Susan O’Connor knew from the age of four that she wanted to be a writer. What she didn’t know was that she would grow up to work in the videogame industry, where the audience runs wild. “In games, agency matters,” says O’Connor. “Players want to control the action.” Out of necessity and desperation, she (and writers like her) have found new ways to tell their stories.
Like magicians palming quarters, some game developers hide their plots in plain sight. Their sleight-of-hand gives players the freedom they expect and the storylines they demand. But these magic tricks come at a surprising cost. What are these game narratives telling us about our world – and ourselves?
Games in O’Connor’s portfolio have sold over ten million copies and generated more than half a billion dollars in sales. In her thought-provoking TEDxBeaconStreet talk, O’Connor spills the beans about what she’s learned about writing, illusion, and desire.
A native of Austin, O’Connor now lives in San Francisco and splits her time between game projects, TV assignments, and surfing.
I’m extremely embarrassed that I haven’t been blogging for such a long time! I have so much to tell. I haven’t even mentioned Insert Coin here yet – which is an insult to my communications profession. Can we just say that I’ve been very busy and I’ve been having a hell of a lot of fun!
We collaborated with several others in getting this done so the program tended to confuse people, and at certain times even ourselves. So it was a difficult concept to communicate which will be much better next year when we’ll be more independent.
When I was writing my masters I became a fan of T.L. Taylor and her incredible knowledge of play and play culture. She seemed to have an excellent grasp of what was happening with online gaming and the players. I’ve been out of the game for so long that I wasn’t aware that she was researching e-sports and she’s recently written a book called, “Raising the Stakes. E-Sports and the Professionalization of Compute Gaming”. I’ll be buying it and I look forward to reading it. I’m curious about e-sports and T.L. Taylor is such an enjoyable writer that I’m certain I’ll love it. I don’t know why e-sports baffles me because I generally do enjoy watching others play. I’m starting to think it has something to do with the commentators.
Anways … she shares a lovely and powerful video of spectators and players at EVO 2o11 on her blog (which I also just found – I am so way behind!). I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
I’ve been looking forward to this game being released for a long time. And I therefore have to give a little personal rant before talking about the game:
I’m a huge fan of Turbo Tape Games. They’ve done so much excellent work in bringing the computer games industry into the spotlight in Norway and doing an excellent job in preaching the value of the industry. These guys have opened so many doors and broken down so many barriers for the future of game development in Norway – I hope that we can do it justice. I remember meeting Fredrik Sundt Breien (Managing Director) at a First Tuesday event about games (OMG! 7 years ago!). He has the charisma and enthusiasm to charm any audience into believing that games are worth investing in – which he’s done! And continues to do so as he’s speaking at (Bergen’s new innovators and The Nordic Media Festival). In many ways I guess I’m kinda jealous, cause I’d like to do the exact same thing some day.
I met the technical director, Jan Haugland, at the Industrial Gaming conference, which was also one of my first presentations of Machinima hungover – thankfully come a long way since then! We had an indept conversation about game mechanics and the genious of Tetris, the details elude me, but I remember the happy feeling of meeting a good friend that day.
As for the rest of the gang – we still haven’t reached the threshold where hugs are a natural greeting.
So when Turbo Tape Games was established, it was only natural for me to invite myself and the cHixOrs (pre Spillpikene) to visit the headquarters at Pixel Park. My what a long way they’ve come! I remember spending a good hour in their cramped office and still having absolutely no clue what Naval War was about. All I saw was a lot of code I did not understand and a lot of indication that this game was going to be just a tad too complicated for my taste.
But as you may have understood from the long personal rant and reminiscing – I adore them and on launch day of Naval War: Arctic Circle – I wanted to stop by and wish them good luck. I incidently had a meeting next door and thought I’d stop by with the gift of coffee and wish them good luck. They were surprisingly calm and relaxed and I felt like such a fan girl being so enthused and excited for them.
And then … I was allowed to try the game and I was scared.
Will Wheaton has a great new show on table top games on the new YouTube channel Geeks & Sundry. I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually watched the whole thing! So he invites guests and they play through a table top game entertainingly and informatively. This time around was Small World. There’s some great camera angles and it’s beautifully edited so that I learn the game as I chuckle and I don’t get bored. Extra kudos for inviting a woman! I hope they do Android at some time because it’s still in my closet after ending play with a big unison sigh after a dinner party over a year ago. Having a program like this to make me understand the goal and rules of the game will be lovely. And Mr. Wheaton is just the perfect game master for such a show! Very cool gaming table!
I just watched this wonderful keynote by Leigh Alexander on the challenges of being a female journalist and being labelled a feminist journalist because she writes about things such as computer games. She really gives a lot of her own personal experiences and I’m very thankful for that. I recognise a lot of what she brings up. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and a bit daunting being asked to have an opinion or a voice for an entire gender, speaking on behalf of all woman everywhere. I don’t even feel comfortable talking on behalf of female gamers. But Alexander is great at pointing out that we already have some wonderful female role models in the game industry out there and that we shouldn’t let ourselves be silenced for our gender or that the pressure of talking on behalf of a gender is too awesome. Her conclusion was absolutely great: “I believe that games can speak to more people than they already do and in order for that to happen they need all of our voices – they need you!”. Thanks Mathias Poulsen for recommending it!
So sorry for the delay of this post. Real Life has claimed my full focus the last couple of weeks and I also had to reach some deadlines applying for funding
Kristian Bjørkelo - journalist
to do the game again in Oslo in February. So thanks for being patient. I hope that my memory of the events are still somewhat intact.
I can’t take complete credit for the conclusions that I’ll be writing here. On the last gaming day we had a great debrief session and a lot of the observations I will mention here are from that. Almost all of the players had something they wanted to share in the debrief, so I credit them all with these observations.
I have so incredibly much to share from the week of playing The World Peace Game that I’m thinking it may just have to come in installments. I think I will try to break it down to three parts.
Part 1: My overall impression of what The World Peace Game is
Part 2: The beautiful people that I got to play with and how their unique minds and hearts contributed to a mind blowing experience.
Part 3: My thoughts on how the game can exist without it’s founding father.
In October I was very privileged to attend a dinner organised by Bergen International Film Festival - BIFF (falls under the category “Love my job”). Here I met a very enthusiastic gaming man named Erik. BIFF is one of, if not THE, largest international documentary film festivals and one of the things I adore about them is that they go out to schools and show important documentaries and discuss them. Erik was one of the discussers and when he got a whif of my gaming interests he went in a trance like state talking about this great gaming documentary that they were talking about at these schools. I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced – it sounded way too classroomy for my taste. But I gave it a go – and admitidly I too was smitten! The documentary was called “World Peace and other 4th grade achievements”. Here’s a little teaser: