Users, Creators, Love, Sex and Dwarves – Edinburgh Interactive (Session 6)

Users, Creators, Love, Sex and Dwarves – Edinburgh Interactive (Session 6)

Into the final speaker sessions with an almost filmic title.

Users to Creators 

Starting with a discussion about using the market to create economic growth we have Bill Liao, CoderDojo (@liaonet) Ian Livingstone, Life President Eidos (@Ian_Livingstone), Ella Romanos, MD Remode Studios(@ella_romanos),  and Ray Maguire, Interactive Opportunities.

Introduced by Fred Hasson, who started the whole Edinburgh Interactive Festival experience off, the principle of the talk was that the educational value of computer games was underused.

Ella Romanos felt that many graduates were not of a level to take part in jobs in their company, not that an expected learning curve within the company can take place but that the step between he companies base minimum and what she is provided with is too big.

Going on to point out that none of the people who came to her for a job had ever completed a game. So failed to understand the skills needed to do this. She explained the value that someone who had suffered failure and understood success, what had worked and what had failed, had. Understanding and inputting into the company as a whole at the start.

Ella was clear that the educational process must be started at a much earlier age, far before university, to bridge this gap

Ian Livingstone felt the government were well aware of the skills gap. The universities doing courses, apart from 11, doing soft skill training but lacking in the hard skills and understanding required. Talking about the fact, in relative terms, we were teaching people to read but not to write.

Part of the change required, an overhaul of how education worked in schools, and considering computer science as a fundamental requirement of schooling. Although initial opinion was closed but now the recommendations would be changed. With Michael Gove recommending the implementation of new IT curriculum activities at the close of this year.

Problems occur in how to build this curriculum, as one has not really existed before. There needs to be teacher training and adaptation of learning practices. But if we don’t do it we risk a fundamental loss of an opportunity.

Ray Maguire talked about his attempts to introduce the PlayStation 2 into education and working with schools. Problems were directly seen due to the infrastructure and device strength and Ray concentrated on how long it would take to turn things around. Concerned about where the courses and educational leaders in the schools were from Ray discussed the worry that by enforcing some elements badly could turn the youth of today and tomorrow away from being involved in this industry.

Using a higher state model, LittleBigPlanet, in schools in Wolverhampton, they showed that kids could get involved, using the games building engine to create individual games about their home town. Code is a language and if we teach French and German then coding has to be available as well.

There are some points where Local Educational Authorities are talking about this but when politics get involved, at a local level, it can cause delays and negative responses.

Last up was Bill Liao, “The spark of natures fire is all the learning I desire.” The point made that we are not producing talented coders as we should be, as a sane society.

Children naturally learn through play and they developed things, themselves, when they were teenagers or younger, allowing them to become native speakers. Poets, placing more power, more speed and more industry into processes they program.

We do need poets, who work well with others, and one thing Bill did consider was the fact that education at a younger age can create greater socialisation. Not only this but it allows children to engage with their peers and decide that they’d like to try coding, or other games related industry, too.

The system of teaching, which has been in place from ancient times, is the collaborative learning of a dojo. Not exams, nothing that takes a child out of their natural environment to teach (such as paper exams). A learning environment of coding where people are engaged and are told that they are cool.

CoderDojo is now expanding greatly. With 107 dojos and 6000 kids learning to code together. Sharing knowledge and their skills.

The most important thing Bill noted was that kids love it. That people should start a coderdojo and step ahead of government decision making. The most important thing being that coderdojo does not have a bank account, everyone should take part and everyone should take part.

From all sides this was inspiring stuff, possibly not agreeing with each other directly , but directing all to get involved in the process. The explanation of the need being clear in each members presentation.

Inspiring stuff and worthy of waiting for the video to come out, watch and then input your thoughts. They’re all listening.

By Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris)

Game Love: Sex, Relationships, Obsession and Possibly Dwarves

As Ren Reynolds @RenZephyr (Virtual Policy Network), Mitu Khandaker, @mituk (Tiniest Shark and videogames PhD researcher),  Ashley Brown @gamergrrl (PhD Candidate Sociology) and Dr Esther MacCallum -Stewart @neveahfs  (university of Chichester/VP of the Digital Games Research Association) take to the stage it’s certainly nice to get a female perspective and especially one on such an emotive subject in games (bar the dwarves).

Esther started with Love, Sex and the Female Gamer. Stating that the party line that is common in games, with the demographic of males from teen to 25 being pandered to is now false. Esther confirmed what we all know, that statistics show that it is not that flat demographic and that females and males are establishing totally differing demographics with their own identities.

The perception that we can act in a naughty boy way is not helping gaming communities, with both sexes complaining about elements of the games that do so; pandering to a minority. To combat this it is good to understand the different types of love and sex relationships in games.

Discussing who do we love Esther started with the war mage from Orcs Must Die, a character who subverts the popularised image of men in games but is still well “loved”. Discussing the characters, both male and female, who she loves and clarifying that semantics of the word used and expanding her personal feeling to games like MonkeyIsland, Torchlight, Minecraft and Magic the Gathering.

Why do we trust these people and games? The bond is important and games that engage are narrative driven, witty, cause love to hate, challenge, break the fourth wall and engender personal “quiet roleplay” (where the player starts to fantasise outwith the game are valuable allowing us to expand and grow up in the third wave.

Mitu followed, building on the discussion topic, Love: What Does It Mean. What it means to the player but also what it means to the developer. Firstly clarifying that love and sex do not always mean the same thing. Games can be about love, sex or a combination.

Dealing with single player games, as the relationships in multiplayer games fall into Ashley’s view, Mitu first looked at the game I Wish I were The Moon (2008) concerning an unrequited romance. To the Moon (2011), about an old dying man and an exploration of his past memories and romance. Thirdly a game, The End of Us (2011) created at a game jam, with two meteors meeting and then drifting apart – the game manipulating the speed but creating a beautiful dynamic that creates emotion.

Games express through rules and subjective beliefs of what people love can seem more broken. A mechanic can give the synethesia of love, like the meteor but avoided the AAA standard of romance, with dialogue trees and the feeling that love is  tacked on; binary. The correct sequence of things causing sex to occur and giving gifts to cause sex, creating an unrealistic and potentially uncomfortable experience.

Breaking possibilities down further, giving more options with realistic reasons why relationships fail, but with a randomness that relates to some aspects of real life and breaking the subjective beliefs of real love and not just doing what the audience want.

Mitu supported the ideology of playing games from people of all kinds of perspectives. The sum of our subjective perspectives then there might be a sum total of what love is.

Ashley, looking at the multiplayer aspects; noting the empirical proof that people want adult content in games and that sex can make great stories, connecting players. This may not be everyone but the possibility of this should be available in some form or format as sex is a good motivator. Something Tabletop roleplayers already understand. With rules and guidelines covering the elements of sex.

In World of Warcraft sex is banned and so people find ways to put sex into the game. Forums have found ways to get around this role as many asults have personalisation with their characters and not only feel that sex would be a further, natural, progression but expect some adult feelings and reactions.

Simulating sexual contents through forums. Identifying themselves and exchanging art out with the game framework allows people to develop this action. People also simulate sexual activity or spend time in proximity with each other, showing relationship patterns as this makes them happy.

The problem is MMO’s are subscription based and limiting your market to adults will limit your user-base and therefore your games financial base. World of Warcraft is rated 12, or T for Teen, and the expected enforcements take place if people breach these. Ashley doesn’t disagree with these enforcements as they are stipulated by the game world but what she wants to see is some type of maturity rating, that can be definitively checked, so adults can take part in this form of activity they feel is appropriate.

In concluding this complex subject, which unfortunately sat at the end of the day, an could have made a popular evening debate, Ashley argued, for all speakers that sex and love have a place in games but we should act on it responsibly and allow for options.

If it isn’t developed people will add it anyway and developing adult games allows for regulation of the subject.

By Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris)

Read about

Session 1 here

Session 2 here

Session 3 here

Session 4 here

Session 5 here


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  4. The fact that no students who have completed a title are prepared to interview with Ella’s studio is pretty telling. Turning around and blaming it on a failure of the educational system, more so. Great students exist, and many of them have shipped, at least in some form – especially at a time when you can’t throw a rock without hitting an IGF hopeful. They’re simply choosing to seek their employment opportunities elsewhere. Unfortunately for me, this soured the subsequent discussion as it was clearly founded on a strawman argument.

    The second panel was one of the highlights of the whole conference imo, a potentially inflammatory subject handled with a lot of grace and humour and a panel who clearly knew their subject inside out and were comfortable fielding questions from the audience very casually. Also for all the talk of code throughout the event, this was the only session to actually feature any, albeit only as a visual aid 🙂

    Great write up Phil!

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