Getting Started

Good Morning,

As promised, I will be posting once a week to this blog for all IGDA members to be more aware of what is going on within the association.  Many of you speak about greater transparency, and this is one way I’ll provide you with greater insight on how things are being handled in the association.

As an aside: This post is much longer than what I will be providing on a regular basis.  It is also at a very high level, summarizing what is happening in many areas.  Moving forward I will work on giving you a synopsis of general items, and depth on one or two areas that are timely.

There’s a LOT going on at the IGDA, and since you’ve asked for more info, here it comes. There is no particular order to the below, so please do not assign any level of prestige to any specific positioning of a topic.  Let’s get to it:

First, allow me to thank each of you who paid to renew your membership dues this year.  Globally the world’s economies are facing quite a challenge, and I know that paying membership dues can be a thoughtful decision.  One of my primary commitments to each of you that have paid your dues is to begin making the IGDA a “no-brainer”.  Over the coming months you will begin seeing some changes in the value being brought to you for your membership dollars.  You will begin seeing new programs and new services as well as changes to existing projects that will make paid membership an easy decision to make.

Second, there is a lot of “back end” work going on at the moment.  Jason did an excellent job as a one man show for a long time, and even with the outsourcing of some operations to the Talley Management Group (TMG) he still was able to keep his fingers in all of the IGDA projects.  This means I have a lot of learning to do, which was a large part of the reason for not announcing me immediately upon my arrival.

As I walk through the operational areas like:  Financials, Meeting Planning, Membership Recruitment/Retention/Maintenance, Communications (including the newsletter), Website, SIG and Chapter support, I find there aren’t a lot of procedures and policies that are understood by the folks involved.  This has led to a number of small but visible issues, and some others that have gone on behind the scenes. A fair amount of my time is currently being spent in walking through the various areas of operation, cleaning up processes, and creating some documentation of how the IGDA does things and why.  I am applying a number of association best practices and putting these together in an operations manual.  While the manual will take time to fully develop, it will make it much easier for us to run the association, for the Board to make decisions, and for the membership at large to understand how we approach making things happen.

Third, I am very pleasantly surprised at the number of projects, proposals and ideas being brought forward by the membership for the IGDA to pursue.  This group is fantastically creative and the level of volunteerism is extraordinary.  However, there is one resource that the IGDA lacks to be able to pursue all of the programs on the board; money.  Thus I am looking at where we are spending our financial resources and where we can trim back without reducing the level of service we are providing.

However, the IGDA runs a pretty lean ship, so the real journey ahead of us for increasing financial resources is to find new sources of revenue. Clearly the IGDA is not interested in raising the dues for members, so please be aware that at this time a dues increase is off the table. As an association professional, one of the largest sources that I see as untapped by this group is in terms of sponsorships.

In looking at the forms of sponsorship being used by events and other organizations in the industry, the Game Development community is very insular.  I see the same sponsors being used again and again.  Well kudos to them for supporting their industry, but we need to look a little outside the box.  I will be coming to you with sponsors who are unrelated to games development, but who are related to your quality of life.  These may be consumer electronics, automobiles, financial services/insurance, or other life-oriented companies.  The mission of the IGDA is, in part, to “enhance the lives” of game developers.

To help me with recruiting new sponsors to the IGDA, via Jamil Moledina, has extended an offer to a sales professional from within the industry.  This person will be reaching out to traditional and new sponsors, providing them with the opportunities to get in front of you in a tasteful and reserved manner.  (If any of you watch public television, or listen to NPR you’ll get a sense of what we are planning.)

I would also like to mention here that AutoDesk has agreed to support the IGDA again.  Their work with Gordon Bellamy has led to the continuation of what appears to me to be a great win/win relationship.  So allow me to briefly thank them for their involvement in the industry.

Next, after nine years and now having over 14,000 paid members, it is time for the IGDA to consider itself as an entity that will continue into the indefinite future.  As such, it is important for the organization to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start building a reserve fund for rainy days, also to set aside a separate fund for new proposals such as the magazine the Writer’s SIG has begun to develop.  While saving today limits the amount of spending we can do right now, in the long run we’ll have a stronger financial position form which to move as an organization.

Fifth, I mentioned previously there are some great projects that have been developed using the IGDA by some of our more active members.  One project in specific is the Global Game Jam, produced as an offshoot of the Education SIG.  This is just a great program, and the Board of the IGDA has outspoken support for it continuing.  With the current limitations and requirements of being an association event; we are working with the founders of the GGJ to find a win/win means of allowing them to run the program within the IGDA or take it independent to run on its own.  I expect great things from the next GGJ regardless of where it officially resides and encourage each of you to consider participating.  We had a limited number of actual IGDA members involved last time, and it would be great to see more.

Sixth, the third annual Leadership Forum is getting ready to accept registrations.  I’ve watched the DVDs of this event, and for professionals in the industry I can’t imagine a reason why you wouldn’t want to expose yourself to the high caliber professionals presenting.  The LF committee is finalizing the speakers for this year, and I’ll be working on putting together the operational aspects of the event.  You’ll be seeing much more about this event in the next few weeks, and I encourage you all to attend.

Next, the Website:  Yes, many people have made me aware of the history here and thank you all for your insights.  Tim Langdell has taken a very active role in picking up the ball from Jason’s handoff, and running with it.  I know he is interested in making some of the announcements himself, but I think he’ll be ok with me opening the flaps a little.  There is a working version of the site which still has a number of “blockers” preventing its launch. Most of these “blockers” have been identified by the SIG and Chapter leaders (Thank you all for taking the time to work with us on this project.) and are being resolved by the developers under the watchful eyes of Tim and Tobi Saulnier.  No website is ever perfect, and I am sure there will need to be multiple evolutions of this one, but the initial impact the site will have on the capabilities of the IGDA will be important enough for us to move forward even with imperfection.  We’ll be putting out more on this topic over the next few weeks as we get closer to being able to show all of you things.

Eighth:  On that note, there was a recent issue with the Wiki.  I apologize for any consternation that may have caused any of you.  In summary; we had a “rogue script” that had been being bad since 2007, and the host decided to take action.  Tim Langdell and Joseph Sapp (whom you all know as Joda) stepped in as soon as we learned of the issue and worked through some scenarios to resolve it.  In the end we upgraded the software, which resolved the problem, but used new directional indicators, and thus created the perception that data was lost.  This was corrected shortly afterwards, and at this time the Wiki seems to be running very well.

I would also like to thank the SIG leaders for their involvement in the issue.  It should be noted that the new website will not be directly impacting the wiki other than the fact that we will be moving both to a more robust environment when we go live.  I commit to you that I will be announcing all of the activities with these as we move forward.

As an aside:  The formal announcement of my coming on as the executive director was supposed to occur on July 1st.  Because of the wiki challenge, most of my web based resources were focused on resolving that issue.  Thus I made the decision to delay the announcement and stay focused on solving the issue at hand, rather than taking resources off that project and getting the word out.

Ninth:  Quality.  I have heard from many of you concerns about the IGDA’s ability to “do things right”.  In my immersion into the association I understand why some of you might feel that way.  I also understand why things are the way they are.  For a very long time, you had a single paid professional running your organization, with a handful of volunteers, and then you hired an outsourcing firm to take on some of the administrative functions.  Then for 2-3 months you lost that paid professional.

Allow me to be direct: the IGDA runs on limited personnel resources.  Even with the outstanding level of volunteer support, we simply cannot do everything that is on our plate.  In addition, for those of you who are in project management or development, you are aware of the tradeoffs required between cost, quality and speed.  It may be that quality for various reasons (good and bad) took the backseat in the tradeoffs.

I will be working hard to change that.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t be quick.  It will mean focusing our attention on one project at a time and trying for a higher level of satisfaction in the results.  I am personally committed to quality, and I will be bringing that to this position.

Please note:  I said Quality, not Perfection.  I am not perfect, and I will make many mistakes.  My efforts will be in not making the same mistake twice.

Finally:  The Board of Directors:  These folks really deserve a note of thanks.  I know that the forums are filled with suggestions of “do nothing” and “sinister” boards.  Again, I understand why some of you may have gotten that impression.  But in getting involved here on the back end, what I see are a group of people who are passionate about the association, who also have real careers and families and lives to live.  There was a great deal of behind the scenes activity that had to occur to keep the IGDA afloat while we were in transition.  Even now, the Board is spending a great deal of time in giving me the insight and support I need to take over all the tasks involved.  Consider that many of them have given up 10-20 hours a week over the last three months between association activities and the Exec search.  Perhaps there was more going on than was obvious, and perhaps the lack of communications was less a result of sinister activity and more a result of having only so much time in a day.

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