I finally sat also through Jim Gee’s presentation, rather than getting to the hotel: it was nice, as much about seeing him advancing through the first steps in Ninja Gaijin and Animal Crossing, as about games as a method for learning. It was entertaining, and maybe even inspiring as a way to do a classroom experience. How bout playing together – playing analytically, discussing after playing?
I also listened to Douglas Lowenstein (ESA president) talk about games spreading into American society. Also in this speech I was puzzled by the ways how ‘serious games’ as a concept was used, somehow as the synonym for ‘non-commercial’, or ‘academic’. Talk was at its most illustrative about the concerns and politics of the American society. IGDA may have “international” in its title, but Lowenstein’s talk well demonstrated the US-centric mindset and world-view that dominated the Serious Games Summit. There is nothing bad with that, I suppose. It is only that the perspective in Europe at least is a bit different.
On my third day, I sat through talk by Masaya Maatsuura (hyping the net distribution, social networks, http://www.recommuni.jp). Next one was keynote by Microsoft’s J Allard. First hyping “hi-definition living room”, then personalization and then the “transformation” into new “HD era” where games are the centre. Hi-def connectivity is all about that kind of experiences future games can provide, Allard was claiming. On-demand gaming? In the movie part of this high-production-value presentation, it was fun to see guys of Remedy from Helsinki next to James Cameron and others to join this happy message of connected, HD Era. Samsung and Alienware were also among those riding the same wave of hardware, software and service upgrades. In his message to developers, Allard referred to the pressures of contemporary and future “super-productions”, and marketed XNA Studio as an team and workflow integration solution. Next XBox was hyped, too, as well as its next generation interface. Micro-transactions for personalized content was one feature promised. The session ended as 1000 Samsung HD TVs were handed out to the audience. Wow. No luck this time, though.
After that, it was refreshing to get into the Emily Dickinson License/Game Design Challenge. Fun, yet illustrative, the session actually proved how much you have to understand about target system (the poetry of ED) to create a game out of it. Clint Hocking, Peter Molyneux and Will Wright had approached the challenge with both respect for the powers of poetry, as well as with almost total irreverence. Will probably won due to the speed and number of his jokes, mainly.
Peter Molyneux spoke about the next generation of game design, starting from point that seems the total opposite of serious games talks during the first two days: when games become mass market, people do not want to “learn” and do tutorials – they want to get to the “experience” immediately. His “morphable gameplay” seems to be the idea I have called “multimodal” one: having several distinctly different player roles supported. “The Room” technology demonstration was actually the most interesting part of the presentation with its dreamy, surreal realities.
Raph Koster had already started his talk on “grammar of gameplay” when I was visiting the academics group gathering at the IGDA booth. Ludeme, or game mechanic is based on ‘verbs’, he told us. He is aiming for formal notation system (like Björk & Holopainen with their game design patterns, and several other people with their formal systems) which is somewhere between flow-charts and musical notation. I was not completely sure his terminology/typology was totally clear, though. Verb, ability, tool: these all have uses in Raph’s system, but perhaps overlapping ones? “Content is statistical variance.” He sure can come up with snappy phrases, That is a skill, too. He also seems to be thinking a lot about logical links and loops. As repetition has clear role in gameplay he might be at something here.
Oh well. I find myself still rather jetlagged, it really takes time to adapt to this time difference! Also, my server ended off-line again – it seems that there is something wrong with my net connection back in Finland. Thanks Laura for fixing it up!