WGAW Videogame Writers Caucus Receives Warm Reception at GDC Online in Austin, TX

By WGAW member Steven-Elliot Altman 

Photo: Melodie Shaw
Standing room only at the WGAW-sponsored mixer, perhaps the most highly attended mixer at GDC Online, where writers were excited to learn about what the Caucus had to offer.
On October 4 – 8, I accompanied Guild staffers Melodie Shaw (Lead Organizer) and Bridie Lee (Organizing Coordinator) as a representative of the WGAW’s Videogame Writers Caucus (VWC) to my first GDC Online (Game Developers Conference) experience in Austin, TX.

As guests of a sponsoring organization, we were warmly received by the conference itself, but what I had not expected was how open the attendees were to the Guild and our objectives. Unlike E3, where finding the writer of the game is nigh impossible, game companies (yes, even anti-Guild untouchables) at GDC Online seemed to celebrate their writers and assign them ambassador status.

A separate programming track dedicated to writers; which included lectures, panels, and workshops on creating gaming narrative, were some of the best I’ve ever attended and were as plentiful as those on marketing and emergent technology. All of our outreach activities during these panels brought only positive reactions – and conference participants who attended our Guild-sponsored panel, “WGAW: Games to Transmedia,” gave us great feedback. I can’t thank Flint Dille enough for moderating and panelists Sheri Graner Ray, David Ellis, and Ben McCaw for sharing their wisdom, experience, and some hearty laughs.

On the evening of 10/7, the WGAW’s Game Narrative Summit Mixer was packed to capacity. As expected, professional writers had questions regarding credits, health coverage, and developing industry standards. Prospective writers asked, “How do I become a professional game writer?” Unexpected were the number of producers receptive to our cause – especially those representing small start-ups.

We met lots of industry rock stars, saw amazing presentations on new engines like Unity, ate some grass-fed beef, and knocked back a few drinks in this very vibrant city, which appears to be the new red-hot spot for gaming companies (not to mention the affordable cost of living). One of the highlights for me was meeting our WGGB (Writers’ Guild of Great Britain) counterparts and our several impromptu meetings where we discussed key mutual Guild issues. The story workshops that I attended were top-rate and will certainly affect my future writing. All in all, I’ve never attended any conference that lent itself better to networking and quality programming.

This didn't feel like a showcase for Disney or EA or Zynga – it was a venue where even the smallest of start-ups could shine. It felt like a community of people who love games without any pretension, perhaps as a result of mid-management’s attendance from the major companies, rather than their CEOs? And if you met a CEO over coffee, or in an elevator, chances were he or she was from a ten-employee start-up and more than happy to show off their latest game on a handheld while revealing hints about their secret sauce.

Indeed, everyone seemed brimming with excitement about the future of the industry and hopeful about their place in it. Two thumbs up on GDC Online and kudos to Melodie and Bridie for making the WGAW seem like such a natural part of it for so many potential members.

If you have further questions regarding the WGAW’s Videogame Writers Caucus, please contact the Organizing Department at (323) 782-4511 or Videogame Writers Caucus.