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GameOn-NA 2008

I had the pleasure last week (Aug. 13-15) of attending GameOn-NA 2008, my first actual academic conference in which I was a participant. (Side note: I’ve always wanted to take part in conferences like this in wonderful, exotic locations; it was just my luck, of course, that the conference should take place two buildings over at McGill…)

I’m not an expert on these things, but GameOn-NA seems to be one of the more modest conferences, attendance-wise. Still, what lacked in quantity was made up for in a number of really unique papers and talks, and some genuinely cool people. First and foremost was our ringmaster and primary conference organiser, Philippe Geril (unfortunately Google doesn’t provide me any specific webpage), who seems to have an uncanny knowledge of British comedy from the 1960’s onwards, along with… “interesting” preferences in old-school adventure games and eclectic music. Then there was our invited speaker Eva Hudlicka, who spoke (insightfully) about emotion in games, and the lack and need thereof. Very cool stuff, and her son is awesome. And there was Erin Robinson, who demo’ed some really cool AGS games she’s been working on – she’s also got a good knowledge of Britcoms, and being the second person I ever met who knows about Cross Country Canada (citation needed), she gets bonus geek marks. Finally, there was Kelson Gist, who won the “Best Paper” award (lucky bastard). These are just a handful of the attendees (those whose names I remembered, mostly), but it was a great crew.

The conference was capped off with a dinner Thursday night at L’Hotel de l’Institut (awesome French Onion soup), and a visit to EA Montreal Friday morning, which wasn’t as Borg collective-inspired as I’d anticipated – we actually spoke to some of the heads of the tech teams in the Montreal studio, and they were surprisingly open with us. Of course, when Eva asked whether they had any plans to “integrate more multi-modal or just haptic feedback into games to determine player emotion” (paraphrasing), the official comment was “no comment” – so make what you will of that.

A great first conference experience, and I hope I get to do it again. Many, many thanks to Philippe and the McGill profs for setting it all up.