Lessons from Last Night’s Panel

Here are a few things that I took from last night’s panel that seem particularly relevant to our class. Please add other points, questions, comments:

-How communications are determined and shaped by the capabilities of a technology.
In the early days, chips and visual representations had relatively limited capabilities. That meant games could be command line-based (word based imaginative) puzzles and fantasy adventures, or arcade-type (limited kinetic imagery) shooters. Over time, the two strands combine as processing power improves. Connectivity and bandwith make social interaction (multiplayer gaming, off-game activities like machinma, chat rooms, fan clubs of other sorts) possible.

-The relationship between the communications technology, the pre-existing social environment, and the marketplace.
They exist independently of each other, but also interact and affect each other. The early game designers were working for love, not money. The feedback of success does shift that – you keep doing what works.

-There are important implicit rules, and this is a good thing.
Most people aren’t as great at entertaining themselves as are people who are great at entertaining others. Nothing major there – more cave men probably weren’t so great at cave painting – but this point has been muddied by the current Second Life/Wisdom of Crowds world. There are new things here, but not revolutionary changes in human nature.
The game designers are after one thing: engagement, whether through delight, awe, social connection with your friends/fellow fans. They need to reward quickly, get people from anonymous engagement to identification with some part of it (“choose your guild”) quickly. –People want to invest themselves. They need to create an environment in which people feel challenged, but also successful. This requires an understanding of what tools you put in their hands, how hard these tools are to work with, duration of tasks and delightful events.
These aspects are, of course, capable of being generalized for tasks beyond games – learning, proficiency. These have had difficulty so far, however, largely because of a mismatch of creators and need – you need a passionate educator (who knows the tools) to do education correctly, not a game designer who doesn’t care about education.
Creators steer responses, seek to learn from behaviors.

-You are always engaging with people’s imaginations.
The command line game worked because people did a remarkable amount of successful and satisfying fantasy manufacture by themselves. Today, voice is tricky, because a 12 year-old girl who is a team leader can mess up the collective fantasy.
Even as the business model shifts – games may become free, with payment for novel downloads, or attributes like capes and axes, that people buy – the point is to maximize engagement.

-Groups will form, and obey generalized rules.
Limit about 200. People want to have a sense that they know each other – it’s a kind of neighborhood. There are different roles, formal and informal, in the group – team leader, people who describe the group, people who maintain awareness of what’s going on inside and outside the group.

-The process of creation has changed with online.
Used to be you built it, shipped it, waited to see what the world does. Now there is much more of a stress on an ongoing process – one continually updates, learns, ads attributes. This must be built on the original core concepts, which makes the original generative story very important.

It’s interesting to think about how many of these points might apply more broadly, even change the way some of our institutions of life articulate themselves. Religion, for example – is eschatology as meaningful, when there is more stress on process than conclusion?

One Response to “Lessons from Last Night’s Panel”

  1. --kates. says:

    i’d also add to the insights taken away from our panel, jack emmert’s comment about the profitability of a narrative. to refresh, he said something to the effect of, “i’m trying to tell a story that makes money.”

    i find his, a refreshing kind of transparency. why? it points to the fact that there are two sets of questions to be asked about narratives:

    1) a set of questions about intention. what was the narrative created for, or to do?

    2) a set of questions about the effect. what reaction do we notice people having to the narrative?

    it seems to me that we can answer questions about effect. effect is a measure of what we see. answering the question about intention seems more difficult, if not impossible. well, unless we have the creator of the narrative in front of us, and he happens to be as frank as jack.

    jack pointed out the problem of determining intention. he was asked about the racialized characters, in ‘resident evil.’

    the question was framed from a set of american suspicions about race. but, jack pointed out, suspecting these intentions is problematic, considering that the game is designed in japan.

    So, can we measure intention in a scenario like this? seems like not, or at least not very well. yet, we can measure the effect.

    the effect of the resident evil characters, seems to me where the question originated. it seemed to be a question about an observation that had been made, in response to noticing that some people see themselves, or other racial minorities, in resident evil’s character design, and have a reaction to seeing these images.