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2:58pm on Friday, 13th August, 2010:

Legendary Status


A while back, I was told by someone from the Game Developers Conference Online that the organising committee had suggested I give an historical perspective talk there this year. Was I interested? I said yes, I was, so they asked me to fill in a proposal form. I replied that I wasn't interested enough to fill in a proposal form, and that was the end of the exchange.

The thing is, if I have to submit a proposal then that means it may well be turned down — there's no point in asking for one otherwise. If it's not going to be turned down then it becomes an invited talk, in which case I don't need to fill in a proposal form. There are three reasons why submitting a proposal isn't appealing to me:

  1. I have to wait ages to find out if the proposal is accepted. During that time, I have to turn down other invitations that would clash.
  2. As a regular speaker, as opposed to an invited one, I have to pay my own flight and accommodation expenses. GDC Online is in Austin, Texas, so getting and staying there is a month's salary for me; that's not something I can do very often.
  3. If I submitted a proposal and it was turned down, it would be an embarrassing slap in the face. Just like everyone else, I don't like embarrassing slaps in the face. I long ago gave up submitting to regular GDC because my proposals were always turned down. They turned down my Player Types paper. Those slaps hurt!

As it happened, the first point did come into play. About a week later I was asked to speak at a conference in Copenhagen (that came with a €1,000 honorarium on top of travel/hotel costs), so I accepted.

Just before I went on holiday, I heard from GDC Online again. It turned out that the request to give a talk on the history of virtual worlds, while genuine, was also a ruse to get me over there. They actually wanted to give me an award — the first Online Game Legend Award. Somewhat thrilled, I accepted, told the people in Copenhagen the bad news that I had to pull out, told my wife the bad news that I was €1,000 down, and told the Head of Department at Essex University why I would not be present for Freshers' Week.

The press releases went out yesterday, so it looks as if I'm not the victim of an elaborate hoax. I really am, apparently, going to be a legend in my own lifetime. I'm humbled, gleeful, disbelieving and grateful all at once. I'm also surprised — I thought you had to make millions before qualifying for such an honour. (Strictly speaking, of course, I have made millions — just not for me).

Responses to the press release so far include paraphrases that make it sound as if I designed Ultima Online and one that cheerfully begins "Whether you like Richard Bartle or not".

Oh well, tra la la, I don't care — I get to be an official legend.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).