Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Art of Play

The aim of this Symposium and Arcade is to survey the games that brought us to this moment with their unique creative vision, and to frame the field moving forward, as game makers finally abandon the question "CAN games be art," and begin to ask ourselves in how many ways they WILL be.

For those of you who know me, it may come as a surprise that I don't relish the idea of tromping halfway across the country on a whim. I would, however, have hopped on a plane to Pennsylvania in a heartbeat had I known about this event sooner.

The Art of Play was a conference on video games unlike any other. Hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, it was a symposium that took place at the end of March and the beginning of April. It sounds like they had some amazing lecturers (An oxymoron? Nay, I say!) and a fantastic forum of game designers and theorists. Oh, to have heard the musings of Heather Kelly of the Kokoromi collective!

So, I'm a big dork. I think we've established that pretty well at this point. I think it's just that I've been kind of starved on the creative front since most of my day is spent walking people through how to make their computers function they way they want them to. I hope something like this conference is hosted by the Walker or something while I'm living in the Cities.

Because of the folks involved, it should come as no surprise that The Art of Play also has some great web design. While you're there, check out the way the background and menus move when you click on things and the little floating "Thank You to Our Sponsors" bubble. Now that's some quality web design!

There's also a gallery of innovative games listed in the Arcade link on the site, so head on over already and play with some art!

Naomi Alderman's Validation of Video Gaming

4 color rebellion is a spectacular source of interesting articles. Though it was posted toward the beginning of the month, I just got around to reading Naomi's article at The Guardian about the value of video games. Eminently argued, Naomi weaves a defense of the potential beauty of video games. Her writing is so much more cohesive that I can be, so I'll leave you to read on at your leisure.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Why it's taken me so long to discover Kongregate, I don't know. I've played plenty of games on it, but I never took the time to notice what was going on around the frame in which my game was loaded. Oh, the sorrows of being unobservant.

Kongregate isn't a game; it's a game hosting site. It’s a place where casual gamers can connect and where game developers can get together to share ideas and receive feedback from their audience. All this is wrapped in a candy shell that rewards the gamers for testing out the developers games.

Kongregate is, first and foremost, a site where developers can post their games and get them displayed to a wide audience. Games are rated by their audience. A rating system for games is nothing new. So what’s unique about Kongregate? To assist the game testers (read “flash game junkies”) game makers can program flags into their flash games that Kogregate reads. For example, if a game designer wants to get his players to thoroughly test a game, he or she can set up a flag that gets tripped when a player scores “100,000 points on hard mode". Once this flag gets tripped, the player’s account earns nice little badge that signifies they’ve achieve this mark. The badge is not saved in the particular game, it’s stored on the player’s Kongregate profile.

This system of rewarding a player’s account with badges is unique. It adds a reason to play some games longer than I otherwise would have. Why try to score 10 times more than my current average? Because the challenge is there!

Not only do you gain badges, a player’s account also gains experience points with each goal achieved. As you’re chatting with other players, they can see your level. Like badges, your level isn’t really good for anything except showing off how much of your life you’ve wasted making your dolphin do somersaults or how many zombies you’ve blown up. Like every seasoned RPG player out there knows, experience points are a nice impetus to continue playing. In the case of Kongregate, instead of gaining experience so you can beat that big side boss, you gain experience to show other Kongregators how many games you’ve tried out.

Get on over there and Kongregate with one of the largest and uniquely conceived communities of flash gamers on the Internet. Hove some fun! I’m sure you’ll find something to catch your interest.