A week from today I have the privilege of running the IGDA Advocacy session at GDC. Officially titled “IGDA Anti-Censorship & Social Issues Committee Presents Advocacy Training: The Spotlight is On!”, this is part roundtable, part workshop. In the decades I have been part of the game industry, I have seen innumerable needless controversies pop up – and sometimes been part of them. However, this session is not just about reacting to other peoples’ complaints. It also focuses on how we present ourselves and what we do in the most realistic way, without having to go through the traditional “Games are bad, m’kay?” filter. We are all advocate-developers, whether we want to be or not.
Our industry has numerous reasons and opportunities to present itself as the beneficial part of society that it is. We have a great impact on the national economy (not to mention the balance of trade), get young people interested in studying subjects like coding and art, play roles in health and education, and are on the cutting edge of some of the most interesting tech developments out there.
In the past year I have spoken about games and game development to groups as diverse as the CDC, legislators, elementary school students, teachers, business leaders and more. All of them are very receptive to what our industry offers, but all have also heard many of the same unsubstantiated and unverifiable negatives about games that you have. It benefits all of us to address all these issues, highlighting the positive and refuting the false.
Right now the plan for the GDC session is to focus both on reactive and proactive advocacy. The reactive side deals with such concerns as games being a cause of violence, harassment of game developers, and the like. The proactive side focuses on highlighting our strengths and benefits, to individuals and society. Some examples of the proactive side are promoting good studies demonstrating the value of gaming, working with public officials in improving education related to game development, and even making sure to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of our peers (BLATANT PLUG FOR THE TONY TSENG MEMORIAL).
While the strategies and tactics for reactive and proactive advocacy are similar, there are some distinct differences. For proactive advocacy:
1. Identify specific (and achievable) results;
2. Ensure industry support;
3. Enlist allies;
4. Determine best platforms for advocacy;
5. Promote your core positions;
6. Recognize any opposition and reasons for such;
7. Attempt to assuage such opposition, or if not, then ensure that any opposition stemming from false beliefs about the industry is noted;
8. Celebrate any successes;
9. Identify next steps.
In my next blog post, I will give some examples of how the game industry has engaged in such advocacy. Any comments are welcome.