Sid Meier's Keynote

The title was “The Psychology of Game Design (Everything You Know Is Wrong)”, which did not get him a sympathetic audience to start with.

The room layout was most imposing: 5000 people in long rows, a 100-foot stage, 3 50-foot screens with one big face on them: EL SIIID. Standard GDC.

The talk, however, was not forceful. It did not reveal mystic, surprising truths. It was a set of anecdotes about different situations he’s been in over the almost 20 years of Civilization titles (and others).

The arc of the anecdotes was usually this: Sid tries some idea. User tester makes more-or-less boneheaded critique. In response, Sid changes the game, maybe discards the idea altogether, and the game is better. Twenty years of that.

So, really, the “You” in the subtitle referred to Mr. Meier himself, and what looked to be a haughty diatribe turned out to be almost an internal monologue on the benefits of humility and careful listening.

The last thing I expected was to be touched. That’s wisdom for you: not what you expect.