I was beyond ecstatic to receive the e-mail announcement: registration for the fourth annual PRACTICE: Game Design in Detail conference hosted by the NYU Game Center is now open. I completed my registration within minutes of receiving the e-mail, cheery at the prospect of, surely, being among the first to register. Never have I so gladly and hastily parted ways with $370.
Before I continue: no, this is not a sponsored post from the Game Center! I just really love the place that much. Let me give you the short version of the story.
Last spring, I was laid off of my job. It was during that period that I began to seriously reconsider not just my career path, but the things that mattered to me in life. I decided that, even though I needed a job right then and should probably seek employment in the same industry (e.g. national security) from which I had just been removed, I owed it to myself to investigate the possibility of rekindling my childhood dream: working in the game industry as a designer or producer. Three months later, my old employer ended up taking me back, but the bug stuck. I started investigating grad school possibilities for game design studies, which led me to discover NYU's Game Design MFA. Lo' and behold, it turned out that they were having some sort of conference of game designers a couple of months later. The timing could hardly have been more propitious. PRACTICE, I decided, would be my first step towards possibly orienting my life in a new direction, my first opportunity to get a close peek through the window of the game industry/academia and the discipline of game design to see if it held any real appeal.
The fact that I am now writing this blog is evidence of its impact. It was an absolutely fantastic experience; never had I been in an environment that was at once so fun and intellectually stimulating. I'm not gonna lie, I was a bit disappointed by the rather drab opening remarks of the only speaker whose name I recognized, but there were so many other intellectually rich, compelling, engaging talks given that gave me a new appreciation for the art and science of design—stand-outs for me include Rob Daviau, Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin, and Robert Yang. But, just as important as the talks, it was my first time actually meeting and talking to people involved in making games: during coffee breaks, at a ridiculously awesome house party, on the sidelines of a break dance battle (yes, really!). It was all that an unsure, curious, enthusiastic, quarter-life crisis drifter could ask for.
Turns out that the discipline of game design had real appeal, after all.