IA Summit 2016: How Do I Game Design?

At the beginning of May, Jon and I visited Atlanta, Georgia, for IA Summit 2016. This is the second time we’ve attended at the IA Summit: last time was in 2012, in New Orleans. This year, we presented the latest iteration of our game design talk, “How Do I Game Design?”. Games!

As promised during our talk, here’s links to a couple of the things we talked about:

A video of an earlier version of this talk was captured at OSCON 2015, and you can find it on YouTube. You can also find the slides from the IA Summit 2016 version on Speaker Deck.

Game Night at IA Summit 2016I really enjoyed our second visit to the IA Summit, and definitely hope to come back next year! A particular highlight of the conference was the games night, which is quite unique to the IA Summit –– I love it! Highlights from the talks include:

  • Léonie Watson’s keynote about accessibility and inclusion, which featured a slide deck composed of movie quotes.
  • Lisa Welshman’s keynote on how design can impact real human beings.
  • Jesse James Garrett’s 7-in-1 closing keynote on… well, everything the IA industry needs to know?
  • Dan Ramadan’s talk on “Taxonomies, Tags, and Trajectories at the BBC”
  • Jorge Arango’s talk on “Placemaking Lessons from the Magic Kingdom”
  • Stephen Anderson’s talk on “How To Design A Concept Model”

… but everything I attended was amazing. There’s lots of great photos of the event, not taken by me, online here. Thanks to the organisers, volunteers, speakers, and attendees for putting on an amazing event!

IA Summit 2016 was one of the most diverse-feeling, inclusive conferences I’ve ever been to, and the community –– while, as game designers, we only really sit on the intersection of it and many other communities –– is incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Atlanta was also an amazingly friendly city, with a lot of interesting attracting (oh my, go and visit the Georgia Aquarium!) I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to revisit it in the future! I’m also really looking forward to venturing to Vancouver, for IA Summit 2017.

OSCON in Amsterdam

OSCON in Amsterdam is coming up in a month or so, and I’m really, really looking forward to it. So much so, that I thought I’d write up some thoughts on why I enjoy going to OSCON.

Adding Europe (in addition to the USA –– Portland earlier this year, and Austin in May 2016) to the lineup is a big move for OSCON (it’s been in Europe before, but it didn’t run every year afterwards). This year, at OSCON in Portland, which ran in July, the tracks of the conference changed for the first time in a long time.

OSCON 
Previously, the conference was designed around mostly-languaged based tracks, and was essentially a collection of disparate conferences for different clusters of nerds. It was great, but it wasn’t how the community worked, or how nerds-in-the-real-world work any more.

19271143484_d4febe58c1_zIn July, OSCON in Portland was structured around the idea that open-source and the software, tools, and languages (that OSCON has always been about) are actually everywhere, being used by everyone. The tracks got updated to reflect more tangible, practical things, that might span languages and nerd-clusters.

The result of this is that OSCON (in Portland, earlier this year, in Amsterdam next month, and in Austin next year) has tracks relating to things like security, and privacyscaling, devices, mobility,  architecture, design, and other real-life, more pragmatic concepts. This is a really good thing. Not only does it mean that you meet lots and lots of people, who –– shock horror! –– might use, espouse, and prefer different languages, tools, and frameworks than you, but it also means the conference works like the real-world does: security topics for one language are not unique to that language, performance at scale on the web isn’t unique to one backend stack, and good, sensible mobile app design isn’t unique to one mobile platform (to name but three examples).

I really enjoyed OSCON in Portland this year, and the new track structure contributed to that in no small way. OSCON in Amsterdam follows a similar philosophy, so I’m expecting it to be pretty excellent.

Another of the big reasons that OSCON is special is the way it connects the people using, building, and working with new, amazing, important, and often just plain interesting software (and hardware!) with the companies who rely on this software, teach this software, or otherwise participate in the community.

This mountain is in Portland, but Austin and Amsterdam look just as cool as this.
This mountain is in Portland, but Austin and Amsterdam look just as cool.
Companies often have a bad reputation at big conferences, especially corporate conferences like OSCON that are not directly run by the community –– but OSCON does a good job, with very few exceptions, of making sure your interactions with the companies sponsoring and attending the event are very much on your own terms.

OSCON represents such a valuable intersection between the community-run events, which are often still clustered by language, or technology (despite their deep wish that they were all polyglot events), and the actual real world that’s using all this technology –– which, like it or not, is mostly companies –– and it does a damn fine job of it. This role as a meeting point for community and enterprise is a very underrated (and little-discussed) aspect of OSCON, and is one of the core reasons why it’s one of the only two conferences that I go back to every single year.

I have very little to do with anything beyond building games, and designing mobile apps (i.e. I’m not inOSCON dev-ops, I don’t do any important software engineering or architecture –– I make games!, and I don’t know what a container-at-scale is, and I definitely don’t have a foundation), but every year I get a lot of out OSCON –– every year I’ve learnt mind-blowing things about everything from tiny satellites, to the way Facebook designs and runs their data-centres, to building an exobrain*, to the way Netflix’s distributed backend is architected, to how I can build my own functional mo
bile phone, to the latest JavaScript frameworks that I know I will be avoiding, and literally everything in between.

Every year I learn things that are incredibly interesting, inspiring, or just plain or exciting, as well as things that directly improve my ability to be better at what I do every day. I also meet amazing people, and make new friends every year. I’ve also personally given talks on everything ranging from programming with Apple’s Swift language, to game design, to Kerbal Space Program.

OSCONI first went to OSCON in 2011. Some friends and colleagues and I, randomly on a whim, submitted a session on design best practices for mobile apps. It got accepted, much to our surprise, and we made our way to Portland. We’ve been presenting on mobile design at OSCON ever since. OSCON is an amazing amount of fun, and I can’t wait for Amsterdam (and Austin!)

Anyway, this whole post is a roundabout way of saying that you should  come and see me speak about Swift programming next month!

*video not from OSCON, but it’s the same talk I saw at OSCON.

(My publisher, O’Reilly Media, also runs OSCON, so you probably can’t trust a word I say. But really, OSCON is pretty amazing, and this is just my blog post, and my words, so you should probably check out OSCON!)

OSCON 2012

Delighted to note that I’ll be presenting “Android-Fu: awesome apps for Ice Cream Sandwich and beyond” with my friends & colleagues, Chris and Jon, at O’Reilly’s OSCON 2012 this year in Portland. We presented on a similar topic very successfully last year, and I can’t wait to do it again!