By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Last year, when the Game Developers Conference Online announced it was moving to Los Angeles, Jennifer Bullard, chair of the Austin chapter of the International Game Developers Association, immediately launched into planning a new conference that would remain in Austin. Captivate started Sunday morning at the Palmer Center with a keynote by Warren Spector and will continue until late Tuesday afternoon.
Bullard and co-creators’ objective was to create a conference of convergence, where artists, musicians, filmmakers and game designers could come together and learn more about supporting themselves through their art.
Convergence of Art and Business
A lot of these creatives, she said, have many different types of art in their experience and portfolios and are always having to redo their resumes to emphasize one area or another. “There are these huge swaths of people crossing back and forth and they’re not recognized for being on the cutting edge of convergence,” Bullard said.
The conference had several sessions on how to make money, handle legal issues such as what kind of company to create, how to network, how to craft an elevator pitch and how to build teams.
If someone identifies himself as a game designer but he hasn’t shipped any titles and he works at Walmart, Bullard said, he’s a Walmart employee.
“We want to help them earn a good living, and not a subsidized living,” she said. “In the creative space, you’re taught your craft. You’re not taught how to start a company or how to do marketing and PR….There’s a certain amount of DIY but it’s good to know how to do this yourself and where does that stop and hiring a professional start.”
Badges for the event ranged from a $25 badge for someone “who’s curious” up to $400 for professionals. About 1,200 people showed up for the event, which is about a third of the annual attendance of the GDC conference. But, said Bullard “I’ll get there in two to three years.” One problem may be that the conference was at the same time as Austin Startup Week, a conflict Bullard didn’t know about when she booked the space. But, she said, creatives tend not to go to Startup Week for some reason.
Session on Business Models With Meaning
Among Monday’s sessions was a session on Creative Ambitious Business Models That Change the World through Meaning. Panelists were Michelle Zadrozny of Helping the Aging, Needy and Disabled (HAND), and Rip Rowan and Tommy Darwin of Avail Design Group, a consulting firm that helps businesses grow and sustain their businesses.
Business and meaning, Darwin said, are yin and yang, they go together at the same time. The key, he said “is to get as close as you can to the people themselves trying to help. Deal with issues; don’t think hierarchies…..Talk to the people who are closest to the problem. Who is living in it. They’re a great source of ideas. Find out how they are already solving the problem. They have a lot of insights as to what will be valuable to them. Then when you have your idea, take it and go out to the people. As soon as you get a good guess, as soon as you get a good working notion, just start trying it. business is about getting a workable idea and a working version.”
“Become a student of all the different ways money flows into your area of interest….” Darwin said. “if you can find a way to get into that flow, you can support yourself. But you still have to do it with integrity. I’m not talking about pandering or selling out.”
Zadrozny talked about the benefits of technological advances like online applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. There are, she said, many challenges for the working poor just to survive, including the obstacle of paying for transportation to a job that didn’t pay enough to cover basic living expenses, let alone the transportation to get there.
One audience member brought up a video game where the player had to live out the issues of the working poor including the very question of whether to walk 15 blocks to save the bus fare the player needed for grocery money. A game that also showed decisions of the wealthy at the same time, panelists agreed, would be very helpful for actually changing behavior.
They also agreed that every endeavor, whether it’s a game or a documentary, needs a call to action so that people know what to do with their newfound perspective.
Tuesday’s sessions will include one on using improvisational theater to build teams, legal and business basics for startups, nine tech trends that will influence the next 10 years, and a keynote by Gary Hoover.