DICE Rolls Ahead in Vegas

The ninth annual DICE event takes place in Las Vegas this week. Organized by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, it’s a unique jamboree, highly popular with studio heads and publishers looking for opportunities to talk business and hang out. The dynamic of being stuck in a huge, airy hotel complex on the outskirts of this deeply odd city allows for creative, social interaction on a scale that’s just not possible with larger, colder events, like GDC and E3

DICE is a back-slappy, old boys network event where pretty much everyone knows each other, and has done for years, if not decades. There are only about 600 delegates here as well as some media and production staff. As well as doing business, they’re here for the increasingly prestigious AIAS Awards, and for the contemplative, rich conference program covering everything from the inner workings of the brain, to race, to good old keynotes from the likes of Bobby Kotick, no less.

MCV spoke to AIAS president Joseph Olin about DICE, the AIAS Awards, and their place in the world…

MCV: How is DICE evolving, and what is its point?

Joseph Olin: DICE was created by the Academy’s board to find a permanent home for the Interactive Achievement Awards which is at the foundation of why the Academy was created. It was also an outcrop of the general creative community’s dissatisfaction with how GDC had changed. There really wasn’t a small, intimate gathering of people who were at the core of making interactive entertainment creatively coming together as well as being able to conduct business in a relaxed environment.

We also try to get people on the program from outside but not unrelated specialities, who help inspire us, and in that way we are following the lead of something like TED.

MCV: How do you keep people coming back, and how do you keep it intimate?

Joseph Olin: Every year abut two thirds of attendees have been to a previous DICE. The size is important. Including everyone’s production crews, hangers on, entourages, it’s only 800 people in 12,000 meters of conference space. There’s a lot of room. Wherever you are you will run into someone you either know or would like to know.

People enjoy the conference program. The people talking here are talking about their philosophies – what they do and why they do it. They want to talk about their struggles, or they want to talk about the issues that the creative and business community need to be addressing. That’s a long way from GDC which is geared for rank and file, such as lead animators and production people who want to improve their craft, or talk about specific technologies. We don’t have tech talks. The audience is beyond that

MCV: This seems like a very social kind of gathering.

Every year we have a golf and poker tournament and they are taking on a life of their own. It’s fun and popular and great to see some seriously cool people really going for it competitively. As an industry we have to build our own culture and our own traditions that suit the people who we are. DICE and the Academy, are a part of that.

MCV: How do you distance the awards from its many competitors?

Joseph Olin: Certainly we want the Awards to be seen in the same way as the Oscars or the Grammies. We’re not there yet. It tok the Academy [of Motion Pictures] about 30 years before they were taken seriously with the Oscars. We have been around 16 years. We have a long way to go, but we are in the right track. We have a lot of media partners now broadcasting the show and we are the only organization with 22,000 of our members and we embrace the IGDA and we have 400 professionals deciding what should be honored. In our case it’s the game-makers who decide what wins, rather than members of the media, say, and I think that speaks for itself.

MCV: You’d be happier if the other awards all curled up and died?

Joseph Olin: Of course, from a selfish point of view, but at the same time, any media outlet that is ready to promote interactive entertainment is a good thing, and I want to see more recognition of games as an important media within the culture.

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