My Days at the Academy

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A talk with the new leader of the AIAS.

As most of you may know the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences has, for about half a decade, been promoting this industry by recognizing each year's greatest achievements in it. Each year, AIAS (sometimes referred to as ‘The Academy' within our industry) has given awards to people who have not only made great advances in technology, but have contributed to the computer game industry in many other ways.

Now the Academy has a change in Presidency, for I believe the first time in its history. What changes will this new President bring? How will this change affect the basic mission of the Academy?

GiN spoke with Paul Provenzano, the new President of the Academy. He had quite a bit to say about the industry, his new role in it, and the place of the newly named Nexus Award in our community.

AIAS – http://www.interactive.org

GiN: Why don’t we start out by telling us a bit about the Academy and how it got started?

Provenzano: The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences was founded in 1996 after more than a year of planning by key members of the interactive industry. We are now the largest membership not-for-profit organization devoted to recognizing the talents and promoting the interests of men and women who make interactive entertainment.

GiN: Just how is a new Academy President selected?

Provenzano: The Academy selected a new President based on a search conducted by the Executive Members of the Board of Directors which included the Chairman, Vice Chair, and Secretary, The candidates were then presented to the general membership of the Academy’s board, where I believe a vote was taken.

GiN: Do you plan any major changes in how the Academy operates now that you are in charge?

Provenzano: The basic function of the Academy will remain the same. As we add new programs or events we will be looking at how the Academy needs to expand to accommodate those changes.

GiN: Will the focus of the Academy’s mission remain the same?

Provenzano: Yes. In an industry increasingly dominated by large media companies, the Academy is a voice, which focuses on craft, on the individual creators, and on the interactive art form. Since we are a young Academy we are constantly looking for ways to refine and focus what we do to stay true to that mission. In the near future we will be making some announcements that will be in keeping with our core mission.

GiN: What new ideas will you be trying to bring to the Academy?

Provenzano: One of the things I would like to do with the Academy is create more programs that are based on the internet that allow our membership to connect even though they are located around the world. Already on our website, (www.interactive.org ), you can find out a lot about the Academy and membership as well as news and updates, but we need to do more. Already we have one of the first secure completely on-line voting systems for our elections and awards program, but we will eventually expand in other directions. We are also looking at opportunities to use the awards as a "seal of approval" for the game fans and general population and to help them understand the craft and creativity that goes into making interactive entertainment.

GiN: What reasons led to the decision to announce the winners of the 2000 Awards back in March?

Provenzano: This year we had our 4th annual Awards ceremony in March in San Jose during the Game Developers Conference. The Academy and our Board of Directors felt that waiting until May during E3 as we had done in the past, to announce the best of the previous years software no longer made sense. With so much going on at E3 and the emphasis on the NEXT year’s titles we felt that it made more sense to move the show to within the "awards season" which is historically between February and April.

GiN: Why didn’t you present the actual awards at that time?

Provenzano: We announced the winners in a formal Awards show as we always do (and had a great party to celebrate afterwards!). Every year there is a lag in time from when we announce the winners and when we physically get the awards engraved. This year that period allowed us to give the final engraved awards out in person because they were done in time for E3, which is attended by most of the game community. The Academy felt that it would be a good idea to have an informal event at E3 for the press in which we present the engraved awards to the winners and announce the winner of the "Name the Award" competition in a setting that allowed the press who were unable to attend our official awards night in March to see and speak with the winners assembled with their newly christened AIAS Nexus Award.

GiN: Do you plan on doing things in the same order next year?

Provenzano: We will continue to announce our winners in a formal ceremony and then at a later date deliver the engraved awards to the winners. This is a fairly common process for award shows. In most cases when you see the winner of an award presented with a statuette it is likely it’s a "blank" or "substitute" award that is replaced with an engraved copy at a later date. To engrave it before hand creates a whole series of logistical and security problems as well as not allowing the winners to have the award inscribed the way they would like it to read. Our experience tells us that from submission to winning there are often changes. As all our awards are handmade and pretty expensive – it’s important that we get it right the first time.

GiN: What do you hope to see AIAS accomplishing in the future?

Provenzano: Going into our 5th Awards Ceremony it is my hope to further refine the event to where it represents our industry in the best possible light and provide a forum to acknowledge the craft and creativity that goes into the Art of creating Interactive Entertainment. I would also like to see the Academy to continue to attract new members, as we can better represent our industry if more of that industry is part of our efforts. I would also like to expand the reach of the awards so that the general population can look to the awards as representing what is the best of what is being created.

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