In a short couple of weeks, the Game Developers Conference will be upon us – the single largest annual gathering of the people that create videogames. I am expecting the usual mix of heady game design theory, crass commercial promotion, and endless boozy socializing with my favorite people that I only see at game conferences and events. GDCalways serves to remind me what I hate and love about working in the game industry.

I’m serving up a number of panels and talks this year, including the following:

The Game Design Challenge, my annual attempt to give three talented game designers a hairy design problem to solve. This year John Romero, Jason Rohrer, and Jenova Chen (last year’s winner) all have to create a game that is also – in some way – a religion. The audience votes on the winner. More details about Game Design Challenge: Bigger Than Jesus.

The Rant Panel, another annual tradition where game pundit Jason Della Roca and myself corral a half dozen outspoken hotheads and let them rant about whatever they want. This year, all of them are social network game developers, including Ian Bogost, Brian Reynolds, Steve Meretzky, Trip Hawkins, Brenda Braithwait, and Scott John Segal, so prepare to hear them defend and destroy their chosen corner of the game industry. More details about No F*&@ing Respect: Social Game Developers Rant Back.

A lecture called The Fantasy of Labor I am giving with Naomi Clark as part of the Social Games Summit. This talk grew out of a series of game design workshops Naomi and I put together last spring, and it investigates the relationships between desire and game design, both in the micro-context of an individual game, as well as the macro-context of cultural narratives that players tell themselves about games they play. Our position is that most Facebook games operate from an impoverished model of human desire. More details here.

I’m also on a panel that audio maestro and game educator Michael Sweet put together for the Academic Game Summit about collaborations across the academy and industry. Look for me giving a cameo during the Microtalks session. And – of course – Local No.12 is doing another large-scale social game: the Metagame. I’ll be putting up a separate post about that soon, but in the meantime, you can check out the game site here.