[Editor\'s Note]: One of our newest members, ChildOfLight, was at this year\'s Christian Game Developer\'s Conference. It was another wonderful time (I\'m still writing up my own overview of the weekend). Please read the thoughts from ChildOfLight, and the impression he had from this year\'s conference. It was really great to meet him and I had a great time talking and kicking back with him. ----------

A newbie?s look at the Christian Game Developers Conference, 2004

By Warren ?ChildofLight? Bennett The public bus dropped me off at Cascade College on the 29th of July, 2004. After a 30 hour bus trip I was anxious to get into a shower and wipe the grim of at least five busstops and a two hour layover off me. I had my luggage, a suitcase, backpack full of goodies and my ancient portable computer. I was set for the three days that followed, however I didn?t know what I was set for. The Christian Game Developers Conference ? CGDC ? wasn?t something I had planned to attend. Sure, I had been playing games my whole life, but Christian games? It wasn?t something I took seriously. The few examples of Christian video and table top games I?ve played weren?t something I?d consider fun. Moral and educational sure, but not fun. So it was with a mix of trepidation and cynicism I burst in to the building that would house the CGDC for the next three days. I came as a cynic and left as a believer.

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

First came the business end of the conference. I wanted to attend this in case I did find the conference to be of benefit and would want to come in the future. This meeting was handled in a professional matter, although after my Journey from Arizona I found it hard to stay awake. Luckily someone had given me a bottle of mountain dew to drink, taking pity on my sad looking condition. The meeting set up the International Christian Game Developers Association (ICGDA) after a bit of friendly debate. I decided not to put my self up for the board, since I knew no one and no one new me. Outside of one person in the room, there wasn?t another person I could recognize in an up close and personal matter. Oh well, at least I ended up a voting member. I think. I?m sure I?ll find out one day. It was a basic business meeting accentuated by Christian Values. The board was chosen after prayer and then we all broke for dinner. After shedding my sweat-drenched outer garment and showering, I headed to dinner not knowing what would happen. One thing I noted, as we stood waiting to be seated, is how comfortable I felt around people I had just met. This was to be one constant throughout the next two days. I also found out at the dinner there were industry veterans to be present; Christians from the gaming past and present interested in sharing the Gospel through interactive, electronic environments. I felt a tad odd, one lone writer amongst those that gobbled up code and lay down levels for breakfast. This was an exciting night, however it was still only the beginning.

Friday, July 30th, 2004

There was a mix up. My partner and I didn?t get the hotel room we had expected; the motel deciding to charge double what was quoted. Oh well, the dorms would have to work. I wasn?t looking forward to staying in college dorm rooms (Who would?) but it must have been Providence. Staying in the dorms was one of the best things about the conference, allowing me to meet and socialize with people I might not have, otherwise. Sure I didn?t get any sleep, but it was well worth the lack. I thought the first night I was sleep deprived. I think I slept, maybe six hours. Stumbling in to a buffet style breakfast, I was much pleased to find not just hot coffee, but several bottles of starbucks? frappaccino. After eating a muffin, some scrumptious little sausages, a glass of coffee and a couple glass? of orange juice, I found myself ready to take on the world. That is until I stood up, then I just wanted to go back to bed. Go figure. The rest of the day was a blur as I went from keynote speaker, to workshop, back for lunch and then a discussion group. Don?t quote me on the order of events, I can?t quite place everything in chronological order. Much of what was said stayed with me, one becoming a favorite quote: ?The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the same results.? The gist of everything, it seemed to me, was that the Christian game industry needed to think differently, needed to approach game publishing and development in ways other than the accepted. We needed to be a community, supporting each other in ways our secular counterparts do not. Although the room consisted of many different development houses, both small and large, none should forget we are Christian first and foremost. A body of believers needing to see life differently and support one another as Christ supports us. To be honest this is something I saw there in many different ways. People weren?t secretive, they were open and honest. Unlike the counter-part at say, E3 or other conferences, there was a support and a friendliness I haven?t seen in many other places, Christian or secular. I often feel awkward in large groups, but I don?t think there was a time where that happened at the CGDC. I stumbled to my dorm an hour after the last workshop, closing in on 1 AM. I had just went through what I called the ?gauntlet,? people talking, asking questions, telling stories, and commenting on the industry. Every few feet seemed to be another person to talk to, another hand to shake. Although I was tired it was a feeling of calmness knowing these people had a heart and a vision for God that would win through any roadblocks that might try to topple this industry.

Saturday, July 31st 2004

After stumbling to my dorm near 1 AM, I found that I didn?t actually get to bed until after three. Teach me to stick my head out the dorm room door and see who?s talking. Breakfast was again excellent. There was coffee, both hot and cold. There were the little sausages. Lots of talk and lots of people pulling out laptops, some even pulling out a card game or two. Meals were a good time. As an aside, I must commend the organizers of the CGDC for feeding the gaggle of cats. I think, at one point, we went through forty pounds of lunch meat. It was all very good and much more then I expected for the price of the conference. The rest of the day was spent in group talks and in smaller workshops. I found the workshops on Law particularly interesting, bringing up many points I hadn?t though about before. Besides when a lawyer brings up an idea for a game about killing lawyers, what?s not to like? Everyone at the conference kept a good sense of humor. Sleep was in short supply but praying was abundant. Occasionally the slight buzz in the room overwhelmed those trying to listen to the speaker, but a polite shout or two helped relieve that problem. I also loved to hear industry veterans talk about their ?life in the trenches? as it were. I spent some time on he last day of the conference reliving memories of old Sierra adventure games with one of the men that actually worked on most of them. That be good times in my book. Saturday evening came the group dinner. As we paraded through the restaurant, leading back to a banquet room, I thought of Lemmings, a game I enjoyed as a youngster. Luckily, in this young industry, the people involved aren?t just mindlessly following trends. Although Christian media tends to be reactionary, I spoke with many wanting to break that trend and blaze new trails. With God anything is possible and despite our late start, the game industry shouldn?t write Christian game developers out. Another thing I learned from the last night?s dinner. At the dinner we had a limited selection, having to choose our meal from about five different items. A Canadian brother from the North and a British fellow from across the pond ordered the same thing I did. I will remember, to my dying day, to not assume people know the same things I do. Chicken Fried Steak isn?t chicken made like a steak. Remember that and we?ll all be happy.

Sunday, August 1st 2004

Three hours sleep the night before translated into almost no sleep the next night. Two other fellows and I stayed up designing a game, on paper. None of us had much sleep and, despite the hilarity of repeated phrases and bodily functions, we actually managed to get a good amount of work done. Sunday was a sad day in many other ways. The conference was over and I saw many people I had met leave. I found that this crowd liked to hug, showing their Christian love in a physical way. I found this comforting, people being open and honest breaking down my somewhat cynical nature. I was sad to see many people leave, but the community and connections I felt would endure long past these four days. A core group of people were left, many just waiting until it was time to leave. We had an impromptu church service on the big, comfy couches many a conversation were held. I can say this, despite coming from different backgrounds and various places on the earth, we had a good time in God. It was a nice end cap to the Conference, to be able to sit and worship the Almighty God together. We sang, we listened to some words of wisdom, and we prayed. I didn?t want to leave but alas we had to go. The conference was ended for another year. As I stood at the bus depot, bags lined up with the others waiting to go back to where ever, I thought about the previous few days. There is a sense of community in the Christian game industry I had not expected. People were willing and able to help one another, from deciphering a line of complex code to just hugging you when you seemed a bit down. God was the center of it all, prayer a constant thing. People were open and honest, trying to learn from mistakes of the past and build upon a solid foundation for the future. Much of the Christian world may not take Christian gaming seriously, but if this group of people have any say, it won?t be that way for much longer. For me the CGDC was an unexpected mix of community, a willingness to serve, and a desire to serve God in the best way possible. If we keep those things I think there isn?t anything on earth that can stop Christians wanting to make games.


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