Greetings from Joshua

Dear IGDA Members,

Hello, my name is Joshua Caulfield, and I’m the new Executive Director of the IGDA.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last 2 weeks to reach out and connect with many of you – including several SIG and Chapter Leaders – getting some direct feedback while at the same time learning the fundamentals of the operations.  If this were an RPG game, I’ve basically been in the starter zone learning the controls and meeting with the Characters who will be influential in my continued success.  The only thing missing are the hint messages that point me in the right direction.

This is the first post in my “IGDA Staff Blog.”  While I will not be the only IGDA staffer posting here, I am committing to you right now that I will post here at least once a week about what is going on in the IGDA.  Most of the posts will be shorter than this first one, but I’ll try and summarize the important facets of whatever topic we are wrestling with.  You are always welcome to reach out via email to any of the IGDA staff on any topic for more info.

This blog is the first step in creating a greater level of communication between you, the membership, the volunteer leaders whom you elect each year, and the staff who are hired to affect your will in the organization.  I’ll come back to that more in the coming months, but I want to make it very clear that your desire for more info about what is going on has been heard, and through a number of means I will be seeking to provide more awareness and greater insight into what’s going on and why we do things the way we do.

So let’s get into the blog post, shall we?

Let’s start with the important stuff.  I’m an avid gamer.  I started at age 5 playing red box D&D (not A, that was to come later).  I still play many tabletop games and have bookshelves overflowing with a number of systems in the office where I am writing this post.  I also enjoy a lot of console games.  I have most of the major systems, and a few legacy systems I pull out when I have the itch to play something out of the past.  My group of RL friends and I tend to play MMOs together, and most recently ended a long experience in World of Warcraft.  In the MMOs I tend to play the healer (though in WOW I was a shadow priest and backup healer), which in many ways ties to my enjoyment professionally of playing a supporting role allowing association members to get the most out of their own professional lives.

I like shooters, but I’m generally not good enough to be anything other than the target, so these end up having limited appeal for me over time.

With the amount of travel I have been doing I have really begun to get into casual games, and have been very impressed with where that aspect of the industry has moved.

Why me?

The first question most folks have had for me in my calls over the past few weeks is “Why did we choose an association guy instead of a game industry guy?”  It’s a valid question, and let me share with you a summary of what I suggested to the people who have asked it so far:

Organizational Maturity:

As an association, you are in a period of tremendous change.  The IGDA is not a 600 person “club” who meet once or twice a year at a big conference to exchange ideas and phone numbers.  While that still happens, the organization has grown tremendously over the last 4 years to a 12-14K membership base in over 12 countries with some real items on the agenda.  You should all be very proud of where the IGDA has gotten.

Yet now you are experiencing very traditional organizational issues related to the organizational life-cycle.  You are maturing from a Start-Up to a Growing Concern.  This brings challenges in terms of communications to the stakeholders, ensuring real value to the members, and providing financial and staff resources to the members who are seeking to enact programs. The operational processes and procedures you have had in place as a small organization are not scaling well with more projects and more members, and you have some internal debate about how much centralization vs. distributed power you want to have in the association.

Thus you need someone who understands the different needs that a maturing and transitioning organization has.  There are skills that can assist in creating operational processes in terms of running the association and managing the support staff to ensure that the membership is getting everything they can out of their dues.  Also, there is a much greater need for financial resources and the controls that come with managing a larger number of transactions and funds.  It certainly helps that the person you have selected has experience in moving from entrepreneurial management to a more organized and process driven orientation.

Industry Expertise:

You already have monstrous amounts of experience and industry competence and credibility in your Board of Directors, your SIG Leaders, your Chapter Leaders, and the hundreds of other volunteers I have already begun to associate with.  What you need is someone who can run the operations of an association.  You need a person who understands financials and membership recruitment and retention.  You need someone who knows what the form 990 is and what the tax implications are for revenues earned so we don’t lose our filing status.  You need someone who has read through the bylaws and understands how to enact them effectively, and also provide the Board some direction on cleaning them up.

You also need a professional who understands how to come up to speed on an industry, and can cross over to work with people in the event/tradeshow industry, educational institutions, financial planning and management, and the larger association community.  There are a large number of professionals who make associations their careers.  These people can move gracefully from discussing advocacy and government affairs, to finance, to creating accredited certification programs.  These are the type of people who can come into your organization, look through the current situations, and provide you with strategies, actionable plans, and point you at resources to make things happen.

In short, you need someone who understands both the business and operations side of an association, who can learn what it truly means to be a game developer, and who can then provide you with the tools to make your professional life more rewarding and more fun.

So what am I going to do?

I’ve been getting this question a lot, and it’s a good one.

Here’s the thing; The IGDA isn’t about ME, it’s about YOU.  So my first priority is to learn about and meet with as many of you as possible as quickly as possible.  I want to understand what you do, and who you are, and why you do things the way that you do.  I want to understand the industry, and the fundamentals of the game development process, and how studios work… etc.

I’ve already begun this learning process, but it’s a steep curve, and I hope you’ll be a little patient with me as I come up to speed.

Shortly, you will be receiving an email with a link to an on-line member survey. The survey is focused on two areas:  Satisfaction of the membership (what’s working for you, and what’s not; as well as what you would like to see in the future) and membership definition (demographic data to understand who the members are, what groups are represented, how we best serve you).

Please take a few minutes to give us your thoughts on these important questions.  Your answers will help me to clean up the areas where we are missing the mark, and find new programs that provide value to you in your professional lives.  By completing the member profile, you will aid me in finding new partners outside the industry who may be able to provide discounts and services in terms of increasing quality of life, professional development, and personal growth.  I will be using the data from this survey in most of my initial decisions in the coming year, so please make sure your voice is counted.

There are many more things coming, as well as a lot of internal reorganization that comes with a change in management.  I’ll keep you up to date in this blog every week by picking a topic and telling you where we stand, background as necessary, and what the plans for the future are.  If you have any questions, you may always send me an email, and I will endeavor to respond to you within 2 business days.

I am very excited to be here, and look forward to meeting and working with all of you.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Sincerely,

Joshua

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