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Organizations for Game Developers

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International Game Developers' Association

    The professional society for game developers, and the non-profit affiliate of the Game Developers' Conference. The IGDA seeks to serve the community of game developers in a number of important ways:

    • Providing career services for indvidual developers.
    • Providing business services for development companies.
    • Representing the views of game developers in public-policy debates.
    • Promoting interactive entertainment as an art form.
    • Bringing the community together through publications and the Game Developers' Conference.

    In addition to these functions the IGDA has a number of important outreach and educational activities, including an Education Committee which seeks to build ties between the game industry and academe, and a Women in Game Development Committee which works to improve gender equity within the industry, among other things.

    I founded the IGDA back in 1994 with help from several colleagues, and served as its first chairman for two and a half years.

    If you are, or want to be, a game developer, whether professional or amateur, I strongly recommend that you join the IGDA. There are no requirements: a game developer is someone who has an interest in developing games, period. There is a discount rate for students.

Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences

    The name is modelled on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars. The AIAS also has an awards program. Full membership is restricted to people who have worked in the industry for at least two years, and have published game credits. The AIAS doesn't seem to have nearly as much of a community-based, grassroots approach as the IGDA. I'm not a member.

Association for Computing Machinery

    The oldest society for computer professionals. Although somewhat slanted towards software rather than hardware (which is ably represented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE), this is an excellent organization for anyone interested in computing in general. It is a serious society offering a refereed journal, JACM, and a monthly magazine, Communications of the ACM, which is very useful for keeping up-to-date with developments in computer science and also with social and public-policy issues related to computing in general. The ACM has spawned a vast number of special interest groups, or SIGs, of which SIGGRAPH is the best known. Most of these have their own newsletter.

    I have been a member of the ACM for many years.

American Association for Artificial Intelligence

    The AAAI is a scientific society dedicated to the advancement of artificial intelligence. The AAAI supports AI research in all its aspects, which includes AI for games and simulations. Although I am not a member, I have served on the program committee of the AAAI's  Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

    Computers have changed our lives in ways unimagined even by most science fiction authors. Not all of these have been for the good. Although the Big Brother environment envisaged in the 1950's has so far failed to materialize, abuses of information technology can and do occur. The CPSR, modeled on the famous Physicians for Social Responsibility, seeks to watch and warn when the unethical or unwise use of computers threatens our political, social, or physical welfare. It's far too easy for politicians (and for that matter anyone) to see computers as a universal panacea without recognizing their limitations and potential risks. The CPSR is by no means a Luddite organization, but it does highlight concerns that those who use computers chiefly as a means of making money would probably rather ignore.


Entertainment Software Association

    This is the trade association for the interactive entertainment industry in America. It is largely concerned with supporting the publishers which are its members, and it does work in a variety of areas: prosecution of piracy, protection of intellectual property rights, and representing the industry to government, particularly where the  issue of violence and video games is concerned. It is also the parent organization of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (described below).

    Because the ESA is a trade association representing game publishers, its members' interests may occasionally be at odds with those of individual developers and also of consumers. Nevertheless it does important work which tends to serve the good of the industry.

Entertainment Software Rating Board

    Established in response to Congressional pressure over the issue of violence in video games, the ESRB is the best-known rating system for interactive entertainment. Regardless of what you believe about whether violent media cause violent behavior, I think we can all agree that there is a benefit in giving the consumer clear and consistent information about the content of the game they are buying, especially if they are buying it for children.

    The ESRB's ratings include both a recommended age bracket and a series of content descriptors to explain more accurately what is actually in the game. Despite the industry's reptutation for producing violent games, 80% of all games rated receive the "Everyone" rating meaning that the game is acceptable for all age groups.

    I have concerns about the way the ESRB works (the board members are anonymous, presumably to protect them from undue influence, and the rating criteria are not explicitly spelled out), but I can't deny that it provides a valuable service. You can visit their website to find the rating and content descriptors of any game rated so far.

 

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