GDC: Day 1

 In Conferences, Travel, Uncategorized

Yesterday and today I attended the pre-conference workshops at GDC. I’ve mostly been attending the Education Summit (at which I presented) but I also took the chance to hear some other talks. In this post I’ll concentrate on yesterday’s talks. Hopefully I’ll have time to write up today’s events later.

The first session was Brenda and Ian’s Game Improv in which we did several really fast game designs following exercises from their book. Our first was an incontinence-themed race game, our second was the myAIG insurance game and our third and in my opinion best was a construction game played using white index cards. My fabulous construction (shown right) attracted many admirers.My construction

I was impressed with how quick and accessible these exercises were. Of course we were a not a typical student audience, but we were able to get productive results very quickly. We didn’t take much time to stop and discusss the lessons to be learnt, but I think they will be very useful. My plan to use there book in my class this year has been reaffirmed.

Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological ApproachIn the afternoon I heard Katherine Isbister‘s talk on the psychology of avatar creation. Unfortunately I missed the beginning of the talk which contained most of the psychology, but her review of different avatar creation interfaces from the Wii, Second Life, Little Big Planet and others was interesting enough to make me want to buy her book. So keep an eye out for a future review.

The day ended with Jane McGonigal’s talk on “Learning to Make Your Own Reality” (slides are available online). Her argument is that game designers are going to be the social architects of the future through a combination of positive psychology, crowd wisdom, pervasive and persuasive technology and ‘superstructing’ (which is a term of her own for which I cannot find a clear definition).

I find Jane’s enthusiasm hard to resist but like any evangelist she also makes me feel kind of guilty. Do I really want to change the world? Can’t I just make games? I’m not so certainly that I believe all the hyperbole about crowdsourcing and the like. “Superstructing” sounds an awful lot like “research” to me. In might work for simple problems where an answer can be obtained from the median of a large noisy signal, but can it really be used to develop policy? Politcal scientists generally criticise direct democracy for its inability to balance competing issues. Can superstructing really overcome this? I shall have to find one of the many “crowd wisdom” books and see what they say. Can anyone recommend a good starter?

Reinventing ComicsTalking of books, I also finally bought a copy of Reinventing Comics, the sequel to Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

So many new books. This should keep me busy. But for now, I’m off to the IGDA party. More news tomorrow.

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