Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The great minds I want to devour

There are a few people whose thinking and writings about the digital world are so brilliant, so zeitgeist, so RIGHT, I just want to shove a straw up their nose and suck their brains out.

Because I will need help holding them down and getting the straw up there, here are links to their websites where you can download slides, watch video lectures, read full articles, and grok their amazing insights.

This is the stuff that is relevant to anyone who wants to make stuff that makes people happy.

Nicole Lazzaro -- she measures the emotional intensity of game and social media experiences. she is genius. Learn.

Clay Shirky -- yes, I know you have probably already read the transcript of his double-plus brilliant Social Surplus talk. Just in case you haven't, this talk explains the next 10 years. Learn.

Nick Yee -- yes, you know he is the God of data-rich MMO research. did you know he produces new research all the time, and that he has lots of new and recent papers on his website that you probably haven't read yet? Learn.

BJ Fogg - like me, he's got world peace as a career objective, only he's using mobile technologies to do it instead of online games. he will teach you how to persuade people to do things (ideally, better things) through interactive design. Learn.

Coming soon: Stay tuned for the post featuring the designers and artists whose chests I want to drill holes in so I can siphon their souls out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cookie Rolling in Bangkok!

The cookie was installed on a dock on the main river in Bangkok, with a lot of people around, and it was awesomely fun and very exciting. I usually try to avoid doing anything that feels too trespassy, because that's kind of a cheap thrill. But this was a public location, and a lot of weird stuff happens in Bangkok in public, so we felt okay doing it (We = me + Kiyash, who co-conspired and helped document the rolling -- which means the official cookie rolling photo set is really fabulous for this one.) Although with all of the people around and the general excitement, I forgot to actually roll a cookie after installing the word. So we came back about five hours later to finish the mission! (The photo here is taken at night, the links below show the daytime part of the mission.)

The world was "no", or ไม่ . , pronounced mâi, which we learned from our concierge who was not quite clear on the details of why we needed just that word translated and written in Thai script for us. I love those conversations.

It was really hard to find cookies to write in Thai script -- but I was lucky to stumble past a street bakery where they had a billion curious bags of curlie-cued dual-toned cookies that I was pretty sure I could craft into the word. The cookies were kind of gross, but it worked! You can cookie-read it for yourself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy statistics! (UPDATED)

Just a quick post about three personal happy-making stats, because I like to share good news with my favorite people (YOU!) (Also, I am wracking up some not-so-happy-making stats, like More Hours Spent on Planes and in Airports than Sleeping in May 2008, but for today let's focus on the positive.)

#1) The Lost Ring is officiall SUPERGLOBAL

One of the most important goals of The Lost Ring was to create an alternate reality game with a seriously global reach; to get people all over the world immersed in the same mythology and sharing the same adventure.

So I'm double plus delighted by recent statistics about who's playing and following The Lost Ring. As of the past month, and half-way through the game, the player community and online audience for this ARG is now made up of just 9% from the United States/Canada (!!!), with 42% from Latin America/Spain, 22% from Asia (primarily Japan), 20% Western Europe (primarily Germany), and scatterings from the rest of the continents.

I'm so proud of the diversity of our community... and I'm loving the ingenious ways our players are figuring out how to play together.

By the way, it's the perfect time to check out The Lost Ring for the first time -- we're at our halfway point in the game, with new plots and major new missions launching in the next few weeks. So visit the player wiki now to get caught up, and you'll be ready to join the adventure!

#2) REALITY IS BROKEN is ranked top talk at SXSW Interactive

SXSW released the rankings based on audience feedback last week; my keynote on the future of gaming and happiness was the top-ranked talk of the whole conference. I have only this to say: SQUEEE!! This is good news, because I am now officially working on a book of the same name. More on that to come...

#3) I wound up on the THE GAMASUTRA 20 list

Gamasutra is honoring the Top 20 Women in Gaming; the list came out yesterday, and I'm on it! Pretty cool, and it came as a total surprise to me. (I actually found out when some pinged me on Facebook to congratulate me.) The best part of being on this list is the company -- my super favorite people like Nicole Lazarro (smartest stuff to say about gaming pleasures of anyone I know) and Robin Hunicke (intimidatingly brilliant developer who has always inspired me to try to be smarter about game dev). I wish we could throw a party for all the women on this list. Plus, I would humbly submit a few more for the list: Katie Salen, Caryl Shaw, and Kati London.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York City, come play THE LOST SPORT Saturday June 7 @ Central Park!

The ancient Greeks banned it, but we’re playing it anyway! If you're in New York City, COME OUT AND PLAY...

2000 years ago, the ancient Greeks played a game they called simply "The Labyrinth." Until recently, little has been known about the mysterious sport - only that it required the athletes to be blindfolded, and that eventually it was banned from their Olympics games. Now, the rules for the lancient abyrinth have been rediscovered - and for the first time in modern history, the world will learn to play the Labyrinth again.

On Saturday June 7, 2008, come learn the sport and participate in a labyrinth race - or just come to watch, as The Lost Sport of Olympia is rediscovered in New York City.

Come early at 4:30 PM if you want to learn the history of the lost sport and pick up super sneaky game strategies! Meet at the fountain at the Columbus Circle Entrance to Central Park. You must arrive by 5 PM to come with us! (If you’re late, we’ll leave a clue chalked on the pavement to help you find us...) Play the game 5-6 PM at a secret hidden location in Central Park.

The top 5 reasons why you should come play The Lost Sport:

1) It’s really easy to learn the lost sport. All it requires is a blindfold (which we provide!), trust, courage, and collaboration with the other 100 people who show up to play.

2) It’s a big, global secret. You’ll be training in NYC while other alternate reality Olympians are training in Tokyo, Madrid, London, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Wellington, and more. We’ll get to compare our cities’ best times against theirs, and compete to create the fastest labyrinths.

3) You’ll be really good at the lost sport, practically a world champion. It hasn’t been played in over 2000 years, so we are setting all kinds of world records! And think about it. When else are you going to get to compete against, and maybe even BECOME, the world’s best of a sport?

4) For the NYC event, we’re playing under the bridges in Central Park – it’s super atmospheric and fun, plus you get a bonus perspective-changing experience: In the future, whenever you pass the bridges, you’ll think of them as a super secret athletic training space where you competed … fun, fun, fun!!!

5) There’s a neat online backstory/urban legend about the lost sport that connects it with SAVING THE WORLDS. (Yes, worlds. The backstory is a geeky, quantum multiverse adventure.) You can learn the legend, and you can follow the larger online adventure/alternate reality game.

What are you waiting for? Invite friends and RSVP:

Come Out and Play Festival website

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The dark side of coming out to play

I was saddened today to read about a real-world game gone wrong - a Facebook driven "flash mob" watergun fight that destroyed the Millennium Square garden in which it was played. As has been widely reported in UK press, plants were trampled, turf ripped up, fountain mechanics broken, and water features emptied. A documentary video of the event was posted on Youtube before participants and organizers realized how much damage had been done.

It's not that the organizer of this event should be blamed for what happened; they ran the same event a year earlier with no problems. (You can watch a video of the 2007 event.) It was "much more civilized", according to attendees of both events. But I think with virtually no instructions for what to do when you show up, and no win condition for the fight, it's easy to see how it could get out of control.

Some people might argue that concern over a single flash mob game gone bad is ridiculous when there have been thousands with no adverse effects. And that's a really good point. But not to learn anything from this would be stupid. This case points to some important potentials of public games, especially "games" that are more free-for-alls than clearly designed experiences. And we would be smart to consider these potentials, before destructive games become a less rare occurrence. Personally, as a game designer, I'm really inspired to think about how to invent a mass water fight that would be structured enough to engage 300 players in a less chaotic but still exhilarating experience. This is exactly the kind of challenge that gave me the idea a couple of years ago for Cruel 2 B Kind. That game was a direct counter-design to what I think is the completely non-benevolent game design of commercial, week-long, water-gun Assassin games.

Most importantly, I think, the Leeds story is a good reminder of how incredibly powerful play is, and how much momentum a live game can take on, and how hard it can be to contain and benevolently direct that momentum if you don't have a well-thought-out game and event design in place. It is really important for people experimenting with public play -- especially mass public place -- to be ethical game designers, to create play but to do no harm. You can't just think of something fun and choose a public location. To have a benevolent impact on the local environment, the players, and the bystanders, you have to be able to anticipate within a reasonable degree of error how many people will show up, what they're likely to do when the thrill of mass play infects the crowd, and who or what might be in the vicinity and caught in the play crossfire.

I'm all for staging games in public and semi-public spaces where people have a right to congregate and play; I'm even for pushing the envelope and playing in spaces that have a cultural norm against play. But the reason why I love game design is that it allows you to create a safe structure for otherwise chaotic, ecstatic activity. That's the game designer's job -- to put up boundaries that protect the players from harm, or from doing harm.

I'm positive that the games at the Come Out and Play Festival June 6-8, 2008 will be designed with benevolent impact AND awesome crazy fun in mind, and I can't wait! (Be sure to sign up for The Lost Sport of Olympia while you're at it -- that's the game event I'm organizing.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Coffee or cocktails or playtime in New York City this weekend?

I'm in NYC for the New Yorker Conference this week; I've got lots of free time for fun. Want to hang out?

If you have time on Friday or Saturday night for drinks, let me know!

Or maybe coffee on Sunday afternoon?

Also, Saturday afternoon, if you interested in learning the Lost Sport (you know, the blindfolded labyinth game that the Ancient Greeks banned), it looks like there will be a game Saturday afternoon. (I'm not organizing it, but I'll be playing... let me know if you're interested to meet up and play with me!)

Randomly, if anyone throws Werewolf games in NYC, let me know, maybe we can get one together. I am hungry for villager blood!