Sunday, June 11, 2006

Are you playing in Delhi or Hong Kong?

If you play games and live in, or will be in, Hong Kong or Delhi this coming November, I want to hear from you.

I want to see or experience first hand what kind of play and games are popular locally: digital, non-digital, it doesn't matter. Any kind of play or games is of great interest. Would you consider showing me?

Also, I want to run a few low-key play experiments in public spaces. Would you consider participating?

Finally, if you are at a university in Hong Kong or Delhi researching new media, network culture, pervasive gaming, or game culture in general and think it might be useful to meet up, let me know.

I can be emailed at jane at [the name of this blog] dot com.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Gameplay Resume

Tomorrow I'm attending 060606, the annual art-technology colloquium that UC Berkeley produces in sponsorship with various technology companies. (Back when I was first starting out in the field, I organized 030303, the theme of which was collective play and the transition to real-world gaming. Oh, how time flies!)

Tomorrow's theme is serious games, and all participants have been asked to bring a 1-page lifetime gameplay resume (no instructions on what exactly that means was provided.) I really like the idea and thought I'd share what I cooked up--if you make your own gameplay resume, please link back so I can see!

Below, the format I chose and the milestone games I decided to fill it out with. For brevity, I had to leave out Grim Fandango and Lode Runner's design-your-own-level app, both of which were hugely influential. I also completely skipped the event planning for New York City Parks & Rec, which of course was very game based but alas... only one page. But I will state here for the record: Massively multiplayer citywide Connect Four tournments forever!

JANE McGONIGAL ~ Gameplay Resume 060606

Early Childhood: 1977 to 1987: The Playground Games
-I attend a Quaker school and learn cooperative, rather than competitive games.
-Formative playground games include many from the New Games Movement: the Blob, Earth Ball, the parachute.
-Lessons learned: All gameplay is always already cooperative: you agree to share a set of rules and a common goal, and to sustain the fictive world and artificial urgency of the game.

Childhood to Young Adulthood: 1988 to 1995: The PC Games
-A Commodore 64 at home brings Infocom text adventures into my life. The Lurking Horror and Moonmist figured prominently.
-I write my own text and ASCII games using Basic 64 programming language.
Graphic-text adventures are embraced. Tass Times in Tone Town, Transylvania.
-Lessons learned: Talk to everyone you encounter. Pick up anything you can carry. Try all keys in all locks.

College: 1995 to 1999: The Theater Games
-Face-to-face gameplay is used for icebreaking, team building, and large-scale social events.
-I steal and modify games from theater classes and workshops.
-Psychiatrist and Murder are frequently played.
-Lessons learned: The structure provided by games gives players permission to participate in a social setting that might otherwise intimidate them. The magic circle is safe and inviting.

Early to Earlyish Adulthood: 1999 – present: The Social Currency Games
-Some PC and console games, it seems, everyone is playing. To be familiar with them is to have social currency.
-I therefore gain fluency in Counter-Strike, Halo, Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero.
-Lessons learned: Common games build bridge across social and generational gaps. So much of today’s Watercooler talk is about videogames. Game literacy is key!

Graduate School: 2001 – present: The Hybrid Games
-Technology and schoolyard games combine to produce new hybrid games, and I love it.
-Flash mobs, urban superhero games, alternate reality gaming, geocaching and more turn the world into OUR playground.
-Lessons learned: There are secret gameplay affordances in everyday objects, the built environment, and seemingly serious social contexts. Life is better when we define, discover and teach these affordances to one another.

The Future: 2005 – 2100: Sacred Games?
-Organized public play resumes its function as a sacred activity? Gaming is ritual. Games are bonding. Games are transitional. Games are palliative. Games create immanence.
-Games are played at birth, death, and other important personal and collective milestones.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


I have coined a new mobile social term: chinavenging. I've even created a logo for it.

Derivation: a combination of China and avenging.

Definition: a particular brand of evil smart mobs emerging out of Chinese BBS culture.

Variations: chinavengers (the people who go chinavenging)

Example, courtesy of The New York Times:

It began with an impassioned, 5,000-word letter on one of the country's most
popular Internet bulletin boards from a husband denouncing a college student he
suspected of having an affair with his wife. Immediately, hundreds joined in the

"Let's use our keyboard and mouse in our hands as weapons," one person wrote, "to chop off the heads of these adulterers, to pay for the sacrifice of the husband."

Within days, the hundreds had grown to thousands, and then tens of thousands, with total strangers forming teams that hunted down the student, hounded him out of his
university and caused his family to barricade themselves inside their home.

See also: Chinese Web Vigalantes stalk British "Sex-Pat".

More on this phenomenon in the LA Times: Chinese log on for retribution

Why am I interested in the chinavenging phenomenon? Ever since I started working in the area of massively collaborative gaming, people have warned me that one day my smart mobs of gamers might turn from a benevolent collective intelligence to malevolent, out-of-control crazy people. I can't tell you how often I hear that concern voiced. What if they become so enamored of their in-game power that they attempt to harness it, uninvited for real-world interventions?

The thing about alternate reality games and other similar projects is that so far they don't have the moralizing component that seems to be the driving force of the new chinavenging. I want to write more on this topic, and will, post-dissertation.

By the way, in case you're wondering, coining the term does NOT mean I think chinavenging is a good thing. I think it's dreadful and I want to make games for these people so they can channel their mob mentality into a more virtual scenario, and maybe one with more progressive social values.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is it Cruel 2 B Kind?

Here's the new logo for Cruel 2 B Kind ....the game of benevolent assassination. The pervasive game is my entry for the September 2006 Come Out and Play festival.

Like it?