Following is the first entry of a three-part series focusing on gaming content that will be featured at SIGGRAPH 2011. This first entry is a conversation between Drew Davidson (pictured at the right) and ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter Reporter Mariebeth Aquino. Drew Davidson is a professor, producer and player of interactive media. His background spans academic, industry, and professional worlds: he is the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center – Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and the Editor of ETC Press.
Background details: This year’s content features a substantial amount of game development content: game papers, courses, talks (technical, studio, and exhibitor talks), workshops on game development, and technical papers. In addition, game content can be found in the Computer Animation Festival where Real-Time Live! showcases the latest trends and techniques in games. And for those wanting a hands-on experience, the Sandbox provides the ideal environment to test drive the latest in interactive entertainment.
A Conversation with Drew Davidson, SIGGRAPH 2011 Games Chair
What are your responsibilities as Games Chair?
To oversee and coordinate game-related content at SIGGRAPH, working with Naty Hoffman (Game Development Community Director), Jason RM Smith (Real Time Live! chair), and T.L. Taylor (Games Papers chair).
In terms of Games Papers, how many submissions were received? Was there an increase in the number of submissions? Did you notice any trends in the content received?
We had around 100 submissions this year, which is right around what we were expecting. Since we’ve had Game Papers for several years now, we have had between 80-100 submissions each year. As for trends, there seems to be more attention being paid to indie games and user-generated content.
How has the growth of the video games industry affected the amount of game content at SIGGRAPH? Has it affected this year’s game content lineup? And do you foresee this trend expanding game content inclusion in future SIGGRAPHs?
That it’s there at all attests to the growth of the industry, and Naty Hoffman has done some great work this year getting involvement and participation from the industry in inflatable obstacle course this year’s SIGGRAPH. As for expansion, that’s tough to tell, it’s been successful and it’s going to be more of a PR issue as SIGGRAPH works to get the word out to attendees about the amount of good content related to games.
Since games have a little bit of everything, where does game development fit in SIGGRAPH?
Games fit into SIGGRAPH both in terms of graphics (with real-time rendering and such) and also in terms of interactive techniques (issues around design and player engagement) so there’s some good fit with SIGGRAPH.
SIGGRAPH 2011 is in Vancouver, a location that has long been associated with game development. Any thoughts on what has made this location a hub for gaming?
Well, it’s a great city all around, so it’s an appealing place to work, and there has been a lot of local support to do business here. And with the local universities, there is a lot of potential talent. All of this has helped make it a great hub for game development.
Has the conference’s location this year impacted the gaming content being included, interest level in content, or amount of submissions/participation by the local community?
It definitely has. Sylvain Provencher and Glenn Entis have been great in helping with some outreach, and again, Naty has done a great job coordinating with industry as well.
What advice do you have for someone interested in submitting content?
It is such a large event, it is really important to go over all the information on the website – it’s all there, it just may not be apparent on first pass. And don’t be shy about inflatable water slide asking questions – you’ll get an answer quickly which can help you submit in the right area and complete your submission successfully.
SIGGRAPH is known for debuting the types of technologies that allow for more intricate gaming experiences, such as the advanced motion capture technology in games like L.A. Noire. What do you think is the next big technology that will be featured in mainstream games?
Mobile gaming is really hitting it’s stride. We’re going to start seeing more integrated experiences that let you take your gameplay with you across platforms. Plus with services like Gaikai, we’re going to see games start streaming (like movies and shows through Netflix and Hulu).
On a personal level, what was the last great video game you played and what did you appreciate most about it? What is your favorite video game of all time and why?
Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft. It really is an amazing experience. It’s the epitome of a “Sandbox” game, where you can pretty much do whatever you want…but then’s there’s the night time, for which you better be prepared.
As for all time, that’s a complex question, because I enjoy different games at different times and for different reasons. With that caveat in mind, I’m going to mention two of my tops. “ICO” (on the PS2), is a wonderful adventure game that has an enchanting atmosphere and elliptical experience that I enjoy while I play it and that sticks with me afterwards. Second, would be “Words with Friends” (on the iPhone). I regularly play it with my wife as we both enjoy word games. It does such a nice job of taking advantage of the platform to make it easy to continuously play asynchronous games and keep in touch throughout the day.