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Play and games

Mike Sugarbaker writes:

“The split between “casual” and “hardcore” gaming leaves a huge gulf in between: people like me. Okay, maybe not huge compared to the market for casual games, but I’m part of a grossly underserved market at least as large as the hardcore PC gaming crowd. When I play casual games, I find myself wanting more substance, meatier gameplay, but when I play a PC game, I, typically don’t end up playing it for long because it’s simply too complex, too stressful or too hard.”

Amen.

I find myself playing a lot of ‘pick-up’ games, more so on portables (DS and Gameboy Micro mainly, as there are no good PSP games for playing on the move – having said that – the notable exception is ‘Everybody’s Golf’ which I’m playing to death) – and games that seem to be made or marketed for younger players: Katamari, Zelda the WindWaker, Alien Homonid.

They seem to have more novelty (often especially with reference to the semantics and mechanics of the game), their are easier to get into, while often becoming engrossing, and you can dip in and out of them easily.

More please.

Carlo Longino on Gizmodo posts an article with a title very close to my heart, The Casual Games Revolution. It features extensive quotage from Tom Hume of Future Platforms, including this ludic beauty:

“The other thing to consider is that play is a very natural thing for any mammal,” Hume says. “We all play, where it’s hopscotch, bingo, scratchcards or CounterStrike. My cats are casual gamers.”

Which has left me feline like a game of something…

Sorry.

Some snippets from John Sutherland’s interview with Edward Castronova in yesterday’s Guardian:

EC: My professional interest is in what we can learn from this synthetic world. We’ve never had the opportunity to experiment ambitiously on a social level. We’ve never had the opportunity to say, “I’m Karl Marx and I have this idea called communism. Wouldn’t it be neat if I could set up five societies that have exactly the same population, exactly the same natural resources and at year zero and try it out?”

JS: We could field test communism without killing 60 million people.

EC: Exactly. We could do communism, we could do fascism, we could do America. You can experiment with any number of social designs. This is one of the futures I see for synthetic worlds in the university. I think in 15 years’ time when someone in social science writes a PhD thesis, they’ll be required to put their ideas to the test this way. Business schools are already moving in that direction. There are tremendous business applications. Universities should get very involved.

…I think the smart thing for the US state department to do today is build a game about Islam but make it a democracy. And set it up so that every 16-year-old from Morocco to Pakistan can go into that world when they get a computer. Not say anything overt about democracy but have them play – have them vote, for example.

And this quote I think is pretty interesting – in some ways it’s reminiscent of some of the ‘cyberspace’ utopian writing of 10 years ago, but restating it in more subtle, mixed-reality terms.

JS: What do you foresee in 10 years’ time? Is it going to plateau out, or keep going nova?

EC: There will be a plateau. People do have to have children. But the really open question is how much human time we will spend in cyberspace, using our surrogate characters, living through synthetic bodies. But soon people won’t notice the difference. Real and synthetic worlds will blur. I’m talking to you by phone but, psychologically, I’m just talking to you. I don’t focus on the technological interface. We’ll just move in and out of bodies and worlds without noticing. It’ll fade seamlessly into daily life. And there will be some very good things. The economy pulls people apart and makes them live separate lives, as units. Gaming brings them together in a pseudo physical environment.

I’d really like him to explain more what he means by this last part. Does he mean that ‘real-life’ will feature more and more sophisticated, technologically-supported ARGs or ‘alternate-reality’ games?

As ‘the technological interface’ to gaming becomes more spatial, more embodied and less-separate from the world, it’s certainly one possibility.

“But as the Game Cat says, Be careful, be very careful. This ride is not for the weak.”

» The Guardian G2: The ideas interview: John Sutherland interviews Edward Castronova

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Swordplay, revolution-style, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

The Nintendo Revolution controller has been revealed, and I am predictably overexcited.

It’s made me more convinced that embodied and tangible interaction has a big, juicy, interesting mainstream future.

The video of it in action [via Russell Beattie] is wonderful, especially the way that a wide-range of genres of gaming and play can be inferred just from watching people’s movements and hearing a bit of soundtrack.

Who needs HiDef?

Or as Gillen puts it:

“Either you want more polygons or you want the Future.

Choose a side.

“Revolution! Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!”

Also, go read Andy Losowsky’s imaginings of where the Revolution could take us:

“if it’s that depth sensitive, if you’ll be able to use it to draw outlines around things in the room? Or people?”

He also has some great ideas about possible other nunchuk-plug-in peripherals.

And I was just calming down again, too.

Gridlockd by Mohit SantRam of NYU ITP sounds fascinating:

…an urban game where participants within one of four teams compete to capture grid positions in a half hour. the team with the most points wins! This project is meant to display how semacodes, cameraphones, ad-hoc groups, and social dynamics are effected under time pressure.

It’s going to be one of these fun ‘big games’ which create lots of spectacle, but looking at the core gameplay: capture grid positions… I wonder if it wouldn’t be more satisfying as a slower, more strategic game played over a much much longer timeframe.

As our own Greg Costikyan has said – latency in the mobile network makes it very hard to create real-time games. In Gridlockd – they are using walkie-talkie functionality to enable this – the phone is not the communications channel – it is a mobile networked computer for recognising physical/location data…

So why not play to the strengths of asynchronous communications instead, and harness an entirely different, more casual, less spectacular form of play.

I’m imagining a kind of urban location-based reversi that two people could play over a long time span – kind of like a play-by-mail game, but play-by-city…

This game would still using semacodes/QR-codes/NFC for the game grid positions. Janne Jalkanen has demonstrated how easy it is to create NFC/web services for presence – perhaps it would be possible to very quickly create such a game. Perhaps there could be some grid positions that were in coffee-shops where the players could meet and discuss the moves.

Of course, there are only some urban locations where the image of the city would match with the image of the game board. Manhattan and other big grid-structured US cities seem more ideal for urban games than European cities?

Matt Locke, a few years ago, wrote about slow-networks in cities a few years ago, using ‘public caches’ – bluetooth or IR connected public digital stores – what are the opportunities for slow-networks city-gaming?

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