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The Board dictates the IGDA's agenda, and that agenda is then carried out by the Executive Director. Unfortunately, strong evidence exists that the Board isn't particularly interested in defending its stated mission. After all, where was the IGDA when Activision/Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick advocated an "atmosphere of skepticism, pessimism and fear" as the ideal state for his developers? That should have evoked a blistering condemnation, and did from pretty much every corner of the industry... except the IGDA. If the Association is to be the empowered guardian of the industry's people, then its Board members have a responsibility to act accordingly, even if it means acting against their personal best interests. If they cannot, they should resign, or not run in the first place.
The Board election process is inherently broken. Members barely know who they're voting for or what candidates believe. Historically, individuals run for the Board by announcing their intention to do so and providing a statement and photo for the website. Then some fraction of the membership votes, setting the direction of the IGDA based on a blurry picture and 200 words. In some cases, including Langdell's, candidate statements have included dramatic hyperbole or out-and-out falsehoods regarding previous accomplishments.
Orbus Gameworks President Darius Kazemi is trying something new: The unapologetic reformer is aggressively campaigning for the Board with podcasts, videos and a regularly updated blog. His goal, aside from getting elected, is to educate the membership about his views and what he feels the IGDA needs to do to become relevant for the rank and file. While Kazemi's approach need not be a mandate, candidacy communication requirements should surely be reevaluated and made far more stringent.
Beyond the campaign trail, technology can enhance Board transparency. All but closed-door meetings should be distributed via podcasts, and Board-hosted webinars, including Q&A sessions with members, should be held monthly. Compared to the pricey reforms and services I proposed earlier, this stuff is practically free, and it's frankly embarrassing that such a high-tech society doesn't already employ it.
I often say that this industry is a business in the business of staying in business. But it is also a creative and dedicated community of passionate artists and equally passionate external support systems. Its people deserve representation and encouragement. Reform can be fractious, but when considered against the alternative - taking no action and allowing the IGDA to flounder, unable to achieve the dream of its own purpose - change is the only way to go.
Matthew Sakey is a freelance games writer and analyst. He has written the monthly Culture Clash column for the IGDA website since 2003, and also maintains the gaming and entertainment website Tap-Repeatedly, where he will continue this article with further thoughts on IGDA reform. Reach him at email@example.com.