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Q&A: Martin Rae, President of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences


The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences has announced the dates for next year's D.I.C.E. summit, which will once again encourage the game industry to Design, Innovate, Communicate and Entertain. Joystiq's especially aligned with the "C" and "E" parts, so we thought it apt to accompany the summit's aesthetic upgrade with a look at what the AIAS (Academy of Interactive ... okay, you get it) does to promote and augment games.

We'll be publishing several Q&As with high-profile designers in partnership with the AIAS, but today we're starting with Martin Rae, President of the AIAS.

Joystiq: Hi, Martin. For the benefit of our readers who may not know you, could you give us a brief intro to your work at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences?

Martin Rae: No problem! I am Martin Rae, the president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS). We are the professional video games organization with over 22,000 members, advancing the artistic values of the interactive entertainment community. What that means is that we celebrate the best in games and honor the talented and hard-working game makers that develop and produce those games. Additionally, we are very proud of our scholarship program, where we help make the dream of game making a reality for students aspiring to break into the games industry.

What is the primary purpose of the AIAS, and why is it important for those who follow games to know more about it?

The primary purpose of the AIAS is to celebrate games and the individuals behind the games. We do so at our annual D.I.C.E. Awards (formerly Interactive Achievement Awards), which will be in its 16th year on February 7, 2013. On that one night, all the prominent game makers in the community gather to bestow these honors to the community. What's unique about the D.I.C.E. Awards is that it is a peer-based Awards system, so the winners are selected by game makers for game makers – the highest form of recognition that can be bestowed a game maker. You can liken that evening to the Oscars for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

Another big initiative by the AIAS is our annual D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Community, Entertain) Summit, where the decision makers and the creatives of the game industry gather for several days to be inspired by our celebrated speakers. The conversations tend to examine what is relevant now and what is coming on the horizon – a little more "big picture" about the nature of entertainment, creativity and innovation. A great example we always return to is Jesse Schell's 2010 D.I.C.E. talk on game-a-geddon, also known as Design Outside the Box, where we underestimated it with things like Facebook at the time, and where we might be headed in the coming years. That is just one talk that has had great legs online and blew people away in the room.

A lot of deal making happens there, and everyone is approachable. This is the only time and place in the industry where you can walk up and have a conversation with folks like Todd Howard, Richard Garriott, David Jaffe, Ted Price, just to name a few.

Where does the purview of the AIAS start and end? Can games be considered a "science"?

The purview of the AIAS is to celebrate games as an art form. Legal and rights issues in relation to the gaming industry is upheld by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

Sure, there is a lot of "science" involved in games from a technological standpoint – for example the constant drive to create deeper, more immersive experiences though improving graphics fidelity or innovating new interfaces and methods of input and interaction. Science along with imagination and creativity are key to interactive entertainment as they are to other forms of entertainment like movies, music and literature.

How would you like to affect or augment gaming's status in culture right now?

By celebrating the games and individuals in the industry through our D.I.C.E. Awards, we hope to elevate our game creators to promote recognition amongst consumers as well as the industry itself.

Joystiq, in cooperation with the AIAS is hosting a series of Q&As with prominent designers. What kind of insight can we expect from these, and why is it important to get to know these people better?

Every two weeks, we will post a new feature examining the tastes and influences of folks from the game industry and entertainment – what inspires them in the realm of literature, film, music and videogames? What app can you not live without at this moment? And what key elements fortify their game room, living room or den? We are fascinated by what inspires our favorite creative minds and we are sure others will be as well. We're honored to partner with Joystiq to provide their readers with this glimpse.

We are going to start off our Hitlist with some of the D.I.C.E. Summit speakers that have been announced today – Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford (who is responsible for the Borderlands franchise), thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen (the creative director of Flow, Flower and Journey) and Schell Games' Jesse Schell (from our famous 2010 D.I.C.E. Summit session on game-a-geddon). Many other great game makers will follow in the coming weeks. We are sure that many of their answers will surprise you, and perhaps even inspire you to go out and check out some of their recommendations. Either way, your readers will undoubtedly learn something new and interesting from them.

If there's one crucial thing you'd like to be conveyed throughout this series, what is it?

Many gamers have that one title that they keep returning to, like a novel they re-read every couple of years and see something new in it – a game that they will gladly take out and play over and over again or continue thinking about long after they've completed it. Perhaps it's the haunting score, or the surprise ending or some intangible beauty that keeps you coming back. Whatever it is, we hope this series will inspire these gamers to learn about the gifted game makers and what truly inspires them to push the medium.

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