Sep 23–27, 2021

Get advice from independent creators and industry veterans.

Speakers at this year's event will cover a wide variety of topics including game art, compelling game design, marketing, and sound design. This year’s talk formats include microtalks, full-length presentations, panels, and interviews with game creators of color.

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Attend for as low as $20! Need-based tickets are available — just apply using this form.

Speakers

Below are all our talks and panels for this year’s events. Need the exact timing for a session?

See the full schedule
The End of Crunch

Muse en Lystrala (she/her, they/them)

How many times have you heard "we gotta crunch?" Muse en Lystrala's talk "The End of Crunch will help you - and your managers - understand why this phrase is so dangerous, and how we can work towards never having to hear it again.

Design Goodwill: Establishing trust in your game's opening minutes

Sherveen Uduwana (he/him)

Finding Your Footing as a Content Creator

Lexi "Pizza_Yeti" (she/her)

In this talk, Lexi will provide a look into what it takes to find the path that you will take in order to establish yourself as a content creator. We will cover choosing what kind of content you would like to make, reflecting on your passions, building the community you want, finding your people, and taking care of yourself.

The Challenges of Managing a remote team working on a live VR product

Ed Lago (he/him)

Ed Lago, Senior Producer, Cloudhead Games, discusses what it was like leading the team behind award-winning Pistol Whip through a year of remote development while simultaneously solving the problems presented by a global pandemic. Learn the pros and cons of remote live VR development, some tools and best practices that work, some things that didn’t, and how a hybrid studio model can actually improve efficiency and productivity.

Your Virtual Reality Xperience

Jonathan Williams (he/him)

Looking to break into the XR industry?  This talk will cover education, building relationships, building teams, diversity, virtual worlds and opportunities in the XR space and will have bleed into other tech area.

Top Game Trailer Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Derek Lieu (he/him)

"Making a game trailer is a unique skill that even seasoned video editors can have trouble with due to the very specific needs of their audience. This talk highlights the most common pitfalls of inexperienced game trailer makers, and how to fix them to make the trailer show the game off in its best light.

Derek Lieu is a professional game trailer editor who has worked on games such as Half-Life: Alyx, Spelunky 2, Noita, Subnautica, Dead Cells, Firewatch, Katana ZERO and much more. He loves making game trailers and teaching people how to make their own!"

Designing Internal Worlds

Chella Ramanan (she/her)

"Making a game trailer is a unique skill that even seasoned video editors can have trouble with due to the very specific needs of their audience. This talk highlights the most common pitfalls of inexperienced game trailer makers, and how to fix them to make the trailer show the game off in its best light.

Derek Lieu is a professional game trailer editor who has worked on games such as Half-Life: Alyx, Spelunky 2, Noita, Subnautica, Dead Cells, Firewatch, Katana ZERO and much more. He loves making game trailers and teaching people how to make their own!"

I Love Procedural Generation (And So Should You!)

Tyriq Plummer (he/him)

"In this talk, Tyriq presents a broad view of procedural generation as applied to games and the creative process, and looks at some of the ways it has influenced his own work in games and art. He looks at things like level generation, text generation, and what it means for an algorithm to have ""personality"".

Procedural generation has been a part of games for many, many years now, but new spaces are still being delved and defined - let's explore what that means for games, and how procedural generation can be used to give your works a life of their own!"

SUPER IS HOT: Making Games By Breaking & Combining Others

Younès Rabii (they/them)

Crossovers fanarts such as "Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright", can become so popular that they actually bring forth their own games. In this talk, Younès guides you through the development of "SUPER IS HOT": a crossover between the universally acclaimed games Baba is You and SUPERHOT. From the design challenges of mixing two games together to handling its reception by diverse audiences, come learn how making a crossover game can help you grow as a game developer. (May contain traces of time manipulation GIFs)

Entering the industry for the first time.

Dani Lalonders (she/they)

One year in the industry, a talk by Dani Lalonders. Entering the industry for the first time is quite terrifying if you don't know where to start. Dani Lalonders is here to help. In this talk, she will be going into detail of the things she wish she learned before entering the industry. How she launched her first indie game and studio and a recap of her career in one year.

10 Lessons from 10 Years in Game Development

Joe Palmer (he/him)

This talk will cover 10 crucial game development lessons learned over 10 years working at Iron Galaxy Studios as a Software Engineer. After shipping over 10 titles in those 10 years, the lessons shared in this talk are applicable to everyone regardless of experience in the industry, and cover various topics such as communication, career growth, self-care, and mentoring.

Feels Like Home: Introducing a Diverse Setting to the World

Mohammad Fahmi (he/him)

To many of us, visiting a country like Japan or the United States for the first time, might feel natural. Everything feels like home, not because we've been there before, but because of how we've been exposed to the places through many forms of media, including video games. In this talk, Mohammad Fahmi will explain how his team is trying to achieve the same feeling by introducing their home, Jakarta, Indonesia, through the world with an indie game they're working on.

Applying Fortune 500 Project Management to Your Board Game Project

Alex Lu (he/him)

"Major international companies spend hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars to get the work done. What methods, disciplines, and most importantly actions can you take from projects on such the enterprise scale towards your passion project: your game?

Alex Lu, a 15-year program manager for Cisco, eBay, PayPal, and other clients, will discuss his own application of project management discipline towards the board game: Dogs BOND which was successfully funded on Kickstarter in September of 2020, and is expected to ship to backers in late summer of 2021. "

Cooperating as Game Worker Cooperatives

Alex A.K. (they/them), Eva-Léa Longue Ngambi (she/her), Francesca Esquenazi (she/her)

"The worker cooperative is a little known business model in games, focused on workers' rights and democratic management, working against the current AAA flow of the industry.
In this talk, Alex (Soft Not Weak), Eva (Lucid Tales) and Frani (Future Club) share their experiences as founders and members of game worker co-ops and give a crash course on what worker cooperatives are, why you should consider this model for your own studio and how FWGS (Federation of Worker-Owned Game Studios) is here to help."

Production is Self Care

Production is self care. Shipping a video game take a monumental amount of work and planning, but often game developers think planning is impossible because of how iterative game development is. This talk is designed to convince folks that production is not only necessary, but can enable experimental & iterative game development at all scales. By exploring KO_OP's 9 year history this talk will explain both the practical and mental benefits of production practices, and de-misty how to get started being a better producer.

Saleem Dabbous (he/him)

Finding Your Voice: Developing Your Brand (in Tabletop)

Banana Chan (she/they), Ella Ampongan (she/her), Yeonsoo Julian Kim (they/she), Jeeyon Shim (she/they), Victoria Caña (she/they)

Join Clio Yun-su Davis, Jeeyon Shim, Victoria Caña, Ella Galang Amongan and Banana Chan as they discuss how they developed their branding in tabletop gaming. From working as a content creator to choosing and working on projects that best fit your voice, each of these creators will be describing what worked for them and how you can take their tips and put them into action.

Bad Media has Better Ideas

Cam Perry (they/them)

Designing games is hard, and designing good games is even harder. Analyzing media that is successful can only take designers so far in understanding why, how and what made it work. This talk will explore and analyze "bad media" such as "Dollal Simulator" and "Willy's Wonderland" to look for what went well, what went poorly, and what can be learned from it.

Racial Bias, Reverse Heredity and the Parents of Custom Avatars

Kayode Ceiriog Shonibare-Lewis (he/him)

"In this talk I will explore the impact design bias can have on games with avatar customization. I will focus on the relationship between in-game parents and mixed race identity in Pokémon, Fallout and South Park: The Fractured but Whole. I will explore the ways in-game parents are presented in these games and the implications this can have on the perceived racial identity of the avatar. The perspectives on these games will be informed by my positionality as white British/Black African mixed race game designer and player.
In games with avatar customization, bias towards white characters and white features tends to be persistent. Although this is getting better, avatar customization tools often present a white character as the default and have few, if any, options for non-white features and hairstyles. Despite providing options to play as orcs, elves and humanoid cattle, it took over 15 years for the popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, to add options to create non-white human characters. Conceptually, avatar customization is perfectly suited to allow for individual player representation and personal expression, yet minority players are often left with limited possibilities for self-representation.
After the player has finished creating their avatar and steps out into the game world, it is rare for a game to mention the avatar’s race. Rather this tends to be left to the player’s own interpretation. In South Park: The Fractured but Whole skin tone is satirically presented as the game’s difficulty, darker tones correlating with higher difficulty. This has no real impact on the difficulty, but it does make changes to few lines of dialogue and the colour of the player’s in-game parents.
The inclusion of in-game parents in a game with avatar customization introduces a design problem: What do the parents look like? In the case of South Park: The Fractured but Whole, both parents are rendered with the same skin tone as the avatar in a sort of reverse heredity. Although not the only approach seen in games, this solution is common. However, this approach works on the assumption that both parents share the same colour, the same race, as their children. This assumption ignores the experience and identities of mixed race and adopted players, creating a potentially jarring experience after a player has thought they created an avatar of themselves only to discover that not to be the case upon meeting the in-game parents.
This highlights some unintended impacts that design decisions can have on self-representation in games with custom avatars. In the same way our racial identity isn’t solely defined by the tone of our skin or kink of our hair, the race signifiers of a character don’t stop at the character creation screen.
The talk will end with some suggestions for how to include mixed race identities in games with the parents of custom avatars as well as an invitation for developers to consider how their system may be unintentionally excluding player identities."

MAKE MORE ANIME SHIT

Sisi Jiang (they/them)

Staying Sane Making Games While Everything is On Fire

Davionne Gooden (he/him)

Making video games is hard! Making video games as a solo developer is even harder. But making video games as a solo developer during a global pandemic and extreme social unrest? It's almost impossible - keyword: almost. In this talk, Davionne Gooden will share his experience developing She Dreams Elsewhere during the mess that was 2020, and how he kept both his game and mental health in check throughout it.

The Cost of Game Audio - For Freelancers and Clients

Neha Patel (she/her), Hassan DuRant (he/him), Steph Nguyen (she/her), Calbert Warner (he/him)

This panel aims to demystify the business side of game audio--both for audio professionals and the people who hire them. The panelists openly discuss the true cost of game audio and explore common pitfalls that contribute to unsustainable work and life environments. The panelists cover classic contract negotiation woes (“What’s your rate?” “Well, what’s your budget?)” as well prevalent industry issues including undercutting and unpaid work. This panel shares perspectives of both freelancers, hiring teams, and suggests solutions to ensure accessibility and inclusion for both parties.

Treachery in Beatdown City: A Postmortem

Shawn Alexander Allen (he/they)

This talk will be about how Treachery in Beatdown City went from pixel art on a blog to a genre redefining RPG fighting game. Covering roughly 10 years, Shawn, the project leader, will give a brutally honest dive into all of the good, the bad, and the ugly of what a long term project looks like, covering shifting game design goals, making something you love despite the trends, making double edged deals, when team familiarity breeds contempt, pursuing unique marketing opportunities, how to navigate the industry to benefit your project, and what to do/what not to do when launching your game.

The Value of Vision - Creating Socially Conscious Games

Sydney Adams (she/her)

Afrofuturism is Now! Well.. it could be

Junae Benne (she/her)

Industry Experience: Succeeding When You’re New & Don’t Have Any

Matthew Glenn (he/him)

Why There's No Such Thing as Black Mechanics

Richard (KirbyKid) Terrell (he/him)

How many sounds do I need for my game?  (How to think like a sound designer)

Roc Lee (he/him)

Creating a Kick Ass Game Store Page!

Joe Tirado (he/him)

hell is a teenage girl: examining the representation of teenage girls in video games

Bahiyya Khan (she/her)

Hype Train!: Twitch Affiliate in 30 Days

Asia Hoe (she/her)

Beating the Sunken Cost Fallacy and Choosing a Great Project

Jose Abalos (he/him)

Bad Community Management Advice

Victoria Tran (she/her)

The Tea of Starting My Own Games Studio

Aubrey Jane Scott (she/her)

MAKE YOUR GAME IN 10 MINUTES OR LESS

Xalavier Nelson Jr. (he/him)

From Past Experience to Future Value: Broadening Pathways into Gaming

Gabriela Ponce Curlango (she/her)

Hacking Barriers to Diversity with Visuals Novel and Speculative Sci Fi

Kai Little-White (she/her)

Design Your Life: Sustainability while Developing Games From Anywhere

John R. Diaz (he/him)

Do a barrel roll! A New Normal for Game Devs & Game Development

Shana T Bryant (she/her)

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Speaker FAQ

Can I still apply to speak?

We understand your enthusiasm, but applications have closed and we do not accept late submissions. We receive hundreds of on-time applications every year. Make sure to follow us across the internet so you can be kept in the loop for when submissions open in the future.

I applied to speak. When will I hear back?

You’ll know if we’ve accepted or declined your submission by the end of July (August at latest). If accepted, you’ll be onboarded in time for our event in late September.

I’m not a game developer. Should I still watch the talks?

Definitely! While you may not be a game creator, you will learn about the work that goes into new and upcoming games. If you’re a fan of gaming and enjoy indie games, you will probably come away from our event with several new favorites.

I'm not a person of color. Can I attend?

Yes, you are very welcome to buy a ticket and celebrate game creators of color with us!

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

Game Devs of Color Expo is an event for games professionals, although our content can be enjoyed by other groups as well. While we talk about games, this is an event for adults. Since this is an event for adults, adult content may be present or referenced. This includes, but is not limited to, discussions and depictions of sexuality. Please ensure that people under 18 are in the company of an adult.