RootsTech 2013, Day 1 – Gaming

A Bad Start to the Day

I got almost no sleep, but I was expecting that. No, I wasn’t overly excited. I just haven’t been sleeping well lately. Or at night.

So I watched the keynote from home, and I already blogged about those. They were good. Then I headed downtown. The snow had stopped and the sun was shining. Until I was partway there on 201 and, to the right in my forward view, were the Wasatch mountains. To the left, gray. Just gray. I saw the snow storm I was driving into before I got there.

To make matters worse, I realized that even with everything I grabbed on the way out, I left my conference badge at home. I was not in a position to turn around for a long time, so I decided to just go. Then I got stuck in traffic just on a couple of streets downtown which doubled my commute time. I was not a happy camper.

Arrival and Things Improve

Registration was great, they gave me a new badge, and I headed to the exhibitor hall. I was just in time to hear the quick overview of Janet Hovorka’s Zap the Grandma Gap presentation, so I got some popcorn and sat down for a bit to hear her top tips of getting kids involved in genealogy.


I then wandered around the exhibit hall, just in time for the lunch break, so I had quite a bit of time. I visited the media center and chatted with the bloggers a couple of times, and collected my beads and ribbons. I stopped at several other booths to get chocolate, or pick up goodies, or to talk to the vendors. Yes, I actually did talk and not just go for stuff and food.

I always visit my friends at MyHeritage, many times, I chatted with Dean at Genlighten (I’ve been a provider on his site for years), found out what ReelGenie is about, asked why the FHL doesn’t yet have, chatted with someone at the FamilySearch Indexing booth, found out that APG ran out of ribbons yesterday, and plenty of others.

FamilySearch Indexing Counters. But… they don’t match.

I headed out for a session, but couldn’t find the room. My alternate had a crowd around the door, so it was back to the exhibitor hall for me.

I was already pretty disappointed after reading the syllabus this morning. I didn’t do that last year. This year, I saw that all sessions were marked either everyone, beginner, or intermediate. I thought the users complained last year that there were no or too few advanced sessions for them, and this year there are none? So I didn’t think I was really missing anything anyway, since just about everything I read for the day looked too simple to keep my interest for long.

Gaming Genealogy

I did eventually make it to a session, where I listened to Joshua Taylor again, one of the keynote speakers, talk about Gaming and Virtual Realities: Attracting the Next Generation of Genealogists. He said some things that got me thinking about how genealogy could be gamified, but I doubt I have the programming skills to write a serious game on my own. He did a lot of comparing between genealogy and games, and genealogists and gamers: we are both geeks, form communities, are easily distracted by our obsessions (eg. skipping dinner), we have conferences, and he even compared cosplay to reenactments. We both work on strategies to succeed; we track, hidden features of games vs. research logs; both are very addicted; we love gadgets; we’re quick to adopt new technologies; and more.

He continued to give small examples of gaming ideas that were very specific to his family or other ideas he had, but I think a game would have to be quite a bit more generic. But he compared parts of games to researching genealogy in ways that gave me some interesting ideas. I’ll have to let my brain simmer on them for a while.

It seemed to him that one of the trickiest parts is that a game should have an ending and genealogy never ends. To that, he joked that the ending just might be: “Now you’re completely addicted to family history. Good luck!”

We then had a preview of a game that findmypast has been working on. He logged in to Facebook to access it, and almost immediately someone started chatting with him. The game loaded very slowly, but he did show us just a bit, repeating a few times that his game family was so hungry because he hadn’t fed them in a week.

I’ve heard Josh speak before, even before the keynote. He is a great speaker, comfortable behind the podium, and humorous. I talked to him just after and told him he should give that presentation to the developers, because they are the ones who would have to write it. He was planning on it, just not at RootsTech.


I continued the day with an unconferencing session for genealogy societies. It was an interesting discussion between a small group of society leaders about using technology. I really have to look into one of the things we discussed, for UJGS.

Evening Special Event

Exiting that room, I saw a gathering of people, some of whom I knew, joined them for dinner, then for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Tomorrow is developer day, another downgrade from last year, in my opinion. Along with the the lack of advanced user sessions, there was a lack of interaction between users and developers. This year, the advanced sessions don’t exist, and the interaction might not either, with developers only around for one day. I’ll read through the syllabus again before I get there and see which sessions I’ve marked that really sound interesting. Hopefully they won’t all be at the same time, with nothing else the rest of the day.

One more critique about the app. Trying to find the name of a vendor for this post, I found a handful of vendors bookmarked that I never bookmarked. What is going on now? And as I type this, there’s another update. Is that maybe 20 today? At least three since I got home.

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