понеделник, ноември 03, 2008

Computer Space 2008

This weekend in Sofia was held the annual Computer Space conference about computer art, games, animation, music and web design. Strangely though, there was total absence of the local game development teams and community, and the only game participating in the forum was from a bulgarian hobby game programmer Jordan Tuzsuzov - Biniax 2. Anyway the event was very inspiring and helpful as the level of the lecturers was very high.

The first presentation was by Rene Bauer and Beat Suter from the University of Arts in Zurich, and was called "Uncanny space – the unconscious becomes playable reality". What I remember most about their research is that if something surprising is shown on the screen while playing a game, even if the thing is unpleasant for the gamer, this stimulates feelings and on subconsious level the player is intrigued and engaged more with the game. One example with which they made some tests was a tetris like game, where the background of the board is loaded with random image files from the hard disk of the player, and sometimes there are images that you'd rather not see in that moment. Another game was on Nintend DS, the game detects Wi-Fi spots in the area, there were 6 spots in the hall, and position them on the display according to the position of these spots. These spots make the enemies which shoot at you (in the center of the screen) and the strength of the signal defines the power of the bullets coming to the gamer. Your goal is to defend from these bullets as you kill them with the stick. Another idea was to generate random music tones for background of the game from the spots' names, as the tones are also letters e.g. "e,c,f,a" ... very cool and simple ideas indeed :)

Mary Flanagan from NY talked next about "Whose Computer Space? Human Values and the Design of Computational Worlds" and was a beautiful and engaging talker. She uncovered another world of thinking about games as an agency that can be used for social change. And it is a very powerful tool indeed as the number of people playing games nowadays is enormous and steadily increasing. But the interesting thing is that she and her team at Tiltfactor lab have engaged with the discovery of methods and exploit that power to bring experience that is related with learning and embedding human values on conscious and subconscious level in the players. Some examples of her prototypes and already made games are a game for teaching young girls progrmming while playing a dance game. Another game is showing social and political problems of farmers and genetically modified seeds in America. Another exapmple is a game that can make the players feel the problems in poor undeveloped coutries while playing.

Interesting thing she mentioned was one of the ways they make brainstorming with different people, not necessery related to the game industry. The idea is to develop some clear and simple ways to think and brainstorm ideas. So here is in short the method:
A gathering of 100 people (or 2 or 10, does not matter). Different decks of cards. One deck is with cards with some human values or ideals written on the side of the card, e.g. justice, honesty, empathy, leadership, privacy and etc.
The other deck is with cards with challenges written on their side like pollution, totalitarianism, addictions and whatever you think social issues and problems.
The other deck is with cards with a game name written on it like Pacman, WoW, The SIMS, Quake, Super Mario, whatever game you want.
There can also be additional deck of cards with more constraints but its noted that the more decks you have, the longer brainstorm session.

And each team of a few people draws one card by each deck and tries to create idea with the info from these cards or to modify the idea and design of the game card. There can also be *wildcards that are blank cards to stimulate development of new values and mechanics. A session like that can be wathced here and learn more about these ideas at the links below.


Thanks to all for the great event and hoping next year will be so good again!

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