Even though they let people like me into it, the DICE Summit is perhaps the most elite event in the game industry. It features talks from the superstars of games and an awards show that is akin to the Oscars of gaming. The Las Vegas event is coming around again for the 15th time this week, and I’ll be there to cover it.
Like other shows such as the Academy Awards, the DICE Summit and its DICE Awards events are more than just a gathering place for gaming’s leaders. It’s a place where they try to set the tone for the year and take stock of the cultural touchstones that gaming has created in our lives. It’s a bit of intellectual chaos, and the result is usually a good story or two (or ten).
Established in 2002 by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), the DICE Summit and its accompanying DICE Awards highlight the very best in games. Aside from my own conferences (GamesBeat Summit and GamesBeat 2016), the DICE Summit is always one of my favorite conferences of the year.
“It’s an interesting mix of people, including creative minds from outside the gaming business,” said Martin Rae, president of the AIAS and organizer of the event. “Anytime you can put a creative mind who is successful outside of games in front of this audience, the result is good. They can look at creativity in a different way.”
Guillermo del Toro, director of films like Pacific Rim, will hit the DICE Summit stage with Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid game series who recently parted ways with Konami and is now making a new game for Sony. Randy Pitchford, head of Gearbox Studios, maker of the Borderlands series, will appear on stage doing magic tricks with comedian Penn Jillette.
One of the more interesting speakers is Rhianna Pratchett, a narrative writer for video games and the writer behind strong female characters such as Nariko in Heavenly Sword, Faith in Mirror’s Edge, and the rebooted Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. (See our in-depth interview with Pratchett). Her talk will be interesting because, as she noted in our interview, video games are way behind the diversity of their audiences.
“This industry grew up saying that mechanics and gameplay were more important than story,” Rae said. “Narrative was sidelined. I think people realize now that a great story makes for a great game. And she comes at it as a writer.”
In one of the zanier talks, Richard Hilleman, chief creative director at Electronic Arts, will moderate a session on games in automobiles (presumably not played by the driver).
“Cars are becoming a platform for so many things, including new user experiences,” Rae said.
Todd Howard, head of development at Bethesda Game Studios and creator of blockbuster games such as Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, will give a talk. And the legendary Sid Meier and fellow game designers Bruce Shelley, Brian Reynolds, and Soren Johnson will talk about the cultural impact of 25 years of Civilization games.
We’ll also hear talks from Tommy Francois, head of new intellectual property at Ubisoft; Niccolo De Masi, CEO of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood creator Glu Mobile; and Mike Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association.
The entertainment will include a celebrity esports tournament on the FaceIt platform.
As for logistics, the show moved from the Hard Rock Hotel to the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center this year.
You will be able to view livestreams of the sessions starting on Wednesday morning, when the conference opens. Attendees will get a chance to check out demos on virtual reality, augmented reality, and other technologies.
The 19th Annual (yes, it’s older than the conference itself) DICE Awards event, preceded by red carpet arrivals, will be the highlight of the show on Thursday night, running from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time. The awards show host will be Pete Holmes, the comedian whose credits include the podcast You Made It Weird, The Pete Holmes Show, and videos on FrontPage Films. The awards will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
“Pete did a nice job last year and we’re glad to have him back,” Rae said.