This is a quick write-up of the notes from my GDC 2015 design-track talk, Thinking About People: Designing Games for Social Simulation. Essentially, the talk is a call to arms for thinking about the importance of social simulation in games, as well as some reflection on the value of social simulation, through a survey of existing games which have adopted various elements of such mechanics.
Here it is:
I was incredibly honoured to be asked to give one of the keynote talks for the 2015 Global Game Jam this year. Here’s my contribution, and you can see the other keynotes here too. Miniboss’ talk is incredibly important, and a message that should be heeded – and Reiner Knizia’s, meanwhile, is a thing of absolute joy and wonder.
Here is mine, which was a very personal talk for me, so I hope some of you enjoy.
The transcript/write-up is after the jump.
I’ve been meaning to announce that I’ll be speaking at Game Developers Conference 2015 this year, with an hour-long Design Track talk entitled “Thinking About People: Designing Games for Social Simulation”.
I’m mega-honoured, and also a bit nervous; while I’ve previously been fortunate enough to speak at GDC in previous years, they’ve been microtalks and rants (two of each, to be precise), so I haven’t given a talk there for longer than five minutes at a time. I hope you can make it, though!
I know, who makes resolutions 3 weeks into the New Year, right?
I mean, technically, it’s one that began to form over the course of the last six months, in which I’ve been busily working on wrapping up my PhD thesis. I am, if nothing else, a dogged completionist. It’s getting there! I printed it out in entirety, in it’s draft state, for the first time a few days ago, to see if it still makes sense on paper. (After all, I think many of us intuit that thinking-through-paper is somehow different from thinking-through-the-screen, and, look, I just looked it up.)
Anyway, all this has meant that despite my best efforts, most of my time these last six months hasn’t been dedicated to active development, and, if I’m honest, it’s being able to get back to that which is my carrot-on-a-stick for getting this thing done. I miss my time being utterly consumed with that kind of creation; as much as I couldn’t wait for Redshirt to be finished by the time I was done with it, it’s true what they say, you do miss it. And, crucially, I miss the opportunity to keep improving.
With that in mind, not only is my resolution to finally complete (and erm, ideally pass) a PhD which I’ve been working on for far, far too long, and also, once done, focus my attention on Game Two**, but, inspired by Adriel Wallick’s project of last year, where she made a game a week, I am going to be making a game a fortnight. I know, it’s not quite as impressive as a game a week, but this is also so that I can dedicate most of my time to Game Two**.
I’ve spoken a few times over the last 6 months about the business side of having worked on Redshirt, and starting a new studio, including at Develop (together with Cliff Harris of Positech), and also at Games West (UWS Paisley) and the inaugural SIGN conference. One of the things I mention is that if I were to revise my working process, I’d make sure to have started, in earnest, on the subsequent game project as the prior one is being completed; it’s too easy to get consumed with “just ship it”, and for a tiny indie studio that needs to be able to figure out its next step, that isn’t necessarily ideal. But, another reflection I’d like to add now is about one’s personal development as a designer, and a developer. Particularly when you’re a one-person, or small, indie. When you’re working on one, all-consuming project, you’re not exercising your skills with other tools, or other kinds of design thinking. Of course, to an extent, these things are interchangeable, but I’d argue there is merit to being able to flex those skills in other contexts, not just your main project.
Anyway, so this is where my game a fortnight project will come in. Having talked about it now, I’m totally beholden to going through with this now.
** (~*waves arms around mystically*~)
Happy New Year, Blog. Happy New Year, everyone!
To start the year off on a postive-(ish) note, I realised that my recent appearance on BBC World Service’s The Forum (recorded in September 2014) was finally broadcast last Sunday, and is available to listen to on iPlayer Radio. The link will take you directly to my section, though it was recorded as an extended 1 hour discussion between all of the guests, centred around the work of the brilliant Professor Walter Mischel (creator of the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment), whom I was very honoured to meet, and whose responses I very much appreciated. (He is in his mid-eighties, and I was absolutely delighted at how much he got it with regards to games. So, I would urge you to listen to the whole program, too.)
I’d been a bit nervous about this finally airing, some of the discussion (as such things often are) had been rather accusatory and suspicious of games, and I had not been at all prepared for that angle. But, having brought myself round to finally listening to it, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as I remembered, and I’m glad to have taken part.
(I will say though, that the games-as-addictive due to dopamine-release angle is one that I find curious, especially when this makes them apparently comparable to drugs and cigarettes instead of say, sunshine or hugging or meditation.)