Kate Edwards has enjoyed building a fulfilling career in the video game industry (read this interview to find out more). Now she is going another step forward as she accepts the Executive Director role at the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Being involved with IGDA since 2004, she founded the Localization SIG in 2007, served on the board of directors of the IGDA Seattle chapter since 2009 and received the MVP award in 2011. She sat down with us to discuss issues the game development community is facing, the importance of IGDA, and what she hopes to do in her new role as Executive Director of IGDA.
Throughout her time in the industry, Edwards has noticed several challenges the community has faced, from within the community as well as outside it. It is a lot to manage, but Edwards believes the rapid evolution of the industry is a particular issue which needs attention. The tricky economics of game development can be difficult to deal with, having a direct impact on the community. Mercurial audience demands also make it difficult to keep ahead. When a company does not evolve fast enough, this can lead to cutbacks, or in the worst case, layoffs. “The dynamic nature of the consumer market and the industry demands that both development companies and individual employees remain very agile,” says Edwards. She doesn’t see a short-term resolution to this problem, but she also feels that this constant change is part of the excitement.
Another issue Edwards feels needs addressing is workplace diversity. Management and HR circles will mention it, and the media highlights it on occasion, but Edwards feels it is important that this be decided by the individuals of a company. They have to choose for themselves what type of industry they want to work in. “As the global gamer population continues to become very richly diverse across geographies cultures, languages, genders, ethnicities, and so on, those who create games need to accept the fact that this is the world in which we live,” says Edwards. “When embraced, such differences can be leveraged as a powerful creative and economic force.” She believes resolving this issue is going to be a long-term cultural change. It may not go away completely, but it can lessen through a developer’s individual actions.
Importance of IGDA
Having been involved with the IGDA for a number of years, Edwards has been in a position to see what IGDA has been able to do for developers. Completely dedicated to game developers and their needs, IGDA has volunteer-run chapters around the world and expands the global effort of game development. While involved in the Localization SIG, Edwards witness the connection of like-minded professionals in localization and globalization issues. It broadened her understanding of those issues as well as her connection to professionals outside her expertise. One of her greatest memories of IGDA was the first time the Localization SIG conducted its annual meeting at GDC in San Francisco. “We had an awesome turnout and people were so eager and ready to engage, and the meeting lasted far longer than expected because of all the networking and collaboration discussions,” she recalls. The eagerness to be involved was astounding to Edwards. As the creator of the Localization SIG, she was amazed to witness the enthusiasm in the group. Throughout her time at IGDA, Edwards found IGDA to be indispensable for making connections in the game development community.
According to Edwards, IGDA initiatives take place on two levels: key organization initiatives and the pursuit of advocacy on a wide range of issues. However, there are three key initiatives she is most passionate about currently:
• Employment Contract Review process (currently in development) – IGDA identified 10 key areas for evaluation in an employment contract so a developer can understand the document they are signing. This process will also provide information to the company in the form of an assessment of their contracts through a game developer’s perspective.
• Changing the perception that IGDA is a mostly-US entity – Due to the large US membership, many non-members are under the misguided perception that the IGDA is a largely-US entity. Edwards wants to change that idea, since the organization is a global entity.
• Changing the perception that IGDA is meant for large studio-based developers – There has been a recent rise of successful indie developers, but many non-members believe that the IGDA is not available to any developers other than studio-based developers. Edwards wants to emphasize the face that the IGDA exists for all developers.
As enthusiastic as Edwards is about her work as a geographer and culturalization consultant, she is just as enthusiastic about the IGDA. Because of this, she has stepped into the role of Executive Director. “As my involvement in the organization expanded over the years, I came to know so many outstanding, brilliant people who give so much of their time and effort to push things forward for the greater good of all developers,” says Edwards.
“That level of dedication is something I not only wanted to be a part of as a member, but compelled me to do more to help to cause. “ She believes her experience working side by side with every function on a game will help her in her new role. When asked what she now hopes to accomplish, she provided the following four goals:
“1. Reemphasize the “I” in IGDA: The perception of the organization needs to change. The IGDA is not a U.S.-based organization that happens to be in other countries; we are an international organization that happens to have a large U.S. membership. I’d like to improve our inclusion of people, best practices and creativity from all chapters worldwide by better managing the communication and execution of ideas to and from IGDA leadership. This starts with providing better access between my role and the membership.
2. Reassert the IGDA’s relevance: The IGDA will be more proactive and visionary as a force in our industry. We will reassert a thought leadership position for issues affecting game developers and to achieve this, I will rely on our vast SIG-based expertise on key topics.
3. Reiterate the IGDA’s value proposition: I hope to demonstrate the value of our membership through stronger partnerships and incentives internationally, nationally and locally; an IGDA membership should benefit members at any level, from those in major studios to indie developers.
4. Reinforce the IGDA as a professional collaboration: I’d like to see a membership of incredible volunteers being even more proactive to engage and feeling empowered to act on their initiatives. Our mutual respect for one another – regardless of our genders, ages, nationalities and so forth – needs to be an example to those who play our games.”