Business is about people, people play games

Hence business is about games? This does not mean that business is about any highly structured rules based board game like monopoly, nor does it mean that it is about a counterstrike mission to capture a flag, though all of these do apply in some context to business. Instead it could be said that business is about the politics of people knowing one another a little better, for some that is to get the best form one another, for others it is to get the drop on someone and exploit a weakness.
In my move from intrapreneur to entrepreneur I am of course trying to understand which game it is that we are all playing. My observation is that it really is not any different either in or outside a large organization from the types of games that you play in order to get things done.
Interestingly a recent piece from Gamasutra at casual connect brought out some themes from a piece by Playdom VP of Game Design Steve Meretzky and Executive Producer David Rohrl, along with Hit Detection founder N’Gai Croal. This was of course to try and help people understand where social games fit into the landscape of the games industry. I fully agree with the trends identified in the piece, but I though I would apply these not to social games in AAA games industry, but to business as a game.

Trend 1: Virtual Worlds
Any organization of people, a.k.a. a corporate, is a really a virtual world. It has boundaries, access controls, terms of service. Metaverses help highlight this as people gather and form other corporate structures such as guilds.

Trend 2: Customization and Personalization
Individuals in a business all strive to either blend in or differentiate themselves, all businesses try to do the same in their market place.

Trend 3: Collections & Wish Lists
Aspirations of collecting rank, awards, accolades, prizes, end of year ratings all sit in regular business.

Trend 4: System Simulators
In games this applies to feeling some mastery over something other than blind luck. Being part of an system and seeing the impact of small adjustments is really the payoff.

Trend 5: Narrative
Established businesses trade on their brand, their reputation and what is means to engage with them. Companies place one another in a pecking order and treat competitors as the bad guys. This is all part of the story of business.

Trend 6: Making Missions More Interesting
Motivation for a team is important. Boredom and a feeling of worthless activity does not help a business grow. Making work interesting and challenging will always get the best from people.

Trend 7: Gift Invites
Come join our organization, as an employee or as a customer. We see this with all sorts of incentives to attract people to business. Vouchers, special deals, sales etc. all fit into gift invites.

Trend 8: Donations as Revenue
In many businesses it is regarded as “professional” when a salaried employee to invest more time and effort than is contracted to help the business. Asking customers for feedback, even with a potential prize for an answer, is another donation to a company.

Trend 9: New Horizons in Virtual Goods
I do not see any difference between a real and virtual good or product. A business has to provide something people value. If that is software, consulting, digital media or a car all business looks for new horizons for products.

Trend 10. Using Friends’ Gameplay Data
This would appear to fit with the old adage it’s not what you know but who you know. In all business relationships you will hear people refer to what others have done and where they fit in that social structure.

Trend 11. The iPhone and Social Games
How many businesses do not have a need for remote and mobile communications? In many ways it was the business user that caused the massive rise in mobile phone usage and the need to be permanently attached to the business.

Trend 12. Capitalizing on Player Resources
When someone chooses to work on a project, or with a business, or when a deal is made all parties involved are capitlizing on the existing resources of the parties involved.

So whether you are the largest corporation on the planet or the smallest would be startup you are in fact a casual game injected a global platform. The reach we all have now to organize and share is the same reach that is making social games so successful.
Just as the AAA games industry may have missed or turned its nose up initially to social games, AAA corporate business needs to make sure it does not turn its nose up to small interconnected business, or they may find themselves out flanks and their flags captured.

Ask me another – Avatar Quiz games wars.

I recently got some time on the new avatar based quiz games on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 Home. Both of these are significant in bringing console casual gaming to a wider audience. They also have a slightly different flavour in how the Avatar represents you in the game.
First up is Buzz on Ps3 Home. Something to do in Home is always going to be interesting. There have been some great events, the ARG Xi but they are only fleeting, or like Xi very involving but run for a short time.
Buzz takes the multiple 4 question format that has appeared on the consoles and even in a schools edition and drops it into Home.
It has always had a TV game show format, but in many ways that is dropped in this version. You do go to the Buzz studio and there are hints of TV, but essentially you and all the other players use their avatar position to decide on an answer to a question. It is very Crackerjack “Runaround Now”.
Buzz Ps3 Home
There is a dynamic that if you don’t know the answer you can sort of “ask the audience” except the audience are the other players. In Second Life terms this would be the green dot effect. Flock to the crowd as they may just be right.
There is very little ability to see you avatar or those of others as most of the camera work is based on the buttons of th game as above.
However sometimes it zooms into the right answer and you may see yourself and have time for a little dance.
Buzz PS3 Home
I am in there somewhere with Blue (as still not allowed green) Spikey hair.
The other quiz fest is on Xbox Live and called 1 vs 100. This goes for an even more TV game show theme and pits you against the crowd to out average everyone.
You are dropped into a 30 minute game. You NXE avatar taking pride of place in a booth
1 vs 100 xbox live
The screen shows the questions and answers, but unlike Buzz it is read out by a hosts voice. This makes it feel more connected I think.
Also as you answer you get to level up and earn streak points that convert into tokens that let you skip a question every now and then.
It is designed to be a live game show experience too. At scheduled times there is a real live game show host (Taking it into the territory of those late night phone in quiz shows, but hopefully not to tacky πŸ™‚ ). The really live shows have prizes so that makes it more intriguing.
So Buzz has what seems to be user generated quizzes, is quite quiet and the expression of the avatar is lost into using position, but giving an interesting wisdom of crowds dynamic.
1 Vs 100 puts your avatar in a little booth, but you do see the others playing and it feels you are in competition. No doubt party play and other friend features will come into play as it grows. It is a long game (30 mins) to schedule into the day but it feels more exciting I have to say.
A welcome (and free so far) edition to both consoles I have to say.

Sensing your presence, Handsfree 3d in Second life

A great video by Mitch Kapor is doing the rounds. Part of the wave of things washing away the cave paintings we have of user input and computer output. It is interesting to see it hooked up to Second Life, which as chair of Linden Lab you would expect to see. However this shows that the technology and software is out there, and is coming to fruition to track our movements and get gesture based, controller free computing up and running. Like Project Natal on the 360 this starts to make things more accessible rather than us chimping on controllers and keyboards all the time.
Of course there is the issue of feedback, of muscle memory and patterns formed from understanding the resistance physics gives us, but that does not mean these are not going to be useful technologies. In fact having watched people (and also doing it myself) even when using a regular controller moving the body to somehow impart that extra turn, leaning back to slow down more means that there may well be a place for the hybrid solution. Controllers for precise feedback, knowing the limit of a steering lock in a car etc, but enhanced by body movement.

See more as it appears atΒ http://www.handsfree3d.com/

Rock star game developers in Brighton

I just spent 2 days in Brighton just along the south coast at the Develop conference. This conference is for the games industry, of which there is a huge talented base of people here in the UK. Brighton is particularly well served too with games and related industry people, though the conference had people from all over the world.
Develop 09 Brighton

The first day I attended was a new set of tracks from the traditional game development case studies and deep dives. It was entitled Evolve. Very much aimed at trying to show the games industry that the world is changing and its not all shrink wrapped products and giant corporations. Hence, that was an ideal place to check out.

I am not specifically from the games industry, but I am a gamer and I think bringing games technology and virtual worlds to enterprise and education has been an unusual but growing niche. What I was struck by was that like enterprise the games industry has a lot of people who for various reasons have locked into certain ways of thinking and of doing things. This means that some of the great (though initially small) opportunities are ignored in favour of the more tried and tested and seemingly worthy approaches. The industry is obviously slightly more sparky and used to sudden departures from the norm, but as it is really just regular enterprise and box shifting to the money men it shares much of the inertia of other corporate environments.

This explains why the games industry has not dived into and all over corporate and social use of virtual worlds, why elements of social media and user created content are still rare in mainstream games. It will happen, but it will be the independents and mavericks that make it happen but niche innovation.

So what did I attend and hear?

Resetting the Game: A keynote by David Perry,

David Perry is of course a gaming name that resonates with me as a consumer, and it was great to see and hear him enthuse.

Much of what he talked about was the changes in the games industry brought about by digital distribution. In particular he was showingΒ http://www.gaikai.com/ the principle being that of Cloud gaming. There is still much speculation on cloud in general (or grid computing as we used to call it) however this is a clear crossover with every other industry. If your local processing cannot deal with something, or you local storage can’t keep something then with good network connections there is no reason to now process things elsewhere.

I do not think this is an either or solution, but a blended one. It will of course bring new ways to play and rent video game time, pay per play and per use.

Mobile Moving Games to a new beat : Dance Fabulous – Mark Ollila Nokia

Mark was showing the evolution of a freeform dance game on Nokia devices, featuring custom avatars, your own music collection and a mix of rhythm action pattern following and just expressive dance in a range of styles. Nokia Dance Fabulous also features a new artist Cindy Gomez who when the project started was right at the start of her career, and being featured in the game turned out to coincide with a blended discovery of her work by the media. Dave Stewart is all connected into this as he is a Nokia advisor, so it make an interesting cross platform story. (Mark handed out a few Nokia mirror balls after his talk and apparently my Ed Hardy t-shirt attracted his attention as I got one.)
Green Spikey hair biker

The last session before Lunch was

20 Great Innovations in Casual, Social and Mobile Games That You Should Steal : Stuart Dredge, Pocket Gamer

Stuart is a gaming journalist and writer and admitted up front there were more that 20 things in his slide deck. For those of us who work and experience social media this was very much a validation of the sort of things we say about how to engage people, how to start small, how to adjust on the fly, how to tap into leveling up and bragging. He pointed out a few interesting trends such as the Spymasters and 140 mafia’s of the world, and that these principles should not be ignored in order to make what they call AAA games titles.

A common theme across the day(s) was that there was a massive base of people being able to just deliver and publish content now with facebook, web apps, iphone, unity3d, etc.

Most notable and funny was of course the conversation about Rainbow Poo in Pet Society. Pet Society is a casual/social pet based game. It has developed a cult following too. Whilst this seems to many people an odd expression of a way to reward use of a system people value things that happen with their pet. Certain conditions and unknown actions have led to some special excretions from the pets. (Given there are more than one physical kids toys on the market this may start to seem less strange). The digital asset that is rainbow poo is very rare, rarity brings value to those that care.

After a great lunch with Ren (Renzephyr) Reynolds, Jim (Babbage Linden)Purbrick and Dave (nanodave)Taylor talking all things metaverse. Imperial College’s healthcare project featuring on the Second Life home page amongst other things. This was great as it was a grounding and crossover with the rest of the people, of whom I knew many names and faces but I was more of a consumer than part of the industry (have to rectify that I think!). Jim is part of the advisory council for Develop and had pushed for the Evolve conference to try and extend peoples knowledge.

Next up.

How Social Networks Will Change How You Make, Play and Sell Games Tomorrow : Kristian Segerstrale, Playfish

This was a very passionate and evangelizing pitch from a very successful company in the online casual games market. Kristian was very clear in explaining the the business model and the opportunities to engage with people across social networks and related platforms is very different to the shrink wrap AAA title. This part of the industry is usually online, and is able to capture huge amounts of data and statistics on usage. It was this data that Kristian was clearly indicating had to be considered. Knowing what people liked and disliked through data analysis was what the new marketing professionals in the industry had to come to understand. It is knowing what is happening almost live that allows the various games to evolve. They can evolve because of the way they are delivered. Start small but prepare for big seemed to be a message. One that I totally agree with. Elements of free to play, generating dedicated fans and then gaining money from that to sustain the business is important. Playfish of course do Pet Society (See Rainbow Poo above).

For me this was a busman’s holiday, it is a case study, as with some of my previous work, of engaging with people and driving things across various platforms. Kristian was also acting as a guardian for the industry, reminding the other companies to not make spam as that will kill the industry. Act with integrity, make people happy not annoyed. You can already see some lazy marketing efforts across social media and casual games. I believe we will manage to bypass those by ignoring them or finding ways to filter things out.

Launch Your Game Across Multiple Mobile and Social Platforms Without Killing Your Team Chris White, Glu Mobile
This was primarily about dealing with the complexities of going from low end java phones to Iphone and Android and how the there are porting considerations. It was interesting that one game was ported to Android in about 2 weeks by a new hire who was a good programmer and picked up the java source and learned the android platform.
Another consideration that Chris covered was the move into a facebook flash game and how you cannot simply port mobile to web. This was an interesting direction change. It used to be people talking about how they could get their games and content onto a mobile. This was a mobile company trying to come back the other way.

How Social Networks And Emerging Platforms and Technologies Will Re-Shape Gaming’s Oldest Genre Struan Robertson Gutso Games
This was one of my favourite presentations for crossover. Struan was explaining how sports games and sports experiences can be enhanced with technology and games.
Why was this so good? Well Struan mentioned Wimbledon and Hawkeye, real life data and how things could be done with it ( in the Q&A I had to come out of stealth delegate mode and say that not only was it highly possible but that was precisely what had happened in 2006). He also covered Augmented Reality potentials. I don’t need to write much more other than I think we were most definitely on the same page and I would recommend listening to him if you are in the games industry. He is right on the money!

I missed the next session as I had to go and find my hotel, but I was straight back for the closing keynote by David Edery, Pincipal, Fuzbi

The Long Tail and Games: How Digital Distribution Changes Everything

On David’s site he has posted his ppt, I had already blogged some time ago about his great book Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business: How Video Games Are Transforming the Business World and we had been introduced to one another by Wagner James Au. So once again I felt a connection with the content and the presenter.

David was pointing out that the Long Tail of digital distribution is still influenced by the market demands and that the gate keepers and ing makers are still able to make a hit a hit in a sea of content.
He also talked about how an eco system without a gatekeeper or trusted source will be flawed.
David was also very clear that just having exceptional quality will not make a game or experience a mass market success. This is of course a common problem. People assume that great things will happen because they should, either by effort or quality of idea. This was really a rallying call to sensible and engaging marketing, even as a small startup you have to make friends and enagage.
It was also bang on the money that many of the elements of the current games industry are completely missing enablers for Long Tail at all. Whilst some games are engaging with ratings and UGC, shared experiences etc the consoles are not really built to deal with it. They are all aiming to get there, PS3 Home, XBox NXE are trying.
Unity3d, Flash and Torque also got a mention aswell as iphone for indie developers to just get on with it.
I should add to that Mark Rein from Epic was sat behind me, a brush with rock and roll stardom. Though he seemed to be happy to comment out loud with various exclamations. I guess you cant argue with the success of Unreal engine can you? Still I hope that dave realized the noises and sub heckling was not from me but from the person behind πŸ™‚

Then it was a an evening’s entertainment across at the Linden Lab party with some great conversations with everyone. I still never get to talk to everyone as those gathering inevitably we get into some deep conversation. So hello to everyone. We then retired to the Koba Bar somewhere for Credit Crunch cocktails and some interesting conversations about the games industry, and also certain other larger companies and their attitudes and policies. That though is not for blogging as its off the record conversation πŸ™‚

Day 2 kicked off with a change of pace and some new delegates, as this was now the main part of Develop not Evolve.

Online Functionality for Your Next Game? Why Not Go 100% Online : David Jones Realtime Worlds
David Jones is somewhat of a legend and he admitted he seldom did conferences. (Though to be fair he has rather a good new development to plug so it really did make sense).
He has been the driving force behind some of the best and my favourite games of all time. So I switched very much into Fan Boi mode for his pitch. Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown. Anyone one of them would be enough for a wow! you did that! but all 3 is fantastic.
He explained a little about his history (being of my age this all made sense) ZX 81’s etc. He said that he liked to build games that made people laugh as some point too. It was good to hear this history, but even more exciting to hear about where he is taking APB his new game.
The game is a cops and robbers free roaming persistent online experience (my words not his). There is a great article here with actual quotes on gamesindustry.biz
For me the things that stood out.
The avatar customization was tremendously powerful, Dave indicated the problems of needing to be able to distribute customizations in a MMO environment but that they had to compete with the likes of Forza2.
The game is based around celebrity to. It is actively designed to let you become famous in game for various things.
I loved the trailer video because it also featured the brilliant Imelda May in the soundtrack.

The game is PvP multiplayer but introduces some new dynamics. I liked the concept that if 2 people were getting away with murder too much then new players would be introduced to the mix such as 10 police to counteract. All the players of the game are people, players are the content. There are NPC’s as scenery of course.
Another thing that got a round of applause was a little music composition gadget in game. It lets you build a tune/jingle in an old school 8 bit tracker way and then use that to attach it events in world, like someone else’s death. So not only have you taken them out, but you play your theme over them. That can be a funeral march or (as demonstrated) a crazy clown like mario style jingle.
The player customization was also demonstrated by the video of the Obama they made, brilliant and exciting stuff indeed. Buzzed indeed! and a true gaming legend presenting the idea.

Playstation Home – First Term Report: Peter Edward

This session was Peter saying how Home was getting on and where it was going. It was interesting to see Peter pitch as I had seen him at VWFE a few years ago, when I was on a separate panel on enterprise virtual world use.

So Home has grown considerably. 7 million downloads, 3 million in europe and 6 million virtual goods bought (include free buy) in europe alone.

Peter showed some of the advances in using Home as a development platform to make interactive games and experiences to support other brands and properties. If you are a registered Playstation developer you have access to the HDK (Home dev kit) though it is a pity we don’t all have access to that in order to explore ideas with the LUA scripting. Whilst I accept they are gating the content and approving it.

Peter also was asked about the problems of the US content being much richer than Europe. There appears to be some underlying politics, but also a genuine element of needing to localize for multiple languages (which the US seldom needs to do).

I was intrigued by the comment that the ability to place your own content in you own apartment ( a feature I like in the closed beta) was available in the US but not in Europe for legal and moderation reasons. That is more than a little irritating.

It was great to see some of the positive things happening, the promotions of watchmen and star trek in world, and the EA Sports hub mini games and poker. All good stuff that may take Home past a lobby.

After lunch (where I got to talk to some great people) it was back to being a fan again

Designer Mash-up: David Braben and Dave Jones play Elite and GTA

As if it was not enough to have the creator of GTA sharing his thoughts and new stuff earlier this session brought in David Braben the co creator of Elite. Elite was one of the games that I suddenly realized back in the 80’s that there really was so much more to games than a timed 10p a go shot now we had home computers. Trading, exploration, dog fights, levelling up in space. Elite is an influence on my thoughts and formative years that really cannot be ignored.
This session was also introduce by William Latham! So it could not get more gamerati.
The two guys talked about their seminal games whilst the other played them on the screen. So Elite running on a BBC emulator and GTA actually running on Vista.
Elite on screen (and next to it)
Braben had some very cool insights into the 18 month process of building elite, being keen to get it out, but the publisher wanting to hold off until after the summer. Stats like it actually sold more copies that there were BBC micro machines as people bought copies to play on their school computer club machines. Procedural generation of the massive star system managing to fit the entire game into 40-50Kb as Braben pointed out the same size as a normal email these days.
Jones talked about the fact the top down GTA was based on pinball with a hint of pac man. It started as a tech demo and they made it into a game. They knew there would be controversy with the idea (it started as a cop game but they wanted to change it to perp). Their publisher BMG was used to rock stars, so they were happy to deal with controversy. They also had Max Clifford as PR for it. He made the call that as it was so cartoony and top down to not show it to anyone. That led to uproar and politicians/daily mail etc getting all het up, then seeing it they we disappointed. A brilliant image πŸ™‚
Watching Jones play Elite on the emulator was funny and as most of the audience had played it (and GTA) there was a common understanding of what had happened as a pirate zeroed in on him only seeing the scanner blip then a debris of his own ship.
In GTA Braben started chasing the odd pedestrian and chased one around and around which got a giggle.
It was interesting to hear the dichotomy that Elite was 3d in a world that only knew 2d at the time so got criticized for that and GTA was top down 2d in a world gone 3d and also got criticized, yet they are 2 of the most influential games in my gaming history.
This was a great session to have been a part of and I hope it got filmed (though I guess you had to be there).

Panel Crossing Over: How Working With Other Industries Can Improve Your Games and Your Bottom Line
Alex Amsel, Jamie Campbell, Adam Russel and Chair Margaret Robertson provided an insight into a creative networking experience called Crossover Labs. The point of the session was to remind people in the games industry the need to engage with other industries (in this case mostly TV and film) to understand one another’s thoughts and processes, but also to get the sort of seeds of ideas that come about when separate industries combine.
I was impressed by the passion that the panel had for the experience. As I was there to cross over with this part of the industry it all resonated. Equally the techniques used and the mashing of people together is pretty much what caused the virtual world industry to blossom. I asked the question if the process used had been adjusted and exercised in virtual worlds and online in order to extend it. That led to a long discussion afterwards.
It is well documented that we use elements of the virtual world to aid in communication and sharing of ideas and opening peoples minds to new thoughts. So watch this space I think.

The Art of LittleBigPlanet – A Big Medley Kareem Ettouney and Mark Healey
This was another rock and roll moment. This brilliant presentation had the co-founders of Media Molecule explain the though processes and creative hurdles that faced them trying to get to the absolutely brilliant Little Big Planet on PS3.
Once you play LBP you can look at what they have day and see that it fits and in some ways you may say “oh thats obvious” but like all brilliant design you almost don’t notice it.
They explained that once they came up with the notion of Hand Made the rest followed from there.
It was also interesting to see the team dynamic. It looked as if Mark was the more edgy and Kareem the more grounding. It reminded me of Liam and Noel in Oasis. They even alluded to where they had the odd massive falling out over some of the ideas.
One telling anecdote was Mark creating the spongeworld previz video. Showing a character interact in teh 2d/3d way with the physics. That worked so well that some of the publishing execs only wanted spongeworld to be developed. So too good a previz can lock peoples ideas too early.
The decisions to end up with menus and icons when they had wanted to keep them out was based on trying to use the in world tools and it getting too much hassle, so as Mark said windows and icons were tried and tested so they gave in. Kareem pointed out that the designers came up with a felt pen look which blended so well with the handmade feel.
They covered the strange and fantastic results of a User Generated Content environment. Users of the system creating things that the team did not think were possible. That seemed to be a real buzz for them.
There was also some discussion about the recent new hire they had in their small team of 30, based on some fantastic work by a fan. His attention to detail and creative thought showcased through his levels.
LBP is particularly amazing in our house as my daughter is a fan and is able to enjoy building and playing levels as much as my peers. The fact that my good friend and long time gamer Mike (who runs MIST Susuki) and I played at the same time as my daughter for several hours and no-one got bored. That was amazing.

So that was it, I had been in the presence of some huge figures that have influence my life and now my kids. It is also an industry that was the reason I started programming because of (back in the 80’s) but somehow fell into corporate enterprise. My journey via the web, virtual worlds and social media and now an entrepreneurial life has led me back.

So look out πŸ™‚ epredator is on the hunt.

Trust me I’m an avatar

Over on the Neilsen blog is a great set of numbers showing that a survey of 25,000 internet users across 50 countries found that people tend to trust the recommendations of friends and online aquaintances much more than anything other interaction.
Trust friends
This should not come as any great surprise, and presumably given these are internet users, bothering to respond to a survey they feel quite strongly about how they get to know about products and ideas and how they choose their path.
This links with the discussion on New World Notes about trusting anonymous avatars. The split between knowing who someone is, versus respecting what they actually do online without needing to know their physical embodiment in any way. I am not going to retype my comment from that discussion, merely to indicate that trust and the effort put into the trust of others is as valid online as offline. The expression of that trust and the notion of understanding the signals we give off in a digital expression (I keep linking back to my Lie to Me post) I find very intriguing and something that become even more important to products, brands and business online given the graph at the start of this post.

If you want people to buy your product, service etc. You need them to get to know you or your representatives in ways that is far more engaging, based on dialogue and trust. That aspirational glossy TV advert will become a very expensive low return item compared to the engagement of a real person with the customers.

Tubin’ AR style

As I wrote the other day AR really is what mobile devices are for. Today Brand Republic (which I saw via various tweets) wrote about this Iphone App that uses the 3GS to locate tube stations and lines (which by their very nature are hard to see as they are undergound).

I also recently tweeted “tweet from future: They used to sit a keyboards and look at screens a few years ago, can you believe that?. AR changed that”.
All that combined with some haptics on the way (possibly) from Apple, this market is set to explode I think. (Thanks to Koreen for bringing that one into my line of sight)

You too can be G.I. Joe at Work or Play

Thankyou Virtual Worlds News for reporting on this development (via Playthings.com) by Hasbro with their G.I. Joe characters. In case you have not read the piece Hasbro(the massive toy company) are running a promotion for the new G.I. Joe movie. On the action figure website you are able to create a custom G.I. Joe character, with various pieces of kit and a background story arc in the profile. The creation of the figure is an entry into a competition and the top 39 winners will have the figure produced for them complete with a scan of their face on the action figure.
Ok so this is not mass 3d printing toy customization (yet) and there have been people who make action figures of you. However this is mainstream use of what is effectively avatar customization.
I am a fan of character collectible action figures. (I am not an obsessive collector but I probably could be). I have always been interested in these iconic sculptures, especially as they really came to the fore with Star Wars back in the late 70’s when I was 10 or 11 years old.
Characters
Character Figures
I am also intrigued by the placement of this and the psychology of play that it taps into. In my very basic understanding of development I believe that the younger children play with toys as an exploration of the physical world, outside of their persona. As they get older kids start to them develop role play, the empathy and excitement of being that character. It is that crossover that we start to get in both video games and virtual worlds. A mix of create-your-own-hero and path, versus reliving and acting as your favorite hero.
The choices of expression, and the resurfacing of that choice we see in adults in both business and leisure activities is highlighted in virtual worlds. It is precisely this that brings discussions of trust and identity, representation of ones personal brand conflicting and complementing the brand of a company you may represent. It also brings a hint of fear to some people who feel they have crafted and controlled their image in one plane, yet opportunity for the explorers and innovators to expand their presence and image in new and interesting ways.
There was something I read recently about the Peter Principle (people being promoted in corporations past their level of competence) and how the random selection of individuals versus the “merit” promotion of individuals had the same results. It is this sort of environment that you get to hear phrases like “Well their face fits”. That refers as much to personal brand fitting with an organization as just the pure looks of a person in a company.
As we become more digitally literate expressions of who we are outside of the boundaries of an organization become more important. Even BBC Click had a section on it about protecting elements of your facebook profile from the eyes of your management.
Of course keeping secrets, yet sharing nearly publicly is a strange thing to do, so I think people are just best to be open and honest and let society evolve around them to understand who they are, and to also let them evolve themselves in how they express themselves.
The question would be (to add an extreme boundary here). If someone had managed to win a G.I. Joe of themselves (which in unlikely in this competition you need to be 6-12 years old BTW) and had it sat on their desk at work, how would that affect your view of them? Have they shown creativity, skill in a new field and proven to be a winner as demonstrated by the personalized trophy they have or are they just too weird and strange for the status quo? Have you seen the expression of an innovative form of engagement with the audience or just a lump of coloured plastic?
I always find it worth considering the toy industry, just as you should consider the games industry. They are real industries and they do make money so discount the products from them as somehow silly or not worthy stops people thinking about new ways to engage with customers.

Being a delegate : Brighton Develop

Yesterday I got my pass/ticket through to the Brighton Develop conference. I am attending the Evolve sessions on the first day, and then the first day of the develop track. I am excited about going to this as for the first time (probably ever) I am going to an industry conference but not as a speaker or booth person. This means the only obligation I have is to Feeding Edge and myself of soaking up the entire thing and getting to know yet more people in the industry. As I see the virtual world industry and the games industry as very much on a collision/merger course seeing who is doing what fits nicely on this companies mission.
So as per usual if you are there come say hi or track me down. I wont be hiding in any corners, though if the weather remains this hot I may have to just carry my leather jacket πŸ™‚
Heading for Develop 09

Update: It will of course mean I will miss the excellent Southampton based @tuesdaytweetup at Dock Gate 4 so hi to everyone remotely.

You are able to confer – virtual gatherings all over the place

The last few days have seen a good few events in both virtual and physical space. It is a mini conference season.
The first (that I had to drop out of half way through) was Raph Koster talking to Cory Ondrejka in Metaplace.
metaplace talk raph and cory
This was notable for several reasons. The first was the number of Second Life friends in there. With a back channel conversation about how we were all happy to have both SL and Metaplace as places to gather for different reasons. The second was that Raph was kind enough to pick up on my question that relates to avatars and what they actually are. I asked “Can we have our avatars be the room?”. Cory spotted the similarity with the concept of being a Dungeon Master which is the though that got me on this track a while back.
Also Metaplace has now become embedable in pages. So your event can be seen live by people sitting on your blog as Cory did.
The other event has been Cisco Live, with some spin off panels in Second Life. I was not able to attend the first of these on Virtual Universities but the excellent treet.tv has this archived already In addition they have archives of all the Metanomics shows including my first outing as Feeding Edge should wish to listen to what I said again and pick me up on any of it down the line πŸ™‚
I managed to attend the other SL event though. This was about the sensor networks and the Stirling “internet of things”.
cisco live

spimes at cisco

There was a great crowd there and the panel expanded and explained the trend we are seeing of a massive amount of simple connected devices being spread over the planet. Spimes (Space+Time) being one of the main descriptions of them as championed by David Orban
In the post event I sort of changed from audience to presenter as I showed off my mini wearable presentations which turns me into a virtual peacock to show off some ideas. It was not a spamming or griefing excercise but just sprung out the conversation.
Another post event discovery was when the audio stream switched to Kona Radio Gospeed Racer was at the event too. They played a fantastic mashup that I had not come across. (Sorry to the cool kids who alread know of this artist). It was called Boulevard of Broken songs by Party Ben. This was an incredible mash of Green Day and Oasis (Plus Travis and Eminem). I checked out some more of the songs and they are all fantastic, cleverly technically but also creatively. Well worth checking out.
This of course highlights the importance of the post event mingle that we get in virtual worlds again. The 10 mins after the event let me connect with a fellow SLer who often came to SL Wimbledon (Hi Sean), show of some ideas live to an interested audience and also have my ears opened to an artist I had not come across. (You don’t get that on a telecon do you !)
Finally in the events list there is the event that I did not get to in physical or virtual form, but that instead had some great coverage from my good friend Roo Reynolds.
He always takes great notes and shares the salient points on his blog. In this case the Guardian Activate 09 gathering.
The official site is also still live
In particular I liked these lines by Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

  • Mainstream media suffers from attention deficit disorder. New media suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • You consume old media sitting on your couch. You consume new media galloping on a horse.
  • The cost of launching a new business is now so low that sometimes it’s indistinguishable from starting a new hobby
  • The Guardian covered Arrianna’s speech in an article
    As a gathering and conference with the tag line “Politics, economics, technology and society: Building a better future through the internet” the whole thing was well aligned with my interests as Feeding Edge, so I am thankful as I could not attend that I got a version in Roovision.