I was featured in a recent Radio 4 Documentary, State of Play. This was about how games can use used to try and achieve social change. If you want to have a listen, the documentary is here.
We talked about a couple of games as part of this doc. One was Endgame:Syria…
…and the other was the newly released NarcoGuerra:
THE REJECTED: CENSORSHIP OF SOCIAL IMPACT GAMES
PARTICIPANTS: Ian Bogost, PHD, Alex Jansen, Clay Ewing, Tomas Rawlings
Games that tackle controversial issues have a giant chip on their shoulder: censorship. Whether a game is banned by a distributor or pulled by a sponsor, the effects can be chilling. This panel will discuss games that broached topics deemed unacceptable for consumption with a mixture of first hand accounts and perspectives on using games as means of persuasion.
I especially like the title ‘The Rejected‘ as it makes us all sound part of some cool western from the 1960s or a new-wave punk band.
But also – it’s NEW YORK! I’ve never been, but it’s one of those iconic places we know so well from our consumption of media…
I was invited by a student looking at serious games to be interviewed while he played though Endgame:Syria – I thought this was a really good idea of how to explore the game, so was happy to take part. Here’s the result of that, though because I was on Skype I do sound a bit like I’m a Cylon for a lot of the interview…
I’m doing the lunchtime talk at the PM Studio in Bristol – it’s 1pm on 17th and is free, so why not join me?
Friday, 17 May 2013 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Tomas Rawlings, Creative Director of Auroch Digital and the GameTheNews.net project, will be joining us to talk about his company’s recent dealings with Apple, who controversially rejected their real time strategy game, Endgame Syria, an unflinching interactive exploration of events unfolding in Syria today. The game and Apple’s refusal to publish it in the app store made global headlines, from the BBC to Wired, The Guardian to Russia Today, provoking a worldwide debate about the ethics involved in using games as a way to call attention to and talk about real world issues.
GameTheNews.net has to date released Endgame:Syria on PC, Mac and Android but not on the App Store due to Apple’s apparent restrictions on allowable content in games. Tomas will tell us what really happened, what GameTheNews.net did in response and what the issues are when large platform holders have the final say about what content goes on their media channels.
io9 has a great article about games and science:
Most of us would probably like to be citizen scientists, but we’re too busy — and yet we sink billions of hours into social gaming. So some savvy researchers are harnessing our love of gaming, to help advance the goals of science, using thousands of brains to sort through data. Here are eight games you can play… for science.
(Hat-tip to Codey for the link!)
I wrote before about how evolving fun was a key concept of how games work now in a networked environment. We are seeing this writ-large in free-to-play and other areas. While a powerful method it also has its dangers:
Evolution is efficient to the point of stupidity. Incremental change is, by its nature, about the minimum effort in to get the maximum result. Thus it moves blindly along a path bit by bit unable to see that this route may lead to strange results because by the time the mistake is realised, the energy required to change what was once minor is now so major that it is simply not evolutionarily feasible to drive the alterations needed. The Giraffe laryngeal nerve is the classic example of this. In games we will see titles that appear to be successful and yet under the bonnet have major structural or design issues that are not apparent in the current environment, but a small shift in the play-space will result in exposure of these issues and so create major upheaval out of proportion to the environmental change.
So it was with great interest that I read Tadhg Kelly’s article on The Scientism Delusion. It’s an excellent article and well worth reading the whole thing. It shows another danger of the iterative approach – that by doing what others do, you just increase the competition you face as you all head for the same green pastures:
Formulaic thinking is incredibly common in the games industry. It comes largely from an engineering mindset, which is unsurprising given how closely developing games and software have always been linked. In software every application is essentially trying to solve a problem by providing features, and over time an application builds into a suite of features that users like. And sometimes the resulting applications become so over-complicated that a new developer reinvents them for simplicity, and the cycle begins again. It almost seems scientific.
What I’m talking about is understanding the difference between the act of creation and the process of creation. Of course you should be iterating. Of course you should be evaluating and playtesting and trying to figure out what will make your game fun. Of course you should be looking at the market and trying to find the right approach to get where you want to be. But the thing you should not be doing is following others’ successes to the letter on the cod-understanding that that constitutes a scientific approach. All it is is a fearful approach.
All creative industries exist in a tension of seeking the formula that works, as creativity is inherently risky, yet is doomed to fail in finding this formula, because creativity is inherently risky. See this example from theatre to see what I mean.
Video: Dawkins’s Biomorphs evolve to please us visually…