After a week or so in my old stomping grounds of Madison, Wisconsin, I’ve returned from GLS. It was an intersting show, with lots of folks with interesting stuff to stay. It was also great to see some old friends, talk some shop and reminisce.
Certainly my favorite thing at the conference is my former Raven cohort Nathan McKenzie’s presentation of some great, fun-looking games that also have some incredible potential to teach as well. Nathan is preaching a philosophy (which I fully agree with) that instead of trying to make the existing, must-maligned “learning games” into fun experiences, we should instead consider making fantastic games that apply learning to existing play patterns that demand learning from the audience already (such as memorization of real spanish words rather than game-fiction terms like “Bulbasaur”). His two demos were really cool to see.
By popular(?) demand, below are the slides for my GLS presentation, “Combating the Curse of More: Focusing Your Game”. It was a bit different than most of the heady topics discussed at the show, but it seemed to go over well for those that were looking for more of a “dev” point of view. An overview of the talk seems to have popped up on Gamasutra as well.
This week also marks the start of a new role as Lead Designer at Hidden Path Entertainment in Bellevue (Seattle-area). Once again, I’m diving into some new, exciting stuff with some incredibly talented and capable people… I’m utterly excited to see where this path (ha, a pun) will lead.
Click on the Banana to get the file.
More Talk Powerpoint
It’s been a pretty scattered summer for me so far… Lots going on but some weird lulls in between. Most recently I found out that I’m going back to my hometown of Madison, WI to attend the Games+Learning+Society Conference on July 10-11. It’s not a huge GDC-type affair, but a show in its fourth year put on by people from the University of Wisconsin… In my last year at Raven my friend and cohort Nathan McKenzie introduced me to incredibly smart UW folks like Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, and Jim Gee, who as I’d said before, exposed me to a refreshing outlook on games. It’ll be great to see them again.
I’ll be giving a short talk on scope, vision and just good game design practices, which you know I’ve been thinking about a lot lately… It’s the first talk like this I’ve given and hopefully there will be a lot I can offer the attendees. There’s an interesting mix of academics and development people, and while my talk isn’t as heady as some, I’ve been told that there is a lot of interest in more traditional game development issues. In the end, the goal of a lot of these people is not to wrap a bad game around education (as has been done in the past), but to create great games that have educational merit. I think it’s a fantastic objective that is still underestimated by the game industry.
Anyway, wish me luck!
I should talk a bit about my experiences with the academic group that made up Joystick101 and the local groups around it. As I reached 2004 and was just finishing up X-Men Legends, I was getting pretty burned out on the industry… 11 years of making varieties of shooters at Raven was entertaining, but was growing into a somewhat single-note affair. Around then, Nathan McKenzie, an incredible gameplay programmer I had been fortunate to poach from a college back in (I think) 1996 was acquainted with a lot of the game academics around the University of Wisconsin. After an awesome run completing Soldier of Fortune in 2000, Nathan had taken a couple of years off and did something of a journey of self-discovery… He came back to work on Quake 4 in (I think) 2003 with a lot of academic knowledge and a pretty unique view on games.
Anyway, Nathan introduced me to the UW academics that had been studying games… something I had no idea existed. They were an incredibly interesting group, including Kurt Squire, Constance Steinkeuhler, Alice Robison and notably Professor Jim Gee. Every week a group of them, including a number of other graduate students in departments such as Education, Linguistics and English, would gather in a game wonderland known as Room 130. Every week these folks would gather and play a new game, observe and talk about them. These were not the hardcore gamers that I had grown accustomed to interacting with, although they loved games with an equal fervor.
Coming from a fairly practical point of view on games and development over the previous 11 years, I felt refreshed. I didn’t ultimately “switch” to an academic perspective as much as Nathan did (he’s doing awesome, more power to him!), but my eyes opened a bit, knowing that there were more angles to look at games than I had realized… Not everyone was searching for that 20-levels-8-weapons-12-enemies magic formula that seemed so common out there. It was just what I needed to help me explore other genres and places.
So, to the Room 130 folk, my thanks.