Heading to the US for the upcoming Game Developers Conference? If so, the conference promises to feature a new first -- the Academic Summit, which is being held by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Education Committee. The event takes place on March 19 and 20, 2002. The Game Developers Conference is in its 16th year. The event gathers representatives from computer and video game development firms from around the globe, who attend lectures, seminars, roundtable discussions and other events related to every aspect of game development -- business, design, programming and more. The Academic Summit includes lectures, case studies and panel discussions that cover issues like university research initiatives, the development of relationships between industry and academia, and the development of game-related curricula. The IGDA said that its goal is to foster new research projects and support the next generation of game developers. Warren Spector, creator of the 3D action/adventure game Deus Ex, is director of ION Storm Austin. He's also the IGDA Education Committee co-chair. He's hoping the Academic Summit will be a "no-holds barred forum" to help educators and developers nurture stronger relationships. Henry Jenkins is MIT's director of its Comparative Media Studies Program. He noted that for the most part, game developers in business today are self-taught, trained only in computer programming and graphic design. "As games are emerging as one of the significant entertainment media for the 21st century, new kinds of expertise are needed, including familiarity with the basic vocabulary of visual storytelling and a grasp of the social dynamics around game play. We are responding at a time when a growing number of students start out with the explicit goal of breaking into the games industry." The list of speakers include luminaries from Electronic Arts, Alias|Wavefront, Sony, Id Software, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Microsoft, BioWare, University of California at Irvine, Maxis, and more. The Game Developers Conference runs March 19-23, 2002 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. Early registration specials end February 6th.