Thank You GIC


The story of GIC started in 2007 with Zjazd Twórców Gier (Game Developers Convention): a small gathering of video game enthusiasts venturing into the world of indie development. Organised ten years ago by a young student Tomasz "Fanotherpg" Kaczmarek for a circle of friends and like-minded individuals, it grew larger year by year to become what it is now. An acclaimed international conference for the game industry, an associated event of the massive Poznan Game Arena, it attracts about 3000 participants from Western and Eastern Europe, America, Japan and China. 
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My story with GIC dates back to 2012, when we were preparing the launch of GAMEDEC: Game Studies & Design at Kazimierz Wielki University. GIC (still called ZTG at that time) was definitely a place to go to present the Gamedec.UKW project and expand the network of industry partners. In 2013, just a few days from the start of the first ever academic year with Gamedec.UKW, we had 5 students on the ZTG/GIC volunteer team. In 2014 we had 14 gamedecs as GIC volunteers and 8 more as staff at several exhibitions at Poznan Game Arena. In 2015 we also had 14 GIC volunteers, plus our own "Kazimierz Wielki University" booth in the Indie Zone at PGA. It was also in 2015 that I was invited to join the GIC Academic Board, and I had the honour and pleasure to chair a meeting between the Japanese company Nikkei (organiser of Tokyo Game Show) and representatives of several Polish universities. And the greatest pleasure was yet to come in 2016: gamedecs started to attend PGA not as student volunteers but as young aspiring professionals employed by game dev studios.
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2017 was different. I decided to take a year-long break from industry events, switching gears to academic conferences and research work. But then the unexpected happened: the day before GIC I got a GIC+PGA ticket by e-mail. I guess a free ticket comes with membership in the academic advisory board, which I wasn't aware of, having always earned my ticket as a speaker. So there I was on Thursday morning, looking at the invitation to the event starting on the next day, with no travel or accommodation arrangements - worse! with serious work-related plans for the weekend. But I had just had a tough week with the start of the new semester, so I succumbed to the temptation. Let's take the ticket as a birthday present (yes, the next day was my birthday) and go along with it.
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And it was awesome. It always is - and it's always been more awesome than last time. The world of creative passion combined with inquisitive minds, technical skills, and business prospects is addictive as hell. Try as I might to take a break from it to concentrate on my academic work, I found out I cannot give it up completely. For the last five years, I've attended GIC as leader of Gamedec.UKW, always looking for new partnerships and collaborations. Now I'm no longer in charge of Gamedec, so my perspective refocused from future-orientation to looking back on what we've accomplished over the years. Refocused - but not entirely. I still run a Gamedec B.A. seminar, and two of my students have just won a 1 mln PLN grant for a traineeship programme. Basically, we have free and somewhat-qualified labour to offer to the industry: graduate, senior and sophomore gamedecs whose salaries and accommodation are funded by the grant. So I did - again - talk to game studios about future collaboration.
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But beside the grant it was a nostalgic journey. I am happy beyond measure to see how gamedecs have become an integral element of GIC and PGA: as volunteer staff, as exhibitors, and as full-time employees of game studios. (Last time I checked /January 2017/, the Gamedec pre-graduation full-time employment rate was 47%. And more have been hired since then.) There is nothing in academic life that compares to the experience of teaching game designers. It does have its ups and downs, its challenges and frustrations, but I'd say it's worth all the trouble. On Friday, I read a gamedec's BA paper on the train to GIC. On Saturday, I meet the author and his colleague at PGA Twitch Party: two undergrad gamedecs employed at different game studios, a programmer and a designer. On Sunday, I take the train back home, planning to read the other gamedec's B.A. on the way. In two weeks, I'll be sitting in their B.A. exam committee as reviewer. They both included a special thank-you page to the staff, or to staff and university administration. It's not a standard component in B.A. papers, nobody does that! but gamedecs do.
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This week, at the start of the new B.A. seminar group, gamedecs tell me they want to prepare a Gamedec.UKW booth for PGA 2018. I can't take the responsibility to represent UKW staff in October 2018 when my contract with UKW ends in September, so somebody else must supervise the trip. Yet, even though I try to stay out of the organisation and management now, I sometimes cannot resist when asked for help. Back in 2015, when we had UKW booth in PGA Indie Zone for the first time, it had taken tons of effort to collect money from several sources. Now all it took was one e-mail to our PR & marketing unit, and they promised to secure the money in the 2018 budget. It seems that the Gamedec presence at GIC/PGA will continue to grow.
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Thank you, GIC. For the unexpected birthday present - for the five years we've been together - and for the opportunities that lie ahead.

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