Creative Social presents: Fanboy

Last night Creative Social held their first ‘Fanboy‘ series, the subject, gaming. And in typical gamer fashion, the evening started with a battery change. Nathan Cooper of Rubbishcorp/Anomaly compered the night introducing us to his love of gaming and Mario.

The ‘simplest and most usable’ of interfaces has meant that the iconic plumber still has such an influence on people – even those who weren’t even born when the game was released. Nathan introduced us to a whole world of the music of Mario where people remix, reinterpret and reprogram the simple melody composed by Koji Kondo over 20 years ago.

Before handing over to the first speaker of the night, we were left with a thought: Gaming is no less geeky than it ever was, we’ve just all caught up and become a bit more geeky ourselves.

First up, Stephen Curran from OneLifeLeft showed us a clip of Iggy Pop being interviewed in 1977 and describing the state of Punk Rock – a term he claimed was based on contempt of the genre and everything it entailed. Stephen argued that the same applied to video games – a term he admitted to hating. As a consultant, writer, radio host and professional talker, his love of video games started when he was young (and ‘WICKED’) but as he grew older, like Punk Rock, he evolved making the transition from Sci-fi to Pride & Prejudice.

That was until Parappa The Rappa came along. In seeing this game he realised that gaming wasn’t just limited to killing things – it has the power to repackage almost any aspect of the real world and that’s exactly what he saw with Parappa. Soon after this he bought a copy of Edge magazine and 3 months later was writing for them.

This brought him back to Punk Rock – this time with a Steve Albini statement where he described Punk Rock starting out as one thing and evolving into another, for instance Green Day starting out as one of the most vigorous US punk bands turning into a broadway show. Now not everyone may like their evolution but it is ‘no less creatively interesting’ and the same can be said about games and gaming.

Next at the front was an absolute legend in gaming circles, Chris Deering. In September 1995, he changed the face of gaming with the launch of Playstation. Over 80 million units, over a billion games and some of the most memorable advertising campaigns of recent years later (the poster used above was apparently roach papers they handed out to gamers, though they called them ‘bookmarks’), Chris still remains young at heart and loves to keep people guessing.

The ability to interact and control something on the screen, albeit something as simple as a white circle, was a concept of engagement that had never before been experienced. Before this, the closest you could get was interactive books where you bounce between different pages depending on your decisions. This ‘lean forward’ concept that gaming brought about was revolutionary. This brought about five rules which still govern and influence the way games are made and played: exploration, achievement, competitiveness, socialising and kill are still as valid and relevant as they ever were.

Chris then started to talk about the value of games and how something like Solitaire, which is one of the most played games of all time, doesn’t have the recognition something like Farmville has. But deeper than that, the increasing numbers of free games out there devalues the entire market, or ‘beer rule’ as Chris described it. When Pacman came out, he said, it cost something nearer to £120, whereas nowadays you’d expect a big game to cost around £40-50, or as he then put it ‘what used to cost 20 beers, is now 10′.

I was interested to hear that it is the free games and not piracy that is the greatest threat to the value system. Maybe rather naively, it’s still pretty amazing to me to think that the same rules don’t necessarily apply to games as do the film or music industry. Maybe that’s because I’ve never properly thought about the way that games are consumed, perhaps I’ve always put them in the same bracket as films and music. There are also so many different types of games – ones that you can spend hours on end trying to complete or simple pick up and play games. Thinking about my own consumption, I probably play console/PC games every other weekend but play pool on my phone almost every day, yet I don’t consider it ‘proper’ gaming.

Back to the talk – the future was Chris’ next focus, and that of a completely connected gaming community where multiplayer and social gaming was king. Again this got me thinking and I asked him whether it spelled the death of single player games (the latest games in the COD and FIFA franchises for instance have significantly more content and options available to you if you play online with others than you would as a lone player). He retorted that the building blocks of gaming apply to single player games as much as they do for multiplayer and as such single player features will always exist.

In Chris’ eyes the advent of the Kindle Fire is one of the most exciting things and he predicted a massive explosion of gaming on this device. He even cited interactive books making a comeback and at the same time he mentioned radio mysteries and the power of the mind which has somewhat been overlooked in game design (though there was this innovative idea from Foam last year).

‘The notion of the word TV will no longer exist…it will just be a bigger screen than the other screens in your life.’

After what was one of the most interesting talks I’d heard in a long while, he left us with this: There are many untapped goldmines left in the gaming industry. If you surprise people and make them believe that they can have an impact in the game, then you’re onto a winner. Simple really…

Following Chris was Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic. His talk was based around the gamification of life and the essence of the fun of gaming. He first described his own approach to games – whether it was his own attitudes, or the attitude he has as a father toward games and finally that as an academic. He fully admitted he likes to politicise things and then run with the discussion and consequences.

So why is gaming fun? The aesthetic beauty, autonomy, creative expression, novelty and humour are at the heart of it, essentially there is freedom in constraint and that is why we still love gaming. ‘Fun is just another word for learning’ – Ralph Koch.

Play is replicative of real life – complex animals do this all the time – whether or not people are aware of it, people play to prepare for things they may encounter in the future.

He moved onto a discussion about whether advertisers should ‘give a damn about the rich humanism of play-game scholarship’ and whether advertisers take the intrinsic values of gaming across into their campaigns.He talked about how ad and communications companies try to impress upon clients that their communications should be ‘as rich a system for mass-market audiences as possible’ yet he left us with a thought that will undoubtedly become more and more pressing as time wears on – that of the environmental impact on consumerism and how much it will affect our society in 10 years and how advertisers will have to adapt to this new change.

@evalottchen created this lovely drawing of the night for your viewing pleasure…

For the first in a series, this Fanboy talk really sets the standard. A fascinating evening with 3 fascinating guests all topped off with free sponsor beer really made it a great night. There will be a write up on the Creative Social blog by the end of the week so keep your eyes peeled. More nights like this are needed, we look forward to the next…

The YCC.

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