Understanding Video Games text-book
The future is now - The art, science, and business of computer games

Date posted: May 14, 2006
Updated: Oct 24, 2006

By Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen (sen@game-research.com)

Noone with some connection to the game industry - whether as a developer, academic, researcher, producer or publisher, can be unaware of the growing need and efforts for establishing better bonds between these areas.

In the last weeks we have seen a 2 day academic summitat the Game Developer Conference in US (California) and the game conference Playing the Future in UK (Manchester University) both with the intention of bringing together members of the academic and game development communities. And on the 6-8. of June a new effort will be made in Tampere, Finland (http://www.gamesconference.org). Here, focus will also be on making the academics and developers cooperate around a specific subject - in this case game design or gameplay in workshops.

The conference in Manchester was a decent attempt to unite the representatives from the different areas of the gaming community even though the focus, at times, seemed a little unclear. The conference could best be described as a warm-up before the different institutions and people agree on one major conference, enabling everyone to reach the volume necessary for combining art, business, and science. This could indeed be a very interesting project that could further support the development of Europe as a leading game market perhaps even outgrowing US and Japan.

The conference also underlined that even though stereotypes and reservations between arts, science and business are not as marked as some may have believed, they do exist. And for good reasons. There are real challenges in establishing synergies between the fields. It is futile to mix all the subjects in all areas and conference planners should keep in mind that one needs to accommodate different needs from academics, developers, designers and publishers. It seems evident that academics would not attend a conference where the focus where on game programming techniques but it seems harder to define what academic research is of interest to the game companies.

The conference clearly showed that the interest and research into computer games continues to grow but that we are still in the early stages. We lack basic agreement on central terms and a foundation to build on.

Too many talks started by defining the basics of gaming. This shows that we have a long way to go. Furthermore, it was clear that some were not that experienced in the game areas. Some researchers didn’t play games as such or had tried it in connection to their research project. This is unacceptable - nobody can justify not lending a couple of hours to getting acquainted with their primary research topic.

Some of the interesting talks that I heard were Jesper Juul on Gameplay, Kim Jay on Entry strategies of Lineage and Timothy Dumbleton on education and games.

This column should be see as one step in the direction of a new level of cooperation where not everything is considered relevant and worthwhile to share. If we think that we can just mix all game conferences we are back to square one and risk that academics on the one hand will say that they lack the opportunity to get in-depth on issues related to their research and on the other hand developers and publishers saying that they can’t see how the research is applicable to their everyday challenges.

Rather, the focus should be on easy-to-understand synergy effects and quick wins, for example the large amount of academic research into the demographics and patterns of play among different player types. This could be of direct relevance to developers and publishers in making more interesting games. This would generate the trust and necessary relations between the areas of art, business and science. Furthermore, a way would be to use the different areas as teachers or consultants thereby making relations on a concrete project.

We would like to encourage you to give feedback on this topic in the forum or send it to admin@game-research.com

The column is a subjective view of Game-Research and can as such not be considered research.

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