Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup
Change We Can Believe In

Matthew Sakey | 13 Oct 2009 11:50
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More relevant to the IGDA is the structure of membership, most significantly, doing away with so-called "studio affiliations," in which studios or publishers purchase bulk memberships for their entire staff. This can be very, very risky, Adams points out. "There was no concept of publishers as members when I set [IGDA] up, and the idea of corporate members is complete wrongthink for a professional society." Can we get a "hell yes"?

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The idea of bulk memberships is well meaning; as Caulfield notes, it's "a way for studios to show they care about the professional lives of their team. ... I have to commend studio heads willing to support their staff with membership." According to the bylaws, no corporation can be a member of the IGDA - only "natural persons" - but since the company hands over the check for an entire bloc, that's basically the reality. Many natural persons within these groups never know they have a membership, and thus are never educated about what is available to them as members. Group affiliation is harmful to the Association, reducing the need for individuals to join and giving rise to suspicion about corporate control over IGDA objectives.

Some have argued that non-developers, or at least anyone in publishing, should be excluded entirely. That's also wrongthink. Individuals working on the publishing side should be welcome to join, as should journalists, analysts, scholars and others who are part of the games industry. Many developers are famously xenophobic and fiercely opposed on principle to anyone who hasn't "shipped a game," often dismissing out of hand the views of such people. It's time we recognize game development is an ecosystem, not an isolated job description, and many who don't directly make games nonetheless have value to contribute. The industry will be stronger as a self-supportive, collaborative entity than as a factionalized pissing contest.

Waterboarding

Finally, we come to the Board of Directors. IGDA reform begins at the top, and it would be impossible to discuss the Association without referring to the recent furor over former Board member Tim Langdell, who resigned on August 31 after a firestorm regarding his trademark battle with indie developer Mobigame.

You don't take an oath when you take a seat on the Board, and you shouldn't. But any Director must also recognize that there is inherent risk of conflict when serving two or more masters, one of whom is an association with the stated mission of "improving developers' lives through community, professional development and advocacy." Langdell's opponents didn't care whether his claim was legally valid; they viewed his actions against Mobigame as inappropriate in the context of his role as a Director. Had Langdell resigned from the Board before pursuing Mobigame, there would have been no justification for complaint.

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