My GDC Mobile 2008 proposal: accepted!

Mobile gaming by Kokeshi on Flickr

It doesn’t say so on the site yet, but I am on the pro­gram for next year’s GDC Mobile.1 Yes­ter­day I got the email that my talk — titled Design­ing a Casu­al Social Gam­ing Expe­ri­ence for Gen­er­a­tion C — has been accept­ed. To be hon­est I was quite sur­prised. I work in the blur­ry over­lap of the inter­ac­tion design and game design fields, have no actu­al game titles under my belt and pro­posed a weird sub­ject to boot. Who in their right mind would invite me to speak? Of course I am also real­ly excit­ed about this. GDC is the pro­fes­sion­al event for the games indus­try so I’m hon­ored to be part of it.2

My talk will be close­ly relat­ed to the things I’ve been work­ing on for Playy­oo. I’ll dis­cuss how short-ses­sion mobile games and a web based meta-game can inter­con­nect to cre­ate a social game expe­ri­ence that allows dif­fer­ent lev­els of play­er engage­ment. I’ll look at the ways you can align your game design with the expec­ta­tions of Gen­er­a­tion C: cus­tomiza­tion & per­son­al­iza­tion, recom­bi­na­tion and con­nect­ed­ness. I might post the extend­ed abstract some­time in the future, for now I’m just won­der­ing: Who else is going to GDC? What would you like to see me dis­cuss?

Update: The con­fer­ence site has been updat­ed, here’s the descrip­tion of my ses­sion.

  1. Don’t be scared by the big Orc in the head­er of their site. []
  2. Now I just need to fig­ure out whether trav­el­ing to the US twice in one month is a fea­si­ble under­tak­ing. []

I was interviewed for the Playyoo blog

I was interviewed by Playyoo the other day

Most of you will prob­a­bly know I’m involved1 with this new mobile game com­mu­ni­ty called Playy­oo. I haven’t blogged about it here explic­it­ly because most of my con­tri­bu­tions so far are still being devel­oped and will hope­ful­ly hit the inter­net around Decem­ber. I have an excuse to talk about it now though, because recent­ly I was inter­viewed by the peo­ple of Playy­oo for their blog. Read about my thoughts on the role of social­i­ty in (mobile) gam­ing and how that will work in Playyoo’s meta-game, as well as what I think about casu­al games and the unique game design oppor­tu­ni­ties for mobile.

A quote from the inter­view:

What does the term ‘casu­al game’ mean to you?

‘Casu­al,’ to me, says some­thing about the lev­el of atten­tion and engage­ment that a play­er has (or is required to have) with the game. For me as a design­er, casu­al games pro­vide inter­est­ing chal­lenges. It might seem sim­ple to cre­ate these casu­al games, but they’re actu­al­ly quite tricky to pull off, or pull off well, that is. From a game design per­spec­tive, I think it’s more chal­leng­ing to pull off a high qual­i­ty causal game than yet anoth­er first-per­son shoot­er game.

Read the rest of the inter­view over at the Playy­oo blog.2

  1. They’ve hired me to do game and inter­ac­tion design. I have been work­ing on mobile games, a game cre­ation tool, and a web-based meta-game. []
  2. Thanks to Alper Çuǧun for the pho­to that’s in the post. []

Work with me in Copenhagen (or where-ever)

Panorama of Copenhagen harbour

Now that I’m over three months into my stay in Copen­hagen I thought it would be good to post a short update. Here are the facts, bul­let-wise (with apolo­gies to Mr. Tufte):

  • I have been in Copen­hagen, Den­mark since July 1st 2007
  • Until now I have most­ly been work­ing on Playy­oo, doing inter­ac­tion and game design
  • I also pre­sent­ed on Play­ful IAs at the Euro IA Sum­mit in Barcelona
  • No lat­er than July 1st 2008, I will return to Utrecht, the Nether­lands
  • Yes, I intend to con­tin­ue free­lanc­ing when I get back (I offi­cial­ly left Info.nl on Octo­ber 1st 2007)
  • I am avail­able for free­lance inter­ac­tion design gigs that involve social media, mobile tech­nol­o­gy and/or gam­ing
  • You can also invite me to speak at your event or com­pa­ny, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the top­ic of apply­ing game design prin­ci­ples to the user expe­ri­ence of prod­ucts and ser­vices

Oh and of course, if you hap­pen to be in Copen­hagen, don’t hes­i­tate to drop me a line when you feel like going out for some drinks!

The toy-like nature of social media

A Barbie doll

I’ve been mean­ing to write about this for quite a while: I think a lot of social media are like toys. I think what we see with peo­ple (adults!) using them is a lot like the open-end­ed play we know from play­ground games in school. A lot of these games are about explor­ing (the pos­si­bil­i­ties of) social rela­tion­ships in a ‘safe’ con­text. Social media offer this same poten­tial. In play­ground games there is a nat­ur­al under­stand­ing that what hap­pens with­in the mag­ic cir­cle of the game is not real­ly real (but the notion is blurred.) A lot of dis­cus­sion about the vir­tu­al­i­ty of rela­tion­ships in social media does not acknowl­edge the exis­tence of such a thing: Either the rela­tion­ship you have with some­one is real (he’s a real friend, or even real fam­i­ly) or not, in which case the rela­tion­ship is often seen as val­ue-less. I’d argue that a lot of peo­ple use social media to explore the poten­tial of a rela­tion­ship in a more or less safe way, to lat­er either tran­si­tion it into real­ness or not (note that I do not mean it needs to be tak­en offline into meat-space to make it real!)

I think social media are so com­pelling to so many peo­ple for this rea­son. They allow them to play with the very stuff social rela­tions are made of. I think this fas­ci­na­tion is uni­ver­sal and vir­tu­al­ly time­less. At the same time I think the notion of using social play as the stuff of enter­tain­ment has seen a tremen­dous rise over the past decade. (I tend to illus­trate this point with the rise of real­i­ty TV.)

If you think of the design of social soft­ware as the design of a toy (in con­trast to think­ing of it as a game) you can design for open-end­ed play. Mean­ing there is no need for a quan­tifi­able end-state where one per­son (or a num­ber of peo­ple) are said to be the win­ner. You can how­ev­er cre­ate mul­ti­ple feed­back mech­a­nisms that com­mu­ni­cate poten­tial goals to be pur­sued to the play­er. Amy Jo Kim has a worth­while pre­sen­ta­tion on the kind of game mechan­ics to use in such a case (and also in the more game-like case.)

Final­ly, two things to think about and design for:

  1. Play in social media hap­pens accord­ing to rules encod­ed in the soft­ware, but also very much fol­low­ing exter­nal rules that play­ers agree upon amongst them­selves.
  2. You will have peo­ple gam­ing te game. Mean­ing, there will be play­ers who are inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing new exter­nal rules for social inter­ac­tions. Think of the alter­na­tive rules play­ers enforce in games of street soc­cer, for instance.

Update: Just thought this small quote of Michal Migurs­ki defend­ing the recent Twit­ter Blocks nice­ly com­ple­ments my argu­ment:

There are plen­ty of but-use­less things in the world that serve as emo­tion­al bond­ing points, amuse­ments, attrac­tions, and macguffins. Prac­ti­cal­ly all of social media falls under this cat­e­go­ry for me, a form of medi­at­ed play that requires a sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief in ratio­nal pur­pose to suc­ceed.”

Slides and video of my Reboot 9.0 talk

So I’ve been busy upload­ing stuff. The slides to my Reboot 9.0 talk are up at SlideShare. I uploaded a video record­ed by Iskan­der with his N70 to Vimeo. Final­ly, since SlideShare still doesn’t import the notes that go with the slides in Pow­er­Point, I’ve also put up a big PDF (almost 50 MB). Please refer to the notes in the PDF for all the Flickr pho­to cred­its too.

Slides

Video

Mobile Social Play @ Reboot 9.0 from Kaeru on Vimeo

Notes

  • There’s a bit too much um-ing and ah-ing for my tastes. I need to do more prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice before these things!
  • This will be the last time I use Darth Vad­er as the open­ing slide, I promise.
  • It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to go into the exam­ples that go with the last part. Next time: less stage set­ting, more meat.
  • Still, I had fun. :-) Thanks again to Thomas for hav­ing me, and all the cool peo­ple at Reboot for going easy on me.

Reboot 9.0 day 1

So here’s a short wrap up of the first day. I must say I’m not dis­ap­point­ed so far. The over­all lev­el of the talks is quite high again. Here’s what I attend­ed:

Open­ing keynote — Nice and conceptual/theoretical. Not sure I agree with all the claims made but it was a good way to kick off the day on a gee whizz way.

Jere­my Kei­th — Good talk, nice slides, didn’t real­ly deliv­er on the promise of his pro­pos­al though. I would’ve real­ly liked to see him go into the whole idea of life streams fur­ther. The hack day chal­lenge sound­ed cool though.

Stephanie Booth — Very top­i­cal for me, being a bilin­gual blog­ger and design­er often con­front­ed with localisation/multilingual issues.

My own talk — Went rea­son­ably well. I guess half of the room enjoyed and the oth­er half won­dered what the f*** I was talk­ing about. Oh well, I had fun.

Ross May­field — Could have been much bet­ter if it hadn’t been for tech­ni­cal screw-ups and per­haps some tighter pac­ing by Ross. Still the work he’s doing with social soft­ware is great.

Matt Jones — Very pret­ty pre­sen­ta­tion, nice top­ic and Dopplr looks cool. I’m not a fre­quent fly­er but I can see the val­ue in it. Still not quite sure it will improve the con­se­quences of air-trav­el though.

Nico­las Nova — Came across as the high con­cept, the­o­ret­i­cal twin to my talk. Lots of cool per­va­sive game exam­ples. Nico­las always bog­gles my mind.

Jyri Engeström — Cool to see how he’s devel­oped his talks through­out the past Reboots. I guess he deliv­ered on his promise and stayed on the right side of the ‘I’m push­ing my prod­uct’ line.

The evening pro­gram — No micro-pre­sen­ta­tions (which to be hon­est was fine by me, being quite exhaust­ed). Good food, nice con­ver­sa­tions and plen­ty of weird gen­er­a­tive art, live cin­e­ma etc. All good.

On to day 2!

See me talk on mobile social play at Reboot 9.0

I got awe­some news the oth­er day: my pro­pos­al for a talk at Reboot 9.0 has been accept­ed. I’m very hon­oured (and a lit­tle ner­vous) to be pre­sent­ing at a con­fer­ence with so many smart atten­dees. Now to get my act togeth­er and cre­ate a kick-ass pre­sen­ta­tion.

If you have any­thing relat­ed to this (pret­ty broad) top­ic that you’d want me to address, please do leave a note in the com­ments.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll try to build upon what has gone before at pre­vi­ous Reboots, such as Ben Cerveny’s mind-blow­ing overview (MP3) of how play is essen­tial­ly becom­ing a new lan­guage for us to com­mu­ni­cate with and TL Taylor’s great talk on the dynam­ics of vir­tu­al worlds.

What I will be address­ing is still slight­ly unclear to me, but the direc­tion I’m head­ed is:

  1. Games can be social play, which means they can be used to forge and exper­i­ment with social rela­tions in a ‘safe’ way. This hap­pens whether you design for it or not, but can be nur­tured.
  2. When games go mobile, the bor­ders of the space and time in which a game is played are blurred. In this way, games bleed over into cul­ture in a grad­ual way.

Enough to chew on for one talk, I guess. Again, any ques­tions, com­ments and sug­ges­tions are more than wel­come. See you all at Reboot 9.0.

Social — second of five IA Summit 2007 themes

(Here’s the sec­ond post on the 2007 IA Sum­mit. You can find the first one that intro­duces the series and describes the first theme ‘tan­gi­ble’ here.)

The recent web revival, that I will not name, pushed one trend to the fore­front – social soft­ware. The most chal­leng­ing aspect of design­ing social sites and appli­ca­tions is that you’re not ‘just’ design­ing for sin­gle users, but also for groups as a whole. The IA com­mu­ni­ty is still in the begin­ning phas­es of cre­at­ing a body of knowl­edge about how to best go about this.

Andrew Hin­ton gave one of the best talks of the event, first describ­ing the unique prop­er­ties of net­work-like com­mu­ni­ties of prac­tice and how to design for them. From there he made the point that IA itself is a com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice, not a for­mal dis­ci­pline, which means it should try to stay open and flex­i­ble.

Bonus: Gene Smith took a stab at the build­ing blocks of social infor­ma­tion archi­tec­tures and came up with this nice mod­el.