Finally got around to posting my slides from both the Game Designer's Rant and my Immersion talk. You can grab them over on the right along with all the presentations I have ever done. You don't need my permission to give these presentations to your coworkers or students or do whatever the hell you want with them.
I'm very pleased at the feedback and the criticism I've received from both talks, which I will summarize briefly here.
It seems like the feedback from the Rant is overwhelmingly positive. I am kind of surprised by that. I expected a few more people to at least challenge the premise that we can make games about concepts like honor or trust. It seems like only a year ago (never mind five) people who suggested such a thing were considered a little bit weird. Last year - putting forth similiar ideas in my exploration talk - I think there were still a lot of people who thought those ideas were a bit flakey and out of touch with production reality. Now it seems like we are ready to simply accept as a fact that we can make games about these sorts of feelings and ideas and get on with the challenging business of doing so. A lot can change in year in terms of our attitude. Let's hope as much can change in a year in terms of our execution.
For those looking for other ranter's slides and materials - I found Jane McGonigal's stuff here. If you find others let me know.
There seem to be three camps in terms of how the immersion talk is received.
The first camp seems to have found it an inspiring and insightful talk and were apparently more than willing to overlook the (many) omissions, errors in reasoning, and lack of structural support for some of the bolder arguments. Apparently there is a lot to be said for covering up the faults in your reasoning with Kirk-and-Spock jokes. To those in the first camp, I would suggest you read a bit deeper and look for some of the flaws - they can be illuminating. Immersion seems to be a powerful tool that is easy to use badly or for the wrong reasons. This talk was never intended to be a promotion of immersion (neither a criticism) but rather a deconstruction and examination of immersion and the techniques used to induce it as formal tools. An excellent starting point for looking deeper into immersion is Rules of Play by Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen, which was an invaluable resource for me in preparing the talk (in particular refer to Unit 3: Play, Games as the Play of Simulation) - thanks Eric and Katie.
The second camp seems to have caught on to the weaknesses to a greater or lesser extent, but has been generous in attribution of value to the talk as a whole. Quite a few people have said they thought I was 'cheating' my reasoning in a number of places but were nonetheless happy to have any kind of formal examination of a topic that we too often take for granted and pin to the wall as a project objective without consideration for what it means. If nothing has been accomplished with this talk aside from helping this group of people avoid some of the mistakes I have made blindly in the past, I'm more than happy to accept their grace in excusing the weaknesses of the talk. Thanks for not kicking me when I was down. This camp could be called the 'glass-is-half-full' camp.
The third camp would then be the 'glass-is-half-empty' camp - and that's the camp I would put myself into. We are the ones who wanted this talk to be more than it was. We wanted it to be 55 minutes long instead of 35 minutes long. We wanted it to have a middle where the loosely formalized tools of the first part were examined in context and used to expose where existing games may have stumbled or excelled in their application of immersion. We wanted all of that to fit together well enough to justify a hand-wavey ending that - if it can be compellingly demonstrated - is in fact a really, really important notion.
I have spoken to many of the camp three people at length and they have helped me see how and where the talk falls short. A number of interesting suggestions were made as to how I might tie off some of the squirting arteries dangling from the disembodied heart of the talk. For now I'll just pinch them off and toss that heart back into the simmering cauldron of my subconcious where it can stew for a while and maybe eventually I can patch the talk with the middle that it probably deserves. Anyway, thanks especially to the group three folks for kicking me when I was down... you can never see the root of a problem until your head has been thoroughly stamped into the dirt.
I'll try to follow-up over the week with some more of my thoughts about GDC as a whole.