Norway… I have a really weird relationship with this country. Well, I imagine that I have a minimal relationship with the country as a whole, I get to experience an isolated sliver of it, just the game development part and then only for a few days a year for the past year. But… Norway. This year’s trip was especially epic.
So it all started Tuesday with a 5am alarm call for a flight to Norway, followed by a 20 minute dash across AMS trying to make a connecting flight. I’m not a sprinter. I’m not a jogger for fucks sake, but I did it.
Wednesday I was booked to speak at the Høgskollen I Bergen which seems to be roughly analogous to community college. It was a new set discussing advances in Game AI from the last month, contrasting Destiny with LotR: Shadows or Mordor and digging into me ideas about how SoM might work under the hood. Standing room only! It was a fairly small room, maybe a 40 seater, but there were people sat on the steps. Great times.
That evening I saw Ste Curran present his session “Killing the Games Industry” which is… something. It’s stayed with me and I don’t know. I’d never considered what games culture would look like as it invade performance arts, but now I think I know. I think Ste’s session was almost Beat Poetry about games? Or… something? Decide for yourself in the same session from another event. Well worth a watch!
Thursday I had a slow start to the day, dealt with emails and then headed out to get lunch as part of the Konsoll conference which was the reason I was in Norway to begin with. They’d moved where the lunch was being held, so I was fumbling around a bit til I ran into James Portnow (of Extra Credits and Games4Good fame). He waved me over despite being in a deep conversation – thankfully we’d had chance to catch up a couple of nights before when I’d first arrived in town. “You’re at the thing tonight?” I asked. “Which thing? I’m at my thing.” I had no idea that there were going to be multiple things. “hey I know,” he said “why don’t you join me?”
But first I headed into the conference with the intention of working on my slides. No sooner had I sat down, got my laptop out and connected to the wireless than a message popped up “Hi Luke I don’t know if you remember me I’m with the BBC….”. An interview request. I swear I thought I was being punked. They wanted to arrange an on-camera discussion of all the ongoing harassment within the industry, which since I was abroad I wasn’t able to do. They also asked me to appear on a BBC World Service program with a short interview clip (starting from 20:30). I was nervous – as a rule directors of the IGDA aren’t really supposed to make statements on behalf of the organisation or do press, but the timing was such that I couldn’t get clearance in time, but I decided that it was too good an opportunity for us to pas up.
So back to Thursday night, where I gate crashed a fireside chat James was having with a local journalist and teacher to discuss the games medium. I was a bit uncomfortable and felt like I was going to be intruding but the whole night turned into a really surreal adventure as things got progressively stranger. I think everyone had a good time, I think we made some good points. I know James did, I hope I did. It certainly generated some great discussion afterwards especially around the concepts of adaptive difficulty, which James and I have very different takes on.
Then on to the conference party where many of the speakers had offered their time as part of a charity auction. The bidding for me didn’t go as high as I had hoped (in large part due to very poor self-promotion on my part), but the winner wanted to turn my offer of mentoring and tutoring in AI into something his whole class could benefit from, so this past Wednesday I sat down and did a marathon session of over 4 hours dropping as much knowledge as I could on a group of students in Oslo. Much fun was had!
Friday morning, and my last day at the conference. I was second up to give a lecture, following the absolutely wonderful Emmy Jonassen a Boston-based marketing consultant. Bit of a tough spot – Emmy does great talks and I was working out some new material for the first time. I got some laughs and there was an engaging Q&A afterwards that ran the gamut from the leadership content I had discussed in the talk to the IGDA Scholars program and the IGDA Foundation. I wasn’t happy with the material – honestly I think that set needs four or five more trials before its going to be really worked out, but it seemed well received so it goes in the “win” column.
I just had time to come out of my lecture, grab a quick bite at the conference-provided lunch and check out of my hotel before I went into my workshop. I’d agreed to do a long session deep-diving on all things Game AI. In part this was because I wasn’t doing a lecture on Game AI this year so as compensation I’d said I’d do a long “Ask Me Anything” style session so that I could give meaningful advice and insight rather than just trying to package up some of my brain for them into an hour that may or may not have had relevance. Some great questions came up.
And then to the airport. I shared a taxi out with Anna Marsh of Lady Shotgun / Tckty Boom Games, a friend from my time at Chartboost University. I’d missed her session at the conference due to my workshop so it was great to catch up on how things were going for her team. It was rare to be at Bergen airport both sober and not hungover, but I guess that’s what a Friday afternoon flight does to you.
Then back to the real world, having spent time with old friends and made a bunch of new ones. Konsoll has been very good to me over the years.
Norway… I love that place.