Meggan Scavio worked on the annual Game Developers Conference for the better part of two decades, and as GM she oversaw the event for the last seven years as it grew to record attendance in 2016 of 27,000 and almost matched that this year with 26,000.
Now Scavio is running the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) as president and is getting ready to host the 2018 DICE Summit in Las Vegas next February. With registration for the event now open and AIAS taking submissions for the 21st annual DICE Awards, GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Scavio to find out what her goals and aspirations are for both DICE and AIAS itself.
With Scavio so invested in the health of GDC for years, you might think that there would be an air of competitiveness between the two. They are, after all, both seeking attendance from industry professionals and usually they take place within just a few weeks of each other. That said, Scavio sees the two trade shows balancing each other out.
"I want to make the Academy into something the global games community has not only heard of, but understands and wants to be a part of it"
"I've always thought they were complementary to each other," she says. "One is an intimate gathering of decision makers and creators where networking and making business deals are top priorities, and the other is where the entire industry gathers to learn, network, and inspire. You can make meaningful connections at DICE that then carry over to GDC."
While GDC and DICE are fairly different in their scope, Scavio's event management experience should prove invaluable as AIAS looks to improve DICE events moving forward.
She continues, "Listening to and working for my community were things I learned while at GDC. It is a 30+ year old event that is still hugely relevant and important to the games industry, and it's stayed that way by constantly evolving. I want the Academy's DICE events to be a timely representation of the industry with its speakers, attendees, and topics discussed."
Scavio was perfectly content in her achievements with GDC, but she felt that her skills could be applied to the benefit of AIAS. "This was the real reason I made the move," she notes. "The Academy was established almost 20 years ago, and I want to grow upon what's already been built. I want to make the Academy into something the global games community has not only heard of, but understands and wants to be a part of it.
"Currently, as an Academy member, you get to vote in the DICE Awards, and you receive a discount for the DICE Summit. The Academy has 30,000 members. I want to offer more. I want to provide grants. I want to provide training. I want the Academy to be a resource and destination for the industry. I want to collaborate with other industry organizations. None of this will happen overnight. We're a non-profit, and funding is something I'm going to be talking a lot about in the coming years but I'm hoping the industry is ready and willing to build this with me."
"My goal is to make the Academy less financially reliant on DICE Summit so that we can become more flexible with how it's produced and managed"
Funding is something that's going to be key to DICE's future as the event looks to bring in a more diverse audience. At current registration price points, tickets are not exactly friendly to the indies and small studios looking to send some of their key members. And with go-kart racing, golf tournaments and multiple parties, some have accused DICE of being an excuse for the high-rollers of the industry to network and generally just have fun. When you throw in talk of "ham and wine pairings" from DICE Europe, it's hard not to get a certain sense of snobbery. How does any of this help the little dev trying to make a game and pay monthly rent? It's something that Scavio is keenly aware of.
"I do want to find ways to make DICE more accessible to smaller studios and indies," she says. "That's part of being fully representative of the industry. I struggle all day with the reality of being a non-profit who essentially breaks even each year while also wanting to show everyone how cool DICE is (it's very cool). My goal is to make the Academy less financially reliant on DICE Summit so that we can become more flexible with how it's produced and managed."
To be fair, AIAS has tried to assist some in the indie community with its Indie Game Challenge initiative in collaboration with GameStop and the Guildhall at SMU, with the goal of giving aspiring game developers an opportunity to showcase their skills and present their games to the industry's top publishers. Inclusion for more indies is just one goal for Scavio as she evolves AIAS - better representation of women, minorities, and the LGBT community will become a focus. During a time when misogyny, harassment, doxxing, and general toxicity among player communities has become the sad norm, GDC's Advocacy track has been a welcomed initiative by the industry, and Scavio wants to see AIAS and DICE do their part to spotlight these important issues as well.
"We've already started," she says. "DICE Europe hosted a session on how ensuring diversity and inclusion in your team is not only the right thing to do, it's right for your game as well as your business. It was one of the top sessions at the conference.
"We will begin managing the Amplifying New Voices program...a boot camp that offers professional training to underrepresented game developers"
"Since DICE has significantly fewer sessions than GDC, I suspect we'll touch on topical issues, but my main goal will be making sure that everything we put forward (whether it's speakers on stage or other Academy initiatives) is representative of the diversity of this great industry."
From the response the games industry had to the #MeToo hashtag, it's clear that all the organizations that work to the benefit of game developers need to do more to combat harassment and to make the games industry a welcoming one for women.
"For this I point to the AIAS Foundation," Scavio says. "Established only a couple of years ago, it's already accomplished a lot. For the last couple of years, it's provided scholarships to women in the form of various industry event passes as well as paid college tuition. The Foundation facilitates a year-round mentorship program for women new to the industry.
"We will also begin managing the Amplifying New Voices program which, in its third year and previously sponsored by Oculus, GDC and Blizzard, is a boot camp that offers professional training to underrepresented game developers. There is so much more we want to do so stay tuned."
Scavio is only a few months into the job and is still getting her feet under her, but if her GDC work is anything to go by, AIAS and DICE can expect some good years ahead. For the 2018 DICE Summit, she's already starting to make some changes.
"Because the number one request we get from our attendees is the desire for more networking time, we're only hosting one day of traditional Summit content," she explains. "The second day is going to be primarily roundtable sessions. If you're unfamiliar, they are quite literally roundtable discussions led by a moderator covering a specific industry topic. I can't stress enough how much the roundtables positively influence the DICE experience - I saw this first-hand at our Europe event. They're a rare opportunity to sit at a table with 10 or so people and share thoughts and experiences on topics important and relevant to everyone present."
The DICE Awards, too, may see some adjustments, but not for this upcoming event. "We were too close to launch when I started [at AIAS], and I want any changes I make to be thoughtful and have the full support of our members," Scavio says.