Wonderland: On public service gaming

 Posted by (Visited 8903 times)  Game talk
Apr 162006

Alice is talking about public service games, or how the BBC could theoretically embrace games as part of its mandate.

Here in the US, where the notion of “public good” is periodically imperiled, it seems like an odd idea. The NEA-sponsored game seems… unlikely, and no doubt conjures up images of boundary-stretching games involving crucifixes in urine, even though only a tiny tiny fraction of NEA funding goes or went towards such things (most of the money went to stuff like your local commuinity theater, plus Dana Gioia seems to have firm ideas about the sorts of contributions the NEA should make). The PBS game conjures up dry-as-dust games, somehow.

Once upon a time, the BBC over here meant Masterpiece Theater or Theatre (with a dash of Monty Python). Over time, our image of the UK has drifted a bit closer to the reality of earthy “ordinary” Brits. Now the BBC in the US touts shows like Footballers Wives which appears to be the soapiest thing since Dallas, and something even more frightening, what appears to be an entire show about stewardesses having sex in airplane bathrooms called (appropriately) Mile High. Our image of the typical Brit has shifted a bit from someone likely to say “Greetings, sir. May I take your coat?” to someone likely to instead say “Oi!”

But the BBC is pretty pervasive everywhere in the world. (Insert side rant about how much American media effectively put US dwellers in a bubble that ignores most of the world). And “out there” its image isn’t the simplistic Bertie Wooster sort nor is it ll East Enders. As with most huge gigantic media companies (because that’s what it is, aside from its unusual source of funding), it is a complex, multifarious beast.

I’ll tell you what the BBC, and its ilk, could bring to games: reach. It can be a distribution channel for all sorts of games that today don’t get distributed or even talked much about except via channels like, well, this website and Grand Text Auto and Ludology.org.

It isn’t so much funding that many of the smaller indie games require (though I am sure they would like the money). It’s access to an audience. The big challenge of pretty much any medium in days of product glut is “how to get noticed.” For every Food Force fortunate enough to have the backing of the UN, there’s plenty of serious games that simply don’t have a way to get attention, like, say, landing on the BBC’s news site.

In a day when the games media is moving from a few authoritative channels (the shrinking world of print mags) to the over-the-top diversity of web channels, having a few authorities around pushing models other than blockbuster AAA retail titles would be a nice help. The reason authorities develop in a complex media landscape is because there are too many channels for people to watch. We rely on authorities to tell us where to go. Some of these authorities will be children of the new media, but some could be sources like the BBC, which have a backlog of credibility, and the infrastructure to bring eyeballs to the table.

The day when we might see a BBC-published game on the shelf, or a Discovery Channel section at GameStop, is probably never going to come, cool as it would be. But the reason is that the shelves are going away — not because it doesn’t make sense for the industry to develop into a broader, more inclusive media channel. Personally, I would love to see the DIY channel‘s games, for example — Handmade Music the game, given my tastes, sounds rather cool. And leveraging the BBC’s audience to enable something like that — well, that strikes me as a public good.

  8 Responses to “Wonderland: On public service gaming”

  1. […] Bloggers Beckett Massive Online Gamer 2 hours 48 min old, Nerfbat – Grouchy Gnome The Sunday Poem: Impression: A Sunrise 5 hours 37 min old, Raph’s Koster Website Wonderland: On public service gaming 5 hours 45 min old, Raph’s Koster Website More on Oblivion 7 hours 52 min old, Tobold WoW Journal – 16-April-2006 8 hours 4 min old, Tobold St. Sneaky Pete’s Oyster Day 8 hours 25 min old, KillTenRats – Ethic Does City of Heroes Have Issues? 18 hours 31 min old, KillTenRats – Ethic Guitar piece: “Spring Break” 19 hours 39 min old, Raph’s Koster Website Drowning in My Nostalgia 1 day 1 hour old, Moorgard (Steve Danuser) What is a Proc? 1 day 2 hours old, Nerfbat – Grouchy Gnome The Price of Serenity? 1 day 9 hours old, Terra Nova – Academics playground MASSIVE 1 day 9 hours old, Terra Nova – Academics playground Google and privacy 1 day 12 hours old, Tobold Spring 2006, Week 2, Day 5: Attention Trough 1 day 18 hours old, Geldon What the Web and games have to teach each other 1 day 21 hours old, Raph’s Koster Website Looking for closet transvestites to join my guild! 1 day 22 hours old, MMODIG – unbeliever That’s a first for me… 1 day 23 hours old, Raph’s Koster Website “Bill” from Azeroth 2 days 1 hour old, KillTenRats – Ethic GM’s are cockwanks… 2 days 6 hours old, MMODIG – unbeliever Lost In Space 2 days 7 hours old, KillTenRats – Ethic An Experiment In Capitalism 2 days 9 hours old, BrokenToys – Lum FanFaire Report Part 5 – Events, The Future, And Other Things 2 days 10 hours old, Aggro Me Friday Links 2 days 11 hours old, Amber Night I Am Losing So Many DKP Now 2 days 12 hours old, BrokenToys – Lum ODDS AND ENDS 2 days 19 hours old, N3RFED – Cosmik more […]

  2. […] Comments […]

  3. Hmmm, I’d take issue with your characterisation of PBS’s offerings. Take the children’s programming; PBS offers a variety of pleasant, varied, and interesting shows focusing on various aspects of the maturation process featuring main characters of the same age and abilities as the audience, presenting varied settings of conflict and resolution without violence. Commercial children’s offerings, by contrast, are highly violent repetitions of stale formula, which serve to prepare future consumers for the litany of dull and violent entertainment that awaits them in adult commercial media. PBS was also a pioneer in the fields of food and home and garden porn, although cable outlets have greatly exceeded them there of late.

    Anyway, I do agree that exposure and distribution are more important limiting factors on non-standard game fare than just money. Given the previous, the latter will in some measure follow.

  4. I think it can be taken a step beyond the idea of simply providing a venue for games that may otherwise flounder for lack of a pre-existing market.

    We should also think about games as tools for proactively doing good.

    I posted one idea a few weeks ago, Warhammer 401k, that posits a government funded and run MMO that uses the subscription fee to build up the retirement accounts of young people when the power of compound interest does them the most good.

    There is nothing “serious games” about the MMO, but the net effect is that kids playing the game would be building their retirement nest egg.

    I think this kind of proactive approach would also be well served by a corporation for public gaming.

  5. Once, the World Bank called me regarding doing an MMO for teaching the economics of poverty in Africa. But they couldn’t afford the price tag (ironic, isn’t it).

    The 401k idea is pretty cool. 🙂

  6. Your price tag or the development budget as a whole?

  7. […] Public Service Games A mini-meme seems to have caught regarding government funding and ‘public service games’:Serious Games SourceDavid Rejeski kicks of a meme about government as potential funding source for games ‘in the public good … (tags: GameBiz Games game-development Culture) Wonderland: On public service gamingAlice posts some thoughts that are, well, thought provoking, on the ‘public service games’ meme. … (tags: games gamebiz game-development funding publishing) Raphs Website Wonderland: On public service gaming Raph posts a good follow-up to Alice’s piece on ‘public service games’. His point on the fight for visibility with increasingly choice-innundated consumers is a good one. … (tags: gamebiz games Culture publishing funding) All three are good reads. While I’m tempted to post a lengthy follow-up, I haven’t the time right now. Here’s the short version:Terms like “enlighten the public” and “public good” are pretty loaded terms. No different than with other mediums, except perhaps that the decision about ‘whats good for you’ is likely to fall, in the short term anyway, in the hands of the non-gaming generation. That aside though, there’s still a values issue here.I’m curious to see if the meme spreads, and what the different take will be country to country. e.g. We’ve already seen US and UK PoV’s. Any canucks ready to chime in? Chinese?Related to the above, and I guess this holds true for TV in the age of internet broadcast – when a gov’t agency makes a choice about making content in the ‘public good’ – who’s public are they looking at? What you produce will be consumed in other countries as well…Finally, if anyone at the CBC is listening, I’m all for their funding games, and would imagine there are a ton of game scenarios that could be wrapped around the Beachcombers license. And I for one, would be first to sign up to develop the “Toronto Maple Leafs Sweatshirt” animated vignette into a game. (This won’t make sense to most, but somewhere, a Canadian is giggling). […]

  8. […] Alice has been providing some coverage of the event, but (just in case you missed it) for deeper thoughts check out her entry on public service gaming and Raph’s further thoughts on the subject. […]

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