Aug 192017

I have posted up slides for the keynote talk I gave at the Foundations of Digital Games conference. It was called “Reconciling Games” and it was about fish tanks. Well, fish tanks as an example of a naturally occurring ludic system that offers up surprising lessons for game design, across many disciplines: internal game economics and systems balancing, but also narrative, community design, and more.

Among the key quotes from the talk (based on tweeted comments from attendees) are

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Jun 232017

Five years ago, I was asked to put together a list of the best articles on the website. I did, and it’s been linked as “recommended posts” up on the menu under the Blog section for a few years now.

Just the other day, I was asked by Jordan Amaro (@JordanAMAR0) whether I was ever going to update it. Probably at some point, but in the meantime here’s a list of the ones I think are best from the last five years.

Looking over the list, the things that jump out at me are: a lot more posts about the game business and trends, about general topics like creativity, and about the intersection of the virtual with the real — the way tropes from online worlds are impinging upon our daily lives. I also note quite a lot of looking backward in these: game histories, postmortems, etc. Of course, this was also the period that encompassed the Great Formalism Wars of 2012, which seem overblown given hindsight. And lastly… despite my feeling I am hardly posting anything, this is a pretty nice list for five years!

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Podcast with Keith Burgun

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Apr 132017

I did a 90 minute interview with Keith Burgun of Clockwork Game Design and Game Design Theory fame. We talked about all sorts of things — my emulation cabinet, the state of game design theory, naturally occurring ludic systems — and argued towards the end over whether a games are made of games. There’s a shoutout towards Katharine Neil’s recent work, especially her wonderful article giving the history of late 90s/early 2000s attempts to codify game design practices.

You can listen here: Game Grammar and Game Design Theory – Interview with Raph Koster –

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May 232016

Slide2I spent last week up in the mountains around Banff, Canada, with a spectacular group of people, as we talked about “computational modeling of games.” This was a workshop held at the Banff International Research Station, or BIRS, and organized by Andy Nealen of NYU and Michael Mateas of UC Santa Cruz. As you may be able to tell from the title, it was moderately mathy, though I was assured by several of those there that it was dramatically less so than an actual mathematician would expect, and certainly less so than the other workshops in the series!

I was asked to give a “seed talk” on the question of “the limits of formalism.” The questions Michael and Andy asked me to answer were

What leverage does a formalist approach to game design give you? What might it leave out? What are the broad contours of the landscape of formalist game design theories? What intellectual commitments are formalist game designers making? What are the biggest holes in our current understanding of formalist approaches to game design?

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Nov 102015

I posted up the slides to my talk at SGC earlier; now the conference has released video of the session.

This talk was 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. So I tried to straddle the line by doing a talk that would be helpful both to indies and interesting to game studies folks.

Questions start right around the 49:00 mark, and in particular there’s a bit of a rant on my part about the value for interdisciplinary learning for people who are going to creatively lead projects. After that answer, Rami Ismail (who was there, of course, he is everywhere) asked if I could list the five most important or relevant books for covering the various fields that I had described in the talk. I couldn’t… so I listed more like 30.