Resources for my talk on the dark side of game development

Here are some resources to go with my talk about the dark side of game development that I gave at Northern Game Summit on October 1st 2015.

Talking to people

Effective Networking in the Game Industry – Darius Kazemi


Impostor syndrome

Kill The Goddamn Vulture – Richard Dansky

Your body language shapes who you are – Amy Cuddy (especially 16 minutes in)

Sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia

1ReasonToBe panel (GDC 2013) – Leigh Alexander, Mattie Brice, Robin Hunicke, Kim McAuliffe, Brenda Romero, Elizabeth Sampat

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is – John Scalzi

But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism – Leigh Alexander

Geek Feminism wiki

Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia: Where Do Video Games Stand? (GDC 2014) – Manveer Heir

Stress & Depression

The Belly of the Whale: Living a Creative Life in the Game Industry (GDC 2010) – Bob Bates

General tips for students

From Student To Designer – Liz England

100 things every game student should know – Kaye Elling


Again, many thanks to these ladies for their help with this talk.

The RSS feed of this site has changed

Following on from the previous post, here is the new URL to the RSS feed for this website:

Again, sorry for the inconvenience.


Update: Well, this is awkward. This post showed up in both the old and the new feed, even though I turned off the old feed on the WordPress side. I don’t even know how this is technically possible. Undead accounts, leeching content from beyond…

Still. Better change your RSS feed URLs just to be sure.

Update 2: So that old Google account was not dead after all. Why am I not surprised. I managed to regain access to it, logged into FeedBurner, and deactivated the feeds there with permanent redirection to the proper URLs.

Read this if you subscribe to the RSS feed of this site

The short story: I am going to change the address of the RSS feeds for this site. And I am going to do it today, and then I will create another blog post saying that I’m done. This blog post will also contain the new URLs.

If you do not see this second blog post on May 4th 2015, then you’re still subscribed to the old feed, and if you want to continue to read my blog, you will have to go to the site and get the new feed URLs. Which I cannot publish here for esoteric reasons explained below.

I apologize for the inconvenience. Also, if you subscribed to this blog by email through FeedBurner – and I have no way of knowing if anyone is doing this – then I apologize even more, because that will stop working entirely.

(Update: Changed “right away” to “today” because I am dependent on when RSS services like FeedHQ etc. query the current feed. So, eh, I’ll do it tonight at some point.)

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Session evaluation of my GDC 2015 talk

Today I received the evaluation of my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design:

Total Headcount: 470 (holy shit)

Session Ranking within Game Narrative Summit: your session is ranked 13 of 19 

Session Ranking within GDC 2015 Summits: your session ranked 82 of 133

-The Total Headcount shows the number of people who were scanned for the session.
-Session Ranking within your summit and amongst all sessions overall at GDC 2015 Summits. Please note, the highest rank is 1 and it is out of the number of sessions within the summit and conference, respectively (excluding sponsored sessions. special events, roundtables, main conference track sessions, tutorials, etc)

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The mystery of Miholjanec

I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Charlemagne, as one does, and noticed his sword had a name: “Joyeuse“. Joyous one. And, since “épée” is feminine and Charlemagne was not, it is the sword who is joyous.

Named sword. So far, so cool. Hey, it says “sword in Vienna” (I used to live in Vienna). Let’s check that out:

Sword in Vienna
Before the Miholjanec legend had been regarded, the so-called sword of Attila in Vienna was known as the sword of Charlemagne.

The what now? Let’s click on “Miholjanec legend”. It leads to a Wikipedia entry on the Croatian village of Miholjanec. But there is no mention of a legend (the URL leading me there contained the fragment #Legend, but that now leads nowhere).


What is this about the sword of Attila?

The real historical events of the discovery of this sword will probably remain unknown. More information about the origin of the sword is a legend about a locality of finding, see Miholjanec#Legend, because before this legend had been regarded, this sword was known as the sword of Charlemagne known as “Joyeuse”.

That same broken link.

Before we click onwards: note that the sword of Attila is supposedly in the Imperial Schatzkammer in Vienna. Just like one of the items claiming to be the Spear of Longinus, the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Lance. And regarding Charlemagne’s Joyeuse we know that “some legends claim [it] was forged to contain the Lance of Longinus within its pommel”. So these two swords and the Spear of Longinus are related.

What does the history of the Miholjanec page tell us? There was a change on the 20th of November 2013:

“Deleting “Legend” section: unsourced and doesn’t improve article”

So what was this legend?

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Recruitment bait-and-switch

À propos of nothing: the first in a series of recruitment war stories. 

Back in 2006, just after the closure of Rockstar Vienna, where I had been a producer, I received quite a few contact request from HR departments and recruiters. One in particular has always stayed in my memory, for reasons which will become obvious.

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Slides and post-mortem for my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design

Here (12.8 MB PDF) are the slides from my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design. The black slides are my notes, which roughly resemble what I actually said. I have removed the bonus slide showing Verena Riedl – you had to be there :) (Or you can watch it on the vault eventually.)

And here they are embedded:

Inspired by Liz England, here is a little post-mortem of the talk.

This was strictly speaking not my first time as a speaker at GDC. Back in 2000, together with Mark Barrett, I moderated a round table on creating emotional involvement in interactive entertainment. In 2008 I gave a talk on being a producer at GDC Europe, the last time before it moved from France to Germany. But this was my first talk at GDC in San Francisco, and certainly the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to.

It went well. The preparations went well, the actual speaking went well from my side, and I’ve only had positive reactions so far, including quite a few people coming up to me during the rest of the conference to tell me they had enjoyed my talk.

This was the third presentation I’ve given since December, the other ones being my talk at ENJMIN on the dark side of game development that I’ve briefly mentioned here and here, and a quick talk about storytelling in games I gave over Skype to Nathan Sturtevant’s game capstone class. I feel I’ve learned a lot from giving these three talks, more so than from previous ones, so here are some unordered observations.


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Gameplay metrics: game design’s best kept secret?

So Laralyn McWilliams just wrote:

And I agree so much with that that I had to write something about it.

When game developers talk about metrics, we typically mean one of three things:

1. F2P metrics, like retention, DAU, ARPPU, etc. This all came out of online marketing, and it’s what people associate with “evil f2p”.

2. Level design metrics, like how high are cover objects, how high are walls the player can’t jump over, etc. This is needed to build level geometry that plays well.

3. Gameplay metrics, which is what Laralyn is talking about, and which seems like the best kept secret in game design or something.

Let’s look at some history:

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What I talk about when I talk about “story”

First of all, if you’re interested in narrative design at all, you should follow Thomas Grip on Twitter. There are few people who write so many tweets that I agree with. That said, I don’t agree with every single thing he says.

Today, for example, he said:


To which I replied:


And so here is the longer (but still very quick) explanation of what I mean by that.

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What I learned going from game programming to web programming

I foolishly promised Amandine on Twitter that I would write about my experiences going from hard-core C++ game tech to web tech. And so, before this ends up on the pile of Things I Could Write About, let me take a stab at actually doing so.

Back in the 90s I wrote hard-core game tech in C++ (and before that in C and 68K assembler). Then, in 2001 or so, I changed careers and programming became more of a hobby. I used Python to write small tools, then later got into HTML and CSS. Then, while ostensibly being creative director of the company I co-founded, and despite being surrounded by hard-core C++ programmers whose knowledge, unlike mine, was not literally from the last millenium, I was writing a lot of tools in Python, as well all of the HTML and JavaScript and what have you.

Additionally, I developed Gameconfs and am currently developing full-stack web-based tools for Moon Collider, an AI middleware company. So I guess I’m a web developer now.

Anyway, very quickly and in no particular order, here are some of the things I found remarkable in going from C++ to web technology:

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