Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Shadows of the Colossus

Erin Hoffman | 27 Feb 2007 11:01
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Free Range Game Development
The alchemy of youthful energy, can-do attitude and passion for game development also makes the CA program a breeding ground for game innovation. "I've gotten in the best discussions about games, game design, making games, etc. It's a group charged with creativity, who all are there because they want to be in the industry (or are already there)," Harlick says.

Maurine Starkey, a veteran industry artist and longtime friend of the CA program, adds, "From as far back as the Westwood days, I've always liked being around energetic and creative minds. Being a CA puts me into a type of incubator." And that incubator, whether it created or simply drew excellence to it, has seen a series of IGF finalists and, in 2004, winners: Savage, winner of the Technical Excellence, Audience and Seamus McNally Grand Prize awards, had two CAs on its staff, and finalist group Flashbang Studios was also composed of CAs that year. The following year, another CA team made the finalist list.

The persistent performance of CAs as independent developers is, again, no coincidence. The program's open atmosphere, spirit of kinship and intense pursuit of excellence all lend themselves to a homegrown attitude toward gaming and game development that arguably preserves a piece of the soul of the industry.

Scaling the Colossus
Every year the GDC continues to grow, and now, as in its early days, it has once more outgrown its home. There are mixed responses from long-time conference attendees to the move from the San Jose Convention Center to the Moscone in San Francisco, but the simple fact was the conference had grown too big for the SJCC to handle. And now, with the Expo floor more than doubling in size, some are calling it "G3."

The CA program also continues to grow, though not in proportion with its popularity. Over 900 hopefuls applied for just under 300 CA positions this year, a number up from 600 applicants in 2005. Despite its growing size and the increased challenge of a larger, busier conference, the CAs remain undaunted. "We know that whatever challenge comes, we'll rise to meet it," Hughes says.

This sense of positive energy, which for many embraces the core of gaming and game development culture, makes the CA program far more than a bunch of volunteers in neon T-shirts; they are a team, and, through careful cultivation over the years that the program has been in operation, a perfect ecosystem blending youth energy and veteran wisdom.

In the history of the GDC, not much has remained consistent: Boards have come and gone, the entire conference has been sold and then had its parent company sold again. Though its coordination has changed, its support in the trenches hasn't; as an organization, the CA program is perhaps the only aspect of the conference with a memory that goes back to the very beginning. Far from being the chaotic group of whoever-we-could-get volunteers that staff other conferences, the GDC's working lifeline is unique in possessing a history of its own, and an identity singular even within the industry itself. It is a resource and a community, a stepping stone and a friendly helping hand - and the heartbeat of the game industry's largest event.

Erin Hoffman is a professional game designer, freelance writer, and hobbyist troublemaker. She moderates Gamewatch.org and fights crime on the streets by night.

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