It’s midnight on Saturday and we’ve spent the last three days at the 2010 Christian Game Developer’s Conference in Portland, OR. Once again I come home with a lot of things in my head that really span the gamut of available emotions.
In many ways, Soma Games was born at the 2005 CGDC. And I’ve grown to have a tremendous amount of loyalty to that group, people I’ve come to know over the years simply because we keep going to this conference each year. And once again I’m struck by the disconnect between the actual size of the conference (about 30 or so people this year) to the disproportionately large shadow it casts out in the world. It’s purely anecdotal but I have this strong impression that folks outside the conference wishing they were there or waiting to hear what comes out of it is far bigger than a few dozen folks in PDX would suggest. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me though. There is such an obvious (and well documented) gap in the video game market for faith-friendly games, perhaps it only makes sense that this underserved market niche is somehow always watching to see what will come of each year’s conference. I also know that there is a large but mostly hidden block of Christians working in the secular game industry. We’ve had several contact us at Soma and several more attend CGDC over the years – I know many of them are anxious to see one or more companies bust out with genuine commercial success so they might work on a project that doesn’t rub against their values in uncomfortable ways.
Once again the best part was the people. Seeing folks again that I’ve really come to respect and admire, also meeting new ones like this one first-timer who winds up speaking on a topic on her first trip to CGDC. Certainly a very interesting topic, but I was really struck by how much wind was on her! For someone relatively new to walking in the Spirit, she had Jesus Culture coming off her like heat off a Death Valley roadbed – can’t wait to see what happens in her story next.
Still, for all the great experience I have at CGDC I can’t help but feel like there could be so much more. I feel like there is some huge kingdom-opportunity that is being missed here when the thing remains so small and unknown. Of course the reason that happens may be simple enough – time and manpower (or money which solves the other two). I know CGDC is put on by a bunch of volunteers, none of whom make the conference or the parent org a day-job priority. I’m not at all faulting those folks, the situation is what it is, but still I long to see the thing gel into something more than it is even if only to draw more people. I was very excited to work a little with Seth this year to organize a CGDC whitepaper project along the lines of Project Horseshoe. If nothing else, CGDC can provide some vocabulary and start to define terms in a space that really needs them. In fact, the first topic we scrummed out was “What is a Xian Game?” – you’d be surprised how difficult it is to define something like that. I won’t get ahead of myself here but I wound up pretty happy with the results of that discussion as well as the ‘Violence in Xian video games” topic.
Well, it’s bedtime but I did want to say thanks to everyone who came, supported or tweeted. Ws had a great group again and Soma was particularly happy to be able to come back again with the biggest presence we’ve ever had and win the Swing award.
PS : Now with a little sleep I remembered there were a few things I wanted to mention.
There were two games at this year’s CGDC that were not newcomers but games I’d never had the chance to really see in action but finally did. The first was Vastar from Exodus Studios. I’ve been acquainted with Rebecca or years now and I think Vastar was released at least two years ago but I’d just never had the chance to see it – but it really well done. I’ll let her own site describe it to you but we were impressed. The other was Guitar Praise from Digital Praise. Some people have dogged this game because it is, in fact, a shameless copy of Guitar Hero. But it never claims to be anything so I can’t see the problem. But this is the first time I’ve actually played the game and I found it very cool and very fun. I like the songs, I like the already proven game mechanic, so I’m good. $90 feels pretty high these days when I can get Guitar Hero for ~$60 these days and the fact that it’s not on XBLA seems like an obviously oversight but the software and graphics are solid and I wish I’d purchased the game last year.