Games veteran Kate Edwards to oversee Global Game Jam as Executive Director

Global Game Jam in North Korea or Antarctica? It's certainly something to aspire to, Edwards tells GameDaily.

Kate Edwards has been at the forefront of an industry push for diversity and inclusion, worker rights, and mental health awareness. Now the Geogrify CEO and former executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is bringing her leadership to the Global Game Jam (GGJ). The distributed game jam, which has now been operating for over a decade, today appointed Edwards to the role of Executive Director, with the specific responsibility “to lead fundraising and community outreach, as well as oversee administration, programs and strategic direction.”

“Kate has a rich history in working with different cultures in different parts of the world to increase understanding and unity in the games industry, and this gives her a very unique and valuable skillset that is perfectly in line with the Global Game Jam’s mission,” said Susan Gold, President of Global Game Jam, in a press release.

Edwards commented, “I’m honored to join this truly great organization and look forward to helping Global Game Jam continue its goals of promoting creativity and collaboration throughout the world. It’s exciting to be part of such an inclusive and wide reaching movement that aligns video game creation with cross-cultural unity.”

Hard to believe but GGJ has been going strong for more than 10 years now
Hard to believe but GGJ has been going strong for more than 10 years now

The Global Game Jam, which invites both professional developers and people of varying skillsets across the world to pitch ideas, form teams and make games together, actually started as part of the IGDA’s Education SIG, so it’s fitting that a former IGDA head is now actively involved. And Edwards is the perfect candidate to take bold initiatives while keeping advocacy top of mind.

“I believe that my track record of advocating for a better game industry, one that has a more inclusive mindset, is more aware of the importance of developer wellness (mental, physical, etc.), and striving to change the public discourse around games lends itself very well to the GGJ’s extensive global outreach,” Edwards told GameDaily over email. 

“Arguably, the GGJ is one of the most globally connected game organizations in the world, and as such it has the opportunity to set the tone for how the industry could be – especially since many GGJ participants are students or newer to the industry. My hope is to expand our charter beyond being primarily event-focused with the GGJ and GGJ Next, and embody the broader movement to shape a better vision for what global game creation means, and how it can be done. As we roll out more specific goals in the near future, expect those goals to reflect that aspiration.”

With Edwards at the helm, the GGJ could very well set the tone for an industry that’s found itself at a turning point of sorts. As she told us at the end of last year, between crunch and women’s rights, the games industry must push for more awareness and engagement with people everywhere.

“I know I'm an idealist, but I do think that with the right amount of engagement with the public and knowledge of how games get made — especially the bad model — I think people would have concerns about it," she said last November in the wake of crunch controversy around Rockstar Games and just as the curtain was being lifted on Riot Games’ troubles.

As the name implies, Global Game Jam is about sharing ideas and cultures across the world. There’s an obvious synergy here with Edwards’ other major venture, Geogrify, which examines “high-level content culturalization strategies” for numerous markets to help developers avoid local backlash.

“I feel my background as a professional geographer as well as a culturalization strategist in digital content (and primarily games) is a very solid foundation upon which to lead an organization like the GGJ,” Edwards asserted. “Just as I did when running the IGDA, I leveraged my background on a daily basis to deal with various international differences, engage and resolve issues diplomatically, and bring an acute cross-cultural awareness to a role that demands that kind of perspective.”

Edwards noted that the GGJ already has an “impressive reach.” The organization, as of January of this year, generated teams in 860 sites in 113 countries, who went on to create 9,010 games during just one weekend. Naturally, Edwards thinks GGJ can do even better.

“We’d like to see that number continue to increase and be able to reach a point of engaging game developers in really any country or region of the world,” she said. “I would be really pleased if we can make progress in more challenging locales, such as North Korea, as well as extend our reach to even Antarctica (seriously).”

Edwards is also a board member for Take This, an organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma around mental health and providing support for game developers suffering from any mental health issues. 

“I think my advisory role at Take This is very complementary to the context of the GGJ, as promoting mental wellness in a game jam environment is crucial, and I feel can help educate jammers on how to take those learnings and apply them to their personal and professional lives,” Edwards added.

How Edwards manages to balance all of these responsibilities and her own life is anybody’s guess. “Well as many people try to claim, I’m from Asgard and therefore I have some kind of special fortitude beyond mere mortals,” she joked.

The GGJ has had incredible momentum, nearly doubling the number of countries its operating in during the last five years. With Edwards on board, the organization is now ready for new horizons.

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Editor-at-large

James has been covering the games industry since the early 2000s and was most recently the editor of GamesIndustry.biz. He loves Zelda, Metroidvania-style games, action adventure and single-player narratives. He's also the proud father of twin boys and is obsessed with good coffee and Yankees baseball. You can reach him @bright_pixels on Twitter or you can email him at james.brightman@gamedaily.biz.

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