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?
Don’t be scared by the big Orc in the header of their site. [↩]
Now I just need to figure out whether traveling to the US twice in one month is a feasible undertaking. [↩]
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.
‘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.
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 contrat 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:
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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 bt 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.
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.
(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.