Future Play 2005

A significant game conference comes to East Lansing, Michigan for the first time.

Beginning tomorrow, our city plays host to Future Play 2005: The International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology. This Future Play conference is presented byAlgoma University College, in Ontario, Canada, but it is hosted here at Michigan State University. This is essentially a relocation and renaming of the Computer Game Technology Conference formerly held in Toronto, and it runs through Saturday afternoon.

This evening, I had the pleasure of taking a nice autumn stroll with my wife downtown to pre-registration for the conference, an experience entirely unlike any other conference I have attended. Waking up in my own bed and walking, not driving, to a game conference in my hometown… Brilliant. Of course, conferences in western time zones give me more time to sleep, but here 9:00am really means 9:00am. That will be an adjustment.

Unfortunately, things got off to a bit of a rocky start, as the organizers of this international conference were delayed at the US/Canada border, along with the conference materials. Pre-registration had to be started two hours later than planned, and the bags will not be ready until tomorrow morning. Nevertheless, I now have my name badge and a conference booklet to read in preparation for sessions tomorrow.

Speaking of sessions, I was not exactly sure what to expect when I first heard about Future Play, given that it is an academic conference. There was never any doubt that I would attend, but I was not sure how much it would apply to my company and our development efforts. The Good News is that there is something directly relevant to us in every time slot, but the Bad News is that I cannot attend every session that interests me. Fortunately, none of the keynotes are opposite sessions, so every attendee will have the opportunity to be present for each.

There are five different keynotes scheduled over the course of the conference, and I am particularly looking forward to “Why Video Games Are Good For You“, presented by James Paul Gee, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin, and Henry Jenkins, PhD, from MIT. For those who do not know, Dr. Jenkins is one of the foremost academic proponents of video games in this country. I have never met him, but I did mention him in my testimony before the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee. He will also be on the double-session panel, “Game Content, Ratings, Censorship and the First Amendment“, along with the Jason Della Rocca of the IGDA and others, including two people who testified for video game censorship in the same committee and a representative of the sponsor of the anti-game legislation. It should be fun.

Other notable speakers at this conference include Greg Costikyan, newly of Manifesto Games, Chris Hecker of definition Six and Maxis, Ernest Adams of The Designer’s Notebook, and Andrew Leker of Mind Control Software. Manifesto Games is hosting a Birds of a Feather gathering on “Indie Games”, and GarageGames is also hosting a BoF.

In the midst of this conference with its weird early hours and (normal) long days, practice and qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of China will be televised live at 2:00am Friday and 1:00am Saturday, respectively. If you see me at the conference yawning, this will be why.

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