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November 01, 2011


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As a political scientist by trade and a gamer by hobby, I think your analogy about feeding the people and the king's head is wrong in an informative manner.

Revolutions aren't really blank slate, the forces that led the revolution and the mechanism by which it was accomplished will both have profound implications for the distribution of power and resources after the revolution is successful. This is not to say that they will be easy or even possible to predict. However, the battles that are fought as part of the emergence will shape the future.

Most of the forces shaping the future will be matters of economic or technological fundamentals. However, if you look at international variation in various medium, there's often a surprising diversity. For example, the economic model for Indian films has often emphasized soundtrack sales rather than ticket sales with obvious implications for the content itself. Those aspects of the dominant cultural form of the 21st century that are not shaped by fundamentals may well be decided by seemingly petty fights over whose names are on boxes.

The Sony commercial 'Michael' hit one of your points very well: how games mean. Every character was championing Michael, from the empty shell military men to archetypical heroes like Drake. Without him, they exist solely as characters in a narrative. With him, they came alive before our eyes.

Even though the characters were chanting his name at the end, all I could think about were the stories the player me created when during my times with these, and many other, games. I was almost a bit disappointed when I started reminiscing, because I realized I couldn't ever truly experience Michael's or any other player's stories, nor could I truly share my own. Then I realized my stories were my own, and I was no longer disappointed, because this is where the art of games lives.

My interest in names on boxes is selfish; I just want to be able to tell whether a new game from the same studio is actually created by the same people or whether everybody cleared out at the end of the previous game. To stretch the basketball analogy, if the rules of basketball had been handed over to the NHL for a 'reboot' but the name basketball had been kept to keep fans coming back, I'd like to know about it before a puck hit me in the face at the gym.

No matter what the future of gaming, the systems in which players act will always be designed, and certain individuals or groups will be better at creating those designs than others. As a player, the ability to discriminate new games based on previous experience with a designer/design group is crucial simply because of the volume of new content being created. Recognition, praise, and money for the author is of secondary concern.

Excellent. You've crystalize a framework for me! A few years ago at GDC, when everyone was talking about games as art, I had many conversations in my head. One of the things I thought was "Games turn players into performers, and those performers are artists" but I was missing the whole two paradigm thing. Thanks!

Author-centric? If anything, modern culture is presenter-centric - it's all about the people that deliver culture to you, not the ones that made it.

Count how many actor names you can remember in one minute.

Now directors.

Now writers.

Games-as-art has already shifted in the social consciousness. The reference of the "Michael" clip is tantamount in the discussion (even though they should have put Sephiroth in there for badass purposes). Neil Burger directing "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," Ubisoft going into the movie business to bring us "Assassin's Creed" and "Splinter Cell," means that those talented teams that brought us these adventures can stand up knowing that their spark has caught fire.

We already salute their efforts and the plenty others that follow which continue to make us play the game.

Really dope post, Mr. Hocking!

- HF

Games are a collaborative creative process. It is not an individual but a collective skill set that creates a exceptional product. The best products come from teams that share a common vision, not from an individual who dictates said vision. You can almost credit a development environment more than an individual. I think this is why I always appreciated Blizzard games that credit the entire company for design. I liken this to a sports organization. You can credit a system or environment just as much as the individuals.

Design comes from every discipline on the team and is ratified by other disciplines. Code, UI, Design, Scripting.. etc I can go on. I have never worked on a project where all design ideas came from design (or any other discipline) alone. It’s impractical. An idea or concept needs to be presented to the collective and ratified through the collective efforts of the entire team for it to truly be awesome.

I have an exercise I do when I manage a team. You split the disciplines up and ask them what the product is about. If you get different answers you got a lot of work to do. If you get the same answer then chances are you are on your way to a great product.

Development teams are TEAMS. Anyone who wants to put his/her name above the team clearly doesn’t “get it” in my opinion. I think being part of that collective should be enough. Within that team people know who the larger contributors are. If that isn’t enough for that individual then he /she clearly isn’t a team player period.

Actor-centric games are not true full simulations. They are representative simulations of experiences for the player. What aspects of the simulated experience the design chooses to simplify or leave out all together are the choice of the designers behind the product. Different designers color the games they make based on these choices even when their focus is not on delivering and authored narrative.

If Will Wright, Sid Meier and Clint Hocking all made a game about providing a player with the experience of being a police officer each game would turn out very differently. With several games released from each of these designers we have enough of an appreciation for the differences in style to being able to picture how these games would differ.

The 'name on the box' debate is somewhat tangential to this discussion. Because the inherent coloring of the simulation by authors I'm not sure if it benefits the player to be kept in the dark about who created the game, even if the focus is on a non-narrative experience.

Additionally there is the issue of the Publisher/Developer power dynamic and how the hiding of names of the creative team behind a project continues to consolidate power in publisher hands. Consumers have no way to publicly demand additional games from people they cannot identify.

I would submit that it's hard the hide the identity of a good TEAM for more than one iteration of a product. The market doesn't allow for it. It's rare when a good/great team isn't aware of its "street value" Companies are too hungry for sure fire products to not bow down to a good development team's demands.

Will, Clint or Sid are known for making specific types of products... but they have to have the right team around them. I don't want Dan Marino on my volleyball team. I also don't want Will Wright making my Mortal Kombat sequel.

It is nice to read a voicing of the seemingly obvious but often ignored relationship between sports and videogames. Given your appreciation of hockey (albeit unfortunately for the Habs), I'm not surprised to see it articulated by you. Thanks!

The rhetoric of newness here doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Cultural player-value-creation and artistic author-creation are both really, really, old. I'm not sure whether painting or sports is older, but neither one is particularly new. I'm not sure why we have to pick one, either. Why can't the 21st-century be about exploring videogames in various ways? To me it's not obvious why one kind of exploration is more or less 20th-century; "videogames as a new site for folk games" and "videogames as a new artistic medium" seem to be on pretty similar footing as far as newness/oldness goes, as they're both about asking what (if anything) videogames bring to very old forms of culture.

I think you are on the right track - but that there is still some discussion and work to be done. It seems that in envisioning a paradigm change centered on culture and economics, you are starting with the wrong variables. Seems the current trent of work (or functional) differentiation is going to continue, due to our enhanced capabilities in sorting through information. In other words - I believe that our culture will be centered even more around invididuals being formed into groups based on common interest, doing their thing and then disbanding. In a culture as fluid and dynamic as this, people need markers to identify continuity - so that their dislikes and likes will continue. In a world without boxes, this could be a website - or some other hub; but the result is the sam. The need for knowing peoples names, and the wish for doing so, will continue to be important.

On a smaller time scale - I don't really think there is much of a need for names on boxes - because most of us now know that creating a tripple AAA title is not a one- man- job; but I'd love to see more in- house documentaries that feature the talent working on the game. Named talent.

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