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GDC's growing advocacy track means the industry is maturing, says GM

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The Game Developers Conference advocacy track — in which industry personnel shed light on issues plaguing the industry and draw attention to cultural problems in need of addressing — is growing for this year's conference, a sign that the industry is becoming more mature, according to GDC general manager Meggan Scavio.

Speaking with Games Industry International, Scavio said it all came to fruition last year with the beginning of the #1ReasontoBe hashatag on Twitter. She believes the industry is beginning to mature as developers begin to address and instigate conversation about these issues on their own. Sessions this year include a panel on how video games socially affect boys and how designing more empathetic heroes could help them, a talk from Adam Orth about his experience with social media and the return of the #1ReasontoBe panel.

"We sort of just dipped our toe in last year," she said. "Last year, one of the most popular sessions was Brenda Romero's #1ReasonToBe panel and that was what helped form the advocacy track. I saw all that happening on Twitter and I thought we need to get all these people together in a room to talk about it, and so I invited them and built an advocacy track around that. This year we formed a committee and we had people submit advocacy talks. We got people we never would have thought to invite.

"Overall, I want the advocacy track to remind people that developers are actually thinking about these things and it's not something that the media is saying we need to focus on," she added. "We [as an industry] actually are focusing on them and they are important topics to the video game community."

Scavio also said the rise in use of social media has called more attention to these topics in recent years. Because of the upswing in public conversation on these issues, they are no longer something that should be skirted at conferences like GDC.

"I think the reason we're seeing in the last five or so years people talking about this more is social media," Scavio said. "It's just changed the way we discuss everything. When people discover these issues or have problems, it's out there for the world to see, whereas before you had to dig a little deeper for it. It's easier to hear about the problems in your games and therefore I think people want to address it more now. And yes, it's super important that we talk about it at GDC because where else are you going to talk about that?"

The 2014 Game Developers Conference will be held next week, March 17-21 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Follow Polygon for coverage of panels and impressions throughout the event.