Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Opinion: Secrets, and Secret Places for GDC

As an 18-year veteran of the games industry and an 18-year resident of San Francisco, I have secrets (and secret places) for Game Developers Conference ...

(1) Be truly kind to people: The first thing that I say whenever anybody asks me for advice about the games industry is, "It's not about who you know; it's not about who knows you; it's about who likes you and who loves you." And that is SO true. No company has ever made a game; people make games; be truly kind to people and you'll have little to regret in life.

(2) Be doubly kind to the organizers: Putting on any event is stressful. Putting on the LARGEST event in the world of the games industry? Trust me when I say that you'd rather take a bath in Tabasco while smoking 100 Camel Blues in a row than be tasked with the challenge of organizing and operating Game Developers Conference. Be doubly kind to the organizers: Instead of giving them shit, how about a bottled water and a sincere thank you for creating memories that we will cherish for our lifetimes.

(3) Your game is your name: Your game is your name in this industry; the bigger the game, the farther you'll get with people. Don't get frustrated if the editor of that giant website seems disinterested in you. Use that as fuel to make bigger, better games. 

(4) Your name is your game, and your company: We live in the age of sunlight; nothing stays hidden. One unscrupulous screw up by you could find its way to Twitter, to the press, and to every mailing list in the games industry, costing you (and maybe your coworkers) game sales, a career, and even share price and/or exit value. If you wouldn't say nor do it to your mother, don't say nor do it - this applies outside of Game Developers Conference as well, just to be crystal.

(5) Don't Crash Parties: The companies who throw events at GDC have cost/benefit analyzed business reasons for doing so, with targeted guest lists aimed at achieving business goals, and they spend more on these parties than most of you reading will ever spend on an event in your life. You don't want some drunken, uninvited jackass burning your hard-earned money at your birthday party do you?! Well ...

(6) Haunt Some Lobbies: Have absolutely nothing to do? The W, the Intercontinental, The St. Regis, and the Clift are teeming with games industry professionals. Go be truly kind to people and make some contacts.

(7) Never Wear A Backpack: Hey! You! With the giant rucksack walking through the crowded space at Game Developers Conference: Nobody likes you; your mom doesn't even like you. The smartphone in my pocket does more and better than the giant workstations that I used in the 90's to complete my computer science degree, so shouldn't that be enough? One backpack bump by you could find its way to Twitter, to the press, and to every mailing list in the games industry, costing you (and maybe your coworkers) game sales, a career, and even share price and/or exit value. 

(8) Find A Quiet Space: Fly Trap, 83 Proof, and Natoma Cabana are sneaky-underutilized fancy bars nearby the conference center. Steffs and The Lark are more downscale sneaky-underutilized options within walking distance of Game Developers Conference - and Steffs has an old-timey popcorn machine, making it the greatest bar in all of South of Market area.

(9) Find Some Food: The Bloomingdale's close to the conference center has a truly excellent food court in the basement. Also within walking distance of the conference ... North India is all-you-can-eat Indian food at a reasonable price. Atlas Tap Room has craft beers, good wines, and bonkers sandwiches. Archive Bar & Kitchen has pizza - some of which have ghost peppers. The Pink Elephant, which is only open for lunch on Fridays, has the best pub food that you will ever experience.

(10) Find Some Coffee: Philz Coffee is amazing - like angels are dancing on your tongue. Don't listen to anybody who says that Blue Bottle Coffee is better coffee than Philz: Those people are all dirty, dirty liars who have probably never worked in the trenches of a real game production in their lives.

(11) Find Some Tea: Like tea? Samovar Tea Lounge: It's like a zoo full of games industry executives. How many publishing deals have hands been shaken on there, I wonder? If Samovar were to disappear, would the entire games industry vanish with it?!

(12) Find Some Food After Hours: In need of vomunition?! The Pub, in Aquatic Park, has tremendous BBQ, boozy drinks, and is open and serving everything until 2:00 a.m. Just remember to tip your server before puking outside.

(13) Real San Francisco Party, Sunday through Wednesday: Want to find real San Francisco party on an off night? Look no farther than Madrone, where all of the San Francisco-local bartenders and wait staffs go when they get off of work for the evening. Be careful, those might not be cigarettes that people are smoking outside.

(14) Thursday Party: On a Thursday, start with Driftwood, where even the wicked cocktails mix wicked cocktails. Then, head on over to Cat Club, for 1984, an 80's theme dance party that is so sweet, it will give you cavities. Madonna wigs are optional, but encouraged.

(15) Friday Party: What!? You're still alive after a full week of Game Developers Conference?! Well, okay then ... #SFGameNight usually throws an uproarious party at Folsom Street Foundry on the Friday of GDC. Board games, video games, fried chicken, and beers will be waiting upon you to geek. Once you get pulled over for kart racing under the influence, 11th Street offers a buffet of bad decisions for you to make.

(16) Saturday Party: StackOverflowError

(17) Change Somebody's Life: Whenever anybody asks me, "How do I get into making games?" I tell them the hard truth, "You have to get REALLY into making games." It never, never hurts to have some help, though. If you are established in the games industry, you have the power to change somebody's life for the better. Do one favor for a stranger at Game Developers Conference this year. Try it. The high that you get from changing a stranger's life will be greater and last longer than the high that any of those not-really-cigarettes ever could offer you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Post: Mobile Gaming Hall Of Fame!

Hall Of Fame: Scott Foe

Hopefully, winning a lifetime achievement award is no indication that my lifetime is over!

Thank you to my dear, old mother, who confiscated my Nintendo Entertainment System when I (always) misbehaved, who patiently typed "pick up the carrot" into King's Quest as I directed her, and who bought me an Intel 80486 computer to mollify my incessant begging. My mother is truly deserving of first-ballot induction into the Mom Hall Of Fame.

Thank you to Gerard Wiener, who believed in me, mentored me, and who never confiscated my Nintendo Entertainment System when I (always) misbehaved. Innovation simply cannot happen without full and unflappable organizational support, and, no matter how way-way-out-there my dreams and schemes, Gerard signed the checks without blinking.

Thank you to the amazing writers and publishers out there who have given me so much editorial love over the years: Anybody who thinks press doesn't matter isn't thinking at all.

Most-of-all: Thank you to all of the wonderful creative, technical, and business people who have led, followed, and marched alongside me over the years. Your ranks are legion and to name some would be a disservice to hundreds of others - each of you have been invaluable to my growth as a game developer.

And thank you in particular to the awesome people over at Pocket Gamer for inducting me into the Hall of Fame. You always hear at awards shows, "it's nice to be recognized," which is total codswallop: Unfortunately, there is no word in the English language to describe the indelibly positive rush of emotion that comes from having your life's work recognized by your industry. (Well, there is "alate," but, like most people, I don't know what that means, and I'm still kinda iffy on the definition of "codswallop.")

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Video: Casual Connect Europe 2014

The first Evil Game Design Challenge is billed by the good people at Casual Connect as, "The most-popular session in Casual Connect history." (I don't know how they qualify that, but, The Evil Game Design Challenge was definitely the most-watched talk from Casual Connect USA 2013.)

This second Evil Game Design Challenge is much, much better ...

Within the below video, you will find three luminary free-to-play game designers - Ben Cousins of DeNA, Laralyn McWilliams of The Workshop, and Teut Weidemann of Ubisoft - each murdering the game of Minecraft in their own individually evil ways, turning Minecraft out for player acquisition, retention, engagement, and, of course, monetization.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the second Evil Game Design Challenge.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Video: Casual Connect USA 2013

*** UPDATE! According to the good folks at Casual Connect, The Evil Game Design Challenge is now "the most-popular talk in Casual Connect history!" Thank you all very much for the interest and support! ***

In 2005, when I pitched my first free-to-play game, Reset Generation, people truly thought I was "crazy." Crazy is fine, because crazy is the calling card of market disruption. I was already branded "crazy" for leaving console for mobile gaming in 2003, and, even before that, all the way back in 1999, people were calling me "crazy" for filling a Nerf Super Soaker squirt gun with my own urine.

Crazy is all well and good, but, somewhere along the line, the industry has gone from seeing free-to-play game design as "crazy," to seeing free-to-play game design as perniciously "evil." Well, to flip a phrase, "The only way to deal with idealists is to terrorize the bastards." So, let's get evil.

Within the below video, you will find three luminary free-to-play game designers - Greg Costikyan, Dan Rubenfield, and Ethan Levy - dressed as the super villains that they are. Therein they present game designs geared toward the most-evil pursuit of discovering scalable, repeatable business. One design loaded with thoughtful insight, one design a flight of wild imagination, one design a deeply evil winner ...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first Evil Game Design Challenge.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Post: The Paula Abdul Of Games

I know that I've been called the "Quentin Tarantino" of games in the press, and while that's truly flattering, I've now got steeper accolade: This boy's lifelong dream of becoming the "Paula Abdul of the games industry" has finally come to be! Thanks Activision, for asking me to sit as a judge on America's Next Top Game Maker, or The Activision Indie Games Competition, or whatever you call this incredibly large stack of games that's sitting on my desk here.

Note to Activision: There's a certain incongruousness in ringing my doorbell with a box of indie games at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Ms. Abdul needs her beauty rest - and then she needs some "really cheery ohs" - a bowl of Oxycodone drenched in Screaming Eagle Cabernet, eaten with a spoon. (I'm suddenly in the mood for breakfast-for-dinner.) Also, how am I supposed to seduce the contestants if I don't know who they are?

xOXo The Paula Abdul of Games

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Video: Games Convention Asia 2009

Here's an oldie and a goody: My keynote from Games Convention Asia, "The MBAAA" - a talk about some of the economics of big-project mobile game development and a tutorial for entertainment property development. Now, please keep in mind that the first half of the talk references numbers from over a year ago, and time marches on as numbers drum upward. (Heck, we didn't yet have "six-cent-per-daily-active-user" stories to tell ...)

The second part of the talk is timeless, platform-less, and something that every developer, publisher, student, and scandalously good-looking public relations flack should see (if only to pound with virtual tomatoes). Entertainment Property Development should be mistress to entire business units at organizations everywhere.

When watching part two, you might find it helpful to know that people were booing and moaning when the Disney slide came up ... that doesn't really come through from the audio in this recording.

To borrow from "Yahtzee" Croshaw, I was positively stonked during the Q&A for this talk: Every question asked included the phrase, "Entertainment Property." Wish they had gotten that on film ...