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Room 203 (Thurs)

Questions We Hope You Don’t Ask: How To Vet A Publisher
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Tucker Dean
In today's industry, publishers chase developers. This means that when a game pops up for the first time, publishers come calling after projects that look promising. For developers, this is incredibly exciting. But for newer devs it can also be foreign territory they have to navigate with little guidance. This talk is designed to empower developers to ask the right questions to find good publishing partners.

Business Formation IP and Contracts
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Jonathan Pearce
Confused about which business type is right for you? Wondering what you can do to protect your IP? Looking at a publishing contract and thinking about what all these words really mean? These questions and more will be answered during this presentation by a working, experienced video game lawyer.

Explicit Power Dynamics – BDSM in games
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Bobbi A Sand
How is BDSM portrayed in games, and what can that teach us about love, life and games? In BDSM negotiation, communication and consent are essential, and the power dynamics explicit - something that relationships not in this domain might benefit from as well. But in what ways is BDSM interesting from a games perspective? Bobbi A Sand discusses how playing with power dynamics let us see and affect them, and learn more about their workings. Examples are taken from their game Knife Sisters (in development) as well as from other games where BDSM is used as a theme or a game mechanic. Games have a way of putting the player in the front position, being able to explore, learn and make experiences first hand. But putting (negotiated) power exchange and sometimes violence upfront also poses questions about fiction versus reality, and the players’ own limits. The talk contains examples from games such as Ladykiller in a bind (Christine Love), Hurt me plenty (Robert Yang), Hot Guys Making Out (Ben Lehman) as well as from Bobbi’s own game Knife Sisters, a teen drama about manipulation, love, power and sex.

The Game: The Game (A Pick-up Artist Dating Simulator)
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Angela Washko
After recently completing her long-term video game project "The Game: The Game", artist Angela Washko discusses the multi-year research process behind her pick-up artist dating simulator. Washko will screen excerpts from her interview with a seduction coach who has been dubbed “The Web’s Most Infamous Misogynist” and highlight instructional DVDs, books, and hidden-camera videos created by a community of pick-up artists to teach men how to interact with and seduce women. The talk will close with a discussion and a participatory play-through of The Game: The Game facilitated by the artist.

AAA is for Activism
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A.M. Darke
A. M. Darke speaks on how to design games for social impact around three core tenets: agency, accountability, and accessibility. Agency: Defined here as strategies to increase freedom for marginalized bodies. Accountability: How we should think about our own privilege when depicting communities that we are not apart of, whether it's our place to tell those stories, and how to do so in collaboration with the communities who are impacted by our work. Accessibility: Work that is informed by the experiences of a particular community should work for (and be accessible to) that community. Activist work should meet people where they're at and actively work to address folks in everyday terms. In other words, it's not enough to take marginalized stories and present them to a privileged audience in privileged spaces. If the strength of your work is built on the bodies of the oppressed, those communities should be able to engage with the work, both in terms of logistics, technology, culture, and language.

Game-Theater: Put Your Body Where Your Mouth Is
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Jessica Ellen Creane
Games have rules and rules have structure. Games are amazing for elaborate world building and they often afford players the time and autonomy to become immersed in a fictional world on their own terms, allowing them to explore it deeply and personally. Theater, on the other hand, opens a world to an audience for a set period of time and in theater there is a very real chance that the real world can butt in at any moment. Actors get sick, audience members yell out in the middle of a scene, the fire alarm goes off midway through the second act, or the show is built on the foundation of audience interaction. In these instances, actors and audiences have to improvise. So how does improvisation fit into games? As a performer and game-maker, I have been exploring this question for quite some time, most recently in a one-woman game-theater show called CHAOS THEORY that transforms five elements of chaos theory (deterministic chaos, fractals, repetition, the butterfly effect, and self-organization) into social games. For instance, audiences members team up early on to demonstrate the principles of deterministic chaos by attempting to simultaneously accomplish two goals in direct opposition to one another. The world around these games possesses a fully realized narrative arc, the structure of the game is set, the rules are clear, but, unlike many immersive performances, the outcome is never the same. What remains consistent is the feeling audience members are left with- a sense of physical and social agency that comes with putting one’s own literal skin the game. This talk will walk through each of the five games, the audience’s actions, responses, and improvisations within the framework of those games, and how the gaming industry can use physical theater and improvisations to expand the repertoire of game mechanics available to us as designers.

Videogames Are Not Games–And Why That Matters
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Jordan Magnuson, Chris DeLeon
We often use the terms “videogame” and “game” interchangeably these days. And while it is true that videogames can certainly be games, it is important to note that they are not games in any exclusive way. Rather than being a “new kind of game,” videogames are complex artifacts that exist in the overlap of many complex categories, none of which have hard boundaries; these include digital media, interactive media, computational media, nonlinear media, games, and narrative machines, among others. These categories are all interesting and distinct in their own ways: not all digital media is interactive, or computational; not all interactive media is nonlinear or digital--each of these categories is vast and varied, and so are videogames. Why does this realization matter? Because if we get stuck thinking about videogames in one way--that they are “games,” or that they are “story machines”--that’s going to limit the ways we look to understand and appreciate them, and it’s also going to limit the kinds of videogames that we make, which would be a shame.

Riffs on Roguelikes: Fourteen Years of 7DRLs
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Jeff Lait
Canon formation is as contentious as it is necessary. To talk critically about gameplay, to understand what gameplay is and isn't, and even to recognize when gameplay is new, requires us to build a vocabulary about gameplay. Part of this vocabulary is to understand what we mean when we refer to genres. One particular genre of interest to myself is the roguelike genre. The Seven Day Roguelike (7DRL) Challenge is an annual game jam in which we try to make games inside this genre. I have taken this opportunity to explore the meaning of ""roguelike"" by intentionally picking themes that I felt could not be adapted to the genre. After fourteen such challenges, I've amassed a large set of data points to address the question. My contributions are two-fold. First, I present my own results, which I believe do provide evidence that the term roguelike exists as a gameplay term rather than just an art-style term. Second, I provide an example of using intentional genre-pushing as a method of experimentation. This process could easily be applied to other genres to better identify their realms of influence.

Explosions are cool, but…
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Brandon Sichling
I'm interested in interrogating the use of violence as entertainment and how it intersects with designers' ethics. We'll get into a working definition of violence, how violence in games simplifies the complexities of real-life violence, and how using violence for entertainment raises important, not necessarily damning, questions about how violence exists in the real world. While the historical world has myriad kinds of violence, emotional or economic, for instance, games focus on embodied violence. I’d like to talk about why they do that, how they could more effectively use this kinds of violence as a metaphor for more subtle forms of violence (since all violence is, ultimately, physical), and more effective ways of talking about problem solving in games. Part of why this interests me, and what I’ll address, is that polite company usually decries violence while justifying it as long as it’s directed at the right target. That isn’t always a problem, but it always needs to be recognized, and that’s worth exploring. How games synthesize this interests me especially, since, as systems, games help us conceptualize why people, the state and individuals, use violence the way they do, and how we can more effectively identify and disrupt violent systems.

Thinking Outside the Bootcamp
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Niki Selken
We live in a continually abstracted digital age. The ways in which people are learning and making within this economy, the SF Bay Area in particular, is changing rapidly. Along with formal design and tech focused MFA programs, code bootcamps, adult creative code learning programs, and high school code/making schools are proliferating. The problem with many of these programs is that they neglect the art and design elements of the process of learning and making. I will cover the insights and learnings of running a creative code immersive and artist incubator at Gray Area in San Francisco, CA. This view will be focused on ways of encouraging the development and showcase playful interactive artworks and games by artists in a community that is overflowing with for-profit games and app design.

The Making of Shadow Brawlers, and Inca Games’ Fight to Foster the Spanish LatAm Games Industry
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Elizabeth Olson

Actors and Indie Games, a Union Contract Made in Heaven by People Who Love Indies
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Sarah Elmaleh, Crispin Freeman. Cissy Jones. Katie Sikkema
Have you, an indie developer, ever felt that real human voices would infuse extra life into your unique, personal game - but figured voiceover was too expensive/mysterious/complex a component to add? Think again! SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, now offers a low-budget interactive agreement, the first in its history. Carefully honed with feedback from devs like you, this contract is tailored to fit smaller dev teams who wish to collaborate with the union’s talented, seasoned actor membership. Come find out how! SAG-AFTRA actors - with credits ranging from Firewatch, Gone Home, and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine to Destiny 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Overwatch - will share their passion for indie game work and fully unbox the new indie agreement, alongside friendly union staff eager to answer your questions and get your next performance-enhanced project registered for you. So next time you daydream about having your favorite voice actor in your game - remember, it’s possible.

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