A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

On Graduating from School and Getting a Job

I was crawling through my archives this morning and came across this little rant that I wrote years ago, during my first, horrible, post-grad school job at the Cornell University Library. I know several of you Gentle Readers are in school right now, and I thought you might enjoy the sentiment:

First of all, and lets just get this out of the way: a full-time job is actually a pretty shoddy reward for 2.5 years of graduate school stress.

Yes, I’m grateful and all, glad to be here, nice to meet ya, etc. but frankly, I think I was looking for something along the lines of “congratulations on your degree, here’s your houseboat, now get out of here you scamp.”

I suppose having a stable schedule and slightly-more-realistic paychecks is reward enough, but lately I’ve had to face what seems to happen any time you put enormous effort into something. Which is, a rather slow transition into something different that requires enormous effort.

Like learning not to scream when someone suggests you attend the Metadata Working Group Meeting.

Real things that actually happened

  1. My work name is Erica Linden. Everyone who works for Second Life gets a Linden last name. This makes us weirdly popular in-world.
  2. There is a huge bouquet of stargazer lilies on my desk. Got ’em for myself. Who needs boys? Not me. Nope.
  3. My mom phoned at 8am to make sure I was alive. A minor earthquake in Oakland made it on CNN. I didn’t feel a thing.
  4. My roommate threw a drink at a critic, and has cemented his place as a literary bad boy.
  5. My on-the-2 style of salsa dancing is considered impressive out here. Thanks Cornell ballroom club!
  6. I still need an apartment. If you know of anything, let me know. I’m looking in the Mission/Bernal/Noe neighborhoods. And I’ve got a friendly cat.
  7. There’s a big bulldog who hangs out in my office and rides a skateboard.

Thank you. That is all.

An Interview with Myself

Bowing to the demands of my own powerful curiosity, I have agreed to a give an exclusive interview to myself. My publicist disagrees with my decision, but I believe I have a strong connection with myself and I think I can be trusted to report my answers fairly.

tat3.jpgQ: Hello Erica. I’m glad you agreed to this interview. You have been pretty reticent with the press lately. What’s been going on?

A: There have been major changes in my life this year. I haven’t felt it was appropriate or respectful to write about them here.

Things have settled down a bit recently. I’m no longer engaged, and I’m living in rural Ithaca near some friendly horses and sheep.

Q: Wow. Do you want to talk about what happened?

A: No. Thank you.

Q: I hear you are moving to the Bay Area in the next few months?

A: I’ve been looking at the Bay Area and NYC as possible places to relocate. After visiting last week, I decided to move to San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the geekiest, friendliest places I’ve ever been. The city is beautiful, I’ve got good friends, there are interesting projects, and I’ll be among my fellow dorks.

I’m really looking forward to learning the city, starting a new job, volunteering at 826 Valencia, and being immersed in the calm, weird, sunny West Coast atmosphere. Come visit. Bring chocolate babka.

Q: Where are you going to work?

A: An excellent question. I’ve interviewed at a few places where I would like to work. I will know more by next week. Stay tuned.

Q: Don’t you like Ithaca?

A: I love Ithaca and I adore my job at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is why I’ve been here for four years.

However, that translates to about 40 years in Internet Time. It’s time for me to start a new project. I might return to Ithaca someday, once I’ve made my fortune. I’d like to live on a big farm with dogs, books, a wood stove, and all my friends.

Q: Ok. That covers the big topics. What else is going on?

A: I’m having the best year of my life. This weekend I swam in a waterfall, watched a turtle lay eggs, drove a sports car really fast, petted dogs, helped a friend find tractor parts, drank local beer, picked flowers, was charged by a deer, and met one of the first US African refugee coordinators who was working in Botswana in 1965.

Q: Well, thanks again for letting me interview you, Erica.

A: I’m welcome. Thank me.

30 seconds

Driving home through rural Ithaca I saw, within 30 seconds:

  1. A snapping turtle crossing the road, long prehistoric tail dragging behind her. The turtles are laying eggs this week wherever they can, including parking lots, trails, and ditches.
  2. A great blue heron
  3. A vole running across the road. Voles are apparently susceptible to some sort of brain parasite that makes them go nuts and do stuff like this. A few weeks ago, cow-orker Mary Winston and I watched one running in a small circle for five minutes. I finally caught him and put him under the dock so he wouldn’t get stepped on. It was all very Wrath of Kahn.
  4. Two horses and riders walking toward me in my lane. Can anyone tell me if that is standard horse-in-street protocol? Because it was hella surprising.

30 seconds. Ithaca.

Yahoo! Games picks up video game based on Macauly Library sounds

snapshot.pngNYC game developers Large Animal Games have created a downloadable PC video game based on bird sounds and expertise provided by the Macaulay Library at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology.

Which is where I work.

The game is called Snapshot Adventures. It was recently was acquired by Yahoo! games, which is a great for both the Lab and for environmental education, since part of the money it earns will directly fund our ecology work.

picture-3.png You can play it for free here.

Overheard at SXSW

Guy at mike: In the words of Walt Whitman, do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Guy next to me (stage whispers): Gay.

Edit: I’m annotating this one for the non-literature/human-sexuality majors.

It’s deconstruct-jokes-day here at Librarian Avengers.

Walt Whitman’s status as an historical gay icon is key to this comment. His poetry is universal, but a Whitman reference in a different context is sometimes used to covertly signal homosexuality, a la “are you a friend of Dorothy?” The humor comes from the incongruity of the unfortunate speaker quoting Whitman in the context of a professional discussion, and having his comment sarcastically interpreted as a self-referential proclamation of his sexuality.

A similar situation occurred during the 2006 New York gubernatorial debates at Cornell University. Republican candidate John Faso inadvertently caused laughs among the student-aged crowd when he declared that he did not want to “force gay marriage down the throats” of New Yorkers.

SXSW Interactive – Sunday

Guess who drank too much last night? Everyone!

It’s hangover day here at South by Southwest. The panels are slow and attendance is low.

This morning I went to a panel debating the merits of ignoring users. It matched my mood nicely.

User profiles are taking a beating this year.

Guess who was the only woman in the gaming room playing Guitar Hero and shooting bunnies with the Wii? You may call me Token.

Reverend Billy and the Church of No Shopping are here. They’re staying at our hotel, which was kind of startling when I crawled out of the elevator this morning.

I’m going to try and find someone from the Creative Commons who wants to come speak at Cornell about using the CC in scientific publications. If you know anyone, give me a holler.