Below are all our talks and panels for this year’s events.
Understanding Player Dynamics
Seth S. Smith (He/Him)
Player Dynamics can be difficult to understand but it is a critical part of designing games. Seth Smith, Senior Game Designer on VALORANT’s Social and Player Dynamics team will provide the audience with a baseline understanding to help the audience grasp the discipline of Player Dynamics and the role it plays not just in gaming but across industries. Player Dynamics aims to create environments that foster and encourage healthy play and inclusive gaming culture. If we continue to focus on this work, it can help drive change, and, as an industry, help create communities where players can thrive.
Crowdfunding Real Talk: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Dani Lalonders (She/They), Son M. (She/They), Alex (They/Them)
Despite more game funding options than ever, many marginalized devs find themselves relying on crowdfunding over and over again. In this talk, 3 developers with successful crowdfunding campaigns tell it all: why they chose that route, what it took to get funded and what happened AFTER the campaigns ended!
Everything's a Dating Sim: How Relationships Drive Player Engagement and Meaning
Michael Yichao (He/Him)
Harness the power of horny and come hear why every game either *is* a dating sim or *should be* a dating sim in this (surprisingly PG) talk. Yichao highlights the power of character and player relationships in games and takes a journey across past and present titles and IP's he's worked on, from Magic: the Gathering to League of Legends and beyond.
The State Of BIPOC VO In Gaming
Eli Harris (He/Him)
My talk will give attendees some insight on the grind of VO and what goes on behind the scenes of games and the work and preparation it takes to give a voice to match the visuals.
Punch Feel Good: How to Design Satisfying Action Games
Alex Rushdy (He/Him)
Action games are some of the most prevalent and popular video games of all time, but the design and creation of action games is highly technical and takes years to learn and understand. In this talk, Alex Rushdy discusses his experiences making action games (including the critically acclaimed Dawn of the Monsters) and offers some insights and tips that he learned throughout the process. From Space Invaders to Mario Bros to Bayonetta, this talk offers practical advice applicable to any and all action-based video games.
3C's of Inclusive Design that make me feel like the Hero of my Story
Haider CW (He/Him)
Learn about Character, Companions & Combos the 3C's of Inclusive Design. Learn how both form & function can work well together to design each C.
See examples from BioWare games like DragonAge & Mass Effect; that made the speaker feel like the Hero of their Story. We hope they make you feel like the Hero of yours...
Yip Yip! Building the Team for Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game!
Mark Diaz Truman (He/Him)
In late 2020, Magpie Games was awarded the license to make a tabletop roleplaying game for Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. While we were thrilled to jump into designing a game based on some of our favorite animated series, we knew we needed to bring more Asian and Indigenous voices to the process! In this short talk, Magpie Games CEO Mark Diaz Truman will share how the team came together to make Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game the most successful tabletop roleplaying game of all time on Kickstarter, raising more than $10 million!
Playing With Touch and Intimacy
Claire Kwong (She/Her)
Claire Kwong makes physical games about touch and intimacy. She’ll talk about the process of developing and exhibiting 3 games: Chromapose, a mobile game that makes people dance together with their phones; Interpose, a mobile game where you dance face to face with a partner; and Light Touches Skin, a large scale installation that uses projection to move peoples’ bodies. These games let people explore and transgress social boundaries.
Mental Illness and Horror Games: Avoiding Stigma and Stereotype
It’s no secret that horror media likes to use the stereotypes of mental illness to make something feel darker and scarier. Horror games are no exception. This talk will look at games that got it right, like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, games that got it horribly wrong, like Outlast, and answer the question: How do we avoid stereotypes, poor representation, and stigmatization when writing horror?
Lessons from a Million TikTok Views in Two Weeks
Jared Tan (He/Him)
You’ve heard that you should be using TikTok to market your games. Maybe you’ve even tried a few posts to varying degrees of success. Jared launched an indie game account to a million views in their first two weeks. Since then, he’s surveyed several other developers for the best tips to get the algorithm working in your favor. Which metrics drive the most views? How do you make viral videos? What should you know before running a campaign? Jared tries to answer these questions with a data-driven approach so your game can get seen on TikTok.
Put Yourself In A Box? (Categorizing Your Game)
Son M. (She/They)
A discussion on the use of categories and genres in pitching and marketing your game to potential publishers and audiences. Words have power, but what does that even mean when faced with options of similar but distinct classifications.
It’s Not About You: Beyond the Hero’s Journey
Jen Coster (She/Her)
Stories influence how we view and engage with the world. Since video games necessarily center one person – the player – it’s all too easy to fall back on the hero’s journey as the default narrative structure. As we increasingly recognize the importance of collectivism and community over the actions of a lone hero, it’s time to explore a different narrative framework for the stories that we want to tell.
Developing Cooler PCG Systems based on Real-Time Player Input
M Charity (They/Them)
Procedural Content Generation (PCG) systems have become more and more prevalent in game design and development - especially in the indie game community - as seen in popular games such as No Man’s Sky, Minecraft, Hades, Spelunky, The Binding of Issac, and so many others. The Game and AI research community has also worked on exploring and developing more complex PCG systems that could be incorporated into these games and have a more influential impact on the player experience. But these systems are hidden behind preset algorithms and templates that the player has no impact on.
What if there could be a way the player’s decisions and gameplay would influence how the PCG system makes levels and other content that can adapt in real-time? This talk will demonstrate how to incorporate more engaging PCG systems that interact and learn from the player in real-time on various platforms - including social media, level editors, and games themselves.
Chillers, Thrillers, Killers: How a Horror Writer Brings Scene-Craft Into Games
Emmett Nahil (He/Him)
Games with enduring narratives aren’t tied together by lengthy cutscenes, dense monologues, or dramatic plot reveals: they’re all tied together by meaningfully crafted scenes. In this talk with horror writer and narrative director Emmett Nahil (Perfect Garbage Studios), dissect elements of games like Control, Blasphemous, Kentucky Route Zero, Resident Evil, Inscryption, and more, as we learn how to pull in players and craft genre-savvy scenes in order to develop game narratives that will last.
Massive Damage: Creative Storytelling through Numbers in RPG Combat Systems
Swarnava Banerjee (He/They)
Are you working on a digital RPG? Does it have a Combat System? You may have run into spots where Damage Numbers don't quite work out: regular battles feel too long to be engaging, boss battles feel too quick to be impactful. If Combat is where your player will spend much of their time: you'll want to make sure you are getting most mileage from it.
This talk is focused on improving your Damage Numbers for better player guidance and storytelling potential. We will cover tools to help you with this process and even a small workshop where we build a Combat encounter using these principles.
Adaptations: can marginalization/queerness translate?
Hannah Elbaggari (She/Her), Kawika Guillermo (He/They)
How can literary stories translate into games? How can the ideas from books about games be adapted into practices of game making? This talk will explore these questions in making Stamped: an anti-travel game, an adaptation of the 2018 award-winning novel Stamped: an anti-travel novel, as well as the 2020 book, Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games (all by the same author). The result is a visual novel story about marginalized North American youth traveling and living in Asia, who confront overlapping histories of colonization, war, genocide, and tourism.
Levels and Rhymes: Rap Mechanics in Video Games
Bryan Dilligard (He/Him), Juan Morales-Rocha (He/Him)
In this GDoCExpo 2022 talk, designers from No Static Games, Juan Morales-Rocha and Bryan Dilligard II, discuss their research for attempting to answer the question: “How do we bring rap into a playable system?”. There has been a emergence of rap inspired video games in the past few years, but the analysis of how they represent rap in a playable space is sparse. How have these games created mechanics inspired by rap? How can designers further advance rap mechanics in future games?
Post Play Story Dynamics
Shawn Pierre (He/Him)
Post Play Story Dynamics an exploration in design and dynamics of a game and its connection to the greater community, an exploration guided by the question: “What stories do I want players to tell each other when they're done?”
We normally cannot control the discourse our game creates, but there’s a lot that we can do to influence how a game lives on after us. This talk will discuss examples of games that have different levels of Post Play Story Dynamics and how one can achieve the level that might be best for the experience they are crafting.
The Bridge Between The World And A Game Developer
Ron Jones (He/Him)
In this talk, you'll hear a breakdown of how one man has tried to survive in the evolving indie game industry. Ron Jones is the founder and CEO of The Indie Cluster and has been pooling resources and promoting indies for a decade. He'll lay out tools and strategies on getting your game in front of customers. He'll also dissect the game market to isolate the direction it needs to grow in. With current trends and the lack of visibility, Ron has been able to bridge creators to opportunities in a way publishers don't. Check out the gems being dropped as we invite you to our network of success.
Know Your Music Copy Rights: Work-for-hire vs. Licenses
Saphya Council (She/Her)
An artist’s biggest asset is their work. Starting with an introduction to copyright law in the music context, this talk walks through sample clauses from real work-for-hire contracts and license agreements, and compares the copyright interests in each. This talk also discusses the case brought by Halo composers Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori against Microsoft, for unclaimed royalties from their work on the Halo series soundtrack.
The Accidental Afrofuturist
Nate Tannis (He/Him)
In the throws of developing my studio VIVIDBLUE LTD's first game, Duskwitch, I learned how nothing exists in a contextless vacuum. And by reflecting on why I'm telling the stories I want to tell, I learned how how I was participating a continuity of Black speculative fiction storytelling and afrofuturism. And with that, I learned more about my relationship with my own Black identity and what that means for developing strong values for my studio.
Black Narradevs: Exploring Relationships In A World of Our Own
Dani Dee (She/They), Geneva Hayward (Them/Them), Dani Lalonders (She/They)
Hosted by Dani Dee, lead developer of High Elo Girls, and joined by Validate: Struggling Singles In Your Area lead developer Dani Lalonders, Belle Automata lead developer owl., and Skate & Date lead developer Geneva, we will discuss how each of our games explore themes of existentialism, self-actualization, and evolving identity through relationships formed in unique gameworlds built by us, for us.
Handheld Mobile AR Interaction Design and Future Considerations
Jasmine Roberts (She/Her)
Although augmented reality (AR) glasses are anticipated, mobile phones are still the most accessible hardware device. A major obstacle in han held AR is touch screen interaction; however, it is one of the common interaction and direct manipulation methods. Given the screen real estate, it is difficult to interact with virtual objects in handheld AR scene. These limitations impede content creation and affect usability. Since current data needed for AR is positional and location-based, one might look toward existing sources to provide more unobtrusive user interactions than what is currently offered and reimagine how the mobile phone fits within the larger interaction ecosystem.
Introducing Chaos: Let's Build Some Procedural Narrative Systems
Sherveen Uduwana (He/Him)
When we tell stories procedurally, meaning with elements of randomness, we get to surprise ourselves as storytellers. By stepping back and allowing the seams of our narratives to blur, our stories can take on wholly new hues and shades. But how do we introduce chaos to our narratives without building chaotic, unwieldy systems? Let's figure that out by building some!
In this talk, Sherveen Uduwana breaks down how to build procedural narrative systems to be as painless as possible, looking at both character-driven & event-driven approaches found in games like Hades and Wildermyth, respectively.
The Boss Monster Pipeline: Developing Fun F2P Encounters
Anthony Murray (He/Him)
Boss fights are often keystone experiences that mark important moments in a larger video game journey. In Dauntless, every fight is a boss fight and the only way to continuously deliver new encounters is to do it as a team.
Join Anthony as he walks through through the process of multi-disciplinary encounter design on a live-service game, sharing personal insights into leading a team and the ways teams can come together to create exciting multiplayer PvE encounters by Winning Together.
How to Catch a Falling Star
Adelle Lin (She/They)
Building a game in physical space can be complex and requires many considerations - interactions, scale, narrative, mechanics, environment, installation, accessibility and more. In this talk, Adelle breaks down their latest game - a multiplayer immersive XR installation called Star Catcher - from these various perspectives. Learn about the considerations of these various elements from the perspective of Star Catcher and apply them to balance your own games.
Semiotic NPC Design: Mapping Symbols Of Identity
Chantal Ryan (She/Her)
Spoken by a trained anthropologist who specialises in identity development, semiotic NPC Design: Mapping Symbols of Identity outlines how narrative designers and game developers can utilise the linguistic philosophical field of semiotics - that is, how meaning is communicated through symbolism - in order to directly translate human experience into programmatic representation. Attendees will learn thought strategies for building NPC design frameworks, with a particular eye to procedurally generated NPC design.
Building meaningful professional relationships
Rucha Muley (She/Her)
This session explores ways to have successful in-person networking experiences. It also delves into the nuances of building a robust support system in one's professional world. Through this session, I hope to motivate the attendees to embark on a journey towards symbiotic, fulfilling professional relationships.
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing But I’m Doing a Lot
Marcela Huerta (Any pronouns)
Breaking into games is intimidating even when you’ve got years of training, but how do you make a path for yourself when you don’t come from a games background? More importantly, how do you figure out what you're doing once you're in?!
In this talk, Marcela Huerta (Community Director, KO_OP) will show you how embracing your unique history, skills, and special interests can help you find peace in the chaos of the internet and lead to a more rewarding, singular community and marketing strategy for your games, using Goodbye Volcano High as a case study.
Plan the Divorce First: Business In Games
Muse en Lystrala (She/They)
Entrepreneurship and business play a critical role in the success of any game, especially for solo developers and small teams - but it can be overwhelming to know where to begin in developing these skills. In "Plan the Divorce First," Muse en Lystrala, an entrepreneur of seventeen years and a game dev for four, provides a roadmap for business skills development for both aspiring and working devs of color as well as how to avoid pitfalls in business.
Hunting with Hits: Tempo Slaying Monsters in Harmony
Chase Bethea (He/Him)
When it comes to rhythm games, pushing momentum is always the focus of progression. The challenge is defining a fresh, direct and correct approach to the composition while being cognizant of battle design limitations. This talk will demonstrate the creation and implementation of an interactive score for a Hunting RPG with rhythm combat mechanics.
Maximizing OST Revenue: Leads and Composers This is for You
Neha Patel (She/Her)
This talk aims to shed light on how to maximize revenue from OST sales, for both studio leads and composers. It will give tips and tricks on collecting passive revenue, marketing prior to release, common pitfalls and finally, discuss soundtrack sales via Steamworks. The speaker’s goal is to share knowledge so that both composers and non composers can gain an awareness on releasing an OST with maximized profitability.
New Game+: Directing People, Not Products
Shana T Bryant (She/Her)
Now that the pandemic is officially “endemic,” how do we brave a new path of development that centers people, not projects?
New Game+ continues the series of talks about #SustainableGameDevelopment. We will explore a new norm of game dev that puts people at the center of the process. We will learn how to build systems that don’t pit people outcomes against project outcomes.
This talk builds on the foundation laid by 2020’s No More Heroes: How Game Development Heroics are Killing Us and 2021’s Do a Barrel Roll!: A New Normal for Game Devs and Game Development.
Inclusive Character Creator: An Exploration of Inclusive Design Principles for Character Creators
Michelle Ma (She/Her)
Inclusive Character Creator is speculative design research that seeks to address some of the long standing issues of sexism, racism, sizeism, and ableism prevalent in most 3D character creators in interactive media. This project centers on the experience of players who engage with character creators and avatar makers in order to express their physical identity. This talk will cover prior work in this area as well as the design and production of an interactive demo. Finally, this talk shares a summative checklist of inclusive design principles for character creation.
Unionization and Diversity in the Game Industry
Various speakers from Game Workers of Southern California
In the past year, we've seen game developers band together in combating the crunch, harassment, discrimination, and job insecurity that have plagued the game industry for decades. They're organizing into labor unions and wielding collective worker power against injustices that have been left unchecked for too long!
Learn what labor unions are, their history, and what they mean for developers of color in their fight for inclusion and representation in games!
Let’s Build Awesome Studio Cultures
Derek Kwan (He/Him)
Studio culture will make or break teams; therefore, we all play a role in creating and sustaining healthy studio cultures.
As team members who lack the power and authority to enact systemic change, what can we do to make our workplaces better? What power might we exercise? What must we learn from the hardship and trauma of what has come before to make our futures better?
Crucially, studio leaders are critical enablers for how culture might influence an awesome vs. toxic environment. Given the recent controversy around indie studio leads who purported to—but ultimately failed in—creating safe harbours from the abuses endemic to the industry, there is a clear disconnect between the espoused values of leadership and subsequent reality.
The research is clear: toxic workplace cultures destroy teams, result in worse products, and harm the industry as a whole. It is clear that we need to level up our culture so that the next generation of game developers can be inducted into a healthy and happy industry.
Stay tuned as we continue to announce more games and speakers throughout the summer!