Fire Hose Games Volunteers at GDC 2011

Where do you feel most like yourself?

The best version of yourself. The one where every moment of the day is
a smile because in that place there is no-one else you would rather

Is it strange I feel this way volunteering for a conference?

For the last eleven years, the Conference Associate (CA) program at
the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco has not only
been the source of all my best opportunities to find contacts and work
in the game industry, it has been where I renew my spirit and love for
this industry and its people.

As a CA volunteer, I have badged session lines, run errands for show
management, managed hordes of t-shirt hungry attendees, and served in
many support capacities for other volunteers. None of this is what
you might call glamorous stuff. At any other show it would be grunt
work–the most boring and uncreative labor this side of leaning on a

But the leadership of the CA program, Tim Brengle and Ian Mckenzie,
make it amazing. They call it an experiment in management; to start by
choosing an exceptionally trustworthy team (of 400!) and then to
explicitly entrust that team with the power to think and act
independently, employing numerous systems to make that trust and
support evident. As a member of the CA team, I feel as creative
supporting a speaker’s talk experience as I would making my own concept art
or animation.

Last week was the 2011 GDC in San Francisco. It was also the 25th
anniversary of the conference. Tim Brengle is one of only two people
who have attended all twenty-five. As one of the founders of the
conference, he initiated the spirit of all future CAs by seeing a need
and diving in, volunteering to create a system to manage attendee
needs. For over twenty years he and then Ian McKenzie have grown this
system with the support and input of their many hands and eyes, the
Conference Associates.

The selection process is famously mysterious. The people chosen to
serve are exceptionally varied in age, background, and physical
ability, with a gender balance and ethnic diversity that is a far, far
better approximation of game player culture than the industry normally
displays. Students work beside industry veterans. After 11 years, I
have seen an extraordinary number of those students become industry
veterans. The selection process is only mysterious to the CAs. Those
around them quickly see why they were chosen in the energy,
inventiveness, and joy they bring to the job.

Many of us at Fire Hose Games has served as CAs. Programmer Jeff Ward
was a CA in 2004, programmers Sharat Bhat and Ethan Fenn in 2009 and 2010, and
Marketer Alec Shobin joined this year. It was our pleasure to supply
evening entertainment to the CAs last Thursday by bringing a PS3 dev
kit and big screen to the CA lounge for them to play Slam Bolt Scrappers.
It was a particular pleasure for me to be able to share our game with
people who have meant so much to me for so many years.

Much thanks to the more than sixty CAs who played SBS last week and to
the many more CAs who said they are looking forward to our release
next week. Special thanks to Jennie who loaned us her TV screen.
Heartfelt thanks to Tim and Ian for supporting our studio by having so
many of us on their team.

See you all next year, CAs!


  1. Hehe, I look like you pulled a homeless man off of the street and threw a CA shirt on him 🙂

    Cheers and good luck!

  2. Jason Bassett

    HEY! That’s me (The one with the hat playing the game…and sitting down).

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