J.J. Abrams

The game industry’s marquee conference, the DICE (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit, is going to open with the geek equivalent of Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock. Film maker J.J. Abrams, who is directing the next Star Wars movie, will appear on stage with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell to talk about storytelling across digital entertainment platforms.

Gabe Newell

The opening keynote discussion at the conference will feature a conversation between the giants of two different entertainment industries in a talk entitled, “Storytelling Across Platforms: Who Benefits Most, the Audience or the Player?” We’ll be there, covering it live.

Abrams’ presence at the game event will inevitably invite discussion about the marriage of Hollywood and gaming, two industries that have had a mixed history together. But “transmedia” entertainment properties, or those that cross into different media, have become a bigger deal, leading to either huge entertainment blockbusters or flops.

Abrams is clearly the more famous entertainment celebrity, but Newell — whose company has made blockbusters such as Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead — has an equally committed fan community in the gaming space. At DICE, Newell will enter into the game industry’s Hall of Fame.

The keynote will take place on Feb. 6, the opening day of the 2013 DICE Summit at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) produces the summit, and it will feature an awards program that is akin to the Oscars of games.

“This about great entertainment, storytelling, and creativity,” said Martin Rae, president of the AIAS, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s about how two very different people have a conversation about what is important in entertaining their audiences. I know DICE attendees will be fascinated with what these two incredible people will have to say.”

Lucasfilm, which Disney acquired for $4 billion, recently confirmed Abrams as the director of the next Star Wars film, the seventh episode in the series.

“J.J. is involved in activities that resonate with game people,” Rae said. “And Gabe looked out ahead of everybody and anticipated what gamers needed. They’re brilliant and creative but come from different places.”

Abrams is the founder and president of Bad Robot Productions. Formed in 2001, Bad Robot has made films and television series such as Cloverfield, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, ABC’s Lost, Fox’s Fringe, and CBS’s Person of Interest. In 1998, Abrams co-created his first television series, Felicity; he then created and executive produced Alias in 2001, and co-created and executive produced Lost in 2004. In 2006, Abrams directed his first feature film, Mission: Impossible 3, followed by 2009’s Star Trek and 2011’s Super 8, which he also wrote. His most recent feature, Star Trek Into Darkness, will open in May.

Through Bad Robot Interactive, Abrams also created two award-winning apps, Super 8 and Action Movie FX. Rae said, “J.J. is about pushing entertainment to people using different media. The question for the future is how do you want the audience to be engaged? The entertainment of the future will be more interactive.”

Newell will also speak on the morning of Feb. 7 in a talk entitled “A View on Next Steps.” That talk will focus on the game industry. Newell made headlines recently when he unveiled plans to create an open-source, Linux-based video game console for use with televisions. The machine uses Valve’s Steam service, which dominates the field of digital-game distribution.

Rae said the Abrams-Newell conversation will stream live online.

[Image credits: JJ Abrams by Joi Ito, Flickr Creative Commons; Gabe Newell, Dean Takahashi]