Sep 192015

Slide15I had a great time in Sweden, despite the fact that there did not seem to be a canonical way to pronounce the city was in (Skövde — sort of hghuheffdduh-ish, but depending where I was in the country, it was also hgheffduh, hghuffda, and a few others).

The talk I gave, put together after some rather late nights with boardgames and beer (well, hard cider in my case), was called “Teaching to Fish.” It had to work as a joint keynote for both the Sweden Game Conference, which was a typical industry conference, and the smaller VS-Games conference for serious games academics.

I ended up doing a bit on game grammar, but focusing more on the fact that given the breadth of the field, it is important that practitioners know what sort of thing they are making, and use the right tools for the job. And that they take their field seriously, study the relevant literature from both games and the countless other disciplines that interact with and impinge upon games.

A lot of the audience was students; I was told afterwards multiple times over that I might have scared half of them right out of the course of study. I was asked two questions at the end, and one of them was “so, since learning all that is impossible, what then?” more or less, to which I answered “it’s not impossible, I did it.” That was followed by a question from Rami Ismail basically designed to force me to prove it, asking me to list of some relevant books; so I gave title and author recommendations for each of the fields in the slides — more like twenty than the requested five. :)

Besides Rami, I also got see old friend Lee Sheldon and Mike Sellers, and make many new ones. I learned a lot about the Nordic LARP scene, which is utterly fascinating. Tommy Palm (formerly King, now doing VR) and Ben Cousins and David Goldfarb (now at new studio The Outsiders) were kind enough to host me for meals on the last day as I attempted to sightsee Stockholm on foot. Twelve miles, one blister, and I had managed to walk most of the core of the city in the rain, visiting museums, tourist traps, and sites from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Slides for the talk are here. It was filmed, and I imagine that at some point I may get a link to that to share it with you. For now, you will have to make do with a parable about fish with a couple of bad puns. Well, one REALLY bad pun, a few middling ones, and one fairly decent one.

Game talkPAXDev Game Grammar talk

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Sep 092015

At PAXDev I gave a talk on Game Grammar. It’s an overview of my current understanding of how all the parts of games fit together. I don’t touch on how every part works — that would have taken far too long for the time allotted — but I do provide the overview, what I have taken to calling my “map of game.”

For the last few years, the tension between the various different ways of looking critically at games has often run high. With this view of things, I wanted to reconcile things a bit. It draws a bit on the stuff from the essay “Playing with ‘game'” and also from the presentation with the same title, which is actually about something else entirely. It pulls in stuff from Games Are Math and from the deck on Social Mechanics.

It tries to map it all out in terms of how it fits into the classic interaction loop that we’re all familiar with, and discusses the techniques used not only for creating solid game mechanics but also what sorts of rhetorical and artistic techniques work best when you are working towards, say, Tadhg’s Kelly’s notion of “storysense,” or towards putting someone in shoes that are not theirs, as in the efforts that are happening so much in the indie narrative game scene.

This also has a few little examples of how you can use simple game diagrams to look at game designs and assess them for flaws or scope.

It’s dry and full of diagrams. Enjoy!


Game talkOff to PAX

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Aug 252015


I fly off to Seattle in a few hours, barring rain. It will be my first time ever at PAX, and I am looking forward to seeing what the hubbub is about. I will be carting some of my tabletop games with me, so if you run into me, ask about them and you may get to play one spontaneously.

I will also be talking twice. For those who haven’t noticed, there’s a little events widget on the sidebar now over to the right, listing upcoming speaking gigs. But I’ll try to be good and post about them on the blog too, since I have been neglecting it quite badly lately.

In any case, I’ll be talking at PAX Dev — for which there are apparently still tickets — giving the closing keynote. It’ll be on game grammar: Continue reading »

Mar 312015

The GDC Vault has posted up one hundred and forty free videos from GDC 2015. Holy Cow, almost as good as being there. :)

Among them is the talk that Rich Vogel, Gordon Walton and I presented on “Community Management in the Culture Wars.” I’ve embedded it below, and I’ve also added it to the already existing page for the presentation, which also has the slides.

Continue reading »

Mar 032015

Slide15This morning, Gordon Walton, Rich Vogel and I presented our talk on “Community Management in the Culture Wars.” I realized as we started that the last time the three of us were on stage together at GDC to talk about community was 14 years ago (!). A lot has changed… and a lot hasn’t.

The slides are pretty self-explanatory, and can be found here.

There has been a surprising amount of coverage on it.


Game talkThe Game Design section

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Feb 122015

Slide1It has taken me almost a year, but the Game Design section of the site has seen truly massive revisions.

Among other things, I have managed to find several presentations which were never on the site:

Continue reading »

Game talkGamemakingA Career: GameDay Peru talk

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Feb 042015

IMG_3663Long-time blog readers know that I spent a large chunk of my childhood in Peru. It was there, in fact, that I first started to make games. I lived in Lima, in San Isidro, a relatively well-off neighborhood. It was the height of the Shining Path terrorism period: gringo things were blown up with great regularity. The KFC. The Pizza Hut. The local arcade.

The art institute Instituto Toulouse Lautrec is launching the first ever game design program in Peru this year. There are programs for 3d modelers, animators, and programmers there and elsewhere already. There’s a small but thriving work-for-hire community that also does original game development. The time seemed right. When they asked me to come give a talk, it was an emotional moment — and the first time in almost thirty years that I had set foot in Lima.

Continue reading »

Game talkHigh Windows

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Jan 172015

Almost exactly seven years ago, I gave a keynote at the virtual worlds-themed Worlds in Motion Summit at GDC. I was supposed to talk about why games people should care about virtual worlds. But I just couldn’t warm to the topic.

I was in the midst of wrestling with Metaplace, which was the culmination of ten years of dreaming about the potential of virtual spaces. We were trying to put into practice the ideals embodied in things like the Declaration of the Rights of Avatars, the loftiness of hopes for general empowerment thanks to the newly interactive Web. But at the same time, I was watching tens of millions of venture capital dollars flow into kids’ worlds, virtual worlds about McDonalds and by teddy bear companies and tied in to bad reality TV shows and more.

So I took my qualms to the stage.

Continue reading »

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!