[games_access] Austin Game Developers Conference (AGDC)

d. michelle hinn hinn at uiuc.edu
Sat Sep 15 19:59:43 EDT 2007

Hi all,

So my promised debrief on AGDC two weeks ago. Richard will no doubt
have more to say about reactions to the presentation outside the
hours after the presentation, as I was confined to my bed from very
early that evening and until I left (early) for home with that nice
little pneumonia that followed the kidney infection (and they think I
got it in hospital...which is common...but still a little strange to

Richard and I had worked separately on our halves of the presentation
until we arrived in Austin. Richard concentrated on examples of audio
games and I worked on the game accessibility bits -- the need for,
introducing the issues of audio for the hearing impaired (had to give
them the other side of the audio issue). The presentation was titled
"When Audio IS the Experience: Games for the Visually Impaired" and
should be available on the web for download soon. I'll post news when
I learn about it.

We weren't sure how it would be received given how few people show
for our sessions at GDC San Fran AND the fact we were in the audio
track, which isn't the usual track for us (although it made perfect
sense once we were there). We'd been invited by the conference chairs
-- they tried to get us last year but they asked too late and we
couldn't make it but we could this year. So first of all...they
wanted the session so badly that they contacted us at the earliest
possible time to try to get the session this year. Impressive!

So the audience...wow. The head count according to our session
coordinator was about 60 and only about 3-4 people walked out and
that was near the end when it was getting close to the time that some
people needed to start setting up the Game Audio reception. So I
don't see them as "losses" -- they just stayed as long as they could.
GDC Austin is a LOT smaller than GDC San Fran -- so an audience of
apx 60 people was pretty huge considering all the multiple tracks
going on simultaneously.

Richard and I argued a bit about my "closer" for the talk, which
referenced social justice as a reason to care about game
accessibility, as we were afraid that might turn off a dev audience
who is concerned with the bottom line and not social messages. What
was interesting was that we talked about game accessibility "why's"
at the END of the presentation so that they got to hear the audio
games, get a taste of what we were talking about and then I did my
evangelist work. :) But taking the social justice chance worked and I
think it was probably because we were talking to an audience of
people who are already "right on" with the audio message and the idea
that their work could serve another important purpose really sank in.
We got wild applause at the end of the talk and we had people talking
to us for about an hour AFTER the talk (we went ten minutes OVER time
with audience questions alone (20 minutes total), which made the
audio guy really anxious, as it was the end of the day and he
probably wanted to take off! ).

In the week after I've received some great emails and I'm hoping
we'll get more audio designers on the list very soon. Our talk was
also sponsored by an anonymous donator -- I'll tell you who it is if
I can get his permission (I know who it is now). He's an audio
designer who first got interested in the idea of gamers with
disabilities after DJ-ing a dance for a school for the deaf. He was
perplexed as to why they wanted a DJ. The students showed up with
balloons in their hands and, of course, he was now really interested
in what the deal was. Turns out that as the music started, the
students put the balloons up to the side of their faces and danced to
the rhythms that they felt through the balloons. Wow. I'd heard some
things like facing the speakers down to try and pipe the beat into
the floor but with so many students, this was the better option.

Anyway, Richard and I both agreed that diversifying our talks more
into different tracks at GDC is definitely the way to go -- we seem
to have found a friendly audience amongst audio designers, further
supporting Reid's comments about his colleague. So let's push it
further! :)

Finally...preaching to the audio choir on a topic that they weren't
already interested in! Very different from having the same people in
every audience at every GDC!


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