Oct 132011

Title slide for "It's All Games Now"Here are the slides for the talk that I gave today at GDC Online. I have to warn you that more than usual, you needed the performance, I think. So keep an eye out for when the video shows up on the GDCVault — I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

It seems to have gone very very well. Lots of positive feedback on Twitter and in the hallways afterwards.

If I had to summarize my message, I suppose I would rattle off this set of bullet points:

  • We are losing (or changing) some qualities of games because of the contexts in which they exist now, particularly social media. We let the real world invade more — such as microtransactions and RMT — and we also let the real world shape design decisions — for example, giving up on the notion of not having global chat in you virtual world.
  • We’re understanding games better than ever thanks to both design theory and real-world science. And also understanding ourselves as people better.
  • That understanding is going into applying gamelike features to real life. Not just stuff like gamification, but also common features of social media that clearly draw heavily from game inspirations, such as quantified reputation systems, achievement systems, and even how our profiles look on social networking sites.
  • This is made easier because we’re in a “cloud phase” in the evolution of computing. The pendulum always swings from cloud to local.
  • But our local machines have gotten more accessible, but a lot less open over time, and the net result is that we don’t really control the cloud or our local devices now.
  • The rub there for the game industry is that we have essentially ended up recreating the console ecosystem, only with iOS and Facebook instead of Sony and Nintendo, which doesn’t bode well for several segments of the industry.
  • Instead, it just increases the odds that the process will accelerate, as we will be the product. Indeed, already our perception of reality has been greatly filtered by social media, and is less objective and inclusive.
  • But we shouldn’t forget that we are the ones who define the rules here; we’re the wizards of the game world. Games are fundamentally social media and always have been.
  • We will be OK, as long as we don’t forget that the point of games is not the points structures, but the people we played with, and the lessons we learned.

But summarizing it that way skips the fairytale I told, and the rapid-fire science-fiction story I told, and my brief Jonathan Coulton musical quote, and much more. 🙂

I ended on this hope from Ted Nelson:

I hope, that in our archives and historical filings of the future, we do not allow the techie traditions of hierarchy and false regularity to be superimposed to the teeming, fantastic disorderlyness of human life.

You can read Gamasutra’s write-up here. I think it captures the essence pretty well!

  6 Responses to “GDCO2011: It’s All Games Now”

  1. You write:
    We’re understanding games better than ever thanks to both design theory and real-world science.

    May I ask you which books / articles you would recommend to an interested amateur?

  2. Hi Mr Koster,

    THANKS for this presentation, was there, feels good to hear someone say the word Wizards when talking about the game designers, I was feeling really weird recently with those talks/presentation where people don’t speak anymore about Players but too much Users/Consumers…. grrrr.

    Old Wizzy

  3. Hello, i have read through the pdf and its quite outstanding in its presentation.
    As i am not an english antive i may not have gotten it all right but well…

    I beleive that older games have better quality in every regard to the game mechanics bcs graphik was to low level to be a decision point and immersion and atachment had to come with the gameplay itself.
    GoG.com has recently taken “Darklands” into their catalogue of games and if you take a look at it, or Ultima VII which be both the best open world RPGs to me i think it is clear what i mean.

    If you dont know Darklands here is the link:

    The same is true for MMORPGs, who started for me with Daoc, pathed forward to SWG and going on along several games which offered more refinement but less gameplay and less “World” but more restriction and direction.
    Direction is not wrong, but the absence of “World” made it a shallow and boring experience after only a few days and i urge the day Developers start again to make “MMORPG Worlds”.

    But maybe as we have lost our abitliy to fly to the moon the games busienss may have lost the knowledge to do it and has to start form scratch again?

  4. I think there’s untapped potential for games that are “light” and accessible on the surface but which offer greater control, power and rewards for players that “go deep”, mastering more complex systems.

    An example would be games that offer “class” and “level” templates for casual players, but provide more advanced players the opportunity to opt out of the template system and play a skill-based system instead (Champions Online has something like this).

    I think depth is vital if you want to retain player interest. The more subtle and complex the possible interactions, the more that some players (not all) will want to explore them.

  5. Raph,

    Loved your talk at GDC. Want to Mocap it and put it out on Youtube as an animated character? You get to Plano Texas & get in the suit and we will Mocap your talk using our new LIVE animation techniques.

    Howard Blietz
    CEO Motus Digital

  6. […] Raph Koster’s GDC talk on game makers as magicians loosing ground to social media – GDCO2011: It’s All Games Now […]

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