledge that most developers are aware of if they have a decent amount of experience. Some of them, even the players would know already. I was hoping for some real hard and difficult questions to be answered. One Research question was in regards to using eye tracking hardware for an FPS game and if it would improve the fun factor of the game. They concluded it works very well for 2D games if no other device is used and for 3D FPS games when used with a mouse it can really improve the enjoyment of the player. That makes sense and wasn't really eye opening for me, but when I looked at that question from a game accessibility issue I realized they could be on to something interesting. That, if developers took the time to make their games accessible for a Quadriplegic using eye and head tracking hardware, that it could very well filter into the homes of non-disabled because as the research showed, the players ENJOYED using those kinds of hardware. It confirms what I felt before, that game accessibility isn't just for the disabled, it's for everyone and it will make our gameplay experiences much better. At the end of the session, I pretty much leaped over the legs of those sitting in my row and ran to the microphone to ask the presenters if there was any research done regarding how various input devices can be used to give disabled gamers more access to games. They said there had not been any research and so I spoke with each one in private afterwards and suggested they find people willing to do that kind of research. I handed them the Game Accessibility SIG business card. It's something we could research, but we don't have the financial resources to purchase all kinds of equipment. Maybe one of us can buy a piece or two then someone else can buy something else. I think it would be good to get a research university involved in this sort of thing.

That wraps up these GDC reports. Thanks for taking the time to read them and I want to thank everyone who stopped by to check out the Doom3[CC] mod. I also want to thank the Game Accessibility SIG, and fans of Doom3[CC] for all their support and encouragement. It was a real blast at GDC and I can't wait to do it again.

Lastly, as I said before, game accessibility isn't just for disabled. It's for your neighbor who wants a more intuitive control setup. It's for your grandmother, who's hands hurt after cooking for a few hours but likes a quick game before bedtime, its for a child, who loves to see his accomplishments glorified in Matrix like slow-motion and it's especially for those who want to dream big, yet live in a world that all to often doesn't take the effort to open up the doors.

-Reid


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