My GDC Keynote (and Panel)

This year at GDC, I am giving one of the keynotes at the Serious Games Summit. Here’s the description:

Theme is Not Meaning
Speaker: Soren Johnson (Designer & Programmer, EA Maxis)
Date/Time: Tuesday (March 9, 2010)   11:15am — 12:15pm
Location (room): Room 133, North Hall
Experience Level: All
Summit: Serious Games Summit
Format: Summit Keynote

Session Description
A game’s theme does not determine its meaning. Instead, meaning emerges from a game’s rules – the set of decisions and consequences unique to each one. What does a game ask of the player? What does it punish, and what does it reward? What strategies and styles does the game encourage? Further, when theme and rules are in dissonance, the designer cheats the player while also compromising his or her original vision. This can often lead to significant failures in the serious games space. In this opening Serious Games Summit Keynote, game designer Soren Johnson explores the critical question of how to produce meaningful experiences that are uniquely tied to gameplay vs. the content wrapped around that play?

Readers of my Game Developer column will recognize that this talk is an offshoot of my recent set of columns on how a game’s theme and meaning need to work together or risk alienating the audience. Hopefully, the two formats (print and lecture) will support each other instead of being redundant. I’m looking forward to the Q&A as I expect quite a few people will differ from my conclusions.

I am also participating in a panel at the AI Summit on supporting game designers:

Answering the Designers’ AI Wish List
Speaker: Brett Laming (Lead Programmer, Rockstar Leeds), Richard Evans (Lead Simulation Engineer, Maxis), Soren Johnson (Designer & Programmer, EA Maxis), Chris Jurney (Senior Programmer, Double Fine Productions), Adam Russell (Games Studio Manager and Lecturer, University of Derby)
Date/Time: Wednesday (March 10, 2010)   5:15pm — 6:00pm
Location (room): Room 310, South Hall
Experience Level: All
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 45-minute Panel

Session Description
We asked designers from all across the industry to answer a questionnaire of probing – and even outright crazy questions. The intent was to get their heads and assemble a sort of wish list. We then present their answers to a panel of top-notch AI designers and programmers and ask them… how would you go about granting this wish? In what promises to be the most forward-looking session of the AI Summit, this panel should give us all a look into not only what the designers would like in their games, but some ideas on how to address the difficult obstacles in AI.

Idea Takeaway
An impression of how much AI technology can accomplish, an insight into the technical design process of experienced developers. This session should be kind of fun and wacky!

Hope to see everyone at GDC, my favorite week of the year!

4 thoughts on “My GDC Keynote (and Panel)

  1. I’m extremely happy that you’re giving the Serious Games keynote with that specific message. Sadly, I’m not attending GDC this year and will have to hear the talk second-hand.

  2. Pingback: DESIGNER NOTES » Blog Archive » Theme is Not Meaning: The Slides

  3. Pingback: Theme is not Meaning « Learning Technologies at FAS

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