My final animation for this subject.

FOCUS GROUP FEEDBACK

After showing off my animation to the focus group I received a little bit of feedback, with things to change or fix.

My graph showing the gender of gamers was wrong. I made girls account for 53% when the text beside it said 47%. I also wanted to fine tune some of the animation, some of the elements appear too quickly.

I think this is all I need to do for it to be completed.

The week 9 rough animation. I still want to expand on the point I am trying to make and finish off some of the transitions near the end. I’m considering making it longer and adding another 20 seconds to explain other important aspects relating to the power of video games, not just the story telling part of it.

MY READING ONE

The article Can Video Games be Art? by Patrick Holleman featured on The Game Design Forum manages to highlight the foundations of my topic very well. With four different sub topics defining art, the act of playing, the problem of games and the future of art in video games, this is a great reading for the research of my chosen topic. As an extension on this reading there is another article (part 2) that is closely linked to it, Narrative in Video Games. I will be looking at both of these readings as if they were one.

To begin there is a quote in part 2 at the start that I think summarises this whole reading in a nutshell. "When’s the first time someone’s going to write the Moby Dick of computer games? People around the world are going to go ‘Wow, it doesn’t even matter that it’s a game, that’s classic - that’s a classic tale.’" This is a quote from Chris Metzen, VP of Creative Development at Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard Entertainment is one of the most influential game studios in the world, they have created game series such as World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo.

To really justify video games as art we must first look at what it means to be classified as art. The dictionary defines art as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’. In the broad scheme of things, to be classified as art a piece of work needs to show creative skill and emotional power. The creative process of making a video game is far more complex when compared to a painting, drawing or any other traditional art mediums. Game developers need to study game design for years and have a large understanding of coding languages such as C++ and XNA. This isn’t to say that traditional art mediums don’t require skill and talent, just that you can’t simply pick up a computer and make a game the same with you can pick up a pencil and paper and draw something.

In terms of emotional power, I don’t think games have any problem communicating this. With so much room for experiments and collaboration between creative individuals, any story, feeling or event can be portrayed through video games. Video games have to consider game art, soundtrack, voice acting, direction and many other elements to tie the experience together seamlessly. There are many games that are developed with the sole purpose of telling a story, such as Quantic Dream’s Playstation 3 game Heavy Rain. The story is a dramatic thriller that is modelled around film noir, focusing on four protagonists living in a mystery of a serial killer called the Origami Killer. This game arguably tells a better story that conveys more feelings and emotions than most films produced today.

I suppose the true question here is what is it that separates games such as Tetris to other games such as Portal? Tetris, which is not intended to be a work of art but a form of entertainment with game mechanics and design ideas. Portal, which has an elaborate script, voiced characters, dramatic soundtrack and a deep plot. It is games like Portal that I believe can be so much more than a simple video game, they can be complete works of art, that sit on top of other forms of entertainment such as films, music, plays and literature.

To end, I will leave with this quote from former US Vice President Al Gore, “What we’re seeing in games is art at a world-class stage design that is almost unmatched anywhere else”.

Articles:

Part 1 - http://thegamedesignforum.com/features/can_videogames_be_art.html

Part 2 - http://thegamedesignforum.com/features/narrative_in_games.html

MY READING TWO

This is an article posted on IGN that focuses on the game Dota 2. It is titled “How To Make A Living Selling Virtual Hats” and was written by Phill Cameron. The article talks about how games can incorporate micro transactions in the form of “hats”, which is downloadable content that you can buy to enhance the aesthetic side of the characters you play as. These hats are not to be confused with other micro transactions that some other games supply that give you a significant advantage over your opponent in terms of gameplay and the ability to win. The term “pay-to-win” originated from this system.

In a game like Dota 2, these hats involve three different groups of people. The game developer, the content (hat) creator and the player.  In Dota 2, the way it works is the content creator makes a cosmetic item for a particular hero, which they can then upload to the Steam Workshop. The community can then rate can comment on different creations, resulting in Valve picking the most popular and highest quality items to be implemented into the game. Once the items have been fine tuned and put in the game, players can buy them and show off their new items in game.

In the content creation side of things, it is a great opportunity for the collaboration of lots of people. A single item could require the work of four people, to sketch, model, texture and rig. With over 3 million players, if you create an item that meets the likes of just 1% of that population and they buy it you could earn yourself a six figure value. This is taking into account the game developers taking a cut of all the sales.

When looking back at this idea, it is crazy that some people can be earning a living from sitting behind their desk at home and doing this just as a hobby. The community response from the implementation of hats into a game like Dota 2 is both good and bad, I think the good outweighs the bad however. Hats allow the growth of a game as people tell their friends about any cool items they get and as content creators share their creations around the web, people will wonder what game it is for and check it out. As one content creator Stephanie “Anuxi” Everett says “hats make you more attached to your characters and to the game”. 

In terms of any negative implications that hats have on a game, they require all players to download the items in order to see other people use them in game. It may also be frustrating to see other people being able to afford all these items, however Valve has a solution to this. After each game, random items will drop for random people, giving you a chance to get a rare mythical courier to ferry items to you from base or to get a common chest that requires you to buy a key to receive your item inside.

In addition to implementing this system into their game, Valve hosts a competition every year in conjunction with Polycount to find the best community creations. Rewarding them with a nice $45K for last year’s competition. As a player when you buy an item you know that your money is going towards supporting the rightful creator of that item.

The success of these micro transactions in Dota 2 is enormous and the game itself hasn’t even been officially released yet, it is still in beta. It is hard to image how many sales creators will receive once the game is released for free. This is just one of the examples that show the power of video games to in this case allow someone to make a living doing the things they love doing. 

Article:

http://au.ign.com/articles/2013/04/16/how-to-make-a-living-selling-virtual-hats

READING FIVE

The reading for this week was a chapter called The Definition of Play, The Classification of Games by Roger Caillois as a part of Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Gaming has been a favourite hobby of mine since as long as I can remember, to me it is a fun activity with excitement, this reading did not reflect that at all. This was a very laborious 36 pages, I found the points he was trying to make were dragged out and its meaning was lost. 

Caillois defines ‘play’ as an activity which is:

- Free: the act of playing is not required and consistent, we are allowed to come and go as we please.

- Separate: fixed and restricted in place.

- Uncertain: the outcome cannot be foreseen, the result is dependable on the player.

- Unproductive: the result is creating nothing beneficial to the player, game or third parties.

- Governed by rules: the rules are under various effects and alone to ordinary laws.

- Make-belive: the player feels as if they are inside the game’s environment.

From reading Cailois views on the definition of play, I gathered that he was some what against the notion of playing games being beneficial to the player. It feels as if he thinks gaming is a waste of time and doesn’t see the positive outcomes.

Classification of games can be divided up into:

- Agon (Competition): Sports in general, racing.

- Alea (Chance): Poker, Roulette, betting.

- Mimicry (Simulation): Games of illusions, specific situations.

- Ilinix (Vertigo): Disruption, destruction of stability.

Each of these categories can be broken down further. Some of these terms that Cailois uses are difficult to understand, i’ve never heard them used in the context of gaming before. These may be extremely broad, however from my experience in playing games there a lot more categories that games can be divided into. 

PROPOSAL

The power of video games is a broad topic that I will be focusing on for this design research assessment. I aim to research parts of gaming culture and understand what it is that makes them a great medium for storytelling and entertainment. Today the video game industry is sitting on $62 Billion, forecasted to reach $82 billion by 2017. With almost every device that has a screen being able to run games, the expressive medium of video games can’t be overlooked. 

I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember and they have undoubtedly influenced the way I think, act and understand how the world works. Video games have a power to tell stories in a very similar way to movies, books and songs, however they have the requirement of interactivity. I will be researching how video games achieve this while taking a look at some of the games that do this well. 

I will be looking at games from a large time period, from the 1985 NES game Super Mario Bros. to the 2007 puzzle game Portal. My research will touch on some of the technology that has revolutionised gaming such as mobile devices and broadband internet. I want to include statistics on usage, sales, gamer demographics and other relevant information.

Regarding the video itself, I want to keep a consistent visual style throughout the video, trying to achieve a more abstract style to represent information rather than a realistic approach. I think a voice over would suit my video really well, to explain more information that the animations won’t. To accompany the voice over, I want to add some sort of 8-bit tune in the background. I think this will tie it all together and add a more polished feel to the end result.

At the end of the video, I want viewers to understand the true potential for video games as a story telling medium and its place in today’s world.

READING FOUR

This was a very different type of reading to the previous, as it was structured in a listing format that explained twenty key ‘new’ media concepts. It was from Terry Flew’s book New Media: An Introduction published in 2007. I was a bit confused because these concepts weren’t really that new, however in the context of the internet and other  rising technologies in the past decade they have a different meaning. Here are some of my own definitions for a selection of the concepts that appealed to me the most.

Collective Intelligence 

The term used to describe the universal collection, sorting, storage and retrieval of information across many network databases. The biggest services I can think of that use this concept are search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. They gather information from across the web, sort it by relevance, popularity and integrity and bring it to the user.

Convergence

This is a very important concept that can be seen across the globe any almost all aspects of life. Convergence is the transformation of devices such as laptops, mobile phones, MP3 players, GPS systems, gaming consoles and cameras into singular multipurpose devices. It is also the interlinking of many institutional activities and social life such as art, business, government, health and education.

Creative Industries

This term is most commonly perceived as the growing opportunity for creative individuals to make money through the generation of new products and services using ICTs. It links individual talent to a mass scale audience

Globalisation

A term that I believe has changed dramatically since this book was published. Globalisation is slowly becoming more scarce in today’s age. There are still Transnational Corporations (TNCs) however the influence of smaller companies has never been bigger. Due to the greater importance of social media and meeting the needs of niche markets, it is these smaller companies that have the ability to flourish, not squander under the foot of larger companies.

Hype

The social anticipation for the release of a new product or service. Hype can be generated through the use of social media and releasing content such as teasers and trailers. When used correctly hype can have a drastic effect on the amount of units a product sells.

Information Overload

With devices such as mobile phones with LTE technology, we have the entire internet at our fingertips with the ability to find out any piece of information we could ever hope for. When searching for a topic we are overloaded with information. We are fed so much information that quality is the most important thing when looking for something.

Interactivity

A concept that has really risen from this new media, compared to old media that required a much more passive consumption. We can see this interactivity in things such as mobile phones with sensors that allow the input of sound, touch and sight. Also in everyday activities such as watching a sports game, we can vote for things such as MVP of the match right from our remote.

Speed

One of the more compelling concepts that makes new media ‘new’. The speed at which all of this takes place at is astounding. In a few seconds we can look at a street that is across the globe, find out information about anything we desire, find out how much money is in our bank accounts.

These are a selection of some of the concepts that appealed to me the most and six years from when the book was published there are probably another 50 new concepts. Overall I thought this was a helpful reading to look at that helped me understand some of these terms a bit better.