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Jason Rohrer

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Original author: 
Alexa Ray Corriea


Last night, the 10th annual Games for Change conference wound to a close with two keynote speeches discussing how games affect us mentally and emotionally.

In his talk, game designer and academic Eric Zimmerman proposed that there is a problem in the way our field handles educational games and games about social change. As we move into what Zimmerman calls a "ludic century" — an era of spontaneous playfulness and playful technologies — he believes there needs to be a drastic shift in how we think about these types of games.

"We make games and integrate them into our lives," he said. "I think it's possible we're mistreating them, and not treating them with respect."

Zimmerman called attention to the fact that many research...

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Original author: 
John Walker

A real high-point of every GDC is the Game Design Challenge. Well, was. Sadly the tenth year of this annual treat was the last, with organiser Eric Zimmerman bringing proceedings to an end. And wow, did it go out in style. With the apposite topic, “Humanity’s Last Game”, some of the biggest names in the industry put forth their pitches for the last game we’d ever need. And one man entirely stole the show. For a second year, that man was Jason Rohrer.


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Original author: 
John Walker

An undoubted highlight of GDC every year is the Experimental Gameplay Workshop. Despite having that complete nonsense word in the title, it’s a chance for some of the most innovative and esoteric gaming ideas to be shared with one of the week’s biggest audiences, whether in development, released, or some impossible state in between. Some of the highlights are below.


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US AND THE GAME INDUSTRY, the documentary which explores several experimental indie games and their developers, has launched its $20,000 Kickstarter campaign. The perks currently aren't too thrilling, but $15 will net the donor an HD digital download and $25 will net a shipped DVD when releases later in 2012.

In addition to the film's subjects of thatgamecompany, Spry Fox, and Jason Rohrer, the Kickstarter page reveals that Douglas Wilson of Die Gute Fabrik will be included, too. Poking around the documentary's page, I spotted a photo of Crayon Physics Deluxe developer Petri Purho chatting with the director. Hopefully this is an indication of the caliber of the "and more" developers to make an appearance.

I'd recommend the Kickstarter share almost if not all the indie developers making an appearance. Especially, they might want to enlist in those developers' social media support to help raise awareness of the $20,000 Kickstarter project.

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A new indie documentary challenger has appeared! Whereas Indie Game: The Movie takes viewers on a roller coaster ride of indie game development, Us and the Game Industry aims to explore specifically those indie developers who are "reinventing the medium of game design and challenging the established norms with their finely crafted work."

As further described on the Vimeo page, "Us and the Game Industry is a film about the new thinkers at the new frontier of experimental computer game development." Those new thinkers chosen for the trailer are thatgamecompany (Flower, Journey), Spry Fox (Realm of the Mad God, Steambirds: Survival), and Jason Rohrer (Sleep is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky). "This film will explore how their motivation, design process, focus and execution are creating unique and new possibilities of connecting people and providing the possibility for uncharted experiences outside the normal realm of commercial games."

As of this writing, the Us and the Game Industry official site is under construction. When more information becomes available, if you all are interested, I'll definitely share it!

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Long have game developers toiled to create the definitive elevator simulator. Taito's Elevator Action is perhaps the genre's most famous effort, though it unfortunately suffered for its inclusion of gunplay, gameplay objectives, and escalators. At long last, however, nature's ideal people-moving device is finally done justice in PixelTail Games' Elevator: Source, a unique effort created using Valve's Source engine and the Garry's Mod toolkit.

"Elevator: Source is a single(-player) or co-op elevator experience that is different each time you play," the game's creators note. "What floor will you stop on next? What will happen? Who knows! We don't even know! And we made the game. It's THAT EXCITING."

There are a randomized assortment of 28 different floors that players can experience during a playthrough ("with DLC packs possible in the future!" the developer teases). During the ride, players can pass the time by listening to elevator music, and can make the simulation more convincing by making characters cough or check their watches.

As the (spoiler-filled) video series above demonstrates, Elevator: Source also features its share of surprises, including a collection of AI characters that board and depart at various points. Where will The Elevator take you on your journey? Take a ride and find out!

Elevator: Source is available as a free download, but requires an installation of Valve's Half Life 2: Episode 2.

[via RPS]

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Today's collection of independent game links includes more indie game previews, a couple of development updates, and the usual round-up of interviews with developers from around the 'net. (image source).

TruePCGaming: Jamestown Interview
"TruePCGaming caught up with the fine gentlemen from Final Form Games to discuss their smash hit, Jamestown. They also talk about the origins of Jamestown, how they got their start in the PC gaming business, Valve and more."

The A.V. Club: Sawbuck Gamer, August 8th
"Game developers are testing their freshest ideas in the medium's Off-Off-Broadway productions: experimental indies, iPhone curiosities, Facebook add-ons, etc. In each edition of Sawbuck Gamer, we'll round up a bunch of cheap thrills for your idle gaming pleasure, and we hope you'll pipe up in the comments with your own finds."

Stratagonline: A Conversation With Jason Rohrer
"I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Rohrer and pick his brain about his development methods, his thoughts on being an independent developer, his experiences working with large publishers, the gaming industry's nasty case of 'sequelitis', and garnish some details about his upcoming strategy game for the Nintendo DS, Diamond Trust of London."

indiePub Games: Jeff Vogel gets us caught up with Spiderweb
"Many people seems to get into game development for love: Love of video games, love of programming and code or maybe even to express love. Jeff Vogel's switch to a career making games may have included an element of passion but it was a little more conflicted than that."

Kotaku: Two Hours with Jonathan Blow's The Witness
"The Witness is the new game from Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid. It comes with high expectations, given the critical and commercial success of that previous indie. It's planned for PC and at least one console and is at least a year away from completion."

GameTrailers: Journey Post-Beta Interview (video)
"Go behind the scenes of the development process of Journey including reactions on the closed beta in this Interview with Executive Producer Robin Hunicke."

Joystiq: The Witness preview
"'Hey man, come in,' a weary looking Jonathan Blow said. He was welcoming me into his temporary New York City abode, a swanky hotel in midtown where he'd been put up for a few days to show off a preview build of his next game, The Witness. His bare feet indicated to me that I'd either just woken him up, or that he was very comfortable with strangers."

Digital Spy: Okabu Preview
"Okabu is a new co-op puzzle game from the makers of the excellent iOS title Rolando. Heading to the PSN this September, the title is part of Sony's Pub Fund initiative, which sees the platform holder invest in and support a batch of promising indie games from the brightest and best up-and-coming studios."

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The Smithsonian has announced the selection of titles that will appear in its Art of Video Games exhibition next year. The set ranges from Nintendo classics to arty modern fare such as Sony's Shadow of the Colossus (above). I posed some questions to organizer Georgiana Goodlander and exhibition curator Chris Melissinos.

Rob Beschizza: How have games influenced the arts?

Georgina Goodlander: Video games have had a huge influence on the arts! I should note that The Art of Video Games exhibition is not about art inspired by video games, It is about the video games themselves. We want to show people that video games are more than they might appear on the surface, that they can have incredible depth, beauty, and emotion. Yes, they provide rich fodder as inspiration for contemporary visual artists, but they can also stand alone as powerful works created by talented and creative people. One of my favorite quotes from the interviews that we are conducting with game designers and developers was from David Perry, CEO of Gaikai. At the very end of the interview we asked him what he hoped visitors would take away from the exhibition and he said "Video games aren't this trivial little form of entertainment. This is something that touches people deeply, it changes people's lives. It's going to change education profoundly, it's already started. And so if you don't play video games yet, we're going to get you. Trust me, we're going to find a way to get a game to you so you can understand just how powerful this medium is." I truly believe this! Games are becoming so incredible and pervasive that we're reaching the point where no one will be able to avoid them. And, more importantly, they won't want to.

Rob: Nostalgia seems to be a major inspiration here. Is there a broader reason for this? Has artistic value emerged from early games that wasn't clear at the time?

Chris Melissinos: Nostalgia certainly plays a part in the games we are experiencing today, but that is to be expected. As the children who grew up with video games are having children that start playing video games, there is renewed interest in latent gamers. This is the same cycle that we observe in any other form of media. One of the fantastic outgrowths of this is the rediscovery of games and mechanics that have held up over time, but were neglected due to the march of technology, changes in tastes, or accessibility of content.

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald, released in 1925, was not considered to be a literary masterpiece until the 1960's and, in fact, was not as popular as Fitzgerald's other works during his lifetime. Time and perspective helps to illuminate the past in ways we can't foresee. The video games industry is at an age where it is now old enough that we can apply that perspective.

Rob: Is the art in the game or is the game itself the art?

Georgina: Definitely both! There are so many aspects of art involved in video games that it is quite overwhelming. Almost every element that makes up a video game can be considered art, from the initial sketches and concept art, to the finished graphics, music, and even the code. With this exhibition though, we're particularly interested in exploring the entire game experience as the artwork--the combination of the visual and audio effects with the player interaction.

Rob: What sort of art are video games? How important is creative flair and ingenuity -- the visuals, audio and technical accomplishment -- in the art of video games?

Georgina:: I don't think you can define video games with any of the existing language that we use to define art. I attended a great presentation by John Sharp at the 2010 Game Developers Conference titled "The Game Renaissance: Art History for Game Developers." He said (I'm paraphrasing) that we should stop worrying about whether or not video games are "Art," but instead think of them as the new medium for creative expression in the 21st century. I love this concept! Why should we try and fit video games into existing categories or genres? Art is constantly evolving, as is the language we use to talk about it, and I think we've only just started to explore how video games can and should be incorporated.

Rob: Games are designed to be played. How do games best resolve the tension between the artist's narrative control and the player's need for freedom?

Chris: This is one of the misconceptions about video games, that the voice of the author is lost due to interactivity. I believe there are three voices in games: that of the designer or artist, the game itself, and the player. By this I mean that the designer lays down the plot, visual framework, mechanics, rules, and arc that the game encompasses, the gameplay communicates this, and the player internalizes that message and, from it, emerges an experience that is unique to that player.
Consider that, regardless of the path the player takes as Cloud in Final Fantasy VII, Aeris always dies. There is no way for the player to avoid this. However, on the road to that event, the player can laterally explore the narrative arc, crafting an experience that retains the intent of the author while allowing the player freedom. In Missile Command, you eventually hit the "The End" kill screen. This is why I believe that video games will become one of the most powerful storytelling mediums we have ever experienced. While the stories told in games today may seem immature or less refined compared to other forms of media, it is only due to the lack of time that video games have been with us. They will continue to evolve.

Rob: Like movies, game development is an extremely labor- and cash-intensive medium. And it's one where the cutting edge is always moving on. What can the exhibition teach game artists about how to express themselves on a budget?

Georgina: I hope that the exhibition will serve as inspiration for aspiring game artists and designers. We want to show people that this is an incredible field in which to work and that there are numerous different types of creative jobs involved. Interviews with the pioneers of the industry, such as Nolan Bushnell and Don Daglow, will serve as a reminder that in the 1970s and early 1980s, one person was responsible for every aspect of a game, from the code and visuals to the music and even the box art. It's interesting to compare the early days with what's happening now, as in some ways we have come full circle. Developments in online and mobile gaming have reached a point where it is possible again for a single person or small team to create and distribute entire games. By showing the progression of the medium over the last four decades the exhibition will, hopefully, give visitors an idea of where it might be going

The Art of Video Games at the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be opening March 16, 2012 and be on display until September 30, 2012.

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