I decided to run for the board of the IGDA this year. As part of that process, I was asked to write a “candidate position statement” and answer some questions, all of which I have copied below. (This material is also available on the IGDA website.)
If you are an IGDA member, I would really appreciate your vote. The poll is open now and closes on February 28th.
Candidate Position Statement:
I am running for the IGDA Board because I believe the IGDA is faced with a vital problem: many people in our industry can’t see why they should join or actively participate in the IGDA. It’s easy to understand why. First, our industry’s most prestigious publications and conferences are operated by other organizations. Second, our government lobbying is led primarily by the ESA. And lastly, the tangible benefits of IGDA membership – other than the recent health insurance offering – are unclear to many people. I believe that lack of progress on these fronts will jeopardize the IGDA and undermine its ability to tackle issues its members care about, such as quality of life and credit standards.
We — that is, *all* game developers, not just the large companies that comprise the ESA’s membership — need an organization that represents our interests and enhances the creative and business opportunities available to each of us. But we will never reach that goal without first building an organization whose value to potential members is self-evident. When people can’t see the value in paying $48 bucks for an annual membership, you know something is wrong.
If elected, I will focus on increasing the tangible value of IGDA membership. I’d like to ensure that content from the excellent IGDA Leadership Forum is freely available to all members, not just those who can attend the event. I’d like to enhance the ties between the IGDA and GDC to the extent that it benefits IGDA members. I’d like to grow programs, such as the IGDA’s webinar series, that bring useful business and legal information to IGDA members worldwide. And lastly, I’d like to explore the creation of additional benefits like the IGDA’s new group health plan; for example, a group legal plan.
In my time as portfolio manager of Xbox LIVE Arcade and as a consultant, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many game developers. What has differentiated those that succeed from those that struggle is a combination of skill, luck, access to information, and the ability (and opportunity) to promote themselves. The IGDA can’t give developers luck, but it *can* open their eyes to common stumbling blocks, teach them about business, enhance their networking opportunities and help improve their skills. It can reduce the financial burdens that developers face and arm them with the tools they need to succeed… and increase its own legitimacy in the process.
Candidate Q and A:
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing game developers today? What should the IGDA’s role be in addressing that challenge?
The current business environment is arguably the most complex environment ever faced by game developers. Major new platforms — from web-based portals to new hardware devices — are launching on a regular basis. Platform policies, such as Facebook’s guidelines for developers or Xbox Live Arcade’s portfolio guidance to indies, are changing constantly. Business models are being turned on their heads by the advent of F2P gaming. Globalization has sharply increased competition in the market and introduced new business and legal challenges to developers. These factors, when taken as a whole, represent enormous opportunities and threats that have proven troublesome for even the largest publishers, much less small independent developers. An indie with a little cash in the bank and not much access to helpful information or contacts would be forgiven for feeling completely overwhelmed.
The IGDA needs to help developers grapple with these challenges. It needs to make business information and advice available to members, especially as vertically-integrated (and oftentimes secretive) digital platforms become increasingly important channels. It needs to improve the networking opportunities available to members. And it should advocate against business practices that have a negative impact on industry creativity and which are harmful to independent developers, such as gameplay patents.
2. How do you expect to contribute to the IGDA Board? What qualifications or skills do you possess that will enhance your contributions?
If elected, I will focus on increasing the tangible value of IGDA membership. For example, I’d like to ensure that content from the excellent IGDA Leadership Forum is freely available to all members, not just those who can attend the event. I’d like to enhance the ties between the IGDA and GDC to the extent that it benefits IGDA members. I’d like to grow programs, such as the IGDA’s webinar series, that bring useful business and legal information to IGDA members worldwide. And lastly, I’d like to explore the creation of additional benefits like the IGDA’s new group health plan; for example, a group legal plan.
As the former worldwide portfolio manager of Xbox LIVE Arcade, and as a consultant with several independent game developers as clients, I have a reasonable amount of insight into the challenges faced by developers and publishers of all sizes. That insight should prove helpful in guiding my contributions to the IGDA, specifically with an eye towards better arming developers to deal with the challenges of modern development. As an MBA, I believe that I have useful knowledge to share with the IGDA community, and I plan to work with other MBAs in the organization to disseminate that knowledge as effectively as possible.
3. How much time do you expect to volunteer to the IGDA? How will you manage this commitment?
My interest in being on the IGDA board is serious. I’ve asked some of the current board members to help me understand their time commitment to the organization, and it appears that on average, current board members contribute approximately three to five hours of their time per month to communications (i.e. phone calls and emails) and somewhere between an additional five to fifteen hours for personal projects, attendance at local events, etc. Lastly, board members attend three in-person meetings annually, one of which occurs at GDC and one of which occurs at the Leadership Forum. I’m fully prepared to commit this amount of time. Furthermore, I expect that meeting my own goals for the IGDA may occasionally require spikes in my involvement, as may the occasional unexpected opportunity or crisis, and I am prepared for that as well. Fortunately, I’m self-employed and fully in control of my own schedule, which permits me a certain level of flexibility. Working on IGDA projects, taking calls, attending meetings, and otherwise contributing at key times (day or night) is not a problem.
4. As an IGDA board member, you’re often asked to get things done on a short timeframe and tight budget. What do you think a reasonable expectation of a board member’s contribution is? How will you accomplish your goals as a board member?
Speaking as a consultant and entrepreneur: being asked to tackle projects or issues on short notice, with or without a tight budget, is nothing new. So the short answer is that I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got, given the circumstances. However, the longer answer is this: if board members are often being asked to get things done on short notice, then perhaps the board isn’t being managed appropriately. The IGDA board should be like any well-managed game development studio — it should be able to avoid repeated or excessive periods of crunch time. If elected, I’ll push myself and the rest of my fellow board members to plan effectively, to distribute workload responsibly, and to stick to our plans unless remarkable circumstances really justify deviation. Like every development studio (or functional household, for that matter), we’ll need to prioritize our goals and allocate our budget to the things that really matter… precisely so that we don’t find ourselves constantly operating under an overly tight budget.
I should add that I believe any board member will be more effective when they are willing to leverage their personal and professional networks on behalf of the IGDA. As an individual, there’s only so much that anyone can do; the organization needs board members who have experts to turn to when they need help with a project, when they’re attempting to recruit speakers for events, etc. Fortunately, I have a reasonably comprehensive network and am more than willing to leverage it on the IGDA’s behalf.
Again, please vote here.