I made my annual retreat to the Games for Change conference, which is not so much a true retreat as it takes place just blocks away from work, but perhaps more a cognitive retreat – one that allows me to listen and ponder in a room of other folks that generally find the same kind of stuff interesting. Indeed, Games for Change may be my iD Tech Camp.
iD Tech Camp is a haven for young people that share a love for something, whether it’s video games or design or photography or programming or robotics or Minecraft or any number of the other awesome offerings. A love and a passion for these subjects isn’t universally shared, which is sad. These future campers go to school and hang out with peers that don’t necessarily want to create new video games or get excited when the latest hardware is announced. It can be lonely. You feel alone.
I have a strange history with video games myself. I went to a fairly prestigious school to get my degree in Computer Science. I wanted to make video games. Unfortunately, the messaging they had was that by completing my courses and doing well, I would get a great job designing databases for large corporations or the operating system for a $3 million copying machine. I left after one year to pursue a degree in Playwriting. The year of my graduation, the same institution that scared me away from Computer Science started an undergraduate degree in Game Design. Go figure.
Years later, I was graduating with my Masters in something I approximated would help further my strange pursuit into the land of gaming. This time, the degree was in a combination of art and technology – there were no graduate degrees in gaming, that would be absurd, right? Oh. Yeah. Except that the year I graduated, they announced that they, too, would be jumping on the game degree bandwagon with a Masters of Game Design program. Again I miss out.
Long before that, I would have been the perfect iD Tech camper. Instead, I was enrolled at Sacred Heart University (one of the current iD Tech sites) in a Pascal programming class over the summer. It took a week, but I was able to make my very own screen saver of fireworks. Hooray.
I know what it’s like to long companionship in a world of non-designers. I have also seen the arrival moment at iD Tech. When I was the director at iD Vassar, I would sit during the post move-in pizza dinner and chat up video games with a large group of timid newcomers. These surprised youth would be fascinated in my encyclopedic knowledge of console and PC gaming and fork off into long conversations of their own with a group of peers that had the same knowledge-base. They were surrounded by their people. The campers found out that they were not all alone in the universe in their love – and it was a beautiful thing.
There I am, at Games for Change, among a group of folks that all want the same thing – to create incredible experiences that promote positive social good through gaming. I am not all alone in the universe. And in that moment, I was home.