Wrapping Up At the GDC Austin

I’m finally getting some time to put some thoughts together on this year’s GDC Austin, as I sit in the airport waiting for my flight back. Luckily, it’s still possible to put some thoughts together, after dumping half a beer on (and in) my laptop last night. I thought for sure that was the end of the line for the MacBook Pro, but it seems to have survived the scare.

It was an impressive amount of beer dumped directly over the power button and right half of the keyboard, and I wasn’t exactly the swiftest to respond. But after giving it some time to dry upside down, it did start up the first time I tried. After that, though, on subsequent power-ups it would only cough and gasp before shutting down. It looked bleak. I’m not sure what did the trick. I gave it one last shot by holding down the power button a little longer than usual; the little power light flickered and the laptop gave a loud, almost alarming BEEP (which I’ve never heard it do before, must have been really pissed at me), and then it started up just fine. Seems to have recovered from its hangover now, thankfully.

As to more entertaining matters, I have to say, my talk on design innovations in interactive fiction was clearly the hit of the Austin GDC.

I should probably clarify that: by “clearly”, I mean “to me”, and by “the hit” I mean “easily the third or fourth best-attended lecture out of the four at 9:30AM on Day Two.”

The talk did go well, although I now understand that 9:30AM is actually considered pretty early at conferences like these. There was a time in my life when 9:30AM seemed very early, maybe too early for intentionally getting out of bed. Now, not so much. I’m certainly not one of those people whose eyes automatically pop open at 5:30 in the morning every day, but I have reached the point where sleeping until 8:30 is a rare luxury. I think, when they combined the relatively early presentation time of 9:30AM with the understandably niche topic of interactive fiction, the result was about what I expected, which was a modest crowd. I don’t remember the number specifically, I’d say maybe 30, give or take a few.

Which is not a bad group at all, except that I was in the semi-cavernous “Ballroom G”, which was designed to fit many more. At least their expectations were high.

I learned that morning lectures aren’t the greatest for humor. Even the high-powered Blizzard crew found that out the following day. I also learned that even those intentionally attending a lecture on interactive fiction don’t necessarily know much about interactive fiction. A number of people looked at me funny when I mentioned “Zork”, and only two or three people in the audience knew the reference when I flashed up a picture of my XYZZY license plate. For real.

But overall, everything went off without a hitch, and there were some very interested attendees with nice comments and a few good questions. People seemed genuinely appreciative of the content. I had too many slides, so I had to cut out some of the most important ones (where to get and play IF games), but people were interested enough to stay after and get the information. I got to cover a number of great pieces of IF, and spent a bit of extra time on works like Alabaster and Blue Lacuna. People really seemed to be fascinated at what these pieces are able to do.

Gamasutra was at the conference to cover the various sessions, so I was looking forward to a summary article online. Alas, this would not come to pass. I’m assuming it was because of limited personnel, as well as a not-quite-headliner presentation, which is just how it goes. But it’s too bad, because it could have extended the reach of the topic to a wider audience.

All in all, though, it was a good time and a fun experience. More thoughts to follow.

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  1. georgek
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the report Rubes, I'm looking forward to more of your thoughts on this!

  2. William Lee Sims
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

    You’re a braver man than I. Congrats on giving the speech! And to getting a few people interested!

  3. Aaron A. Reed
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    It's interesting that the majority of the audience weren't IF vets. Did you get any sense of who they were? Younger game developers who missed the first wave of IF, or technical people rather than passionate '80s gamers, or what? I love that you hooked them well enough that they stayed to get further info.

    Also, slides please. 🙂

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