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Jon: A Start

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Austin Game Conference Blog: It's a Start

Blog Entry #1 by Jon Wood

Phew! Day 1 at the Austin Game Conference is behind me. I’ll tell ya, I really love these conferences. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing this job instead of using that very expensive degree in Education that I’m still paying for. There’s something about the atmosphere of a small (well, compared to the gigantic E3 anyway) conference. Today was spent in two ways for me. The first was attending panels. Four in all today, two you’ll hear about on the site as a part of our AGC coverage. The other two I went to just for me, so I’ll share them with you now.

It’s no secret that above and beyond all, I am a writer. I don’t necessarily say talented writer, but it’s the one thing that, throughout my life, I’ve always loved to do. When I found out that a Game Writers Conference was going to be a part of AGC, I couldn’t very well pass up the opportunity to drop in on at least a few of the sessions, spending my free time learning about something that I feel is a make or break for a good game. Writing.

The first seminar I attended, albeit a little bit late, was the keynote speaker. He talked about the challenges of writing for our genre and how it’s different from other forms of media. What sticks out freshest in my mind as I write this 11 hours later was the emphasis that he placed on knowing how to take full advantage the medium. In this case, games. Games can be too reliant on text, and the reality is that many players click past dialogue as fast as they can. As a writer for games (or anything else), you need to know the pace of the medium. As writers, we need to be aware of what turns people off of the text. The speaker urged us to think of ways to keep the player engaged. Let’s face it, pressing the A button to speed NPCs through text isn’t exactly engaging.

While seminars are a huge part of these conferences, I think my favorite part has to be catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I spent a good part of my free time today tracking down and/or bumping into people I’ve met, mostly only online. At one point, I even managed to stumble across a small gathering of community managers from all over the MMORPG scene, which was a real treat.

On my way out of the convention center, I came upon a small group of developers and ended up talking with them about innovation and the lack of it in this industry. It was great to be part of a conversation that included developers from at least three different games, where none of us were worried about who we worked for, or who the competition was. Instead, we were interested in sharing our opinions on what could be done to make the gaming experience better for players. After all, that’s what we all really are. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here.

Wow, I got all the way to the end of my blog without mentioning the most amusing thing that happened to me today. When I first entered the convention center, I went to pick up my badge. Normally, event badges hang around your neck, letting people know who you are and who you work for. So, naturally, that’s what I was expecting to see. After all, Dana’s says Dana Massey, MMORPG.com, Carolyn’s says Carolyn Koh, MMORPG.com. I expected the same. It wasn’t to be though, as the good people here at AGC seem to have decided that I’ve moved past the need for a first name. Perfectly centered in the middle of my badge is the word “Wood”. I think it’s a good move for me career-wise. I’ll start referring to myself in the third person. “The Wood doesn’t like this”, “The Wood wonders how this mistake happens”. I think it could work. At the very least, I could be known as that crazy guy that works at MMORPG.com. Finally, the truth would be out.

That’s it for me ladies and gents. I’m tuckered out and looking forward to tomorrow.

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Jon Wood