June 20, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Bringing joy during a difficult time for the world | Dean Takahashi’s GamesBeat Next speech

9 min read
Bringing joy during a difficult time for the world | Dean Takahashi's GamesBeat Next speech

This is Dean Takahashi’s opening speech for the GamesBeat Next 2023 event, taking place today in San Francisco.

Thank you all so much for coming to our event to celebrate gaming. I’m so happy you chose to come here in person.

I’m delighted we just held our seventh Women in Gaming breakfast and the fourth with actual food. It’s an honor and privilege to host this breakfast that draws so many women in the industry. We see this breakfast as a safe place where women can drink from the well of inspiration and share food for thought. Thanks to Rachel Kaser for hosting it once again and for enabling me to retire from cosplaying.

This is our third GamesBeat Next event and the second one in person. We’re still here to mark your progress and offer encouragement for entrepreneurs and builders. GamesBeat itself is in its 15th year, and we are consciously moving toward community celebration. This is our shelter from reality.


GamesBeat Next 2023

Join the GamesBeat community in San Francisco this October 23-24. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry on latest developments and their take on the future of gaming.

Learn More

Lightspeed has organized the Game Changers top startups list, and that allows us to celebrate the best game startups for the first time in years. At the very end of our event, Lightspeed’s Moritz Baier-Lentz and I, along with some of our all-star judges, will unveil the 25 top game startups across five categories and celebrate the final five winners on stage for each category.

Game Changers judges include today’s leaders in gaming and interactive media.
Game Changers judges include today’s leaders in gaming and interactive media.

Our theme is Playing The Edge. That fits well with the purpose of GamesBeat Next. While our GamesBeat Summit event in LA in May 2024 will focus on the core of the game industry, we are focusing this event on the edge. That refers to the edges of gaming that promise to expand the overall reach of games as it continues to rise from subculture to mass culture.

We have the Tetris Titans, president Maya Rogers, chairman Henk Rogers and Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Tetris and talk about the Tetris movie. It’s great to have some living legends who have been immortalized in film among us.

That film was one of multiple shows this year on the Hollywood and games theme – like The Last of Us on HBO and The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Game films were a small and shlocky niche in the past and now they are the ambassadors taking gaming to a larger mass audience. That is one example of how an edge idea can expand the overall audience once it gets traction. And that comes from authenticity and an understanding games and gamers.

The Tetris Titans: Maya Rogers, president of Tetris; Henk Rogers, chairman; and Alexey Pajitnov, creator of Tetris.
The Tetris Titans: Maya Rogers, president of Tetris; Henk Rogers, chairman; and Alexey Pajitnov, creator of Tetris.

We are covering topics like the practical metaverse, using technology to build community, the future of hardware, ambitious game startups, the cloud, Web3, alternative app stores, gaming’s intersection with sports, corporate investment, emerging markets, mixed reality, user-generated content, Unreal Engine Fortnite, location-based VR and of course AI.

We’ve also witnessed thousands of layoffs that have happened in games this year and we had a session yesterday on how to find game jobs led by Amir Satvat, who is responsible for finding people hundreds of jobs through his LinkedIn job network.

Inworld AI is bringing better AI to non-player characters.
Inworld AI is bringing better AI to non-player characters.

Our hope remains that as some jobs disappear, others are being created by the startup ecosystem that is now in place. I have tried to find jobs for friends in the industry, and I have matched startups with investors. That is what you do when you are part of the gaming community.

The world has had its share of shocks, like COVID-19. We had our supply chain shocks and rapid downturns. We saw recovery, and then tough transitions as people went outside to resume other non-game activities. So many other forces are affecting the broader economy, like a volatile stock market, inflation, the crypto winter, slowing entertainment spending, the end of Moore’s Law, falling NFT prices and now two major wars.

Amid the layoffs, it flew under people’s radar that more VC money went into games in the third quarter than in the second, according to Drake Star. The approval of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard means there will be more acquisitions that will spur the cycle for more startups and wealth creation.

That means playing the edge – which is a little phrase I pulled from battle royale games – is still a good strategy. It’s not just about technology expanding games, though that is the sweet spot of VentureBeat and GamesBeat. There are so many things at the edge – even obvious things like games and Hollywood, or even embracing diversity – that can expand games.

This is where we help you build your own interpretation of the reality of gaming. And I know that reality has been very difficult to tolerate for so many lately.

Floating in the Dead Sea during another time.
Floating in the Dead Sea during another time.

It’s a sad time for the world and a helpless time for many of us. Just when there was a chance of a thawing in the Middle East, the awful attacks in Israel and retaliation in Gaza have frozen hopes of peace and progress. It feels like peace has been set back decades. It is enough to make you cry and be paralyzed. I want to look away and yet I have to watch to see the depth of the heartbreak. I am thankful we have our own peace, but I worry about those I have met – both Israelis and Arabs – in the danger zone. I know some very big companies that have game developers at risk in two wars – both Israel and Ukraine – and I fear there are fledgling gamers and game makers in Gaza who may never reach their potential.

In a world like this, I fear that so many will abandon their dreams of careers in gaming out of necessity. I cannot think of a worse waste of human talent, especially for people whose purpose in life is to bring creativity and joy to the world. To see those fires of creativity burn out would be so very heartbreaking. I would offer those people hope, but I don’t really believe the hope that I would be peddling.

So many people say that games can unite the world. I have heard this so much before that I want to believe it myself. But these wars remind us that this is not true today.

Games are fun. They help us lose ourselves in the moment. I lost my brother to gun violence decades ago. I saw justice. But I knew that hatred was not the right path. I couldn’t play violent games for a while. But I rebuilt the wall in my head that separated fantasy from reality, and today I play games like Call of Duty, if only to pull myself away from the troubles of the world. It is never games that remind me of my brother’s death. It is only reality that does that.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

We are here to give you shelter. We are not going to promise that world peace will come through games. Yet when I see people from different countries who would normally be enemies, I see them connect through games. We live in a dangerous world. And yet that should not stop us from pursuing our dreams. I think of all of the joy and human happiness that comes into the world because of games. It would be sad if the people who make those games and bring us that happiness put down their tools of the trade and pick up weapons for war.

I have always said that GamesBeat is a place where you can put away your swords and shields at the door and enjoy community. Now we have to really mean it.

Is it crass to think about business when lives are at stake? Someone could say, “How can you think of work at a time like this?” Well, when your job is to create joy, how can you not think of work at a time like this? Think about the accumulated misery in the world if Disneyland shut down for a day.

We should never underestimate the power of gaming. Our industry has come a long way. It has risen from a subculture to mass culture, and now the whole world plays. It is such a big part of all entertainment, and yet we don’t want any part of toxicity from the subculture to rise with it. Gaming is the welcome mat.

As I said before, do not forget that in the middle of COVID, games brought joy back. During the pandemic, we learned it was OK to say that we were not OK. And it became OK to say games helped us cope.

Times are still tough, and it seems like only magic can get us out of these new problems. Finding that something, that feeling of magic, is why we do GamesBeat Next. We are where business meets passion.

It is also where we come together and recognize the things that games can do for good. Whether it’s fighting climate change or bringing modern work to new parts of the world, gaming can change the world.

This is why a commons, a safe space, a gathering place where we can discuss these things, is more important than ever. And so I welcome you to GamesBeat Next, where I hope you can find that passion that matters so much in business.

I want us to move forward. But at the same time, we should be careful and thoughtful. I want us to embrace diverse perspectives, and that is why 47% of our speakers here come from diverse backgrounds. As we look for gaming’s golden age, issues like diversity and wellness should be a central focus. Thanks to our sponsors like Amazon Games, which sponsored the women in gaming breakfast, we have been able to let many attendees into this event for free or at cost. And we have more startup leaders here than ever.

The Women in Gaming Breakfast is a staple at our GamesBeat Summit events.
The Women in Gaming Breakfast is a staple at our GamesBeat Summit events. This is from May 2022.

Openness lets us do our jobs. We’re journalists. We tell stories. We are not fake news. We believe in getting it right and covering gaming every day.

We have one simple rule to guide our coverage. Follow the money. When we follow the money in our own part of the industry, we have seen many layoffs in the gaming media. My heart goes out to many colleagues who have lost jobs. We, the media, are in a fragile business.

I put out a plea for help from sponsors and the community after we had our own layoffs at VentureBeat. Thankfully, you responded. This event would not have happened without your support. We would not have had so many attendees. Our VentureBeat staff isn’t as big as it used to be, but thanks so much to our team that pulled this off. And you rallied. Four weeks ago, we had 29 attendees signed up. Now we have about 600.

A new MMO is coming based on The Lord of the Rings from Amazon Games, Embracer Group and Middle-earth Enterprises.
A new MMO is coming based on The Lord of the Rings from Amazon Games, Embracer Group and Middle-earth Enterprises.

Thank you to those of you who are supporting a free and independent press that is capable of authentically covering reality, and in our case, covering the reality of games. Thanks to our speakers and advisers too, who have believed in our community for a long time. Thanks to our staff who have been working tirelessly. And remember we have a new event coming on gaming and its intersections with culture, on December 7, the same day as The Game Awards.

It will be just a small contribution to the biggest celebration of all in games. TikTok and Google are our major sponsors so far for the event, and I hope to see you at the Grammy Museum in LA Live for that event. And we have our GamesBeat Summit coming in Los Angeles in May 2024.

Thank you.

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.

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