Game Developers Conference 2016

Posted by steven on Wednesday March 16th 2016 at 23:09

Klara Smits, Nele Custers and Samantha Fernandez have won the Belgian Game Development Championship and their prize is a trip to the GDC 2016 conference, which takes place March 14-18 at the Moscone conference centre in San Fransico, CA. Robby and Steven, the teachers who are accompanying them, write down their impressions.

Monday and Tuesday: Preconference summits

To say that the GDC is huge would be an understatement. Even at the preconference, which took place on Monday and Tuesday the lineup of speakers was impressive. Literally hundreds of sessions take place, by all sorts of people, including big names next to young and promising developers, all providing inspiring thoughts and a wealth of practice examples. And of course lots of demos to be played!
Highlights of what we saw in the past days are without a doubt very personal and subjective. This short overview gives a summary of the different sessions we attended. 


  • People are in awe when they see us coming, mostly because they think LUCA School of Arts is a division of LucasArts.
  • Attended many sessions in the Game Education Summit. Nice talks about the importance of teaching students to pitch game ideas in the right way (Paul Killduff-Taylor), creative ways of teaching game programming (Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris) or the value subversive play exercises (Paolo Pedercini).
  • Sessions in the Independent Games summit are always inspiring, as they are given by people who have lots of industry experience. it is very cool to hear the stories behind such games as Framed and Alphabear!
  • The sessions in the Audio summit gave me good ideas of things to use in my crossover courses with music composition students.
  • Cool games I have played: In the Shadows | | sU and the Quest for Meaning | Longstory
  • Robby

    I switched mainly between the narrative and education summit. This meant that the first 2 days consisted of me running from talk to talk without any time to spare! It is very inspiring to see colleagues from all around the world, sharing their knowledge, research and practices. Especially the narrative innovation showcase, which showed projects that push the borders of interactive narrative and the game design talk by Eric Zimmerman about using games to teach games, gave me new insights on how to improve my own courses.

    GDC also facilitates engaging in a dialogue with the speakers, which means one easily starts talking to them afterwards and invite them for a guest lecture. Networking is therefore my main activity at the moment! Although jetlag and a combination of high intensity days and short nights is starting to show, the pure adrenaline and beauty of having so many people in one place who all share the same passion for videogames is awe-inspiring and will keep us going far beyond this week alone. We will be singing the game-gospel that’s being preached here when we get home, be prepared!

    The game designers

    Klara, Nele and Samantha are having a good time and at the end of every day we find them exhausted from all the sessions they have done and the people they have been talking to. They have mainly attended workshops in the Animation, Artificial Intelligence and Design summits, and from what we have heard, they have learned tons of new techniques and new practices.

    Next up

    On Wednesday the conference starts for real!

    EAPRIL 2014 Conference: Seeing Sound

    Posted by steven on Friday December 5th 2014 at 21:14

    Our arrival at the EAPRIL conference on November 26th did not go unnoticed, though this was exclusively due to the fact that the Barcelona football team, who played their Champions League game against Apoel Nicosia that evening, was staying in the conference hotel. Excitement!

    Needless to say, this degree of sensation would not be equaled in the days that followed, even though many conference presenters (including myself) did the best they could to turn their sessions into interactive and audioviosual experiences. Most presentations we attended were highly academic: solidly rooted in educational theory and with presentation of sound research methodology. This contributed to a high overall quality of the conference, and I returned home with tons of fresh ideas for teaching techniques I can use in my classes.

    Initially I was a bit concerned that the predominantly academic crowd would be only moderately interested in the practical workshop I was organising, which was based on the creative workshop format used in the Seeing Sound course module (and research project). Luckily a good number of very motivated participants attended the workshop, and this produced some cool results!

    The goal of the workshop was simple: participants had to create a moodboard for a short movie, just like our students have to do in the Seeing Sound course. We suspected this would be the best way to make our audience experience what it means to adopt a truly interdisciplinary approach in a course module. All participants, mostly educators and literature scientists, admitted that having to think in terms of music and images entailed a huge step away from their confort zone. As such they were literally confronted with the challenges our students face in the Seeing Sound module: composers are asked to think in terms of visuals and animation film makers are asked to think in terms of audio. This enabled us to demonstrate the educational techniques we use in the Seeing Sound module, and to explain that a creative workshop is a very useful format to integrate different teaching strategies.

    All in all this was a very insightful experience. The storyboard/score documents our participants created can further be used as research material in our search for a jargon-neutral language to describe the flow of a movie in the conceptual stage.

    SXSW 2013: On Serious Game Realism

    Posted by steven on Monday April 29th 2013 at 16:49

    Founded more than 20 years ago as an international meeting for the music industry, in the past decade the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) conference has evolved into a global meeting for the entertainment industries, and today it also includes comprehensive tracks on Film and Interactive Media and Art (of which videogames are a considerable part). Compared to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) the SXSW gaming track is still in its infancy, but compared to all other meetings of the game industry I have ever visited, it is no less than impressive. All big gaming companies are there to present new titles, innovations and technologies, and at any point there are at least 3 simultaneous presentations that feature practical experiences of designers and artists. In no way an easy job to select which sessions to attend (and which not)!

    While we witnessed several fascinating accounts of developers disclosing their secrets, regarding how to hit the Chinese market as an indie developer, to create interactive drama, or use NASA technology to build entertainment robots (!), it was in particular the serious gaming presentations that were interesting to us as researchers. We remember among others sessions on the zombie-themed exergame Zombies, Run!, on designing a meta-meta(!)-game to teach game design, or on Globaloria, the e-learning platform that enables kids (from 9th grade on) to design their own games – often with impressive results!

    Logically, our own session (featuring fltr Bob De Schutter, myself, Rick Van Eck and Amy Adcock) was also a part of the serious gaming program. As we were the only all-academic panel at the entire gaming track, in the weeks before the conference our nerves had become quite uptight. We weren’t going to be able to do what we usually do: talk about theory, methdology, some more theory and provide in-depth analyses of data (usually followed by some more theory)! This time we’d have to be short, witty, to-the-point and above all, relevant to the practitioner. Our first testing ground, an online guest lecture we did at the end of February in Rick Van Eck’s class on game-based learning, demonstrated we had a lot of work to do (read: theory to cut away) before we would be able to do a condensed business session! During the guest lecture we had talked for more than 2 hours – for the SXSW presentation this would have to be cut back to 45 minutes! No easy assignment, especially because our topic, game realism, was a very philosophic one, about which an enormous amount of theory exists.

    In the end I managed to bring back my part to less than 10 minutes: briefly discuss the model of perceived game realism that I have developed together with Wannes Ribbens, and illustrate by making references to America’s Army (and a number of other serious games). Thanks to roaring nerves (also due to the fact that our session was packed to full capacity!) I managed to say it all in 7 minutes (discussion afterwards not counted), buying time for Rick and Amy to explain the educational implications of what I’d been saying. As a result, the discussion at the end, where we debated the degrees of realism of a number of Belgian serious games (among which two games developed as part of the GameHub project), could be done in a more relaxed fashion, and was arguably the highlight of the presentation.

    Reading the review Minicore Studios wrote of our session, I am glad that our approach had apparently paid off, and that we did not come across as dull academics! Also thanks to Bob’s great design job on our slides of course!

    Bob has a blog online, where he has edited the slides to the podcast of our session, so that everyone can re-live the experience!

    XODOX: disrupt my doc!

    Posted by veerle on Thursday March 8th 2012 at 10:43

    Come to the XODOX ‘DOCJAM’ Creative LAB at Docville 2012! 1 may 2012, Leuven, Belgium

    Come to the world’s first ‘DOC JAM’ Creative LAB where documentary ideas are developed, disrupted and expanded. See what happens when factual ideas become multiplatform, interactive, playful and networked.

    Are you a documentary producer, director, game developer, game designer or interactive with a dox interest, who want to explore the creative and commercial potential for developing new types of interactive factual content?

    Do you want to gain an understanding of the different skills required to produce transmedia projects?

    Do you want to learn how telling stories across multiple platforms, integrating social networking, games and interactivity can grow audiences in today’s crowded media environment?

    This is not a conference! This is a jam! Be prepared to disrupt your doc!

    For more information see
    CALL for participants – iDROPS WEB Documentary LAB – XO DOX CREATIVE LAB and XO DOX DEVELOPMENT LAB

    Vice City Virtue: Moral Issues in Digital Game Play

    Posted by steven on Tuesday November 15th 2011 at 12:30

    Karolien Poels and I have a book out, titled ‘Vice City Virtue: Moral Issues in Digital Game Play’. The book can be ordered at Acco and Amazon.

    In the book we collect essays and research papers by scholars with backgrounds in philosophy, theology, psychology, cultural studies and communication science. We address questions like ‘under which circumstances is it morally wrong to engage in virtual violence?’ or ‘can games like Fallout 3 or Heavy Rain have a positive effect on our ethical reasoning?’. These and many others! We did not want to restrict ourselves to the ‘games-and-violence’ debate because we are convinced that games are about a lot more than violence and pornography. We think the different chapters together make a good case for considering games as a mature and versatile medium (or art form).

    Check it out!

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