Monday, March 12, 2012

My GDC in short, part 1

A few thoughts on the GDC sessions I attended....

Knowing the Past: Game Education Needs Game History

Three academics who'd taught intro courses on game history described what methods had worked, and what methods hadn't, for teaching game history. Which made the title something of a disappointing bait-and-switch. Not that I'm opposed to the idea, but the discussion of the need was more interesting to me. It was also somewhat limited, in that none of the teachers had gone beyond Intro-level courses on the subject. That said, it was still pretty fascinating to see evidence of the things that did work, or not, in teaching potentially interested students, and the presenters were consistently intelligent and occasionally entertaining.

Game Educators Rant!  

I was slightly disappointed with these rants, in large part because I'm somewhat outside the target audience. I'm academically sympathetic (aca-curious?), probably far more than the average GDC attendee, so I'm somewhat familiar with many of the ideas. Ian Bogost's rant was either aimed too far or too close to home for me to really engage with. On the other hand, one about the tyranny of pixelated platformers as innovation was pitch-perfect, and I really needed to hear another, going up against games as spectacle in the face of climate change.

The Gamification of Death: How the Hardest Game Design Challenge Ever Demonstrates the Limits of Gaming

I'd heard good things about the presenter, Margaret Robertson, and when Sid Meier's presentation was too full, I headed to this one. She did not disappoint, explaining with good humor and intelligence all the different ways that she tried, and failed, to create a game based on the tragic death of a missing person. Something stopped me from really feeling totally engaged, though, possibly that I missed the first 15 minutes, or possibly that her conclusions led to far more questions than the bulk of the presentation.

Civilization V: Gods & Kings preview

A twitter follower/PR person sent me an email inviting me to this, at a hotel across from the convention center. I went, met some PR people, then got a demo of the new features from the lead producer and designer on the game, followed by a 10-minute interview with the designer. I've talked some shit about preview culture in my day, but as a Civilization fan more than a reporter (though I took notes in case someone wanted a preview) it was actually pretty fun - and I'm looking forward to the expansion, as it may fix many of my issues with the original. Fingers crossed.

The Emotional Puppeteer: Uncovering the Musical Strings that Tie Our Hearts to Games 

A presentation by one of Bungie's composers and a user researcher/musician who worked with him to try to decipher exactly what kinds of feelings people had when they heard various forms of music. Apparently male choruses make everyone think "ancient" which makes sense. But it went a little deeper than that. By trying out different combinations of music and videos, they could instigate different reactions in their subjects. I think what I enjoyed the most was that there was no final lesson to be learned -- it was more "hey, this is cool!" And it really was cool, especially seeing what combinations of songs and videos created completely different reactions than the pieces did individually.

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