Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Experience at Foundations of Digital Games 2015

During the last full week of June, I took a wonderful trip to Pacific Grove, California for Foundations of Digital Games 2015.  (You might recall that last year's conference was on a cruise ship.)  I didn't end up presenting anything this year, and I'm so glad I went despite this.  I found the whole experience rather invigorating.

Before continuing, be sure to note that I've posted publicly accessible notes for most keynotes and a selection of paper sessions.  The proceedings are also available.  I'll talk more about the academic content of the conference in another post.

This year's conference was held at Asilomar Conference Grounds, which began life as a YWCA summer camp for girls about 100 years ago.  It is part of Asilomar State Beach, which is, unsurprisingly, gorgeous.

Our keynotes and some of the parallel track sessions were held in the site's chapel.  Not the greatest for lighting (and, to an extent, sound), but a really neat building in terms of its architecture.

All meals were held in the dining hall at a set time signalled by the dinner bell.  In addition to giving meals a fun summer camp feel, it ensured that everyone in the conference ate together.  I loved this setup for its ability to build community and encourage networking.  I had many excellent conversations over food, and even some pivotal moments in terms of my thesis (more on that in a future post).  A downside was that the food was usually just ok at best, and there was always too much of it .

Although most attendees stayed on site, we were spread around many different buildings on site.  I was really surprised to see our lodging when I first walked up to it.  I remember describing it as a "70's nature lodge" and wondering how something so dated, and without any in-room phones or TVs, could cost so much.  I suppose, though, that a lot of the money goes towards the maintenance of the beach, which softens the blow.  It really did grow on me over time; the slight ocean view from the balcony likely didn't hurt.

One of the things I really enjoyed was walking along the boardwalks that wound through the protected sand dunes.  They were often higher than the beach, thus affording some lovely views.  Occasionally, you even met some wildlife along the way.

After the conference was over, I headed to Monterey and spent an afternoon at Monterey Bay Aquarium with a fellow conference attendee.  The aquarium is inside old cannery buildings, so from the outside doesn't look like much.  It was absolutely spectacular inside, though.  I loved every minute there and could have stared at some of the exhibits forever, constantly discovering new details.

After a long walk along the coast to my last hotel room and an early morning flight the next day, my trip was over.  I can't say I've ever had a bad experience travelling to California, and I'm really grateful that I was able to use my professional development money at Carleton to make this trip.  Stay tuned for a future post about the academic side of FDG.


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