Dec 012014

Slide20I know it seems like most all I post on this blog lately is stuff about speaking one place or another, and you always get three posts in a row: I will speak here, I spoke and here’s the slides… and a little while later, here’s the video.

Well, not to be redundant, but here’s the video! Gamasutra – Video: Practical Creativity – A way to invent new kinds of video games.

This was the session I did at GDCNext about treating (game design) creativity as a skill that can be practiced, offering up tips and tricks on how to be creative.

Nov 242014

At GDCnext I moderated a panel with Zach Gage, Rami Ismail, and Adam Saltsman on indie marketing. It was a fun session, made more so by the fact that they all walked into the room with one minute to spare before the session started (I was about to start pulling dev’s from the audience into the stage!).

It all worked out though, and now video is posted on the GDCVault! Enjoy!

Nov 032014

Slide1Today I delivered a lecture at GDCNext that was my tips for “practical creativity.” Basically, it’s a collection of techniques, habits, and ways of thinking drawn not only from lots of reading and research into creativity in general, but also my experience in visual, writerly, musical, and ludic arts. It touches on breaking down craft elements in games, on choosing ambitious and unusual themes, on simple lifestyle habits, on the power of “scenius” and collaborators, and much more.

I wanted this to be deeply practical. I myself have been using these methods a lot in the last year — maybe slacking a lot on the “get regular exercise” one. And it’s been very fruitful for me, almost too fruitful, pushing my prototype hit rate over 90%.

I really wanted to emphasize the fact that in all this, the craft is inseparable from the art, too. Creativity in craft drives creativity in art, and vice versa. Continue reading »

Sep 242014

indiecade largeGreg Costikyan and I will be doing an on-stage conversation at Indiecade on the subject of the economics of the indie market. This is driven by the various discussions we started having around GDC time in the spring, including his rant at GDC, and my follow-on article on the directions game industry finances are likely to take, which was also reprinted at Gamasutra and had a great discussion thread over there.

Plenty has changed already — as if the power of YouTube as marketing channel weren’t already very evident, we also have the new Steam curation system coming into play. And the fact that the practice of paying for YouTuber videos is alive and well, with costs from $500 on up for a review, is sure to come up. I note that there are not one, not two, but three sessions on indie game economics at Indiecade, so this is clearly all on people’s minds.

It’ll be on Sunday the 12th at 1:30 in the Ivy Theater. Hope to see you there!

Game talkSpeaking on “Practical Creativity”

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Sep 232014

I’ll be talking at GDCNext in LA in early November about “practical creativity.”

Over the last couple of years, I have had no commercial masters over my creativity. Oh, I’ve done some consulting and whatnot, but the vast majority of my time has been on projects that I am pursuing out of pure passion, a desire to make them. And I’ve had an incredibly prolific period; the most prolific of my life, actually.

One of the things that has been really striking about it for me is the high hit rate on prototypes. Some strange alchemy between the indie strivings towards art and the accumulated lessons from game grammar and “formalist” thinking, between reading up on human psychology and mathematics, has created for me a toolset that is in some ways very practical, even dull. Very straightforward and easy to share. So, I’m going to!

Practical Creativity

Raph Koster  |  Designer, Independent
Format: Lecture
Track: Design
Pass Type: All Access Pass, GDC Next Pass

It’s a world of clones, of derivative ideas, of repackaging games in genres. It can be hard to be creative. And all too often, creativity is treated as a magical talent that few have, when it’s actually a skill that anyone can learn and that improves with practice! Come learn what science tells us about creativity, and practical straightforward steps that any game designer or developer can make use of in order to get more creative. We’ll actually try these things out in the talk, and I promise every attendee will leave with a brand-new game idea, never before seen.


Attendees will learn what “creativity” is currently thought to be, and specific tools and tricks for making their games more creative. We’ll even try to be creative during the actual talk!

Aug 122014

The tl;dr version is “go here for the talk.”

This past week I was in London, attending Wikimania 2014. Many thanks to Ed Saperia and the organizers for inviting me to speak, it was a highly illuminating experience.

I gave a talk about seeing the Wikipedia experience itself as a series of games: the game of being a reader, the game of editing (or attempting to edit) the content within, and the game of active participation in the community, in terms of working with its policies, its infrastructure, and so on.

Along the way, my intent was to basically toss a few hand grenades in the general vicinity of the foundations of Wikipedia, and in fact of the larger Wikimedia project. This is one of the most idealistic projects in all of human history, and a group of highly intelligent and altruistic people who are fortunately very open to self-examination. So I felt that maybe questioning some of the fundamental assumptions about how they saw themselves and their project was something healthy, and maybe something that would be extra-helpful if done by an outsider.

To make it extra fun, I tried to make the slides look like they were from an old print book.

You can find the slides as a slideshow or as a PDF, and even video of the talk, all here on this new page I have created. I also participated in a panel with a bunch of wonderful folks, on the broader topic of virtual communities. That video is also posted there.

I left the conference thinking a lot about complex systems thanks to lengthy chats with Yaneer Bar-Yam, and toying with the idea of reframing my various definitions of play and games as just “dealing with complexity.” About which more later, I am sure, as it continues to percolate.

Game talkWikimania 2014 in London

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Aug 042014

wikimanialogoI am speaking this week at Wikimania 2014 in London. I’m speaking in the “social machines” track, which is about systems wherein the code and the people are inseparable — as in Wikipedia itself, social network systems of all sorts — and of course, multiplayer games. I’ll be doing both a lecture session and participating on a panel.

In the talk, I am going to be very literal, and talk about Wikipedia as a game. It seems to me that Wikipedia as a system is unquestionably what I call a “ludic system,” a construct that lends itself to game-playing. It was not constructed as such, however (my term for intentionally constructed systems like that is “ludic artifact.”) The fact that it was not intentionally designed as such means that we can look at it with a jaundiced designer’s eye, and see ways in which is functions poorly as a game.

Continue reading »

Game talkOn SiriusXM tomorrow!

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Apr 132014

I’ll be speaking on SiriusXM Business radio on The Digital Show Monday at 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern, with Kartik Hosanagar of Wharton. It’s on channel 111, and the topic will be virtual reality.

This is of course occasioned in part by my post on the sale of Oculus to Facebook, but I hope we spend time talking about the broader context: how VR is one of the things that a beleaguered core gamer audience is looking to as a great saving hope, and how VR has the potential to link into long-dormant Metaverse dreams, and more. And of course, whether VR is really where it’s going to be at, or whether AR is really the hotter space… though really, I am of the opinion that they are more or less the same thing… about which more on the show. :)

Game talkGDC: Building game retention tips

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Mar 252014

Aside from the ten minute talk at Critical Proximity that I posted yesterday, I spoke for an additional six minutes at GDC2014 (yes, that’s unusually low commitment for me!). It was a microtalk on retention tips for free to play games in the “build and invest” genre — stuff like farming games, city games, all those isometric games where you plonk down little objects. You can find the archived presentation here.

Quests work against self-expression. They force you to build what the developers want, not what you want.

Most of the panelists focused on the “modern” use of the term “retention” — which is to say, they focused on how to get people to come back for the second day, or for a week. The phrase “daily login bonus” was a common reference. But I knew that would be the case, and so took the opportunity to continue my hapless crusade to get social-style games to greater heights of community and user involvement.

Continue reading »

Mar 242014

The debates about “what is a game” happened between multiple overlapping circles that have very little to do with one another… “Games” is never going to fall into one bucket or critical lens… We enrich ourselves and our mutual understanding not by claiming pre-eminence of one circle, but by learning to move between them.

On the Sunday before GDC, I attended and spoke at Critical Proximity, a games criticism conference. It was quite excellent. I am left with many thoughts, which will have to go into a separate post on the subject. In the meantime, there are write-ups available in several places:

As regular readers know, I have been involved in a lot of discussions about “formalism” in games over the last few years. This talk was an attempt to reset the conversation with insights into “formalism in the real world” as Brendan Keogh put it on Twitter, a look into the ways in which looking at the formal structure of games is able to help out and illuminate all sorts of games criticism. Including “softer” or more humanistic approaches, such as historiography, study of play, and cultural studies approaches.To that end, I deployed a set of analogies from other media: fine art, and poetry, and music, to help draw connections between the ways formal approaches and even notation are used in these other fields, and how we might use them in ours.

My talk is below the fold (hover over the slides for the notes text), and for the full transcript plus a link to the video, go here.

There were many other talks I highly recommend… the entire Twitch stream is available (see that same link) and lasts 8 hours!

Continue reading »