Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Thoughts on the IGDA

IGDA: An organization that can do more

It has been some time since I have been able to get in contact with members of the International Game Developers Association, and the last time I actually had good conversations with IGDA's members were email exchanges back in December 2013. These email exchanges helped began my drive for wanting to pursue more writing opportunities, especially in fields relating to the Video Game Industry. For the most part, I did get valuable information from the IGDA in these emails, which I will not reveal, but overall, I came away from these email conversations a bit disappointed.

One email response pointed out that the IGDA was just a volunteer group and that they only address certain issues. I understand the foundation of this response, but at the same time it made me question how strong the IGDA truly is as an organization. Before this response, I requested that a member of the IGDA come down to my hometown area (Chillicothe, Ohio, a.k.a. Bumpkinville), and inspect the environment of this area as far as the potential for developing anything (even the most minimal) relating to game development was concerned. I believed my request was a simple one as I felt that I wasn't asking for too much. However, considering the email response to my request, it was perceived as something too demanding for whatever reason.

The IGDA annually takes surveys to monitor the progress of game developers in the Video Game Industry, and I do find these surveys to be very informative. In fact, I believe when it comes to obtaining statistics on pressing issues, the IGDA does an outstanding job. The Developer Satisfaction Survey in particular is interesting to observe.

However, when it comes to aspiring talents who want to show what they can do in fields related to the Video Game Industry, I sometimes get the feeling that even organizations like the IGDA shun these kinds of people away, myself included. I don't believe this is intentional by any means, but I do believe that sometimes the IGDA only looks at problems in the Gaming Industry from just a few isolated perspectives.

Steven Vitte's Perspective: People Like Me Are Under-represented

The above sub headline above tells the story. Let me be honest with you, the IGDA, right here and now. I don't feel like I received nearly the amount of help that I needed when I exchanged emails with you back in 2013. I felt like you didn't really take most of the questions I asked you seriously enough. Perhaps this resulted in some sort of miscommunication between us, and if that's the case then I apologize, but I believe that I received blank responses regarding my situation.

Of course, I didn't have nearly the developed freelance writing portfolio back in 2013 that I have today, but the fact remains that when someone like me asks for help, we should --you know-- actually get help?

You talk about satisfaction for game developers. Now what about satisfaction for aspiring talents who can't seem to get their foot in the door no matter how hard they try? Have you thought about surveying them? Where is their representation? Do they have a voice just like all the other groups that you cater to?

What about people who want to enter the Video Game Industry in just the lowest possible job roles, but they get the door slammed in their faces? These people have stories to tell after all. It takes some people who are in similar situations like mine around 5-10 years to ever get a serious look at a job in the Video Game Industry. Never mind the fact that our resources are limited to begin with and we can't really help that, but we get penalized for this as if we did something wrong.

"You live out in the middle of nowhere in Ohio? Oops! Too bad! We can't help you!"

"You live just outside [New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle]? Sure, we can help you! We have all sorts of people who would like to talk to you! What are you aiming to do? etc."

^ This is basically the message I receive almost every time, and to be honest, I am growing very tired of this message.

Especially when you consider the fact that we are in a day and age now where people can freely work remotely from various locations, it makes little to no sense to prevent aspiring game developers from achieving the goals that they want to pursue. You have to consider the varying situations that a person is in before you can make a judgment on how reliable this potential game developer will be. I don't think many organizations like the IGDA do a good enough job of addressing this particular issue. I'm just being honest.

The IGDA does touch on one subject that is something I am familiar with, which would be Game Accessibility. This subject mainly touches on the fact that gamers and game developers who have various disabilities, whether physical or mental, should be given platforms to access games. People associated with IGDA's Game Accessibility initiative advocate and promote the idea that people who have conditions like autism, ADHD and Bipolar Syndrome can be involved in a public video game experience.

While I believe that the IGDA has made some strides in giving disabled gamers opportunities to learn more about game development and about the business of the Video Game Industry, I think that the IGDA could still do more. I haven't yet seen an officially set in stone group or organization that advocates disabled gamers in ways that they, the disabled gamers, particularly prefer. There are some employees in the Video Game Industry today who are disabled, but we haven't received specific numbers.

In my case, and I have stated this before on this blog and in another blog I run, I have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. I have a mental disability and I have certain needs to be addressed. I would like to think that the Video Game Industry would be more courteous in properly listening to what I have to say about issues related to Game Accessibility, but to be honest with you, IGDA and blog readers, I'm not sure at this point

In general, I ask certain questions on what I need to do as an aspiring game writer to officially join the Video Game Industry in some capacity, regardless of what the job title is, and I always seem to get this feeling that I'm intentionally shunned away. I feel like my opinions on job seeking in the Video Game Industry fall on deaf ears, like my opinions don't matter to gaming organizations in a sense.

I shouldn't be getting this feeling from an organization that stands on this platform of wanting to help people continue their pursuits of becoming involved with the Video Game Industry. The IGDA is a volunteer organization, and I understand that, but that shouldn't excuse you from doing everything in your power to address issues that could become more pressing over time.

Money: A resource I'm struggling to obtain

Here is my issue. I am part of the poor class. I have hardly any money. I am struggling to make money. I don't have a support group of any kind. I have tried my best to network with other people associated with the Video Game Industry, only to have some of them not keep contact with me. 

I am only one part of a game development team in theory. I am only a writer. I don't have computer programming skills. I don't yet have QA (Quality Assurance) experience, but I want to acquire it. I want to lend my voice to video games as a voice actor, even in a minimal capacity. I don't have official voice acting experience, but again, I want to acquire it. I have just completed some online college courses that I think should be noteworthy by the powers-that-be in the Video Game Industry.

Can the IGDA address this issue? I believe they are 100% capable of addressing this issue, but will they? That's my question to them.

Since January 2014 I haven't received a single email from an IGDA representative. Not even one. Not even a short one-liner email that says "Hey Steven, how are you doing? What have you been up to?" The IGDA has my email address and they can contact me at any time. I suggest that this year, and going forward into the future, the IGDA and the Video Game Industry as a whole starts taking me more seriously, because I'm not one to just sweep issues under the rug.

In summary, I believe the IGDA has done some great things for the Video Game Industry. I believe they have addressed some issues that needed to be addressed. I believe they mean well and they certainly have a solid structure that allows them to operate as a well-oiled machine. However, I also believe in some areas they could be doing more, and it amazes me why they haven't addressed issues that relate to some of the things that I mentioned here. I surely hope that situations like mine (and others out there) will be addressed soon.

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