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!

Creativity Techniques in Game Design

During this first year of GameSpace project we have been, among other things, developing idea generation techniques for games to utilise at our research workshops. In these workshops we have discussed the limits and possibilities of casual, multiplayer and mobile games and expanding the game space with new game ideas produced with game specific idea generation techniques. From these workshops we have gathered the data of the use experiences and developed techniques based on the analysis of that data and ideas recorded. 

On the last workshop (Workshop III on mobile games) I was giving a presentation on some theoretical issues lying behind the idea generation techniques and underlying som points that rises from our analysis. I also introduced new techniques that our team had been working on. Some of the techniques are based on brainstorming, some of them were more game-alike or computer aided techniques.

At the moment we are putting finishing touches to our techniques to conduct an extended study in real workplace situations. So far our findings have only concerned the first time uses of the techniques in a mixed company groups and workshop surroundings, which could be seen problematic. We are interested how they would be perceived as a normal part of the daily work in real game designing situations on a longer period of time. I am also working on a paper that would conclude some theoretical assumptions lying behind the creativity techniques to gain better understanding on the possible modification issues when it comes to the game specific ideation techniques.  Comprehensive view on our findings on workshop uses of game specific idea generation techniques and the theoretical background I am also presenting at the Mobile Games Seminar in Los Angeles this September.

Here are the slides of my presentation on Creativity Techniques in Game Design held in GameSpace Workshop III in Helsinki this May:

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 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”.

Game Research Lab goes GroupMindMapping

Last Wednesday we did some group midmapping to get an overview of the individual interests and connections of our multidisciplinary research group at our regular Game Research Lab monthly meeting (before heading to play Poker at Ollis place). One big sheet of paper was laid on the table and everybody draw bubbles of their interests and connections between interests of others while explaining them in turns.

The exercise was surprisingly fun. We did talk about interests that have never come up in regular meetings and found new connections between projects. Not that surprising, but nice fact was that almost all of our individual interests seemed to be connected to the others. Time and paper was limited (there were about 15 of us) and there were evidentally much more to discuss about (at least I had about 5 more bubbles in my mind ready to draw on the sheet). Hopefully we continue this every now and then to build even stronger basis for synergy… Go Game Research Lab!

Here some pics (check it out how BEAUTIFULL the mindmap is.. ;)):
Mindmap1 Mindmap2

First meeting of Digra Finland

Finnish chapter of Digra was established recently. New mailing list has been filled with people interested in local game research all around Finland. Our first physical meeting took place at the Assembly Winter 2007 event at Tampere couple of weeks ago. Finnish game reserachers from Tampere, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Turku, Jyväskylä and Helsinki (at least) were present. Koopee Hiltunen from Neogames gave us a presentation about the Finnish game-related organisations and Olli Sotamaa some words about Digras Finnish chapter. Other presentations were held by Frans Mäyrä, Jussi Holopainen and Jaakko Suominen to get some overview on Finnish game research. Discussion of different forms of co-operation between Finnish researchers catalysed a development blog at Let’s see how far we can get!

At the end of our meeting we had a public panel discussion for the Assembly audience with a topic of “How did I became a game researcher”. Olli posed questions to Elina, Aki and Tony and some interesting questions arised also from the audience. There seems to be need for more game research popularization in the Finnish media, which was also stated by the editor-in-chief Tuija Lindén from Finnish game magazine Pelit. She stated that “Our editorial staff gets still regularly questions of games and violence like there is nothing more to it” and asked for us to take more active role towards media.

Here is some pictures from the event:

Digrameeting1 Digrameeting2 PanelDiscussion

Games and Storytelling workshop-week with Emma Westecott

My last week was filled with interesting discussions, since I was attending Games and Storytelling workshop here in Tampere. Emma Westecott did her job beautifully by pushing our workshop experience towards more discussive than the previous Eric Zimmermans “fast and dirty” equivalent (which was also great strategy). Together these two weeks of game design workshops gave us participants lots to continue with.

Here are my slides from one short exercise that we had last week:

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.

Ready, steady, GO!

Ok. This is it. I had to start second blog in wordpress to suit my “professional” needs (my Finnish one is mainly for my travelling purposes and it is fine for it to stay like that). Hopefully I can manage to update my game experiences, conference slides, thoughts and stuff here every now and then. Enjoy and HEY!: keep commenting!