Nov 05

Playful: Tom Ewing and Brain Juice

Live Blogged – mistakes are mine

Used to play D&D. Played in club at school. One day, the players weren’t feeling it. Was not sure how to get them in..but got them to get under the desks and play there, a bit closer to live role playing. Is now a market researcher. In Pokemon2 you have the possibility to become a market researcher – is this the only game that does? You only learn the essence of your career when you see one in a video game and in Pokemon2, the essence is a piechart.

Surveys are quite boring. You are entering an artificial world, you do have to make decisions, and you hope there is a way out, so some similarity to games. And now market research is starting to include gamification, and using this has made research slightly less boring. Introduces new ways of interacting. The researchers say it helps get better results. Another thing that online surveys can do is grant you magical powers…or rather super memory! So you suddenly, when you are taking them, know everytime in last 12 months you drank orange juice :_) But obviously we don’t have those memories, or can predict what we will do. At Brain Juice, we look at how people make decisions and do things. So we ask if asking people questions does actually reflect what they do and what decisions are made.

The research says we have 2 different decision making systems We have fast thinking, based on emotion and experience. the other is more considered and cognitive. The latter is what we use when we know we are thinking. But we tend to use the faster way to make decisions. We are not thinking machines, we are feeling. We think less than we think we think.

So to tap into this, as a market researcher, they went back to look at games. How can this help. If you can simulate the environments when people make decisions, do you get better research. The first attempt was based on Monopoly…looking at mops (they called it Mopopoly. You had to pay with confessions about household stuff. It did not really work too well, because they are bad designers.

They tried another one. The client problem, was that the brand was not doing well compared to competitors. It was better sales, but research results said their brand was better. They did not know why. Looking at packaging, it was all logical, BUT the competitor had a big baby animal. So when shopping, system 1, the emotional system, made more decisions in shelf rather than logical in research. They did a test, when they provided distractions, When unrestricted time, then the logical choice. provided restrictions, distractions, then quick decision made

Is currently working on online focus groups, putting in game types into these temp communities. what gets people talking and discussing. They look at things like Chinese whispers. How does a brand/marketing idea get mutated as it’s told to each other. What changes.

In summary, there is often not much thinking behind the decisions. It’s the contest of the action that happens, not the thinking behind it

Nov 05

Playful: Alice Taylor and Mint Foundry

Liveblogged- mistakes are mine

3dPrinting is right at the top of the hype cycle. Everyone is talking about it. It is a good thing to have a hype cycle, because otherwise nothing to talk about! what 3d printing is bring the ability to make physical objects to everyone. You can design, use tools, upload your files to people who will do the printing for you. We’re at a magic point of tale. It is affordable, it has democratised making things again.

These men are at Mint Digital Foundry (which is a 3 month graduate scheme) (the team were Tom Mallinson, Luke Overin, David Hunt and Hugh Boys). They have a project to make something physical that can do things. This team has been working on a new toy that has a reason to exist. They did not know where to start with the brief. So they started by laying down some parameters. So what is a toy, what is it for. They started going to toy places, Hamleys and Harrods. Museums, Pollocks etc. They saw toys as objects, behind glass etc. Gave cultural context. Then went to look at Soho sex toys. So their definition of toys…any object in play. Play is exploration physical and non-physical constructs and games are a set of rules that initiate and maintain play.

They started by getting everything down on paper then group things together. One interesting group was food. Focused on sourdough. They experimented, they set up tests, best way to find out was by eating. The best sourdough has a consistent ethanol level and has been agitated a lot. SO how can they turn this into a toy. How can they make sourdough a fun object ot play with. How can children have sourdough culture and not release it. How do you keep electronics and sourdough separate. They felt they had done well solving product design challenge. But they needed to add an extra layer, add a narrative that can be reflected on a digital platform. How do you personify sourdough. It was an interesting process.

What they have finished with is Dough Globe. But really a smart vessel to keep your dough in. you can measure the ethanol and accelerometer to measure agitation. ..but everything also controls an online world. They built a lot of mini-games, that you control with sphere. And when you win, you get recipes. They have defined narratives around the sourdough.

They had 3 months. The tech was about £60, but lots of prototyping. The hardest bit about the project was making decisions as a team. They all from different places and had different decisions making in the past. So learning how to work in the team.

Nov 05

Playful: Holly Gramazio and Clapping Games

Liveblogged – mistakes are mine

Holly talked about clapping games. Clapping is portable and free and does not take up much space. It is communal, you do with other people. But as adults and game designers, we under utilise what we can do with claps. Adults understand how it works. We clap for congratulations, for greetings, for delight. For mockery. We clap to music, for rhythm. There are freemason rituals that are mostly clapping. People negotiate cheese prices using clapping in Holland. We know how to do it but we mostly don’t when it comes to clapping.

Clapping games seem to be mostly 5-10 year olds, mostly girls. A set of action, with other people, in a chant. It’s guitar hero without technology. It is something that is relevant new to playgrounds, little evidence before 1960. There were some just before WW1, then not til 60s. They started again simply and getting more complex through time. They are complex now. They have variances, there are penalties. There are elimination based games. There are different affordances of a clap. Who takes part. Where does it happen. What parts of the body is it. How loud is it, When is it. What is the rhythm. What is the impact. There are all these different affordances and it seems wasteful to leave to children and freemasons.

There are some. Danish Clapping. Reload. Blind Football. One, Two, Three. Good Behaviour. Clapping can be a bit menacing. One person can be creepy. People slowly joining can be creepy. What can tech bring to clapping. What could you do if had more technology. There are some iphone games, some wii games. Not really fully using the clapping options. You have clapping games with more hands. Can you bring in speed? Are there clapping games with strategy. Most seen are based on skill. There seems to be little room for strategy. Can there be more team clapping games. When clapping is the game instead of the celebration of the game. Can we use clapping to fix games that could be made better.

So main point is clapping is good and we should do more with it!

Nov 05

Playful: Bennett Foddy and confusion and frustration in games

Live Blogged – mistakes are mine

Foddy’s plan is to talk about suffering in making games. Starts with a lesson from the Olympics. It is one of the only events with billions of viewers. Competing in the games is nothing like playing a video game. it’s about suffering. Running is hard, athletics is hard. You suffer. But this does not happen in games now. In older games, you had to press buttons really hard until it hurts. Why has this changed. Why has frustration and pain been engineered out of the games? Games have become comfortable in a way. We are losing this dimension of pain.

Why suffer in games? There are ways in which suffering makes a game better. Suffering makes failure matter. Games use frustration, loss of progress, often. If you know that failure will make you frustrated or bored, you try harder. It also makes success better; if you’ve worked harder, then it feels better. There is also this idea of challenge. There is a glory of taking a challenge on in itself.

But what about games that just make you suffer for it’s own sake. How about games that actually cause you pain. How about Slapsies – (the hand slapping game). Pain in games is for everyone. How about games that give you a horrible experience. The Cinnamon challenge – eating a big spoon of cinnamon. Pain is not the penalty, there is no way to win this without pain. Pain is the entire game.

Frustration is another area. Games used to be hard and difficult, frustrating to finish but got easier to play throughout as they moved into the living room. But if a game is too easy and you don’t have failure, then do you appreciate it. Frustration built in as part of the game play can make the game better.

Let’s talk about confusion. In game play, people can like getting lost, getting confused. Mazes are an environment you can get lost in, older than video games. It is a great human state. Confusion can be intriguing. Humiliation in games. They are often built in, eg Halo, or Mortal Kombat,.

But why can confusion or humiliation be good. Because they represent the engineer playing with the player. Is the developer a teacher, a tour guide. But is this the right relationship. When you have a single player game, the developer is standing in for player 2. They play. You thwart, play with, inflict pain, confuse him. In many times, play is just violence with a strong set of complaints. It can be tricking the player, or is it that the developer pays attention to what the player is doing and provides responses.

We often get too focused on fun as video game developers. But not all play is fun. You can design games that are more like long distance running. hard and humiliating. But still worth it

Mar 13

SXSW: Andrea Phillips ARGS and the hot Brunette

LIVEBLOGGED: taken during talk, so any mistakes are mine.

Andrea Phillips
ARGS and Women

A freelance game designer and writer, involved since they started. Also Chair if IGDA SIG ARG One of community moderators of Cloudmakers, one of the key moments in ARGS, when we recognised that something had happened. One of the ingredients of the community experience was the Hot Brunette, Laia Salla, the one who had a problem. Her friend, she thought was murdered. She needed your help! In context, 2001, Buffy was on air, last season of Xena, then Alias and dark Angel, with Tomb Raider. Our cultural experience led to the hot brunette. She was influenced by culture, and bin turn influenced on. Also, this year, internet use by gender was equal. In 2001, the internet did not feel completely safe, it was common to hide your agenda. In Cloudmakers, however, it was not long before we saw there were a lot of women. We wondered why there were the women, was it the format, the role, the community. Only statistic I had was 28% of the voters for a final vote were women in this fame. As the AI game was widely known and successful, it came the model for future projects; who tried to unravel that review and repeat the experience. And in marched the hot brunettes. They were young, attractive, smart, funny. The kind of girl a geek may fall a little in love in.

A difference btw the video game and a ARG, you are not the star of the show, you are not the main character. The star is usually an attractive brunette. She is not the one doing stuff, you still are, she is something between a role to achieve and someone to help. In the 2012 experience, the 2 white guys were very unusual in this genre. There is a trend, we have made a new archetype, so we need to understand who she is and what she means. So let’s tale a look at the history?

Do girls play games? Yes, of course they do, why are we even discussion. 40% of all gamers are female, 52% of PSP owners are female. Women over 25 play more games than any other group. (Neilson figures)

So why are games ‘for boys’.. why do we still have this idea that games are a boy thing. Was there something about Pong that was hypermasculine? was it the marketing. (see 1976 ad for Pong) But there are girl and boy games – lots of the over 25 games, are casual games, or social games. They are not really the big AAA titles, which are what ‘press’ call games, When we think of video games those err the games that comes to mind. Farmville with its 100m users is not what you think of when you come to a gam, not what a gamer plays.

Games are marketed towards men…straight men. The Sin to Win campaign…for Dante’s Inferno. So if you committed an act of lust at (E3) you could win an evening with 2 hot girls in a limo. There was a protest over this campaign, and the winner rejected the prize. Look at Evony -marketed with boobs. There are no girls (or characters) in the game. (Video of E3 09, lots of girls). You could say it was bad this year – and that was toned down. As a women, what E3 is telling me is that the game people don’t like me, that they don’t want my money, that I am not a real human being.

Games are Made by Men. Another cog in the machine that keeps games a boy things. there are 3 % in programming. Women in game make less money. On (Andrea) ARG teams, there have been more women on them than men. Recent results from an IGDA survey, a third of ARG builders are female.

Female Characters in games suck: classic role for female is the damsel in distress. You are supposed to rescue girlfriend wife, sister, princess etc. Often for some unknown reason. In Zelda, she knows everything, she disguises herself as a ninja – why does she need rescuing. Why isn’t Zleda a playable character. Even when playable, it does not go well. SO Super Princess Peach. Her superpower – MOOD SWINGS!!! When she is happy she flies, she drowns enemies with her tears. Bayonetta is in a category all by itself for its depiction of girls. The art director has talked at length at getting her arse correct. The ‘wins’ are ‘climaxes’. Her costume is made from her hair, that needs concentration..which falls when she is doing something. So her superpower is getting naked. One on 5 characters on a game box is female. In an industry fixated on realism, in light on water, in the action of dust. If they are after realism, they are not really getting there.

So What?? Why does this matter, why is it that girls play games, boys play games, It is not an academic question, it is a real problem. I could give you pages on sexual harassment stats. instead I’d give you info on my first brush of sexism. At 13, I moved schools; in my old schools I was studying literature, in my new one, I was in a class that had to underlined verbs. I approached the teacher to ask for more advanced work…the teacher replied that I had the most beautiful blue eyes. I learnt that being pretty would not help me. So i learnt to remove the markers of being feminine, I considered myself not a real girl…they like shopping and gossiping etc. At some point, you have to ask yourself where i got the idea about. So I had to ask what was wrong was me? My daughter likes girly things, and pink etc. I had internalised the message that girl things suck, so challenged my daughters choices. She was better than that. We have stigmatised femininity. We are cool with a women surgeon, but don’t like a man that collects unicorns. Girl stuff, means soft, pretty, in a culture…Girl Stuff sucks! the message in ads often convey this. If you repeat it, it becomes the norm.

A study has said if you consume a message, even if you disagree with it) you will end up adopting it. this is about the THE SLEEPER EFFECT. once info is in your brain, even if from a distrusted source, it becomes part of your world view.

PRIMING – behaviour and performance can be affected by situation and environmental cues. If you remind a girl that she is female before she takes a maths test, her scores are worse (as girls are ‘worse’ at maths). So who are responsible. the media. But WE ARE THE MEDIA. We are the media just as much as they are. As the media, we make culture, we put ideas into peoples heads. We have to think about what we are adding to the collective consciousness. So with our collection of brunettes in the ARG, we are saying women, even smart, competent women, need help to solve their problems. But why do we use them? What makes them useful. A lot of them come from the point of wanting to put in strong characters? So why young, brown hair. Writers are very lazy, building complex characters are hard. A mass market game want smart, funny, and vulnerable, Female means vulnerable, brown hair means smart (it’s a short hand)

When you start a character, you have a neutral human. But even so, there are defaults for a human – male, white, young etc. Look at a stick character, then most people will assume male, I’d be surprised if you look at a stick figure and not think of a gender at all. We think in genders..parents can get really angry if you misjudge the gender of a 2 month infant, even though it does not really matter until puberty.

We look at stock characters. they are easy. when you want to make a mad scientists, you take an actor and put him in a white coat and mess his hair. It’s easy, but simple, predictable and very boring, ad you can get offensive very quickly. so what is a writer to do? You can’t leave it at a stock character. You end up offensive and boring and which one is worse depends who you are talking to. So to make interesting, you pick an archetype and give them atypical traits. Mix and match. You need to avoid obvious, easy and predictable.

So, there’s nothing wrong with casting cute brunette as lead. But if it just for people to look at and there is no control, that is slipping into bad territory. So here’s a list of things to think about.

1. pass the Bechdale test. 2 or more women who talk to each other about something other than men. There are few that pass this test.
2. Give her agency. Give her the power to change the world. Lack of agency is one of the places ARGS fall down; although if there is two much, the players are short changed. If you give her free will, you can drive the story. make her unreliable, keep info to herself.
3. Diversify. add other dimensions. however, if you are not careful, then you get a cast of white people with different colours of skin.

The brunette is often a guide to the game world. You could skip this, let the players decide and explore.

There are a lot of bad characters, but lets look at what works. Faith from Mirrors Edge. She is conceived a human being first, who happens to be female. The female hero in Fable 2 – although he story is the same regardless which character you play. I though they used the same body model, so the female was strong and muscular. And in Fable, when you die, you scar. and there is no way to get rid of it. I liked that remaining pretty was not one of the rules. Then you have Shel in Portal you can argue that she is not really a character, as there is little about here. But it was cool that she was a girl and it was no big deal.

STORIES ARE TRUTHS: the truths we tell ourselves as a society, crime does not pay, love conquers all. Also girls like shopping…etc. the deep truth about ARGs is not hot brunettes need help but that there is someone on the web who will help you when you need it. This culture of helping people is the one that I want to build. you need to build the culture you want to be living in.

Mar 16

SXSW – Bringing TV to the Web

This is an advanced session from Six to Start and Roo Reynolds and Jo Twist from the BBC – learn how broadcasters and new media companies work in bringing about the intersection of broadcast television and online both now and in the future.

Claire Bateman Jr Games Designer, Six to Start
Adrian Hon Chief Creative, Six to Start
Daniel Hon Ceo, Six to Start
Roo Reynolds Portfolio Exec Social Media, BBC
Jo Twist Multiplatform Channel Editor, BBC

  • RR: TV and the web…so ask audience, how they watch the TV and do they use the web. Is it linear – when it’s on. or in catch up, with an online surface.  Most of the panel play catch up TV with live news/sport. Most of the room are Cs. For me, Most of the stuff about TV on the web is really quite boring – the video bit on the web. i think there is more
  • DH:TV on the web is done. we can do something more interesting now. Linear video on the web is just a matter of streaming.
  • JT: it is important not to underestimate who important web stuff is. But as a commisioner, I challenge production companies to fill in the creative gap
  • AH: video on the web is done.  It’s the things that surround it that make it interesting. Eg the MTV back channel. You can gossip about the show
  • DH: we have got distracted by the wrong thing. It’s not about delivering video; yes shorter episodes are different. It;s just slightly cheaper as it’s not broadcast quality. We can do far more than that – it’s still just broadcast.
  • JT: what I like about the backchannel it;s about how bitchy can you be…people do like to be cleverer than what they are watching and that is a mechanic useful to multi-platform
  •  DH: a lot of people talk about the mobile web and web as different, that is stupid short term thinking, You should be able to develop for the same whatever.  Mink says that when you are out and about, you carry a story in your head. With always on you are surrounded by this fictional field. I like to e able to access content where ever you are. So shows could exist anywhere and be always evolving
  • JT: we want mainstream numbers…the majority of audiences want to be entertained. they are online to be with friends, so how can we play to that, that does not require much effort and still be involved.
  • RR: when you are in a gamespace,
  • CB: the golden want barriers to having a game being everywhere, you want borders, that what you are doing is within a world that exists.  If the story/game can be anywhere, you still need structure and the boundaries to choose to be in a space and behave appropriately.  On public transport, you ignore people, if you are in the game and you see somewhere you recognise, you can talk to them in the game. The fictional field has some kind of shape around it.  A lot of tools in trad Tv, the construction set, are good for this
  • AH: something like Lost does not scale easily on web for all tv.
  • JT: when we talk to our audience, it depends on genre, eg with a drama, the 16-24 don’t what to engage – or they say that. But when you get really compelling drama (eg Being Human), we did a lot of behind the scenes things, getting fans closer to the mindset of the world.  We are thinking of making that stuff into a TV show.  Another example was Briony Makes a Zombie Movie, which was a documentary about making a crowd sourced Zombie show.  It was TV reflecting the web/ We’re not challenging enough
  • DH: you are taking a dominate media form and supporting it online, but you are not creating a new form. So what is TV good at and what can online learn to create qualitative new experience.
  • AH: there is now a real spectrum of interactivity; the spaces inbetween are interesting
  • JT: to think of TV is a red herring…it is a device and a platform (DH..but where the money is). I’m interested in much more connected entertaining experiences. Again, what can you do in crafting different experiences?  TV is a product that has a beginning and end and then you leave it/
  • DH: when we started working with TV companies, we introduced agile processes…which to us TV did not really do. It’s a gamble to out something out there and improve it over time.
  • AH: look at what we have done –, Net Native fiction.   different forms.  this is making entertainment for the web, that can only be done on the web.
  • DH:to pre-empt..we don’t know how it is going to be monetised,. It is so early in the game, but there is so much potential, we have to try things,
  • AH: wetellstories got 300k uniques, not that many compared to a tv show.  there are few online stuff that attracts numbers.
  • Q: will you release your measurements..the engagement metrics as well as audience
  • JT: we have a lot of data like that and I think it is really important. How is the impact, how is it changing how people are thinking. We have no understanding how the culture of thought is changing as the result of a show etc. Those measurements we have are TV, but we are getting better.
  • AH: Ch$ did Sexperience. it was about Sex education, they got 50k+ to do STD tests.
  • DH: we look at time spent, it is at least 10mins a session
  • Q: you know something that will be useful to us, so how can you release
  • Q: How did you feel about TV etc…working with them
  • DH: some of them are great to work with. We get involved with some at the concept stage, before they have even pitched. So it’s integrated. Then there are the TV production companies…they ‘get’ the web..which means they put video on it!
  • AH: while some broadcasters are funding stuff like ARGs, they underestimate the effort and budget required.  TV is where the money is…
  • Q: how do you achieve the culture shift
  • DH: you do stuff like this and wait
  • JT: you work together (in her role) with the TV commissioners.  you have online people in the teams.  the best example are around kids..Briony makes a Zombie..
  • DH: Jeremy Ettinghausen had access to an innovation fund with the express interest to try things. We worked with the creative talent and got them interested in what can be done.  They get excited about other ways of telling stories.
  • Q: Not seen many things online that are Lost like..they are doing shiny things, we shoul be past that
  • JT: i see people putting things online that won;t fit into the Tv  /it’s not good can we put it online’
  • DH: we can do some seriously good stuff!   We tell stories is like a multimedia CD rom…tech speaking we are way past this point…
  • AH as the guy who made it….the stuff we do could have been done a long time ago. But it’;s the accessibility…that is an is diff for anyone to get into an ARG..
  • Q: What about local access, community etc.
  • CB: local community is not the same on the internet, it’s just community.
  • JT: it’s reflecting your cultural does not have to be local, it can be. I’ve seen local project fail so many times.
  • Q: The strength of TV is it can make us eyewitness to events. The weakness is it’s linear.  Why aren’t we seeing less linearity?
  • DH: it is difficult. We’ve tried doing non-linear and it works in some cases.  Linear is easier to follow, people don’t ness want to work at it
  • AH: Linearity is not ness a weakness, it is just a property.
  • Q: TV can be repackaged..the web stuff can have a shorter life – it’s PR/marketing etc? is that how you do things?
  • AH we’re not maintaining them (no budget) but it’s not how we ness think
  • JT: you want to create an ecosystem that allows people to create. It’s a cultural shift, just because the TV show is over does not mean the story is over.
  • DH: an current traditional ARG is not repeatable, they run live.  It limits audiences, it is liked massive primetime tv that you can’t record nor can you buy box set.  We don’t have replayability. 
  • Q: How is UGC video impacting?..web creation impact
  • JT: it;s difficult…it’s interesting when they have a following. It has to be really known talent or really good content. Or we document the process of cultural process.
  • Q: how can ceative people use the web more?
  • CB: just find some geeks!
Mar 16

SXSW – What can we learn from games

Experts from three different (bit connected) industries talk about game design, learning theories, collective intelligence, transmedia entertainment, and the value of play in a participatory culture.
Henry Jenkins Co-Dir CMS, MIT
James Gee Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, Arizona State University
Warren Spector GM Creative Dir, Junction Point – Disney Interactive Studios

  • JG: my 6yo got me into games. I realised that I had never learnt anything that new for 30ys. I realised that games use learning as a gateway drug.   I write books about it and why I play games.
  • HJ: at MIT, going to USC in Sept. Blog etc. I’ve been part of Education Arcade, how they put into practice educational value of games.  Alos workign with Macarthur foundation, looking at learning.
  • WS: believe I’m the oldest still making games. Started in 70s, did Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Worked at Origin.
  • HJ: worked with son, on the Sims, who had to manage his budget.   His son bought all the big ticket items, not about doing plumbing and eating. It applied to his life and he ‘got it’
  • JG: the Sims is often looked down on. but it brings a lot. The Sims players often give simulate what it is to grow up poor.  The game itself is not too good at this, it lead to thinking about how the game was put together.  It is digital, thinking about the world, thinking about how the simulation works
  • WS: games are good at problem solving, how to think about things, how to solve issues
  • JG: you discover think about yourself as a learner. When I started I tried the same thing 300 times until 6yo suggested I try something else.
  • WS: I’ve been making games that are about problems not just puzzles. We had to train players…to be able to make choices and solve problems  In video game sit is infrequent that we ask people to think There is this movement now of getting players to think.
  • HJ; we are learning to depend on others for advice and gaming, though the networks etc.  Schools only recognise only autonomous problem solvers, any kind of collaboration is seen as cheating, there is a different style of learning through the games
  • JG: the Sims example show emotional intelligence and a social intelligence.
  • HJ: the Lure of the Labyrinth is a game we are developing.  We set it up so that kids have to communicate to others about solving the problems, It is abut strategies of solving problems not the answers they have to share.
  • JG: so many games are saying you have to be designing part of it,
  • WS: I’m a little of a luddite, a little more into a traditional narrative and how it combines with gameplay. I’m willing to give up control of gameplay but not the narrative.  There is a thriving community of Spore players, making stories etc.  The most wonderful experiences for me, about the last games I did, if you look at forums, the conversation is different about hwo they talk about my games. It is not about saving puzzles, it is about the narrative, how could you have killed this guy, how could you have done this thing.  A community came to me, at a conference, we went to the bar….and some of the guys started an argument about the a was about politics and ideology, that is the power of interactive narrative it is is about letting you behave one way and seeing how it plays out.
  • JG: narrative acts in many different ways in games.  Doesn’t the narrative in the game have to fit in the gameplay, it can’t just be an addon.  Look at Braid, it has a weird story and a weird gameplay, making people think about how thay match. It’s just a 2d gameplay….there’s a lot of theories about the story.
  • WS: it’s a very lets deconstruct the medium approach, it is very off-putting.   Games are about what you do, so it has to be about the mechanics.
  • HJ: the games come out of a school of theory, people who had gone to game school. You had the same with film, a group of people who had the same language, You are going to get the same in games, designers who are schooled in the theory and can talk the same ideas and the audience who understands this and is seeking content out and can educate themselves.
  • JG:you can have a good story, but the player is in the middle of it. These themes can float around, you see pieces of it, you see bits at ta time. The player can take the themes and make something of it (Deus Ex)
  • WS: with Deus Ex i tried to make the most accessible mainstream game (it failed though). It gave you the chance to try different ways to solve problems. Pick the way you want to play it. I also let you ignore the story if you wanted it.  Games are work and I wanted to disguise this fact, masking the work is something that games to really well. There is a world  work out there that happens online, or just doing your taxes; a more gamelike account could help ease past the work
  • HJ: teachers don’t always recognise the work in a games.  The key word is engagement when it comes to games. A good game makes us engage in a task that may be frustrating and long and boring but will keep involved.
  • JG: when the initial work on Flow, it was about work, the flow state, to make it more engaging.
  • WS: we take things that in other times would be boring and hard and we make them fun.  Some games have control schemes that are more complex than Turbotax -we should be able to make these fun. Find a way to apply game paradigms to real world of work
  • HJ: games to a spectacular job of introducing complexity, spreadsheets etc.   Teachers have not yet caught up this.
  • JG: you play some of these games, pore over the graphs of the results and plan the next strategy. This is valuable skill.
  • WS: this is what the tabletop games do well, give you a framework to build things and learn about stuff. I learnt about medieval Japan, how to run a castle, WWII espionage.
  • JG: you see something as a system and how the systems interact, it teaches you about science and thinking about systems
  • WS: I agree, and I look at most games..they show the world as a system but often a simple system that could mislead you. So thanks that Will Wright exists that show you simple solutions can be a bad thing,
  • HJ: research shows that kids learn a lot of things from games, but don’t look at the game structure.  We have to couple gamespace learning and media literacy. Learnign this, thinking critically, gets people to be able to design themselves etc
  • WS: most of peers believe their work is ideological pure, that they are not defining a world view but this is wrong.
  • HJ: as an artist you have to have a world view…we may not be preparing kids adequately for the Apocalyse but we should be making them thinking about stuff!
  • JG: there’s a whole space their to connect at an emotional level.
  • WS: we have an indi game industry, with skills and distribution etc all that helps. This is great..
  • JG: serious games have not taken off with a speed that was hoped.  Niche games, such as Flower etc, have taken off, I don’t think serious games have been good enough.
  • WS: one thing that games can do well is teach process.  That is not what games do fundamentally. But serious games have tried too much for process and not fun
  • JG: what is good about the games is the engagement, the ability to make choices et. Game designers are trying to model the system, and that is what scientists are doing. We have wrong education theories and that is why we make bad games.
  • Q: What thoughts about how games can be used to get people to think different about their world context?
  • WS: that is what games do, you can walk in someone else’s shoes. It is an experience of being in another place. It is what we do everyday
  • HJ: games are the only media that lets you feel guilt – if you do something bad you have a stake in the consequences (quoting Wright again).
  • WS: my wife has never finished Deus EX as she killed a dog in the beta.she felt such guilt she never went back
  • Q: Do you see development of narrative of games to problem solving? and is there real support to keep them out of classroom to reinforce accidental learning
  • JG: game sin classroom are often to support text books, We have to change theory of learning before we can do this…put different games in classrooms
  • HJ: Labyrinth is not about beng in the classroom, it is to be played outside but then discussed.. Games in schools does not work – the timeframe does not fit in the lesson.  It is not the efficient way of using time. Students look to knowing what they need to know to ge the test. School is not seen a place to play and we have to change this. Until we expect responsibility, then games will not be properly used in classrooms.  But how do we give kids without computers at home access to the skills that game players will have.
  • Q: is there a distinction for difference in narrative between a novel and game? I call it contextual narrative.
  • WS:we don’t have consistent terminology, I call it shared authorship
  • HJ: it is a form of narrative based on world building. Scifi and fantasy os often this.  Worldbuilding narratives invite creativity in a different way to plot driven narrative
  • Q: so how can brand use game theory and gameplay to engage audience in social media.
  • WS: hire a game designer for a few weeks.
  • HJ: it is huge growth area, that appears to a different type of players. I would be wary of learning too much from current theory. Hire female designers etc, bring diff types of social expertise to the table, who understand the networking.
  • WS: Read Rules of Play, has a lot foundational work.  Tracy Ford Game Design Workshop, It will give a vocab to discuss.
Mar 15

SXSW – Dead Space a Deep Media Case Study

This in-depth case-study reveals the method and the madness behind Electronic Arts use of cross platform marketing to communicate separate, self-contained elements of the much anticipated release of their first survival horror game, Dead Space. For this release, EA packaged a comic book, a prequel DVD, and an online experience in order to build, create, and cultivate an audience around the Dead Space brand prior to the official ‘street date’ launch.

Ian Schafer CEO, Deep Focus
Chuck Beaver Sr Producer, Electronic Arts
Andrew Green Online Mktg Mgr, Electronic Arts
Frank Rose Contributing Editor, Wired Magazine
Ben Templesmith Dir, Singularity7

Some live blogging from the panel

  • FR: it’s a successful video game but more than that – Deep Media, (deepmedia blog). we’ve had linear story telling and now the web is encouraging a new story telling. To watch and participate.  these are entertaining and immersive. eg BSG, Dark Knight. EA entered this wih Dead Space – allowing stories to be told elsewhere.  It’s not about doing spin-offs. It’s the same story told across a panoply of different media.
  • CB: it’s a 3rd person scifi survival horror. In the future, a lone protagonist. Similar to Alien, isolated, alone. Isaac has been sent out to correct a communication blackout on a ship.   It’s not a blackout.  It’s not licensed, we did it ourselves.   When we started, we were steeped in licenced games. We were interesting in doing new IP, to own the properties.   It took about 18month to get greenlit.   The dismemberment was from Glen Schofield, our exec producer, we had to rein it back a little. It fits with zombie law.  Some games don’t consider story as essential, we thought it was. We wanted to have a natural story, took it very seriously. We watned to dev a frnachsie so did a whole canon. 
  • AG: it was not just a marketing tool ,We got involved early on, about 16months before. It was the first timeas a marketing team when we got involved with passionate devs. We got 500yrs of back story, a comic book etc. We had to figure out what to do with the great assets, create a strategy around it to build an audience that would be with us to game launch.  It’s a new ‘paradigm’. We wanted to make sure all the products lived on their own. The customer decides what they want to do, you have to give them a reason to come through the door.
  • BT: I got a strange email, I replied that this sounded interesting.   I said that I’d do a comic to do with the game.   I expected it to be like previous ones, a sideline, or just the game story. But as I got further in, they wanted to tell the story from the beginning, this really appealed to me. Usually I get told what to do, it’s restricted. But here, I had tremendous free rein within our part. It can stand on its own or you can follow to other parts.  The visual style was ‘me’ I’m known as the horror guy in comics.  That they got me, with my reputation, meant they were taking the comic side seriously.  Feedback is great, that they did a complete story.
  • CB: we had enough story to allocate bits to different media, the comic, the animation and hte game. Then on the web we had other stories we needed to propagate.  This was driven from Glen; I was in charge of the production.  These were rolled out over a period of months.  We worked with the structure of each media; eg comic books can have a 6 month run, 1 per month, others driven from timing.   How did we keep the story straight? We had a big master timeline, we segmented the story so they would not overlap too much.  A lot of co-ordination.  We had to make the universe.
  • FR: how do you know the property will support all of this stuff?  Did you seed it with takeoff points?
  • CB: yes. We tried to focus on not having a one time event story. We established the canon document, with a centralised universe story.
  • AG: the document had lots of stuff that was nothing to do with the story, but lots of details about the world. We could create new stories and characters from the details.
  • FR: How did you draw the line between defining the canon and overdefining?
  • CB: we did not want the team to feel they were just filling in blanks. We gave the story and feeling. they did all the story development.  We had little to show BT, just concepts.
  • BT: there was a lot of art, I had to extrapolate from that, had to make it work in the civilian setting.  Got to create own assets. Got a little disappointed that I could not draw all the cool stuff?
  • AG: accessibility was a big thing for us on the web, so you would not have to buy a book. We created new assets, which could spin off new stories. We took print assets and created comic book videos, pulled the images together and added VO.  We got lots of views in these.
  • FR: So how do you build something like this in the web.
  • IS: the previous story were linear, on the web we launched, it was far more fractured. you had a different experience depending on the decisions.  Based on original scripts and then extended. We had to keep aesthetic similarity, we had to ensure it went well in the flash environment.  We had to go to studio and get all the assets, 3d renderings etc.  It was not just tech, the tech served the story.   It was to facilitate a connection between the brand and the people who wanted to play. To share the experience, to take the content onto their own spaces.   It was a  week experience, each week another chapter. We had to roll it out slowly., About 500k, site visit 10min on average.  A fair few said it was a key driving factor in the game.
  • CB: the animated feature, it was sort of between comic and game in the story. 
  • FR: how did Deep media benefit the game?
  • AG: you got a lot of people engaging with the world, they came and asked questions, it generated excitement. It gives people a reason to want to interact with brand.
  • IS: it’s how people want to interact; we did some research about a tv show – the brand of the tc show is more than the show on TV –  it’s about what you share with others.   I did film marketing before, you can’t market too early as by the film comes along they think they have seen it. With this, you got people into the storyline, deeper an deeper.
  • AG: I think the comic book/videos were the most successful.  The web was deep and rewarding but the comics took advantage of dissemination, easier to port videos everywhere.  the liner narrative is only one type of content, you will only get so much punch. But it was only one part of a stockpile of ammunition.  Each played for a different audience.
  • FR: what was the biggest surprise?
  • CB: we were surprised at how difficult – we’re a game maker, not a comic publisher.  It was new, we were making up the rules and trying to hit the quality bar.
  • AG: an observation but could have been why it was successful. It was team of people wanting do something well. Everyone interacting, pushing through the late nights, like it was the own pet project.
  • IS: it was visible to end user that it was telling not selling, people respected the credibility of a good story.
  • CB: with EA, for them to treat these not just as marketing one-offs, not just as selling channels, they understood that they were valid in of themselves. We established quality throughout
  • AG: that is the test of deep media, that it’s not just marketing.   It has to be about the passion, give the story tellers the freedom.
  • IS: in context of advertising. When money spent on impression, it could not compare to the hours spent interacting with the content. It’s not impressions you can buy, it’s about creating lasting impressions.  Allow you to spend less on paid media, more on earning respect.
  • FR: what next?
  • CB: it would be great to be able to produce a live action movie, nothing is in the works yet.  We have a new story line for ‘Extraction’ out this fall.  New story, in the world.
  • Q: do you need a lot of budget? Do you need all these pieces to do it well?  What resources are required?
  • AG: You need a passionate creative centre and give it to the community, you can create a deep media experience that could grow. It is all about starting. You have to create.
  • IS: it’s about the expectations of the sale. if you are launching  product, budget accordingly.
  • Q: Would you do the website again?
  • AG: yes. from an ROI the engagement was huge.  You also got analytics (which you can’t necessarily get from other networks. The data set is taken away on ning etc.  I could change content on the microsite based on analytics.
  • IS: from a world of mouth it helped to have something people could be worked through.  it build buzz etc.
  • AG: Deep Focus drive a lot of editorial hits etc.  Got people viewing it.
  • Q: for web site what were the biggest traffic sources?  What was traffic after 6 weeks?
  • IS: Many by editorial mentions, from blog mentions. 
  • AG: getting hits from right blogs, eg Kotaku, Wikipedia was the biggest one.  We have a link on official site, tht gets 100k/200k. upwards of 10k new a week.  they can jump in many places.
  • IS: a fifth is after the game release
  • Q: Dead Space came to me via PS3, all the downloads. I slowly got into it, even though can’t stand horror. We played the game…we got to the end and thought ‘what did that mean’. So was there any plan around the ending
  • CB: that’s a fairly delicate thing for me to talk about. The ending does have a structure, has meaning, and I hope to be able to explain in the future.
  • Q: how important is premium downloadable content after the game?
  • CB: it’s a consumer expectation, so you have to do it or it’s a negative. we have to figure out how to make it happen as it is a drain on dev team
  • AG: the economy and expectation of it is driving a new way of selling games.  Expansions are good. Stprytelling is about blocks of content I guess game makers are going to be planning and budgeting for this.
  • Q: you talked about dolling stories in bite sized..did you give away too much? how did you recover?
  • CB: the final trailer…the marketing wanted to show the final boss.  The devs did not want to this. The PR team wanted this…the rest of the story was fine
  • Q: what did theis process show you about new IP?
  • CB: it is so risky, that is why EA did licensed IP, it’s a safer model. We have been critically rewarded from this, I think you will see more from this.
  • AG: Ben you create new IP all the time
  • BT: putting on paper is easy.  But in this, it was good as they did not drive changes, I’ve had more control on others, eg Marvel and DC. there is more that you cannot mess with. So Dead Space was part of a larger thing, but free rein.
  • IS: it was pretty ballsy, about placing control in other hands about telling the story.  It was amazing, eg bringing in Ben.
  • AG: budget levels, for games etc, it is a sequel business. When you are up against sequels, it is a difficult game. The deep media elements all helped, bridged the value over to us.
  • Q: Where is this going, what is the potential
  • BT: for me, it’s animation. Comic books should stay static, but will turn online as well.
  • AG: you’re going to see every kind of media feeding the other media, based on resources, ability around it.  It is easy to get seduced by idea of your creativity becoming something else. Trying to create something for a commercial reason is the best to make it fail.
Mar 15

Jane McGonigal Keynote at SXSW

Jane McGonigal Keynote.

  • The Lost Ring Video played. A call for help. Being going a week – are you in?
  • going to talk yo you about alternate realities. instead of trying to make games more realistic, trying to make the real world more like games.  we need more alt. realities and the real world needs to be changed to function more like a game. it will start on a game designers perspective on the future of happiness. I work at the Institute for the Future. we look at interesting things that are happening today and imagine what the future will be like.
  • Happiness – the last year has seen a lot of growth and attention to happiness. there has been the launch of a new field – positive psychology, to look at brains working well, the good stuff. what makes us happy, what is the best case scenario.  good books, one thing that really interests me, is the parallel between what makes us happy and the core tenants of game design.
  • Last month, book Against Happiness came out. this is not about warm fuzzy feelings, it is about the trying to capture the best experience possible and using research to define it, how to make lives more worth living
  • there are many metrics for measuring, to implement and insert happiness making things in your life. 
  • what i wanted to ask if you think you re in the happiness business.?  I don’t think we are quite yet imaging product as happiness, but you will be in the business very soon.
  • It’s coming faster than we think.
  • Predictions – quality of life becomes a primary metric,. Positive psychology will be used to design tools; communities will form around different visions of a real life worth living.  Value will be defined as a measurable increase in real happiness or well being – the new capital.
  • Happiness is the new capital. you need to be explicitly generating some positive well being for them. happiness does not mean what it used to..the internets has changed. Happiness is not a warm puppy. 
  • researching for a will distill the 4 key principles

    • satisfying work to do
    • the experience of being good at something
    • time spent with people we like
    • the chance to be a part of something bigger.
  • nothing in the world gives you these things better than games,
  • Multi-player games are the ultimate happiness engine.  as the rest of the community starts to catch up, then more of us will be in the business of this happiness venture/
  • Signals for things changing? Some graffiti in my town…’I’m not good at life’. for a lot of gamers their experience of life is that it is not sufficiently designed for them to be good at. we can be really good at them, at games. In real life there is not the collaboration as there is in the games. you get visualisation in WOW of all the data, help that you use ingame.  you don’t gain speaking points for presentations in life. you gain points in game.

    •  So you have better instructions in games.
    •  Games are giving us better feedback all the time. we know how we are doing.
    • games have better community. shared rules and story give you better time.
  • there is a global mass exodus..started in asia…towards virtual worlds and game worlds. I’m not critical of the mass exodus as I understand it. it is a rational decision to spend time and money in virtual worlds as those environments are set up better for them to succeed. there is a better chance for them to learn.  An MMO players spends 16 hours a week and that is average.
  • we could make better and better online and console games to take what we have learnt from  there and do something in the real world.  for many people, quality of life, virtuality is beating reality.
  • us here are lucky compared to many who play the games we do, real life is not as exciting as virtuality, it does not make them as happy. if I was as good at life as I was in my games, what would it be like.
  • I think games are is like we invented the writen word and we only write books. why are the games not in the real world, to use the games to navigate, meet people…
  • ChoreWars  -experience points for housework.  you get to claim XP for chores.
  • zyked – in alpha. exercise is the  target, give points and skills for working out
  • Seriosity – for games at work. an overlay of virtual currency for work. you have to pay people to do things at work.  you can set priorities. it creates flows of virtual currency, you can watch it. you can see who is important, connections.
  • Citizen Logistics – missions to help other people. knows where you are because of GPS etc, people can tell you what to do. mobile co-ordinations.,
  • Good news as some people are trying to make the world into a game.
  • What do they mean? to imagine the future it is important to look backwards at least twice as far as you are looking forward.  the best analogy is soap, in 1931. ‘Soap kills germs’ was a headline. games are like soap..we should install them in every building, in our pockets we are killing boredome….games Kill boredom, alienation, anxiety, depression,
  • AR designers are trying to embed these happiness engines in everyday life.
  • So, AR comes from Science fiction.  the community names it. it is not an alternative, it is an alternate way of experiences this reality, these are immersice experiences in this reality. one of the earliest OED entries for AR is 1978 – another way of experiencing existence.  they sit and exist in your real world, the game is there at the street corner.
  • World Without Oil – won an award at SXSW. we told the players that we had run out of oil and they players had to run real life as this was true. we would give you updates in your area about the gas and process and impact on food etc. levels of chaos, misery etc.  you would know what the fictional parameters and you would document what it was like.  we had a soldier in iraq on LJ about what it would be like it would be like without oil.  people changed trucks, people were interviewing non players. it’s all archived. it lasted 32 weeks, it got really dark at times,  then the players got it together and kind of fixed things.  there;s a lot of info all still there. still have people doing it.
  • so how do args amplify happiness., they deliver 10 superhero capabilities to people who play.  10 kinds of happiness that match up with research.

    • mobbability. the ability to collaborate and co-ord really large scales. 
    • cooperation radar – the ability to detect who would make the best collaborator for any given mission.
    • Ping quotient measures ability to reach out and respond to other people in your networks
    • influency – the ability to adapt your persuasive strategies to individuals and media and environments….understand communities require a different motivation.
    • multi-capitalism – understand that people are trading in different capital systems.  so how do you get the different capitals trading?
    • Protovation – big companies get scared of this. rapid innovation, that failing is fun and that is when you are learning the most. fail rapidly and often…
    • Open Authorship – naturally to blogger age. comfort with giving content away and knowing it will be changed. it’s a design skill about creating something that won’t be broke by others changes
    • signal/noise management. he ability to handle noise and know which clue is relevant.
    • longbrading – the ability to think in much bigger systems – the zoom out.
    • emergensight – this is the trickiest. the idea that you can spot patterns as they come up, comfortable with messy complexity.
    • lost ring game is in 8 languages…a lot of content, players will create more. it gets really big, so how do you spot opportunitiy etc.
  • they amplify our tendency towards the optimal human experience doing lots of research.
  • so how can interactive systems amplify happiness?
  • so where to next?

    • twitter is a good place to start, a natural interface.
    • the nike ipod. I love it. want to make a game.
    • planes – comms sytems. would love to play a game on a plane.
    • dogs..need a game to fix it….i feel guilty for playing. how about an MMO when you avatar is your dog. you have to get them all working together.
    • a friedd said – ‘my car is a video game’..a Prius using games
    • trackstick – records GPS every 5 secs and follows you. 
    • neuro detector, hook up to games. an idea for a game about people I don’t like and using my brain to destroy them
  • the Lost Ring is for the Olympics. we are going to give people the opp to have an AR at the Olympics. a game that no one has played for 2000 years. learn a lost sport and be an olympic champions.
  • The important stuff  –

    • I believe that most of us will be in the happiness business, study it and be ready for when the public demand it
    • game designers have a huge head start. we have been trying to optimise human experience. 
    • AR signal the desire, need and opp for all of us who design interactive systems to redesign reality for real quality of life.
    • jane    at avantgame   com
  • Questions. DOD/war…using gaming language. do games help prevent wars

    •    i would want to differentiate the types. games make soldiers easier to fight. that’s not the best direction for blurring the line between reality and games. it is extremely powerful we design games to draw people to benevolent action.,  i think game devs should be trying to win noble prize by 2032. if we are playing games together than much harder to hate each other.
  • to what extent that gaming etc are substitutes to things that are missing..

    • for some things..blogs can work better than conversation for many people. games work better for some people. not everyone who plays games has a life that needs fixing. I do worry that some gamers do replace, and it is something we should talk about. we need a real conversation
  • interested in the idea we have more forms but a lot less social. ARGS narrative story and not necessarily with people.

    • a lot of the press for args are online…but they have a real history of real life stuff. ie SF0. all mission in real world. a lot of stuff going that way
  • args..successful ones are productions, narratively intense. they are temp and they go away how do you…when do have continues things

    • business model needs to get fixed. it was seen as marketing and budgets fixed. tried as pay to play, lots of people trying to figure out new models.  it has to happen, i want my nike+ to run for my life
  • I’m interested in the whole business model things….Macdonalds is one of the sponsor for lost do you reconcile that with the game considering the relationship with mcdonalds

    • we don’t actually have a sponsor, we had a group of people who wanted to get involved..IOC, McD, AKQA. it’s a different model, it’s like P&G when they invented soap. I’m thrilled to be working with orgs that are big enough to get the game in may places. it’s going to be tricky to walk the line…where do you get the money,.it is moving more to TV…it is the ecosystem…
  • i played the game to reclassify books.and when i go to bookshops I do the same things. is it changing how people look at the world (ministry of reshelving)

    • its one of the most powerful things…we had 40k people doing this.  I love Tombstone Holdem, we designed games that allowed people to play serious with tombstones…
  • SF0 does a geat job of balancing creativity and real do you script vs openness

    • it’s a combination. if you are trying to solve world problems, you need a bit of a harder top down approach at the beginning
    • The x2 project, with scientists, playing games about future of research and science. we use real world science scenarios. our players inhabit the AR. we guide it with a story, we are interested in a particular reality. do research first, get people to solve the problem, then let them figure out of you are right or wrong.
  • The Game – pick up artists…evolutionary pyschology…people are gaming each other in life…

    • it is important to define the game you are playing. any game is collaborative as you are playing the same rules. in real life is they do not know there is a game playing then a problem. AR announce them selves as a game, it is better. rules are explicit.

Jane’s post on the speech, also Slides on Slideshare

Tags: ,

Mar 08

SXSW – ARGS and Games

Dan Hon, Tony Walsh and Dee Cook

  • DH: ARGS are a new way of telling stories, using all forms. People consume lots of different kinds of medium, there is a different kind of narrative and gameplay experience that you can give people. You don’t have to learn a different control scheme. Interactions are typically the same things you would do in everyday life. you use text and emails.
  • DC: There are no rules about what an ARG is, it’s like playing a murder mystery dinner theatre, for weeks and months, online, in person, on the telephone etc
  • TW: the players can be extremely voracious, hungry for content and always coming up with things that designers may not have expected, coming up with the new story lines.
  • Q: who are the players?
  • DH: the demo data (Perplex City) was 12-80 year old, 50/50 male/female. Live events were surprising, families, etc, the typical audience is not the hardcore gamer.
  • TW: there are different elements that appeal to different types.
  • DC: skillsets can be different for each game,
  • DH: they are a form of entertainment, so the broad questions can be answered in many ways – a broad classification
  • TW: videogame players are very different to ARGs…args can be research based
  • DH: there are differences between the types of gameplay.  ARGS can be more predominately storyline based, punctuated by game-like play.
  • TW: so what are they looking for in an ARG that they are not getting in a videogame.
  • DH: a lot of the successful ones have been toed in with deep brands, deep stories.  Halo 2 (with I Love Bees) can be looked at as a FPS or as part of a real deep story, really good world building. For those that buy into the world, they get passionate about finding out anything about it.
  • DC: In ARGs, people feel they can affect the game world, they can interact with a ‘real’ person. An ARG is often a one shot, have memories and history.
  • DH: WOW as a single player is a very boring game, but playing with friends is a completely different experience. ARGs is similar – large groups, social gameplaying mechanic.
  • TW: so can we talk about some early ARGS
  • DC: Majestic – EA, they started to advertise the game that played you, how it was going to become part of your real life, shut down
  • DH: the Beast – from Microsoft. tied into AI the spielberg movie. it set some principles which some people still think control what an ARG is. It did not say it was a marketing campaign.  The game created a universe online.  In terms of gameplay, there was not really any traditional gameplay mechanic in there. There’s puzzles and collaboration,.  the gameplay that tends to emerge is very social based, than conventional console games. 
  • DC: a big community builder.  
  • TW: the form is always evolving.
  • DH: ILovebees was more of a radioplay, that seemed to be the intention of the writers. it was an audiodrama.
  • TW: a promotion for Halo2. MS did try to do something with Halo3,
  • TW: there’s a huge grassroots community that produce their own games.  barrier to entry is a lot lower than computer and videogame development.
  • Q: what’s the reach and success of ARGS. What are the business models.
  • DH: a lot of the examples have been marketing for brands.  Majestic was a subscription model. Perplex City had a series of collectible cards, which would have clues etc.   I think that everyone is still trying to work it out, there is a lot of scope for brand sponsored content.  In terms of self-sustaining independent it is something that we are working on
  • DC: we still run into the internet should be free idea, so subscription based anything on the web is a dicey problem.
  • DH: it is possible to do so when people spend a lot of time.
  • TW: a lot of teens are looking at free to play games, that can be a model, say in Korean.
  • Q: is what teens expecting in terms of free to play, is paralleled by people wanting to find themselves in a game, eg Lonely girl
  • DH: it did not start out as an ARG, the whole suspense was ‘was to real’. the follow up is Kate Modern on Bebo. the back and forth of setting up tasks, and responding can add a lot of value to the entertainment.    Viral marketing will not get you your mass audience, you have to push people there [RC: it’s my understanding the ARG was started by a fan and then adopted by the creators]
  • Q: How are they useful
  • DH: with channel 4 we are doing an educational game, for 14-16 yos, around online identity and privacy. they can learn important skills.
  • Q: I research storytelling; I look at what is going on with ARGs, what concerns me, is the freakiness of ‘stalking’. blending reality with fiction you get into sueable area.  there is a huge community of susceptible people
  • TW: this question comes up everytime. there is are fine line.  It’s up to the game designers to think about how the game mechanics work. you can’t control, you also need lawyers.  It’s what insurance is for,
  • DC: you can’t anticipate everything, but you can be prepared to react.
  • TW: in videogames you can predict, but the more massive MMO become then less controllable. 

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Sep 03

The best games console

I spend time in Chris Pirillo’s chatroom and one of the endless topics of coversation is which game console is better – PS3 or XBox360.  It always seems to be a 2 sided debate between those, with Wii only entering rarely.  I’m just thankful that Apple do not make a console.  However, I think this video from The Escapist sums up the argument better than anything I’ve seen to date.  

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Apr 16

Ultimate Frisbee

Eric’s being twittering about Saturday Frisbee for a few weeks now so on Saturday I decided to join in. About a dozen people turned up and had a great game before retiring for celebratory drinks. Bill has a great set which includes some in-action shots as well as just the drinking ones. Here’s on of my favourites from the night, from Grace.

Post Frisbee MEal

Mar 14

SXSW – Will Wright Keynote

These are the live notes from Will Wright’s Keynote. no context or analysis yet.

Some insiders believe that SPORE may be the most ambitious most highly anticipated computer game in history. USA Today calls it “gaming’s giant leap.” The New Yorker says it explores the “limitless possibility of life itself.’ And the New York Times, suggests that SPORE ‘deserves to be seen as a work of art.’ Drawing on inspirations that range from the SETI project to the Eames movie, The Powers of Ten, SPORE takes gaming to an unprecedented scope and scale to the concept of life itself. You begin as a microscopic cell struggling to survive in the primordial soup. If you can evolve, growing and gaining intelligence, you can travel a vast galaxy deciding the fate of entire planets. Join us as Will Wright, the visionary game designer behind SPORE and arguably the most celebrated game designer of our time will discuss his plans to bring to life vast beauty and possibility offered by our universe, and create a game that encourages every player to consider his or her place in the galaxy. He will also address the challenges of developing a narrative in non-linear and linear mediums, and explore his inspirations for the game. This session should not be missed.

I was not intending to present Spore, I was preparing a presentation of story. But then read the speach notes…so I will mash them up.

I’ll tell you I hate the stories my computers try and tell me. Novels have been the model, I’ll tell you about the nature of story. I look at the world as a simulation, things cause changes in other things, a dense web events, but a story is a causal chain. stories are unchanging and linear. games are mesh, many interactions. movies are visual, games are interactive. when we take control away from player we take the most important thing away. moving interactive to passive. games are a branching tree. we try and find the compressed rule set to give all the possible options when we design and build games for computers.

There is topology difference btw games and story – dense to open. you can present a dramatic arc with movie when all viewers feel the same. the game arc is very different, it is not a dramatic arc, you can repeat things all the time. we think linear drama is more compelling than interactive.

Stores based on language, empathy, imagination.

actors are emotion-sims, emotional avatars

Film has a rich emotional palette as they have avatars – joy etc, games appeal more to the basic instincts. pride accomplishment, guilt, expression.

Appeal is empathy for film whereas games are agency, i can chose what happens in games. both build models on different ways empathy vs agency

you are stuck in a timestream but we want to move experiences outside either outside place or time. story allows learning

experiences – play or story – an abstraction – models – help predict further and change behaviour

the best way to prevent the future is to predict it

stories start out, with characters, the structure is fuzzy at this point. once it starts you see the sequence and all acts narrow the range of possibilities. In your head you imaging eh the possibilities whilst watching films,

at the end, you start amplifying, dramatic amplifications, at the end of start wars there are 2 major possibilities. – will the rebels be blown up or the Death Star.

the biggest obstacle in interactive is that in linear the director knows the end state; interactive you don’t they are chaotic systems, Stories show causal chain as it is relevant, with interactive you can’t. film makers are playing with this causal chain; much in literature, films such as magnolia or timecode show multi threads. I like films that take a massive left turn, change the expectations. Momento plays with causal chain. each point causes you to reevaluate what you know. deeper in the story you were having to reconstruct what happened.

Groundhog day is a brilliant film, it felt the most like a game. goes through he same things again. with restarts. the director knew future and past, you could skip over things you filled it in. we should do this in games. let players skip levels if they keep failing. The real world does not have a restart, but it makes games interesting

Game stories can be branches or gated; early adventure stories…pick your pages. branching models. they get expensive if you deepened the story

Gates – within level have freedom, then have to get to next level etc. have different topologies. you have subgoals etc. and you have hybrids btw gated and branches. all of these things just throw data at problem.To double experience you need 4x as much work

New approaches are generated stories, have story fragments, have a trigger and result conditions, you can put the bits together to put story together. got more potential than has been explored; not clear what level we want to do.

Player stories…they are unintentional, subversive, expressive. players have stories about how they were playing in a game, describing what they did. Players come across bugs etc and they make the back story for it. Subversive stories are where players are trying to push out the envelope. they get excited about finding exploits. Expressive…they are like the sims, they have an intentional message, I developed a character in GTA, I hung around, finding what I wanted. I did not like messages, just wanted to hang and tell stories

With Sims, players they would be verbalising the story as they played it. they were dealing with parallel simulation but turning into linear stories. players were good at creating stuff and showing off; we put a site to collect the stories. they were like small novels. Then there’s the whole machinima movement. They are entertainment and meaningful stories, allowing people to express what is happening in their life.

so we have storytelling and story listening. with interactive entertainment, it’s more interesting to me to think about listening to stories, teaching computers to listen. let computers get understanding, understand the theme. the computer learns the story that is in the players head. you can look at stories at different levels, have the computer understand, is it girl meets girl or teen slasher etc. if we know the goal states we can present obstacles, to amplify the drama. if we can parse, present, influence/assist and then replay as a movie. we can change the the environment, drive events to clarify he story. I suspect this is more likely to happen with a lot of parallel learning, watching millions of players. this is close to truman show. the computer is like the director of the truman show. It can control environment but not violate freewill. the truman show and groundhog day are both closest to games,

Looking into the future there is this concept called the magic circle; everyone respects the rules of the game, those outside the circle do not ness respect the rules. in the circle you agree to follow them.

stories are similar, they sit around together and have similar things. storytelling has evolved, as has story.

We went from small groups, to epic with films and then started circling back to home, ipods etc, back to being a small group. we can do fractal stories, 3 min things from YT. stories circles change in time space. diversifying across platforms. there are many game niches and story niches.

Linear entertainment is watched at a fairly similar percentage across ages; interactive participation has a strong peak in the younger groups. Games are not just about story and sports, are now evolving as hobbies, tools are increasing and we start to fulfill design aspirations. players love making content. They like making, sharing and collecting, people like organising the power of collective effort is amazing, there is a quality vs quantitative; most is crappy, some OK, some great. as tools be better we should be able to increase the quality of what they are doing.

Players are building mental models in their head and we now have chance for the computer to build models of people, how they play, what they do, how they move, what they buy, what networks do they do.

We can build fairly elaborate models predicting behaviour. give tools when they can build things and then get the computer to amplify…the asset they build has value.

So take what they have made, see what other things they may like and bring it back into he world. move player away from being Luke Skywalker and playing a role and to George Lucas and making a story.

With Spore, we wanted to make the universe a game. There has been a lot of friction for players to create, so in this case the process of creating is the process of playing the game. we want the game to share automatically. we can build an infinite sized worlds.

[there followed a demo of the world, building, creating, moving between the dimensions of gameplay]

i want the game to bring up issues for players, history and future of life. philosophical implications are huge. i think of the games as elaborate montessori tools. how can they learn. this is a phil tool so that you can think about life. so what happens when you have your planets – we have weather, geology. climate etc. you can terraform. and you can destroy. game play at certain levels based on my favourite science fictions, eg the monolith tool from 2001 to raise intelligence etc. As I travel I can build up an encyclopedia of everything I have seen. over time you can explore larger and larger areas, se the entire galaxy, things are built b the players.

technology is an extension of the human body, computers do a lot of things, but importantly they extend our imagination. we use for entertainment, education communications, etc. so how does this impact? we go through a major shift every now and again, social changes, etc technology is driving paradigm shits more often, the rate is more frequent, political changes, social issues, environment issues, warnings etc about what is happening,

games have a reputation as a time waster, but they can much more, they can change how we see the world, how we behave. we can navigate the future with a little more intelligence than we could before.

Mar 13

Spectrum Emulator

Ewan has just shown me the Sinclair Spectrum emulator on his Nintendo DS and I’ve just been playing Jet Set Willy. My sisters and spent hours playing this as kids, so all the memories came flooding back when faced with the music and gameplay. Now I want one 🙂

Mar 13

SXSW – MMORPGs in Austin

Over the years, Central Texas has emerged as the mecca of massively multiplayer game development. Why did this happen and what does this mean? How will the massively multiplayer market change in the next five to ten years — and, assuming such changes occur, will Austin be able to retain it’s position as the geographical leader of this genre?

Moderator: Gordon Walton Co-Studio Dir, BioWare Austin
Gordon Walton Co-Studio Dir, BioWare Austin
John Blakely VP of Dev, Sony Online Entertainment
J Todd Coleman Dir, KingsIsle Entertainment Inc
Shannon Cusick Orbis Games LLC
Richard Garriott NCsoft Interactive

Q: what advantages does Austin have?

Cusick: networking, companies already here, relaxed attitude, environment, resources. College students; existing gaming industry
Blakely: about 30 or so known game companies in Austin. talent base is here; getting people with that experience is invaluable. lots of support from state government. talent pool is stressed and this is a great place to attract them.
Coleman: talent pool is the biggest attraction. and austin is pretty sticky, people want to stay even if move away from your company. Austin is also ripe for deals – known, resources, community leverage etc.
Garriott: agree with everything said. and there is another special aspect – thought technically competitors we are all very friendly, especially in MMO space. these games are big, take a long time, relative infrequent and so rarely head to head. also no signs yet at being at saturation, so successful games help each other. Churn rate is under a year, so all these games out for multiple years, every game that has had over 100k subscribers still has that, even after 10 years for some year. each new release does not cannibalise. it’s a rapid growth segment, and with good conscious we can root for each other.
Walton: talent is mobile, people get brought in. it is totally environment based; we have high tech meets creativity meets tolerance. you can be weird here, there is tolerance for it. a lot of places that were making games are making less than before, we used to be spread out and now we cluster

Q: what are the disadvantages?

Garriott: i see a problem, our demand for certain education levels, skill sets and experience has tapped out the market and cannot find a wide variety of people, such as 3d artists, 3d software engineers. in some specialties we have to compete, with outside town, state and country. have opened large office in china to get talent pool. definitely not cheaper and easier but truely cannot find staff I need.
Coleman: harder and harder to find people which I why I keep stealing them from you richard. need to educate people in general about how big the games industry is in Austin and how much an impact it will have. music and film get the press but games is a staggeringly large impact and does not get press.
Games are growing and this will continue to be a burden.
Walton: we need hits to attract talent, as we have not had a lot recently. Financing side, we only have small publishers in town. we are not where the money goes but we are where the work goes. the digital distribution gives us an advantage

Q: who are our competitors
Cusick: california, (SD/LA) and east coast. Baltimore etc.
Blakely: seattle, consoles etc. WoW growth, people will go there. I keep a close watch on Blizzard.
Coleman: I don;t spend a lot of my tome thinking about competition in this space. the job os to come up with a creative vision and see it through. who is doing things, similar, is not as important, the biggest thing is losing people and then they would have gone to austin not another city
Garriott: our biggest competitor is ourselves, we will live and die on game quality and how we educate how big the industry.
Walton: West coast, aligning with Asia which is a centre of gravity.

Q: Where do you see the MMO market going 5-10 years?

Garriott: that’s one product cycle?? it eveolves slowly; I hope my new game shakes it up a little; most MMOs are built in model of everquest, they are refined but in similar. that is the first thing that needs to change. we need to bring in elements of other kinds of gameplay.
Coleman: you’ll see different business model, ads, freeplay and pay for powerups etc. you will see some implosions, there us a lot of money coming in, attracting investment, you are starting to see deals going to teams that have not done it before. and what we do is not easy, you have all these problems. every hard problems is there to solve. as well as the tech issues it still needs to be fun. we will see a lot of large losses, with really dramatic wins, and interesting play out of places we do not expect.
Blakely: the console..what does MMO mean on console. there is a shared experiences etc so how d we tackle that. we need less traditional play and we need to deliver the new stuff.
Cusick: want it to be as big as hollywood and this the place to be.
Walton: they are still in their beginning as our iteration cycle is slow, so when we think about MMOs they are part of one big landscape. there is opportunity to branch out. The tools are getting better which means that smaller teams can do stuff; only huge hi cost teams have been able to do things for a while. those are the opportunities.

Audience Questions

Q: traffic and housing will impact life quality…would like to understand…content creation in SL, is this a way to bring in creative types? what is your comment on SL environment and is anything going on in Austin about this?

Garriott: when thinking UGC I think of pen/paper and D&D. the early adopters were all good story tellers, small audience. as it expanded you lost the storytellers and it was no longer fun. the majority of UGC is not exceptional and is abhorrent to wade few. but we only employ a small % of the talented people. so provide a tool set and let the creative excellence bubble up. the largest MMOs who have tried UGC have failed in the sorting process..we need to solve this. we need to filter and push the good stuff. there needs to be an economic feedback loop to drive to the good stuff.
Blakely: We announced our Home at GDC; we need to provide tools that allow people express themselves. still a puzzle we are trying to work out.
Walton: the concept of ownership is very sticky. if I won something in a game I am stuck in the game, so tapping into it is important.

Q: Perplex city – we are sending people on quests, we have developed a permanent large world. everyone seems to be ending up in the same areas but approaching form different areas.

Walton :not everyone is going after massive audiences, may 80% of us are. mass markets are not where most MMOs and ARGs are going forward, a lot of niche markets.
Cusick: most of our stuff is niche, but we would like to do mainstream stuff.
Blakely: gameplay has roots in a community of shared story. It;s a new thing about story telling, all mediums coming together. Look at the Heroes community. we will see more of this across all mediums.
Garriott: as attractive as find metaverse games, but it is never going to be a best game as a particular niche, ie games are cool in one part of offerings that are out there.

Q: it was difficult to build games and have a life outside how do you ensure the workers have a life?

garriott: I spent many years with 12+ work days 7 days a week. once i could afford it, but now I have many more interests. for the last game we have a policy against crunch mode, we keep demands low, no more that 8-10 hrs a day. I think we have a well managed overtime policy; we manage the crunches well, we think lifestyle is important
Cusick 0I’m a firm disbeliever in crunch time
Blakely: we try and be smarter about how we do games, looking at new techs, educate the investors, publishers etc. mange the efficiency. Keeping it measured and predictable etc. in an increasingly competitive environment you need the talent to stay around.
Coleman: if you kill people up to launch, then when it launches it is dead, you need people on top form then.
Walton: yet to see creative business that can run to a schedule; we have good intentions, the challenge will remain to do what we set out to do; there is never enough time or money. we are purely managed, have little foresight about times and crunches are always a possibility. have to be s,art enough to minimise it, years away from being able to build a plan
Coleman: not sure you ever can build to plan.

Q: you made a comment that austin is where the work goes not the money – can you elaborate why and what can the city do to help?

Gariott: we are one of the publishers, compared to west coast we have close to zero publishers. They go through investment and withdraw from outside publishers. we have to get them in town to keep them here. None of the things for other industries have been offered to hi tech industries etc have not been offered to the game industries, eg tax benefits.

Q: the film board has said the same the other day, the same thing that the game industry are looking for, can someone do the same thing?

Garriott: I’m a convergence sceptic, but while there are some concept artists that can do art, that is the beginning and end of convergence; the same people cannot do both industries.
Coleman: skillset is difficult to cross over but IP is not. there are some cross overs from distribution, PR etc. but a lot of key differences.
Blakely: we are part of Sony Pictures..we find it tough to cross over. look to invest here, but money will always go back to west coast.
Walton: he who has the money makes the rules. the money is not here, it is Dallas, Houston. you need to finance it here or you just be a job shop.

Q: Are Sony doing a good job of promoting the games division?

Blakely: yep. our chairman has done an amazing job of letting us run our business. They are hands off, but look for opportunities to leverage IP. we have shared resources on recent products. Still a challenge internally figuring out the corss overs.

Mar 13

SXSW – Pervasive Electronic Games

Pervasive Electronic Games

Julian Bleecker (USC/Near Future)
Dennis Crowley (Dodgeball/Google)
Aaron Myers (USC Interactive Media)
Kevin Slavin (Area/Code)

This panel presents and discusses unique aspects of the design issues and technologies involved in developing “pervasive electronic games.” Pervasive electronic games are experiences that move game play into the real world, outside of the usual venues in which electronic gaming occurs. Moving from sedentary venues (living room, video game parlors) into more quotidian spaces is made possible by the proliferation of mobile communications devices, ubiquitous network access, global position sensing and electronic location tagging.

Julian: motivaton for these come from play forms, from children’s games, before electronic games etc. Been looking at different kinds game gestures; noticed that gestures are similar to electronic games. the RL gestures can inform online games. also been looking at how game interfaces have evolved. looking at how RL activities can them become a game.

Aaron: representing MobZombies, a game with a simple premise. you are guy with an exposed brain being chased by a bunch of zombies. you move around in RL to move character in the game world. Use 2 sensors to co-ord motion – a digital compass and an accelerometer. there is a continuing growing hoard of zombies you need to avoid and bombs to stop them. we are working on a version that can work i=on a mobile form. it works on a Sony Vaio thing now but looking for a phone version and a streamlined version of the sensor rig. looking to release as a kit for people to build own games etc.

Kevin: (reprised his PSFK talk – but the audience seems to be more appreciative). underneath pervasive games is an instinct to lie radically about where we are or to develop instinct. Games meet a need; most places are real, most stories are not. But places are becoming fictional. the need for stories does not stop with tech. You see geocaching, superstar, Games with computers in them, not the other way round.

Dennis: Dodgeball is about knowing where your friends are, where they have checked in, encourages rendezvous behaviour. Developed as my thesis project, working on games with Kevin to pay the rent. tried to take some of the game elements and add them to Dodgeball. mainly stats. introducing some of these competitive elements drove usage. Grew up on games; competition with brother. So how do you make real life into a video game; made Pedometer wars; record the stats and see who ‘wins’ by walking the most. has potential to change the way you experience a public space. got to elevator or stairs…then you may win more..walk more. condition you to change behaviour. but the pedometer was dumb, not networked, got boring. At the same time or so Nike+ came out; tracking through shoe, you can see your runs etc, lots of stats so I’m in love with this. then started adding multiplayer stuff, can make challenges. Extra motivation to run! Then started to be able to plot runs – but not really location aware so have to plot on maps. One day I was running and saw a graffiti and thought about the ability to run at graffiti and get super special powers…but got lazy and did not work out. Now go skiing most weekends…now in competition for skiing, eating, runs etc. Bought GPS, on phone and garmin. Got data off..every 15sec takes a reading and gets a download. Collected all the points, mapped out the mountain. now I can map myself or others to the map and turn the skiing into a game. Thought about RC PowerAm…putting those powerups and putting on the mountain…play games about getting to the powerups etc. No real time feedback etc but looking for it next year. Waiting for NIke+ plus GPS plus connectivity to enable this game to go to next level.

Audience Questions

Q: when is Dodgeball coming to SaltLake City
Dennis: don;t know but looking to expand all the time!

Q: How much does it cost and what traffic. are they happy with ROI? (Sopranos)
Kevin: yes, rest take offline
Q: what were the measures?
A: a new way if talking about it etc..take offline

Q: there are blurring of lines between these and ARGs?
Aaron: our games have tighter link to digital games; response to your actions. ARGS typically don;t have this dynmic, physical to digital
Kevin: 2 things that are different – a lot of args focus on puzzle solving, collective intelligence, not ness the types of things that we focus on, we look at systems that people use to play instead of constructing distributed narrative.

Q: How do you solve the discovery, how do you let people know it is OK to play?
Kevin: one is event based and one is pervasive in on all the time. and there is something all the middle, ie an infrastructure for ad hoc events, always available for people to take part. so how do you discover you have tetris on phone? it;s business problems; another is to have a physical aspect.
Dennis – it;s difficult to do as pick up games at moment as equipment is niche, as they tech becomes more ubiquitous its gets easy
Aaron: not sure if mobZombies can be pickup. one of our motivations was to make people look silly and not sure where to go now.
Kevin: with Plunder, the resolution of real world is large and the likelihood of people being together is low; so proximity foes not have to synchronous, it can have what happened here at some time.

Q: where do you see this going?
Dennis: I see NYC as a whole bunch of magic squares, geographic triggers, when you go by something will happen. van get more people to interact with the world, with people in same areas. it;s all about location, all the work I’ve being doing is on this. We are still closer to this, but soon devices will be location enabled.
Kevin: the phone is location aware, but we cannot access. it is not tech problem but a business problem. I want to see the business problems solved.

Q: any general principles to bring people between real and virtual?
Dennis: nned to get dots on map and then you can start things happening.

Q: will location based devices stop you from exaggerating and lying about where you are. any thoughts about this?
Kevin: the goal is to misrepresent yourself, not to lie to others. the question is about how to harness for imagination, not flase information.

Q: In Perplex City we started looking at location etc, in the UK we can get access to data but in the US there is a major business problem that means we could not do it here. we started looking at making it ourselves.
Kevin: you have to understand how retarded we are in the US with all this stuff. there are very few reasons to be optimistic in the short term. the handsets have gps, but a problem in city. we like wifi positioning its free and you can get pretty accurate.

Q: a lot of these games are multiplayer, looking at engaging communities. what about multiplayer for mobZombies and how can running across a mushroom augment your running
Aaron: single player etc, tech reasons affect multiplayer.
Dennis: for a single player it can be power up…but still applicable as compete against yourself. Potentially looking at interactive, letting location elements give me a different experience.

Mar 11

SXSW – Digital Distribution of games

Alexander Fernandez CEO, Streamline Studios
David Burks Mktg Mgr, Seagate Technology
Dan Connors CEO, Telltale Productions
Craig Allen CEO, Spark Unlimited

Q: Does p2p count as distribution? what is it?

Craig: yes. in it’s purest sense its about creating commerce. To get the big companies you have to go to the publishers. there are a lot of people in the chain who may not care about your product. if you want to innovate there is not a lot to point to, you can;t get people to take risks. they want to do things that are proven. It;s not that you can’t do it, its a tough sell. so digital distribution removes some of these middle men, it;s a chance for rebalance; you can diversify the content.

Dan: more a logistical plan – stored on web and delivered direct to consumers. what the hosts and to what devices are going to establish what digital distribution is going. it’s all in play at moment. a sysmbiotic relationship now.

David: we see the clearest defintion is moving away form a physical form. that the direction the game consoles are going with otehr content etc, it’s a matter of time before the game content goes inthe saem irectiona nd it is a matter of figuring out the business models.

Q: what are you doing:

Dan: we have launches recent latest episode. first it is broadcast as part of subscription model, then sold on the website and then at the send of the season we will package it up into a single product. w e are spending and making money at the saem time. we have top of mind presence from releasing things on the web.

Q: you will sell at stores?

Dan: yes, we have a relationship with a publisher.

Craig: we are not doing anything yet but it is in future. we are excited about it, but we are doing big games for next gen consoles and we throw it over the wall and hope they like it. a lot like movie making, but may go like magazine etc and we get multiple channels for distribution, to be able to build relationship and have a strong dialogue with the digital consumer. they are vocal. you can taylor it, you can change and down the line you have a strong product. you can find out early if it will not work and better manage investments. have to wait til console base matures to the point where this is a strategy – 2-3 years.

Q: we have open and closed distribution platforms. what are your pros and cons. start off with closed ones.

Dan: on open platform, conversion costs are low. but it competes a lot. On the closed sites, then you have a high conversion user. On a PC, average everything on, including casual, then 1-2% and xbox live is about 20%. On causal, its found more randomly. on xbox they are looking for something particular so higher conversion. but you can;t set up how you get presented etc. there’s not a lot of products on closed system yet and it will change – so how do you get noticed in the future. there’s not as much freedom to advertise yourself.

David: people need to store things; we get asked for larger and larger drives for consoles. there are convenience opportunities. you can try before you buy with downloads etc. the online is good news for consumer. so how can we get there sooner. MS and Sony are not ness motivated to make it happen sooner.

Craig: you need to know your audience, who the core are. look what happened with mix tapes. now we have 50$ games…less than 10% of people who buy finish games. you have to give people value. where I think it will evolve o is like the seasonal TV market; people will talk about the good levels on a game. you spend money on what you want. you can’t subsidise crap. you have to build good stuff to get people to buy in this model. It’s an exciting place as we are on the cusp of having an open market.

Q: dan talked about customer ownership and value creation. you have more touchpoints with your consumer. how important is it for developers and content creators to be with the customer.

Dan: you can be topical, we are in a tight feedback loop, we encourage them to feedback, give them content for UGC to mic, building a community is what it is about. the shared interest is our target. we use a lot of the techniques to keep them coming back and interested, plus giving them something they can buy every month.

Q: are you using tips from other communities. can we learn stuff from music industry?

Dan: itunes is doing interesting things. but people are using this now to sell retail product. we are focused on doing things…digital distribution and episodic. itunes and single songs is good. they bought singles back works in the web… user reviews works. they have linked experiences together. the other key thing is the hard ware piece as well and has been adopted at a huge rate and is not there on the games side fully yet.

Q: who will win – MS or Sony ? or is it someone else

Dan: Nintendo has a shot. xbox is all over it now. Nintendo has momentum at the moment. Sony are doing stuff. so we will see!

Q: Dave, is there an opportunity to get involved in a different way beyond storage.

Dave: like a gaming harddrive at a vendor, loaded up with games. we launched DAVE that stores and communicates. can be used for viral and p2p distribution, demos etc. Everything that was analogue is going digital. pipes and tanks are all over.

Craig: piracy is another issue for us as an industry. physical copying has been one challenge. and digital makes it worse, how can producers protect their model. the gaming social community can create a protection to the revenue model. if you can disconnect and go I can steal. but if have to be connected and participate there is an opportunity to protect and have a revenue model. you can use media virally to create interest and convert to revenue model when they want to participate. you’ll see more of this cross pollination. the games industry and social connection groups will become new drivers of media as will be able to own consumer. PS Home becomes an expression of you digital lifestyle. you can reward people for participation this will be the big shift with media companies becoming tech companies.

Q: in Asia there is a tendency to give game away for free and then the add-ons are paid for.

Dan: xbox does, I think micropayments are coming. a cheap initial purchase, create relationship, it’s a smart way to go. a lot of software products were given away for free at the start. You have a base…and your marketing spend can reduce.

Q: can you launch a multimillion game via digital distribution now?

Craig: it;s possible but not advisable. you need the hardwear install base is maximised and the right number of connected users who would download. we are heading into the age of access, but need to wait. once there, a subset for game is them viable. At the moment the inventory is a risk, we have to pay for hardwear.disks etc. that is a huge burden on the capital. digital distribution i need the money to make the game not the disks. I have a predictor for growth. I can get loans on game success.

Audience Questions

Q: there’s a lot of PC digital distribution there. and they are locking in, there’s incompatibility. everyone wants to own. and there;s conflict and multiple accounts etc

Alex: remember they are fighting for you
Craig- they put up barriers to keep you. but if it gets too confusing then people go away. look at’s too confusing. i it becomes like that then we have done somethings wrong. we need a simple turnkey approach for media.. barriers to commerce gets in the way of revenue.
Dave: the open architecture lends itself to the clutter, the closed systems make it more streamlined but little choice.

Q: Piracy…can you explain what you meant.

Craig – they pirate cos there is a lack of understanding or their is a significant barrier or inequity. a lot of piracy came form not being able to serve consumer needs. the commerce system did not meet needs. we have a blockbuster model cos that is vs walmart wants to hear. try something experimental, you need to be a big publisher.

Q: is there a lower resistance if in a episodic structure.

Dan: it’s a low price point, very web friendly. as they come back regularly, you can tell if they are pirating as well.
Craig: you have a personal relationship and easier to want to pay. on the big stuff, it;s difficult to get people to try, the barrier to sampling is 50$. Game sampling allows you try things and see if you like it.

Alex: you buy something and it sucks you cannot do anything about it.

Q: at GDC last week, the developers were excited about digital distribution, enables new innovation, new developers.

Craig: you can balance financing, creative etc. the layers of publishing puts difficulties in getting games up. there are different models growing up, people wanting to fund development.

Alex: dan, you jumped right in. why did you do this

Dan: it does look like we thought it would people were investing; we needed to build company from ground up and we built for it. the most exciting things have happened online and started with the independents online.

Q: Dan Dig dist has been around for a while. a lot of stuff has been worked through. biggest question is about user experience, how do they manage the full stuff. most are user side, the hardware stuff has been answered a lot.

Craig: the safety, monitoring etc will become an issue. for connected worlds. UGC and co-creation is going to create a lot of policy issues for a lot of people. minors, etc. people will create inappropriate content. so how do you govern, what are the risk and liabilities. the legislation will not catch up.

Q: What are your thoughts of selling the other stuff?

Dan: we give them added bonuses for the other stuff, tshirts etc

Q: how viable is the shareware model?

Craig – it depends on what your goals are. keep resource and cost down and it works well.

Q: PC games and older games. there is a lot of push back with invasive things on computers (steam) is the industry listening to their pushback.

Dan: understanding what users wants is key. the older audience is our core target. People also need to understand what steam is trying to do, with hardware fingerprinting etc, to balance security needs with user comfort.

Craig: we see a huge amount of people not being served. need to get beyond core gamers.

Mar 10

SXSW – Attack of the ARG

Update: This panel was one of the ones I most wanted to see whilst I was here. I’m starting to get my head round the space that is alternate reality, but only dipped my toes in the water in the more ‘amateur’ games. The commercial side is not one I’ve had too much experience of, the ones that are tied into a brand. But thise are the ones that most people start with. I played the Prague files and am looking at Perplex City 2; I’m also working with a friend to see if their story can be turned into a game.

I really enjoyed hearing from the professionals, who turn out these games for big corporates. One of the brands I used to work for was in the consideration process for a 3 month ARG, but we never got full commitment. Everyone loved it, in the abstract, but putting money against it was a problem It was a bit more than 1% of the marketing budget mentioned in the talk though. It was also driven from the agency, not the client, so in hindsight that was a major issue. Many of the clients discussed below seem to drive the need themselves, so have the motivation.

When you look at the demo, with a high percentage of females, and the time spent with the brand, this model of marketing could be useful in so many ways, working to cut through the clutter of ads today.

Dan Hon (Mindcandy) Perplex city
Brian Clark (GMD Studios) Known for art of the heist for Audi.
Evan Jones (Stitch media) Known for regenesis
Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice) Known in community
Alice Taylor (BBC) (Chair)

About 25% in audience are story tellers. More were bloggers and journalists. A few even admitted to not knowing what an ARG was.

Brian – a lot of ARg have been in advertising, for big sponsors. treat as opportunity online. you have a different relationship online. it’s an opportunity to use feedback and change story of product in real time based on audience feedback.

Evan – working with TV production companies enhancing their stories into interactivity.

Brooke – came into ARG from a social degree, looking at the online communities. Working with unfiction, argn, and now taking it into more serious games. games that do something other than just entertainment.

Dan: main product is perplex city. in first city was about treasure hunt and story. into puzzles, codes, social engineering (against actors). Big on story and narrative. Audience is 50/50 male female.

Alice: ARGS about 5 or so years, came out of a number of gaming communities, a tthe same time. an emergent development. they can last for for variety of times, PC ran 2 years, others are shorter etc. started in marketing and gaming.

Q: are they promotional, games or what

Dan: so what are books for, websites for. we are experimenting at using a lot of media and using a new platform to tell stories. weaving it together to create a coherent experience

Alice: why have marketers picked up on it. it;s far more work than sticking an ad up?

Brian: budget shifts away from broadcast to interactive. quality of interaction has more impact than sheer number of reach in a tv ad. an arg can produce session lengths of 30mins or longer, high repeat visits. it;s still measurable. In the way you would measure PR and the web. look at community discussions. More immediately provable from an ROI, but not ness from a revenue generating for story telling.

Dan: continuous partial attention…Linda stone talks about how everyone in the room is acting..we are doing multiple things at same time.. you see this with tv and online etc. what arg offers is the potential to reach people across a number of different media.

Evan; arg take advantage of natural state of web- hunting for bits of data and assembling knowledge.

Alice: 50% of tv watching is about tv on in background (BBC research in UK), change from 10% in 50’s
So far, it sounds like we are talking about always connected people

Brooke :you have to computer literate for most ARGs. you have to have a functional understanding of how to find and assemble info from online (hence can make a good training tool). companies love it as have a huge number of women involved, in both playing and development. different games attract different demo

Dan: PC peaks at 26; people following the story were different form those doing the puzzle cards. Higher proportion of women following story. puzzles were from 10-80yo, huge range of ages.

Brooke: you can customise to audience by writing different story

Brian: it’s like asking who is watching tv

Evan: the interaction, the felling of being in the story is an empowerment thing that hits a certain need.

Alice: where do you see ARGS going?

Brian: last weekend there was an AGR festival in SanFran. the people behind lonelygirl were there..the people in the arg community thought it was an ARG, when they found it was not they launched one..which was asked to be the official one.

Evan: different levels. certain games at mainstream etc. different models,

Brooke: we are going to see them spread more into TV. they are going to spread into education, to help people learn how things work. it will spread out.

Brian: academia are interesting. in the infancy stage, just developing

Dan: it;s hard to get into games in the middle. been looking at tv etc and trying to learn how people get into the things, help you catch up. it may happen in more bitesize chunks to make it more accessible, to make it manageable, has a start and end date. you know you can play the episode etc

Evan: it’s too easy to get into a rabbit how and not knowing what signing uo for, this gives more control

Alice: size/money etc

Brooke: worked on matrix game. 125k players, had high production values. under 10k budget, 7 people, 4 of them fulltime.

Dan: everyone has a content problem. you create a passionate audience. the audience sucks up content. just in time content creation. keeping up with everything. this is really user centered design – watch what players are doing and constantly adapt.

Brian: have rewritten almost everything halfway through, in response to audience and their better ideas. so can change stories in the middle.

Evan: it’s about working with partners, bringing them along.

Alice: when does this go horribly wrong?

Brian – every time. because of the chaos of the real world, you have to adjust. you always have to figure out how to recover – quickly. take it as reality and adapt it.

Evan: exposing yourself to a committed audience…you have to stay in game sometimes it works, but it is a dangerous territory to walk through. but it can be used for entertainment but worse

Brooke: one of the biggest fears 5years ago…lessened now. you have to make sure people know it is a game and that they can trust you

Brian – people should not listen to people on the web telling them what to do!

Dan; you can get bad pr very quickly. these are very connected very passionate people. put one foot wrong it;s bad. when it goes well, you get all the passion, all the creativity. it’s great. the treasure hunt was hard for the PR company to get around..they lined up interviews before it was found..and could not understand that it was not done to order. we try and be safe but we do real world things. to work well you have to give up an element of control. it can get risky, the bad things can happen but this is where the fun stuff happens.

Audience Questions:

Q: user engagement and passionate user experiences etc; commercially applied – awesome, can see why a corporate client would want this. but when things go wrong, its bad. so how do you sell the high production values etc, don’t know how many people get involved.

Brian – you can plan, the amount into media can help predict audience. if you can’t afford to experiment with 1% of marketing budget you will fall behind. it’s the ones that are potentially behind who are willing to experiment.

Dan: on PC that is not a problem. the beast was skunkworks – not known about it. at MC the phone is ringing, everyone wants one. but there is a different set of people being approached who need to think about it.

Q: ARGS and public safety. are they the bridge btw the living and the street?

Evan: we always found it most useful to add an extra layer; before going into real fiction they need to take a moment and remind people that is is a game. have always pointed people that way. getting people to acknowledge that it is fiction.

Brian: we know the ARG genre has matured when the legal defense is an arg..people are looking for the influences, they say it for books, video games etc.

Q: games that matter and interact in a real way. for education etc. what is the budget…how can we do it

Brooke: keep your eye out in the next few weeks for something on climate change. See jane mcGonagle keynote last week. There is a game being developed called world without oil. get people to talk about things and explore it.

Dan: the things you can get people to do when they are in the story is amazing. characters put in peril…people try all sorts. gets people to do things they would not always do.

Brian: have to avoid edutainment trap. perception that serious games aren’t fun

Q: lg15 was interesting; a fundamental principle is about being in the know? how do you see it co-exisitng as more commercial

Brooke: the secret knowledge is one motivation
Brian; we are trying to give the audience something to do. the simplest is to take the narrative and break it into a 100 pieces and hide it. the audience has to assemble it. so it;s about sharing and collaboration etc, ie finding something out and bringing it to the rest of the community.

Dan: with PC there was a lot of sharing, even though a lot of money for grabs. it;s also about the discovery process, is it real’s at the start and we will start to evolve into entertainment more, it is fiction, it;s about the narrative.

Brian: for big games, they expect a sponsor. and people look to find out who it is.

Dan: the audience expects them to be tied into a brand. PC and Cathys book are the only ones that are not tied into the brand.

Q: work for major media community and we have problem of the opposite..people wanting them for their shows (ie lost experience). what costs and time do you take to build them. do you do it for new shows?

Brian: have done new stuff. took pilot money and turned into website. (freaky links). it was heavily trafficked before it was cancelled.

Q: so how do you get people to it?

A: have an interesting, episodic content. a year before hand.

Alice: is it difficult to set up quickly?

Evan: one game had a turn around of 2 months. but the caveat, it’s more successful from how early it gets into the creative team.

Dan: an example of how things can go wrong. things are separate. things are not linked. you have to have everything together at the early stages or a very disjointed experience.

Brian – costs depend on budget. you design the games around the budget. most is millions….

Q: how do you measure organic growth, WOM.

Brian: that is what happens

Brooke: there is a core group of people at unfiction that do get tagged.

Brian: recruting more players is one of the subgames

Dan: 2 elements – fun games want my friends to you need to get people on board to do things.

Q: how do you build games to suit products etc, how do design the games

Evan: it can be more of branded entertainment. the story may not be directly related to a brand.

Dan: there are stories which are retrofitted, or a complete new experience where creatives are part of it.

Q: are the players of the games the direct target?

Brian – it’s broader than that. see American idol and the difference betw the audition peiple, those who vote and those who know it exists.

Mar 09

PSFK Conference – Dave Rosenberg

A Whole New World – David Rosenberg (JWT)
What is driving the widespread adoption of video gaming and online worlds? What cultural shift is video gaming defining?

I work with Dave on a day-to-day basis, so it was interesting to see what he had to say about a space we donlt spend too much time discussing at work.

  • Games were social activities. The modern era started with arcades, buildings where people gathered to play games.
  • Video consoles spread into the home; we have the PC, PS3, Wii, XBox360; portables such as PSP, Nintendo DS, the mobile. Andthey are connected, online, wifi enabled. The playing firled has increased outside the home.
  • everyone has access to games.
  • Personalisation is becoming more important. Avatars increase
  • The average gamer is aged 33, has played for 12 years. 35% od US families play games together. 38% of gamers are female, 42% of online gamers, playing and average of 7.4 hrs/week. 25% are over 50. 68%Boomers, 52% GenX wanted technology for Christmas.
  • Connectivity has led to expansion; online is a meeting place. XBox live has 2 million conversations/day. Always on, always ready.
  • World of Warcraft- very social, has a strong team aspect. You win together and it always looks great. There are 8m paying customers, 2m in the US. China has 3m.
  • casual, coffee break games are huge. 21m impressions in jan on Yahoo games. These promote mobile gaming, predicted to be a $10b business by 2009.
  • Huge cultural impact; music and peripherals are exploding ie dance, dance, guitar hero. It’s all about control – controlling what you want to do, when you want it.
  • Moving foreard, download distribution will grow; it will become mainstream. Credit cards could give you in-game points instead of miles. The Wii has serious moved the console into ‘mainstream’

This was a very fast walk through the space; Dave culd probably talk all day on it. Key takeaways – it’s mainstream, you have to be aware of it; you can play in the space but play nicely. Add value, don’t exploit.

Dec 18

The Prague Files game results

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks playing The Prague Files, an ARGish like game being run by the Live Games Network. Over the last 2 weeks, we were presented with 7 tasks to complete, all going towards some pretty good prizes, the grand prize being a trip to Prague.

This was a professionally run game, in that you paid your money to compete. This contrasts with the many ‘amateur’ games which are on the go at any one time. Amateur in the form of the creators are not being paid not in the format as many are complex and fiendish. The latest ‘big’ game to surface is from the lonelygirl15 team, which started as a fan game and has moved to be official, but there are many smaller games running at any one time.

But I found differences in the Prague Files that were both good and bad.

  • First of all, the timing and pace of the challenges. Everyone got the same challenge at the same time and had to complete them to stay in the running for the prizes. Everyone got the same opportunities to play and solve them. There were time limits, but that did not mean you could not play again – the game was fixed. With many other ARGs, relying on AIM and blogs and other pages, things can change faster than you can play and the game inputs can change rapidly.
  • Second, the pacing of the game, with information and hints given in advance so you could prepare meant that everyone had a chance to gather the necessary information, such as coe techniques. In other ARGS, often you do not have chance to work through what you need to do before the game moves on.
  • What was less obvious in the Prague Files was a sense of community. Look at the boards associated with any ARG and they show a vibrant community discussing the game and trying to solve the puzzles. The forum was not very active in this more formal game and I found that a lack; it would be interesting to see how you could encourage more of that whilst maintaining the competitive elements. The most activity occurred when there was a problem with one of the flash games that meant that many people could not finish it.
  • There’s a place for both types of game; now the first run is over, LGN are promising more to come over the next year. I’d like to see how they build on this and make it bigger and better the next time.