When the Game Developers Conference (GDC) canceled because of the coronavirus, it was a disaster for small indie game developers. That’s why the International Game Developers Association stepped in to help.
Then the Entertainment Software Association had to cancel another big trade event, E3, and things really got tough for indies.
“The IGDA is taking a lot of steps to make sure that developers are supported even with the effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said Renee Gittins, executive director of the IGDA, in an interview with GamesBeat. “One of the things that we are launching is an IGDA showcase to highlight upcoming games from IGDA members, to hopefully help diminish the effects of GDC’s postponement and E3’s cancellation.”
She also said that the IGDA is partnering with Take This, which provides mental health support for the game industry, to develop new materials and standards of support and professionalism, especially targeted towards leadership and management. (Gittins will be a speaker at our GamesBeat Summit Digital event on April 28 and April 29).
“We’re about to publish HR policy guidelines that provide a basic rundown of all HR policies that a new company should have,” Gittins said. “The idea is to ensure that companies are started from the beginning with an idea of how to create a supportive culture and how to prepare for all of the little intricacies and unexpected issues that you might run into when running a game studio.”
Indeed, one of the common things that happens in an economic downturn is that big game companies lay off a lot of people, and then those people go and start their own game companies.
The IGDA is working on publishing recommendations about how to deal with the coronavirus. That will help developers decide how to deal with hosted events, or where to find webinars that are happening on the IGDA Twitch channel.
“We’re going to be hosting webinars by all of our local chapters and special interest groups,” Gittins said. “So game developers can still host events and get a good audience. That’s going to happen for an ongoing time, as we have 115 local chapters around the world that generally host monthly events. We are working to have alternatives to those events, so the developers in their communities can still get that information and maintain this connection.”
The IGDA is partnering with GameDev.world, the online-only game developer event that indie developer Rami Ismail started. Ismail’s group announced that it will raise money for indie game developers affected by the postponement of the GDC. GDC held some sessions last week for some of the talks, and it has rescheduled its event for the first week of August.
One of the tools that the IGDA is tapping is Discord.
“We launched that channel last year and it has been really helpful. And there’s been a lot of communication going on through that Discord, helping those communities to connect. I think certainly with the current pandemic, we’ll be seeing a lot more focused on online networking and online conferences and events.”
In addition, the IGDA has created a set of resources and recommendations for event diversity. Developers are sharing ideas on how to best work from home, and how to support their isolated employees. The idea is to continue to help developers around the world achieve fulfilling and sustainable careers in game development.
Gittins said that developers should look to local governments and health organizations for any advice about doing any physical events, which most are now discouraging.
“We have seen a lot of developers revealing their games online, or giving informative talks that were going to be GDC presentations,” Gittins said. “Some of our chapters make greater use of online communication technologies like Discord and Slack to keep their communities active and engaged. Right now, that’s the only way to meet.”