Gaming Visionaries

In an exclusive interview, games industry veterans Ian Bogost, Gordon Walton and Valerie Massey talk trends in gaming.

Games made to be built by gamers

To answer the growing sense of ownership that players have over their games, which is now instantly expressed through the explosion of social media, the topic of user generated content became the focus of our discourse. Massey was particularly eager to see deeper cooperative play in future games, “What I’ve seen playing social media games like on Facebook, they haven’t hit on what made game so wonderful, I mean in my own experience going back to Ultima Online which was my first MMO going back to 1997/98 where it was cooperative play in a much different way than you have cooperative play now in the social media games, I really miss that where you create your own stories and you would take what they threw in the sandbox for you to play with and build your own castles and towns and that’s what I keep waiting for, I know it’s a matter of time.”


So what is limiting an influx of games more tailored for user generated content? Massey believes there needs to be a confluence of circumstances, “I’ve talked to designers who have been in the industry for years before I was and it was always a matter of technology catching up, designers catching up and then the players catching up. We’re always chasing after somebody else, I’m excited for that and I feel we’re very close to it.”

There are some examples of games which have flourished due to the users being given the tools to enrich their own experience. Ian Bogost cited one game in particular, “We also have Minecraft as what is a user generated content MMO even though it doesn’t look like a user generated content game or an MMO, it’s the fragmentation that happens in genres, they split and alter and change and little bits of what stuck can be traced back genealogically to user contributions in games like Little Big Planet, or Spore. You can trace back that genealogy of the whole players being in a persistent world to MMOs.”

Bogost noted that the organic development of games with user generated content can lead to the market’s instant desire to copy success, which isn’t always the best approach, “These lines aren’t necessarily embracing one genre, there’re specific bits of DNA of games attaching to others and creating weird Frankenstein monsters that no one knows what to do with. One of them breaks out, and everyone goes “What made Minecraft so successful? We need to copy that and make another Minecraft,” but maybe what made it so successful is the fact it evolved rather than being engineered.”
An aspect of user generated content in games that might not be an immediate concern to players, but is a big issue for developers, is how that content can be abused. Massey spoke of one phrase which summed up those problems concisely: “We had the term at CCP which was TTP: Time to Penis; which means how long it takes for you to introduce an element to the game and for your players to turn it into a sophomoric penile joke out of it. It sounds funny and people have a tendency to giggle but it can also be a serious problem, when you’re attempting to appeal to masses. I know as a mother I don’t want my kid to be exposed to that kind of stuff, but for some people that’s the game for them.”
Balancing freedom and the need to limit the abuse of said freedoms is something Massey is an expert on regarding community management, “How do you create a game that allows people to express themselves but not impinge on people.  That’s the whole community thing.  It can get a bit wonky when you’re trying to be too many things to too many people. It’s when you start adding real people to the mix and letting them mingle among themselves it gets a little tricky.”
Tags: News


Free account required to post

You must log in or create an account to post messages.