GameCamp 4

May. 16th, 2011 11:19 pm
jodi: (Default)
[personal profile] jodi

May 14th, 2011 saw GameCamp 4 happening in London's South Bank University. GameCamp is an unconference, similar to a BarCamp, where anyone can run a session on a topic of their choice, but GameCamp is obviously game themed. Participants of GameGamp 4 chose a room and a time, and then wrote the name of their session on a large white board.

It was the second GameCamp in London that I have attended. The first was in 2008 and I think was the first unconference I attended. Since then I have been to BarCamps in Bath, London, Manchester, and Southampton, StixCamp in Newstead (Australia), Trampoline in Melbourne (Australia), and UXCamp in London. This meant I had an idea of how things would work, but still did not know what any of the talks would be about.

After arriving at GameCamp 4, we were given Lego minifigs, which we were supposed to swap pieces of with other people to make the minifigs look more like ourselves.


A list of GameCamp 4 sessions is available on Lanyrd. These are the sessions I attended:

Distillation of Gameplay:

The Distillation of Gameplay session was run by Steven Goodwin at 10:00. Although the sessions were supposed to be half an hour, this one went on for a full hour, and touched on a number of interesting topics.

Games need balance - too difficult and the player gets frustrated, too easy and the player gets bored. Boss battles seem to temporarily step away from this - many of us can think of an annoying game where we thought we were adequately progressing through the game, until the boss battle, where we were defeated as soon as the boss appeared. It was wondered if boss battles were a relic left over from arcade machines, and if their reason for being was initially to end the game, so that the player would then put more money in the arcade machine to attempt to defeat the boss. A suggestion was made that boss battles could be seen as a milestone in a game, and that although they may break immersion and were not always narratively satisfying, they would stop a game from just fizzling out.

Kids today are not used to having games without save points and a score that goes back to zero. Are games today heading back to the D&D style of the 1970s, which were narratively complex and placed importance on progressing your character? World of Warcraft could be seen as quite similar to Farmville in this respect.

It was asked whether you can you get into a state of Flow with Farmville and it was concluded that you could as it becomes part of your Internet loop - you check your email, then Twitter, then Facebook, then Farmville, etc, and then go through the sequence again, particularly if you are bored at work and have less choice about what to play. You could pay 99p for something more interesting than your day job, so that you can progress further in Farmville, or you may turn into a cow pusher, gaming your friends. As you might play Farmville or other similar games on your phone, then the location you play them in, who you are playing with, etc, are also part of the game setting and should not be dismissed.

For games that do have a flat fee, it can seem frustrating to pay for the whole game, but not have access to much of the game, if you cannot get past earlier levels. There are often cheat codes or saved games, but should you just jump to the end? You are likely to miss out on the experience. Maybe rules are needed after all. Football would just become a fight between 11 people without rules.

Sex (in games)

I then went to the session on Sex (in games), at 11:00, run by MonkeyBanjo. Another interesting session.

Is game sex like real life sex? Although the field of teledildonics is providing increasingly more elaborate sexual aids, what about the social side, such as taking people on dates, and what about relationships?

Violence is often seen as being more acceptable than sex. In violent games, it is usually more efficient to involve less emotion, but should this be the same for sex? The best sex may involve lots of emotional content and romance.

Games with sexual content include: Dragon Age 2, The Witcher, forum-based roleplaying (such as Harry Potter forums), Second Life (including cyber prostitution), LARP.

What is the point of sex in games? In forum-based roleplaying, the relationship between characters in narratives is important and sex is part of the story. In some games, sex may be part of the game mechanics as opposed to the story, and in Dragon Age 2, it is a reward. Sex needs to be appropriate and useful to the game.

Sex is often not very erotic in games, as what a person finds erotic is often a very personal thing.

Does sex need to be serious? It could be a laugh like in Carry On films.

In most games, it is just your avatar having sex, so it seems like a second hand experience. Is it easier to be turned on by books than films? Characters without much personality are easier to project onto.

Should the adult entertainment industry work together with the videogame industry more?

Should video games with sex be designed to appeal just to straight male gamers? They may have felt betrayed by Dragon Age 2, but game players come from a diverse community and different backgrounds, and can be included without excluding straight male gamers.

Not just video games that have difficulties with sex - LARP also. Characters may sit in a tent, and boundaries blur, as relationships are a core part of LARP.

Should seduction just be a stat?

A Gladiatorial session about Narrative:

The next session I went to, at 12:00, was A Gladiatoral session about Narrative, but I did not take any notes. One difference I found between GameCamp 1 and GameCamp 4 was that the first GameCamp seemed to have a lot of sessions on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), where as GameGamp 4 seemed to have a lot of discussion about narrative.  This may have just been the sessions I went to though.

Are games astronomy?:

At 12:30, I went to Are games astronomy? by Mitu Khandaker. She quoted Carl Sagan and Alan Moore, and told us we're made of star stuff, software is a tool for the mind, and games help us explain what it is to be human and what we don't know about ourselves.

Then there was lunch, which included aubergines, focaccia and Diet Coke. (Thank-you sponsors!)

User-Centred Design - Can it help games?:

At 13:30, as I have an interest in user-centred design, I went to the session on User-Centred Design - Can it help games?  which was run by Alistair Gray. Although people mostly talked about personas, paper prototyping, and other concepts that I am already familiar with, it was still interesting to find out whether these were actually found to be useful in the games industry. Alistair's write-up: UCD and Games.

Is Gamification Infectious?:

At 14:30, I went to the session on Is Gamification Infectious?

The presenter explained that she plays FourSquare and finds that it does change her behaviour. She will convince her friends to go to certain restaurants (possibly without telling them the reason) due to FourSquare.

Examples of gamification of normal life were given, such as:
Mileage/petrol - keeping track of your mileage and petrol usage can be useful, but there was a case where this caused a car crash due to a driver paying too much attention to these.
Project management tools - give you badges for using shortcut keys, but employees than waste time by continually clicking the shortcut keys to get the badges.
Rewards for reading manuals.
Badges for running.
Pokemon pedometer.
System that gives you points for helping people.

Meta-gamification and gamification of gamification were also mentioned.

The Frontiers of Game Interaction:

At 15:00, I went to the session on the Frontiers of Game Interaction.

Examples of different ways to interact with games were discussed, as well as games they were used for:

Wii - skiing
Kinect- generative platform
Embedded sensors
Mobile gaming - Accelerometer, GPS
Oyster - repurposing data - Chromaroma
Biometric - Jedi training - meditation / move stones around the screen
Sound - Guitar Hero
Touch - Angry Birds
Breathing - ocarina
Face tracking

Face tracking can help tell how happy people are.
Levels of oxytocin increase when stroking animals. Do they also increase when using touch screens, as opposed to mice?

The varieties of experiences: very different feelings playing all sorts of games:

At 15:30, I went to the session on The varieties of experiences: very different feelings playing all sorts of games. I didn't take notes, but I remember people describing how scared they felt when playing certain games.


GameCamp 4 ended with a wrap-up session and then headed to the Student Union for drinks. I then realised I had an old copy of Amiga Power in my bag and found that even though it was from 1995, it still made me laugh.

All the sessions I attended at GameCamp 4 were interesting and there were other sessions I wish I had attended also, but it is not possible to attend everything. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet cool new people and in general, I very much enjoyed GameCamp 4.
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