Happy Discipline at Future Play 2007, Toronto

After discussing, tossing and turning, analysing, wiriting, preaching and presenting GameSpace views of casual in several different occasions, we finally made it as a paper called “Casual Games Discussion“. The paper was presented at Future Play conference, Toronto, where we also presented a poster on “Creativity Techniques in Game Design”.

The conference itself was quite fine, except for scheduling. There was no proper time slots for discussion and some keynotes were scheduled as “lunch keynotes” (poor Espen, for example). Organiser really did not want us speak to each others and socialise. As some of the “official” supporters (which name I cannot recollect) phrased game studies as a “happy discipline”, I started to think, if we were nonetheless mistaken as “listening discipline” from the “ADHD discipline” that I would find more descriptive…

Our Gamelab was rather well represented: Frans Mäyrä gave a keynote at Saturday, Jaakko Stenros paper presentation about pervasive games on Thursday and me and Janne Paavilainen about casual games on Friday. Because of the schedule (or other possible reasons that we also acknowledge), we did not manage to get any comments. Poster presentation on “Creativity Techniques in Game Design” was much more discussive success. That was my first academical poster (ever) and I enjoyd it much more than the traditional presentations, I have to say. Only thing that I did not got was that posters were not set all through the conference, instead of few hours (after that we had to remove them). I did not even have time to check posters of others.

Ok, I could say more: there is some stuff about karaoke, sushi, Scandinavian bunch backed with one American, sugar, margaritas, brownies, smokey salt, missing a stop on the subway, and couple of things alike. But to keep it short I end this post here and give you some pictorial material (much more you can find with a search word “futureplay2007” at Flickr, check also Jenny Brusk writing about the presentations of the conference).

Me, Alex and Janne (camouflaged) at downtown. Poster “Creativity Techniques in Game Design” 
Jaakko and his pictures. Espen getting deeper to the topic after people finished eating.
Espen and Frans talking about “not that happy” stuff. Jenny, Alex and Jennys student (they won the game price!! Hooray!). They eat, if you did not got it. Jenny and Alex fooling around since there was a funny building. Always a good reason.

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NGC 07: Games, Rock and Party!

The University of Oulu and Elvi project organised a game conference in Oulu, titled as Northern Game Conference (NGC) last November. The two-day event included presentations from speakers such as Ernest Adams, Chris McDonough, Erik Robertson and Ilari Kuittinen. Speaches emphasising different parts of game development provided interesting take-outs for GameSpace project as well.

The conference was organized in a very professional manner. The stage looked like a talk-show setting and speakers walked in with their own theme music (Isn’t that cool!?). For example, Ernest Adams was introduced with the Hurriganes tune Get on and Tony Manninen with Guns N’ Roses tune Welcome to the jungle. The whole event was also streamed online.

But even more important: the Thursday party was excellent! We were provided with different sets of entertainment including, booze (of course), rock band playing retro game tunes and Pacman performance. This all happened as a private party in a nice and famous Oulu bar called 45 Special. I have to say that I enjoyed the party, the people and the whole event into the extent that I am really looking forward to the next year. Next time, however, i hope to see also broader “Northern” aspect, not only Oulu game industry. Isn’t the whole Finland north enough? 😉

Ernest speaking about interactive storytelling. Again.

Travel & conferences

I have been rather busy with travelling and starting up the idea generation study from the middle of September till now. The craziness ended last Monday when I arrived from Toronto, Future Play 2007 conference where we presented our “Casual Games Discussion” paper and “Creativity Techniques in Game Design” poster. It took me more than a week to recover from the jet-lag. It’s like Japan all over again. Well, some of the jet-lag problems must have been due to the lag of sleep that I gained in Northern Game Conference in Oulu, week before that.

Future Play 2007 conference was actually my second trip to Canada, since in September as I travelled to Seattle and Microsoft, I spent one day over border in Vancouver with Play New team playing our idea generation games.

In between these two I have been completely busy on putting finishing touches to our idea generation package that was sent for GameSpace industry partners. As we delivered the packages, we conducted pre-interviews with Hannamari Saarenpää and Johannes Niemelä and even though we have not have time to analyse the data, I have to say that we are holding a valuable piece of information. 🙂

Mobile Games Seminar cancelled

I was supposed to give a speech at Mobile Games Seminar, L.A. this September about creativity techniques in game design (more specifically about game idea generation techniques that we have developed in GameSpace project) as I stated in the previous post.

Unfortunately and surprisingly, the seminar was cancelled two weeks ago without any detailed explanations. This is kind of new to me and I really did not expect this from GDC organization… 

Fortunately my un-refundable plain tickets are not wasted, since I have planned all along to visit Seattle and Microsoft during the same trip. Now I just have more time to spend in the wonderful Seattle!

NG 2007: LocoRoco and the Singing Aibo

Two weeks after Nordic Game 2007 conference, I am already looking forward the next year. What a nice event it was indeed! Meanwhile being too busy to publish my own entry, I have been enjoying the notes and pictures of other NG07 participants, such as Sonja Kangas, Tanja Sihvonen and Jason Della Rocca. Finally, here comes my personal overview for the conference: 

The mixture of industry and scholars was rather refreshing to me since I have not attended this kind of events before.  Presentations gave nice overview on perspectives that people can have to games. Paulina Bozek introduced the MyEverything -thinking behind the new Singstar game for Playstation 3, Papermint guys were citing Nietzsche (or other famous philosopher) and wearing wigs,  T.L. Taylor talked convincingly about modding using example of World of Warcraft like many others and Jesper Juul recommended punishments for casual gamers. Alessandro Canossa was concerned about the still on-going “mastrubative nature” of game design while presenting linguistic approach to creating different player experiences and despite the great videos in his presentation, the Eve online dude lost my attention by noting that “girls don’t like spaceships”, since I realized that I don’t and continued texting with my phone. Even though the fabulous collection of these presentations already gave me a lot, the two Japanese ones remained my definite favourites.

Tsutomu Kouno is known from his PS2 title ICO and PSP title LocoRoco. He gave an interesting overview of the design process of this “happy game” that he described being “something interesting for women and children”. The presentation was held in English and I must say that it was a brave and admirable thing to do even though he consistently was seeking words for his thoughts without any given success (it is not easy to be Japanese). The interesting part in his presentation was that he made the entire concept work for Locoroco in transitional spaces, such as in the train with his PDA since there were no time or permission to use time from the ongoing project. Concept drawings were rather simple and motivating to see and even one of the earliest demo already looked like the finished game. Unfortunately even the greatest ideas are hard to push thru, LocoRoco being no exception. In the interview of GamesIndustry.biz from Nordic Game he is actually phrasing this despair followingly: “I have many ideas, but I can’t make them all because I am only one person.” How is this possible? Please hire more dudes to help this lonely guy to produce us more LocoRoco (or RaparperiKukkakaali, as Suvi Latva from Elvi would propose)!

The most “entertaining” performance was held by the famous Masaya Matsuura, the maker of Parappa the Rapper (1996) (that evidently emptied audience from the other tracks as my colleague Aki Järvinen from Veikkaus, the Finnish National Lottery got to find out). First part of Matsuura’s performance was hmm… rather interesting, and I have to say that even though nothing really clung to my mind (other than “games… are… somethingsomething.. human soul”) the presentation was enjoyable. This was largely due to the fact that after the talk we saw him singing with Aibo, the robot dog that participated rather successfully: only half way thru I realized that he was actually “singing on the go” and not pre-programmed.

Admittedly, the conference provided lots to take back to Finland. Additionally to refreshing presentations I got to talk with many interesting people and realized that even though I play a lot, I don’t play enough. Still, I wouldn’t play Eve Online.

Here is a pic of me posing like a Japanese tourist at the NG07:

NG07 Rocks!

Nordic Game 2007, Malmö: Talking Casual

I gave a presentation entitled “Talking Casual” today at the Nordic Game conference at Malmö, Sweden. In this talk I tried to expand the views we presented at the Gamers in Society seminar few weeks ago about casual games discussion.

Main addition to the previous presentation is the preview of Expanded Game Experience (EGE) model, that tries to bring together inner processes and outer effects that are affecting the game experience in wider sense: outer game experiences such as social context and other media environments have relevancies to game experiences of different levels. The model provides theoretical framework to analyze and design games that are not heavily gameplay-centric in a more holistic way without being too broad, such as concept of “culture” can be. Naturally this brings some limitations to the applicability of the model, but suits well at least on getting further with mapping out “casual in games phenomenon”.

Talking about casual games in Gamers in Society seminar

We presented a working paper at the Gamers in Society -seminar (18th of April) about casual games discussion. The main point of the paper is that the discussion over casual games industry is confusing and lots of stuff is included in to the definitions of that “genre” and everything going around it.

For the sake of the clarity needed in academic studies, we introduced in our paper several different meanings to “casual IN games”: casual games, casual game player, casual gamer, casual playing and casual gaming. This is a tentative terminology to start with when trying to understand the casual “phenomena” and designing in a wider sense than “small, easy and simple games”.

The feedback to the paper was mainly positive. Among other participants of the seminar, Daniel Pargman and T.L.Taylor, that were invited to comment all the papers in seminar, gave some interesting viewpoints to the editing our paper. Daniel Pargman was seeking for more conclusive view on casual (maybe our own definition), not only presenting the terminology and the problematic discussion whilst T.L Taylor seemed to be more interested on editing the paper closer to discursive analysis of the “talks” on casual. Some other participants, like Alex Thayer from Microsoft liked the effort that we had made on clarifying the discussion and seeking synthesis. Also Ulrich Tausend from Ludwig Maximilian University (Munich) pointed that there is no need for yet another “casual games are this and this and this” analysis and thanked our paper for taking the notion further. Still it seems that the paper needs the revision of clarity in the points made and methods used.

Same kind of message came from Eric Zimmerman, who kindly read and commented our paper (outside the seminar context). More clarification it is then…

At the moment we are editing the paper (shortening and firming up the argument) and hopefully it will be available for public soon.