Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nordic Game 07 focused on creativity and social networking

Music/rhythm games - a bit neglected game genre - was nicely brought up at the Nordic Game 07 conference. Japanese designers Masaya Matsuura (e.g. Parappa the Rapper) and Keiichi Yano (e.g. Gitaroo Man) gave very inspiring talks about their motivation, inspiration and challenges when creating music games. I am not going through all the points here but perhaps one way to summarize their thoughts is to quote Matias Myllyrinne from Remedy: "Good games just don't sell well" ;) [yes I know, out of the context and probably not even a direct quote]

Last summer Gitaroo Man Lives! for PSP was one of my favourites and I am a big fan of Mr. Matsuura so I was really excited! Yano's Inis Corp. just published their sequal to Osu! Takakae! Ouendan male groupie rhythm game in Japan. They have also released Elite Beat Agents for the US market around the same theme if you are interested to check it out.

It was no surprise that social media (user generated content, modding etc.) was well on view this year. I actually did not get that much from the presentations but it does not lessen the relevance of the trend. Social aspects in games will most likely generate new revenue models as well as ways to extend the life span of a game or enrich it another ways. I would warmly urge game developers to consider different forms of engagement when thinking about social aspects in games. One simple model of it can be found from an article by Mark Ghuneim: Terms of Engagement: Measuring the Active Consumer (2006). His paper reviews the topic well. The "Type of Engagement" image is from the same source.
It was also nice to get an addition to my collection of "x.0 tag clouds". Tommy Palm from Jadestone kindly shared his vision of mobile games 2.0. Such collection of terms is a nice way to open up the discussion (do i agree, what is missing...) and it should be food for thought for those pondering the future of mobile gaming.

Naturally social is much more than MMOGs, social interaction or collaboration in games. EveOnline is an excellent example of another kind of "social gaming". Keynote by their CEO Hilmar P├ętursson (what a cute little hobbit he was with his Icelandic accent) was a good one. He talked about the challenges of controlling such a large online world but also gave interesting examples of gamers' creativity at EveOnline. Another approach to online gaming was presented by Austrian Avaloop. Perhaps they did not have that informative presentation but it surely was fun! The Beta-tests of PaperMint are over and the "art-hang around-game" type of online community is just about to be released (in German). PaperMint is a fresh approach to the discussions of "what's game" and "what is online gaming". I wish all the best to the bright minds of Avaloop!

Housemarque's Super Stardust HD (a PS3 network title) brough yet another type of social gaming into view. Many small Nordic game companies and startups had joined the conference this year. The value of discussion either around SuperStardust HD or around games in general is very valuable and essential part of "social gaming". I am sure such cosy events as Nordic Game (800 participants this year) give excellent possibilities to developers and researchers to get in touch with their idols and colleagues in a casual atmosphere. Maybe next year we'll see successful MOBILE social networking games (PocketPal from IronStar) at the conference?

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