Friday, May 08, 2009

FDG 2009

I just got home from the conference Foundations of Digital Games (FDG). FDG has been running for a few years now, hosted by Microsoft, and was this year made larger than previous year, with 220 attendees.

FDG is special in a number of ways. First, it is an academic game conference that explicitly focuses on the educational aspect of games, on how we teach them, and providing a forum for talking about these issues. To me this was very valuable, since I mostly go to conferences where I present research results and listen to others presenting theirs. FDG recognizes both: that we who do research in the field of games in the academic realm also spend time teaching about it. So at FDG I got both – the latest work in my research area, expressive AI for games, AND fuel for thoughts about teaching games. Speaking about Expressive AI – there were 14 (!!) people from the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UCSC where I was a visiting scholar last year. It was absolutely wonderful to meet almost the whole lab, and get to listen at presentations of the latest work done there. (But I really missed Josh McCoy who couldn’t make it. I guess I’ll need to email him now to ask how his work on simulating social stigma progresses.)

Another aspect of FDG that I appreciate is the technical focus of the conference that still embraces research from the humanities and the social sciences. It’s like a “technical DIGRA”. For the research community this is useful because many of us need to have peer review of full papers rather than reviews only based on abstracts.
FDG might fill a needed space – a conference that is broad enough to address the most important issues in game research no matter from what discipline the results come from, but still have review processes that both can recognize what to publish, and do it in a manner that it is acceptable for our home-departments. I hope that FDG can be a kind of mix of AIIDE and DiGRA and still keep the educational focus. Jim Whitehead had a good comment about knowledge transfer in the ending session of the conference: That academics go to GDC to listen, and people in the games industry go to FDG to listen. It would be great if FDG can fill this role in the future. As an academic I go to several researches oriented conferences each year, and if I have time and can find resources I go to one industrial event: GDC and this doesn’t happen every year given the expense and the travel time. It would be useful if the industry had one conference to attend to take the pulse on the state of the art research in games. Given the constant interest in Ian’s, Jane’s and Mia’s yearly session at GDC about top ten research results of the year I think this would be interesting to many.

The brightest highlight for me was to get advice from Michael Mateas who is one of my advisors for my dissertation. (I glued myself into a place of proximity until he gave up :)). I showed him and Noah (Wardrip Fruin) the current state of the prototype Pataphysic Institute, and then went to get my swimsuit and stuff to bring ashore (yes the conference was on a cruise ship!). We had the actual meeting on the beach! If someone had told me when I was 14 that I sometime in my life would be in a situation where I worked on a dissertation about AI and game mechanics in MMOs … I wouldn’t have understood much given that I hadn’t even played an MMO back then, and only had tried programming go-to sentences on a “COMPIS” …but I would have understood “meeting at a beach in Bahamas” and I’m sure my adolescence would have been much nicer!

During the conference I took many pictures of slides and speeches – I use them afterwards to get myself a summary of the conference. I’ll put up a small photo diary here as a post.

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