Things have been looking weird and ominous for the fifteenth annual International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, a small but respected academic games conference, and now the conference has gone from bad to worse to worst, with the addition of white supremacist gold-farm hustler Steve Bannon as the keynote.
The problems all seem to stem from conference chair Adrian David Cheok, director of Malaysia's Imagineering Institute (not affiliated with Disney) and professor at the City University of London. Cheok's made a lot of questionable choices this year: first he listed Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski as a "famous Montanan" on the conference website (Kaczynski targeted technologists for his bombing campaign, maiming and killing several before being caught).
Then he quietly merged the conference with the Congress on Love and Sex With Robots, without informing the presenters or attendees, and then went on a social media tear, viciously personally attacking an academic who objected to this (Cheok's personal brand includes a lot of these social media hatefests). Cheok subsequently packed the conference committee with people affiliated with his Malaysian center whose academic credentials and qualifications were questioned by the academics who quit the committee once they met their new peers.
But things really bottomed out when Cheok announced that Steve Bannon would be keynoting the conference. Bannon is not an academic or games professional: his sole connection with the industry was a failed $60 million goldfarming scam he created while working for Goldman Sachs.
Since then, presenters, attendees and sponsors have been walking away from the conference, though Cheok insists that the lurkers support him in email, that he's signing up crazy numbers of new attendees, and that they're all in for hearing Steve Bannon explain video-games to them.
The publishing house Springer, which has published the technical proceedings of ACE in its Lecture Notes in Computer Science series since 2012, says it will no longer be involved in the event.
"The number of submissions to ACE 2018 compared to previous years is extremely low and remains well behind expectations," Renate Bayaz, the director of communications for Springer, wrote in a statement. "Moreover, the decision to withdraw has been made following a number of irregularities reported to us regarding the paper reviewing and selection process and regarding the organization of the ACE 2018 conference. These procedures do not comply with our publishing guidelines which require a transparent and competitive article selection and thorough peer review process." The conference also lists as sponsors Samsung and Tencent; neither company returned requests for comment.
The Weird Saga of the Gaming Conference Hosting Steve Bannon [Louise Matsakis/Wired]