Nov 042011

The GDC Vault has posted the full video of “It’s All Games Now!”, my talk from GDC Online. And it’s one of the free ones!

I have a brief precis of it here, if you don’t know what it is about. But hey, it’s only an hour of your life, right? So go check it out even if you don’t know what it is about.

Oct 172011

Yup, a tiny bit more.

Side note, I am struck how little long-form coverage there is of talks anymore, now that so much blogging has moved to Twitter…

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!

May 172010

Long ago I asked (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) whether American Idol was an MMO.

Today, I see that NBC is working on turning their entire TV schedule into a massively multiplayer social game.

Q: What is Fan It?
A: Fan It is’s affinity program where members are awarded points for participation and interaction. Members can choose to redeem these points for a variety of rewards and/or experiences.

Q: How do I earn points?
A: There are two different ways to earn points: events and challenges. Events are the activities you do on the site and on the social networks you’ve linked to every day, such as leaving comments, watching videos, playing games, posting links or updating your status. Challenges require you to perform specific events within a specific amount of time and are typically worth more points. Click here for more information on how to earn points.

— Fan It | Social Networking: Photos, Videos, Blogs | myNBC.

Of course, this has as much to do with traditional community management and traditional rewards points programs as with games. But note the prominent leaderboards, the featured members area on the home page, the badge system…

As with most social games, there’s an underlying viral agenda here, of course. But also as with social games, the marriage of fictional worlds that users care about with game mechanics and transparent sharing could be very powerful.

Now excuse me, I need to figure out what I need to do to get a Chuck badge…

Game talkFacebook rebrands the Internet

 Posted by (Visited 45530 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Apr 232010

You may have noticed that each post here now has a Facebook “like” button on it. This is part of Facebook’s latest set of “social plug-ins” that were announced at F8. Rather than re-hash what they have done, though, I want to tell you what it means.

Step one: Facebook is going to make the whole Internet a community space. Everywhere you go, you will see what your friends liked on sites. You will know what movies they watched, what CNN articles they read, what YouTube videos they thought were funny. You will see their streams and comments annotating the Internet everywhere you go. And they will be able to reach out and chat to you on the chat bar at the bottom of your browser.

Step two: Facebook is going to be your identity card for the Internet. Facebook has always aimed at being the only login you will need. With this, they have made a strong play to have you just always be logged into Facebook, everywhere on the internet. All the top sites you use will simply expect you to be logged in, and over time we will see that functionality on the site will start to require this identity information. And soon after that, you will have to be on Facebook even if you don’t want to be.

Continue reading »

MiscGreat description of how blogging has changed

 Posted by (Visited 27199 times)  Misc  Tagged with:
Mar 242010

Fair warning: this post is mostly just a giant quote. 🙂

Our social media connections represent a spaghetti bowl of decentralized networks for the distribution of content, but the meat of that content typically resides behind a link to a site or a blog.

In other words, Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed gave us a means of circumventing the broadcast-pipe advantages of mainstream media, but these channels weren’t themselves always the thing being communicated. The best perspective on this change came from Robin Sloan, writing at Snarkmarket in January:

There are two kinds of quan­ti­ties in the world. Stock is a sta­tic value: money in the bank, or trees in the for­est. Flow is a rate of change: fif­teen dol­lars an hour, or three-thousand tooth­picks a day. Easy. Too easy. But I actu­ally think stock and flow is the mas­ter metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo­ple that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time.

I feel like flow is ascen­dant these days, for obvi­ous reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audi­ence and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a tread­mill, and you can’t spend all of your time run­ning on the tread­mill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got noth­ing here.

And this is how we have to understand blogs today. Four years ago they were flow, and for a lot of news organizations, they’re still viewed as little more than low-grade, ephemeral dross. But in the real world of the Web, where we are relentlessly building a new-media economy and culture whether we openly acknowledge it or not, blogs are now the stock.

Xark!, “Blogging in the new decade”

For what it’s worth, my “back catalog” of posts way way way outdraws new blog posts on just about every single day. You can see over on the Popular Posts page that longer essays tend to dominate too, barring what are probably SEO quirks on some random posts…

Game talkReadingFiveBooks on games

 Posted by (Visited 5919 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Mar 162010

FiveBooks is this neat site whose tagline is “The best five books on everything.” Basically, they pick a subject matter expert, and that person talks about five books that cover that subject. Tom Chatfield picked FiveBooks on games, and A Theory of Fun was one of them, alongside  classics like Homo Ludens and Flow. Quite nice company!

While you are there, check out Aleks Krotoski’s five books about the Web; and props to Julian Dibbell, who gets a book on each list!

Between the two lists, there’s only one book I haven’t read — and it’s the one on sports. Hmm.

Feb 262010

Dan Terdiman at CNet engages in some handwringing over the fact that kids worlds and social games are taking over the hype that used to belong to virtual worlds.

But to someone who cut his virtual world teeth on more immersive, 3D environments like There and Second Life, these never-ending announcements of new companies trying to jump on the social gaming bandwagon have left me with one nagging question: Where is the innovation?

The innovation lies in making something that matters to ordinary people.

Now, I am a virtual world person, obviously. I don’t see much distinction between the game worlds and the non-game ones like Second Life. I have been working with them since the text muds, for over 15 years, which doesn’t exactly put me in the true old dino category where Richard Bartle and Randy Farmer reside, but I think it is fair to say that I have been closely identified with the space for a long long time now.

And I think that they aren’t over, but the form that they have taken is.

Continue reading »

Game talkMiscBlerp & Minsh: layering the web

 Posted by (Visited 8925 times)  Game talk, Misc  Tagged with: , , ,
May 132009

Blerp, a new property of the RocketOn folks, is a new social network with a twist. RocketOn, like Weblin, is a plugin that lets you layer stuff on top of the web. It was for avatars and MMOs, but now it’s been repurposed as a way to annotate the web. You get a frame around your browser that lets you drop text, pictures, and so on on various webpages. People you are linked to get to see the annotations, and you can slurp your networks from Facebook, twitter, etc. Blerp’s just opened its alpha, so check it out here.

Minsh is a little different; it adds a virtual worldish layer to Twitter by representing the people you follow as fish. They use little chat bubbles to tweet, and you can click directly on them to reply. I suspect that using this tool will drive users further towards synchronous use of Twitter… It’s in closed alpha, but here’s a video: