Ben Sawyer invited us to present a poster at the Serious Games Summit, part of the Game Developers Conference, held in San Francisco this year. The presentations and attendees were an eclectic mix of busniess executives, academics, game developers, and enthusiasts. I recommend anyone looking to land a job, strike a deal, or simply network in the games industry to attend the GDC. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy some awesome keynotes. This year, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata gave his insights on Mr. Miyamoto & Nintendo game development, and Hideo Kojima described how turning impossible problems into opportunities gave birth to the Metal Gear & Metal Gear Solid series.
Future Play 2008 was this week: it’s the only annual Canadian academic computer games conference. We had about 100 people for the conference this year, again held in downtown Toronto. I think my favorite talk was by John Buchanan on sketching games: he showed some new software he was working on that allowed you to “play” a game the same day you come up with the basic design, allowing you to assess and refine the design. There were also many good research paper presentations, and some cool new ideas presented as posters. Overall, I was really struck by how diverse the games community is: from small serious games to mass market games, work on programming and work on emotion, work on evaluation and work on development process. It’s hard to think of an academic discipline that does not have an involvement in games. This presents challenges, but perhaps that is a good thing.
Back from Nashville and OOPSLA: the ACM conference on Object Oriented Programming. Systems, Languages, and Applications. OO may now be main stream, but OOPSLA has made a practice of looking at the new and exciting, and has a focus on the human aspects that is typically missing from most Computer Science and Software Engineering conferences. Highlights this year for me were the talks by Lucy Suchman on situated cognition, and by Mark Lehner on organizational work structures in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza; but especially Richard Gabriel’s essay talk “Designed as Designer”. And my friends Daev Clarke, James Noble and John Potter won the award for the most influential paper from 10 years earlier! Nashville was fun too: from the Parthenon to the Country Music bars. After all this time, OOPSLA is still worth attending, and I plan to be there in Orlando in 2009. — Robert Biddle
WikiSym2008 in Porto was a great success. The organization was superb, and Ademar Aguiar and his colleagues did a wonderful job. Moreover, I really felt the conference reached a level of cohesion I had not seen before. There was a feeling of cooperation among people working with different technological approaches. Even more impressive, I found a real harmony that encompassed people taking the human perspective of wikis as well as people working on technology. The two most interesting ideas I saw were involved wikis for knowledge mangement in organizations (a popular theme in doctoral research) and glimpses of a new kind of end-user programming within wikis. WikiSym 2009 will be held in Orlando, USA, at the same time as the OOPSLA conference in the same location. – Robert Biddle
We had a nice, albeit rainy, stay in Liverpool, UK, for the British HCI conference this year. It was our first time attending and we were unsure what to expect. We were impressed by the quality of the presentations and the organization (including the great dinners held at great locations!). The presentations covered a wide range of topics, ranging from practical to artistic. In 2009, the conference will be held in Cambridge and judging from this year’s, it will be well worth attending.
Agile is getting big. The Agile2008 conference in Toronto this year had something like 1700 people, and it felt like it. I was there 3 days and there were some people I wanted to talk to that I never found. And it was diverse. We had a UI track this year for the first time, and it was only one of about 14 parallel tracks. Overall, the feeling was good, if a little disconnected at times. I was especially happy to talk to people from many companies who were just hearing about the ideas for the first time. I had a great conversation with Steve Freeman about Test-First Development, and how coming up with a test framed ideas about the implementation differently. I had hoped the closing keynotes by Alan Cooper would better connect UI work and Agile Development. Cooper said many things that might lead that way, but I heard lots that confused me too. For two processes that have so much in common, I am always puzzled how often UI and Agile manage to remain out of touch with each other. -Robert Biddle
Several of us drove to Pittsburgh for SOUPS. Each year, it gets a little bigger but so far still retains its friendly and approachable atmosphere. It’s nice to see familiar faces each year as well as meet new people in the area. On the first day, we participated in the Symposium on Accessible Privacy and Security (SOAPS). It was an interesting and informative discussion, especially for those of us who had little previous experience on the subject. During the main SOUPS program, there seemed to be a focus on authentication, which gave us much to think about and figure out how these other approaches fit in with our own work. We had a very nice conference dinner at the Phipps Conservatory, where one of the highlights was rubber ducks, oddly enough. Next year, SOUPS is moving away from CMU for the first time. It will be held at Google in Mountain View, California.