The BBC has published the results of an internal research on UK gamers. To sum it up, 59% of all UK people between 6 and 65 are gamers. Their average age is 28 and 48% of gamers are female. You can find the full results here.
The new edition of the Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society is devouted to computer games. It includes articles about online gaming, newsgaming, trading card games among other topics, as well as book reviews for Twisty Little Passages, A Theory of Fun and First Person. Articles are on Pdf format and free to download (thanks Tom Apperley)
Jesper Juul's new book is now out, hot from the press of MIT Press. The book has a website companion, which includes a very useful Dictionary of Video Game Theory. So forget that Xbox 360, you may want Santa to bring you this book instead.
I am in Angouleme, France, a city that is known as the world capital of comic books (it hosts the famous Salon de la Bande Dessinée). The city is now working on becoming an important player in game development and I must say that based on the student work that I have seen, they're really serious about it. The CGames conference takes place while the ENJMIN school is officially inaugurated. They offer a masters degree on game development, teaming up students from different backgrounds and skills. I promise to later link to some of their projects, I've seen a lot of stuff that I really liked. What is even better is that the moment that I arrived there were 6 students playing Mario Kart DS (it just launched in Europe last Friday). I was carrying my copy, so I jumped in and had a lot of fun (if you are a regular you may know that Mario Kart is one of my very favorite Nintendo games). rThe highlight of the conference so far has been yesterday's Chris Crawford video conference. Chris started to apologize to the French audience for the insanely rude way they have been treated by the Bush administration and many of his fellow Americans. Surprisingly, some of the French members of the audience told me that this is quite normal: most Americans they meet start by apologizing before introducing themselves. Apart from these sociological tropes, Chris described the language behind his Erasmatron project with a share of passion that is quite uncommon in game talks (of course, we all know Chris is a very passionate guy who speaks his mind and is not afraid to go against accepted conventions). On a meta-level, the talk made me think how few good speakers we have among the game researcher/developer community (Eric Zimmerman comes to mind as another exception). My problem in conferences is that most of the time they bring me back to my high school days, where the monotone voice tone of teachers made me lose any interest in the subject. Talks need to be designed, rehearsed and performed. No matter how interesting your content is, if you don't deliver it the right way, it will get lost to most of the audience. This sounds incredibly obvious but the problem is pervasive in academic circles. One possible solution is, of course, the Nintendo way. I keep dreaming of setting up Pictochat rooms so people can comment real-time about talks, not just to double check if everybody else is bored but mainly to give it a collective, augmented-reality quality to it. If you are attending to the DAC conference this Thursday at ITU, bring in my DS. I'll definitively bring mine. I promise not to play Mario Kart but it would be nice to see if parallel chatting could enhance talks. rPS: Chris Crawford was recently interviewed at The Escapist.
There's an article today on the NYTimes (currency-free registration required but not data-free) about US programs teaching game design and development. It's amazing how fast mainstream press coverage of videogames has taken off during the last 2 years. Well, don't pay too much attention to me, I am getting old. Btw, I am in Paris, yesterday I visited Ubisoft (Powerful Robot wanted to donate a pair of prosthetic arms and legs for Rayman as part of our charity work). Later during the night, I visited my friend Eric who just got a brand new Xbox with the King Kong game on it. We only played for a short while. I was impressed by the quality of the graphics (man, it's been a while since I booted my Xbox). At least during the first half hour every single event in the game seems scripted, interrupted by actions scenes. It looked really fun, I guess I'll check it out once I complete the Minish Cap and Lost in Blue, the next game on my DS list of games-to-be-played
David Every from Game Tycooninterviews Greg LoPiccolo, one of the guys behind Guitar Hero. If you want to learn more about Harmonix, I am pretty sure Edge magazine featured them recently (I need to catch up with my reading though, too many things to do, too little time and too many quests to solve on Zelda the Minish Cap). Hey, I was right and the Edge article is even online!
It is very easy to pick on Microsoft. That being said, well, the Xbox Live Arcade looks like a terrific idea, at least on paper. It will allow indie developers to sell their games through the console. Of course, games will have to be approved by MS, so chances are that you won't be able to play an indie game denouncing the US Army's use of white phosphorus as a chemical weapon. Ok, ok, fair enough, that was an inside joke. Isn't it great that MS is doing things right? I was very surprised when the first Xbox launched, I was used to crappy first generation MS products and this was a change. Well, I do hope that the Xbox Live Arcade also turns out to be one of those surprises. Sure, you can argue that MS ultimate goal is world domination and they do not give a crap about indie development. That is probably right. On the other hand, individuals working on the Xbox probably do care very much about indie development. Still, MS is a corporation and, as such, only cares about profit -yes, fat corporations as entities only care about that, no matter how nice their employees are. Even if we like it or not, indie devs will always be needing distributors - even if they are selling their games online themselves. You always need to reach your audience. Even though portals are not the only way to do this, they are currently probably the best way to reach a critical mass. Things may change eventually, but I do not thing that fast enough. Meanwhile, indie devs will have to sell their games though stores such as the Xbox Live Arcade. That is very good news. In spite of MS being evil and all that. They may be evil but they brought us Age of Empires. So there is a special place in my heart for them. Call it sympathy for the devil. If the Xbox Live Arcade delivers, well, I may not go as far as becoming a worshiper, but I promise not to get too mad when my PC behaves erraticaly. Ok, just for a few weeks. Still, you have my word. C'mon guys, if Apple started turning to the dark side, isn't there a hope for MS? rIf you want to learn more about the Xbox Live Arcade, you can read the extensive interview at BusinessWeek. They also have a scary report saying that only 80 games a year will be successful. By policy I never trust reports too much but even if the figure is wrong, it is a token of the state of the industry. Of course, the trick is on how you define success. If by it you understand big corporations cashing in a lot of money, then the figure is probably right. I guess my definition would be closer to developers making a decent living and players being thrilled by the games. But that is just me.
Last Friday, my talk closed the e-week, a weeklong series of talks and seminars on digital culture held at the University of Vic, in Catalonya. This year has been quite hectic in terms of talks but the good thing is that the audience keeps getting younger (and that means smarter, too). Ok, maybe I am getting older, I'll give you that. In any case, it was a lot of fun. The e-week was organized by people like Carlos Scolari (with whom I share a common interest in South American comics from the 80's) and Hugo Pardo. They really took great care of the attendants and I was thrilled at discovering even more aspects of Catalonian cuisine (cuina catalana). I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something I tasted in Vic: fresh duck liver on baby figs with red wine sauce (I am seriously thinking about walking back there just to take another taste of it). Last, but by any means least, I had the pleasure to hang out with Ted Nelson and his wife. I showed them my games and they gave me a hands-on on ZigZag. In addition to Barcelona, my favorite places in Catalonia had been Girona, Figueres and Cap de Creu's fantastic beaches. Now Vic is on my list, too. rOh, one more thing. I bought The Sims 2 for the DS. I am still checking it out but I must say that the 3D is killing me. Why is everybody assuming that 3D is the way to go? Their previous game, The Urbs, worked perfectly well in 2D on the DS. Surely, 3D adds a lot of features and can make development easier (to a certain degree) but I wish their were more 2D and isometric games out there. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how I manage my Sims hotel.
Growth in profitability but also growth in terms of number of players. New players. This interesting article from Lost Garden articulates very well some ideas on how to get more people interested in videogames (via Slashdot)