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Jenova Chen

Jenova Chen co-founder of thatgamecompany, best known for Flow and Flower attended Develop and had one of the first talks of the Wednesday. I did actually miss the first five or so minutes of his talk, but from what I walked in on I was entranced straight away. When people discuss entertainment and our opinions we use feelings to express our thoughts. In order to consider games as a form of entertainment people must talk about them in the same way as film. Although when receiving this feedback on a video game it is usually based on technical aspects of the game, feelings don’t even usually come into the equation.

Most people will usually think something such as combining genres to make hybrids will make a game innovative, make them stand out above the rest, where as this is not usually the case. Jenova hopes in the future to see a much wider mix of feelings integrated into games, as these types of feelings and emotions haven’t really been addressed as much as they could have. It’s hard to find a game that will encourage the player to become emotionally attached to the characters, story or game while having a suitable gameplay experience.

Jenova recommended reading The Visual Story written by Bruce Block, from reading his work he then applied it to games by creating a visual bucket that combines graphics, story, sound and gameplay. Jenova feels in order to have an overall satisfying experience from a game, the levels in the bucket need to be fairly even, and not be missing out too much on some of the factors. As most games will usually focus on one key element such as graphics or gameplay, which will then make a game less attractive.

For example Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Shadow of the Colossus and Bioshock are games that Jenova feels portray a certain quality of life, as many games do not and just exist for a play experience. He does also recommend however playing Passage by Jason Rohrer, which attempts to portray certain feelings.

A lot of what he spoke of in relation to creating Flower can be downloaded off the Playstation Network in the form of a development diary, but there were a few points that I had not heard before, for example before Flower was designed Jenova wished to create a game based around nature, in order to do this he wanted to know what the most popular thoughts were when talking on nature. Through searching on flickr for nature and flowers were the third highest tag at the time, leading him to choose them.

With Flower he wished to create a peaceful harmony inside the game, this is why he had decided against enemies or a chance of death. He feels that NiGHTS was close to creating this experience, but wasn’t quite there. With the flying element it accomplishes this feeling, but from having a small limit on time and enemies that attack you, it destroys this harmony which you gain from flying around. Flower went through many different iterations when deciding on the gameplay, from playing as the Sun and making flowers grow, to throwing seeds in the ground and making them grow up from the soil. There were a lot of silly versions of Flower which they had considered, and I must say I’m very happy they kept with the core concept that Flower can now be seen with.

Currently working on an unannounced title he commented on the fact that, from creating games that work with feelings it means that the game is all about the experience. In order to create the exact experience required, the technology needed will have to be as new as possible as creating feelings for a player is not an easy task, which can then of course make it harder when developing the game using new tools all the time.

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I would firstly like to say a huge thank you to WiG for making all this happen.

My first entry is just going to be a brief introductory post so everyone can know a little about me and how I was introduced to WiG.

My name is Catherine Woolley, I went to the University of Wales, Newportand received a 1st class honours in Computer Games Design, as Emma has previously mentioned.

I was a volunteer at WiG 2007when it was conveniently hosted at Newport, which is where I became acquainted with Emma.

For those that attended you may remember these:

gingerbread cookies

I made them with my twin sister Charlotte Woolley every night before the conference, which was heaps of fun, and a real challenge at the same time.

I am currently applying for jobs in the games industry, but while I’m not doing that I’m working on an Unreal Tournament III mod called Void and a small Game Maker game called Lash La Rue on Holiday featuring Juan the duck which is a product of myself, my sister and her boyfriend. It was our entry for the Global Game Jam back in January.

Other than all that I have a huge passion for games, and hope to one day have more input on the development of them.

There should also be a WiG networking session happening at Develop, so keep your eyes peeled for more details!

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Women in Games are thrilled to welcome Catherine Woolley as this year’s guest blogger for our involvement with this year’s Develop in July and DiGRA in September. In return for free passes to the events she will be representing the WiG network and live blogging both events for this site.

Catherine has just graduated from The University of Wales, Newport with a 1st Class Honours degree in Computer Games Design.

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Please forward to interested colleagues and related networks..

In partnership with DIGRA 2009, Women in Games are honoured to issue a
general call for papers to be presented at this year’s DIGRA event at
Brunel. All information about submission available at
http://digra2009.newport.ac.uk.

Women in Games 2009 @ DIGRA 2009
Call for Abstracts
Submission deadline: Friday April 3rd 2009

Currently in its fifth year, Women in Games (http://www.womeningames.com) is
an annual conference with the distinct aim of highlighting the most recent,
groundbreaking work in computer game research and development to both
academic and industrial worlds. WiG has consistently addressed the
empowerment and professional development of women working in, and
researching into, games and the games industry. In 2009 with the objective
of widening the audience and reach of the initiative WiG is running a series
of activities in parallel with key games events, both academic and industry,
to deliver focussed work to the wider community.

To date the themes addressed by feminist game studies can be broadly themed
in work on gendered activity in digital games and feminine preference in
play style and game characteristics. Other key studies look to gender equity
in game making and to the wider context of access to games. From Brenda
Laurel’s work in the early 90s onwards (long pre-dating any such thing as
games studies); critics, commentators and the academy have offered theories
and observations on the difference in play habits, styles and consumption of
digital gaming exhibited by women and girls. Yet well into our second decade
of work in this area what can we say we have learnt?

We believe that the time is ripe to return to core values in discussions
around histories, difference and generation in game space.

For more information please contact enquiries@womeningames.com.

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WiG2008 workshop leader Fiona French recently reminded me about the forthcoming Global Game Jam event to be held simultaneously around the world at the end of this month. The intention of this excellent  IGDA Education SIG initiative is to bring people together to make games over a weekend. We encourage anyone interested in games development to contact your local event and sign up. UK-based events are due to take place in Glasgow, London and at my own institution in Newport, Wales.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the weekend’s work, good luck everyone.

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I was thrilled to see Karen’s presentation on Scratch, I first heard of this innovative toolset for teaching programming some years ago and was curious to see how the project had developed. Originally conceived by Mitchel Resnick LEGO Professor at the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab (what a job title!), Scratch was designed to help young people develop modern learning skills. A freely downloadable environment (published under GPL), Scratch has benefited substantially from Web 2.0 community tools and consists of a thriving development community using the tools in a variety of contexts and application. Karen gave a fascinating presentation on a unique toolset that should be more widely used in an educative context.

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Paulina shared her experience of developing Singstar over the past 4 years. In discussing the evolution of the product she emphasised the need for inclusion of the target market in the design process. Initially Singstar started as a narrative-based game in which the player sang to bring the world to life, it soon became apart that singing was seen as compelling enough in itself to not need this framing. Singstar is a social, competitive and authentic (i.e. real music) product influenced by media and pop culture. The initial market was imagined as female, but the product appeal was widely seen to be much broader. Music is universal. The development team used music as a way of segmenting target audiences, i.e. through music genres. The key lessons Paulina has drawn from Singstar is that it is all about the user and their experience and that it is central to innovative game design to prioritise what brings most value to the experience.

Paulina then moved to the second section of her keynote and talked to the future of gaming, user generated content (UGC). After name-checking Clay Shirky’s book “Here comes everybody” to lead into her emphasis on social networking potential to allow users to coordinate themselves. Old notions of amateur and professional are changing and access to re-creative tools for distribution is significant. The games industry is rapidly reorienting itself to include the player in the gaming experience.

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