Video Game Confidential: Susan O’Connor

From http://tedxbeaconstreet.com/susanoconnor
Video Game Confidential
Susan O’Connor

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.

Something’s brewing in Norway – part 1

I spent the better half of 2012 getting to know the Norwegian game development community. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening and I thought I’d take some time off this Sunday afternoon and write a few observations, while the local game developers are slaving away at Bergen Game Jam (over 30 participants and a good handful of women – not bad – very proud girl geek heart!).

There’s over 70 companies registered in Norway that are game developers and I’m willing to wager that there’s at least as many individuals dabbling with game development in their spare time but not taken the steps towards professionalisation yet.

Norway may be a very small country but we are also spread far and wide with massive mountains inbetween. Usually what comes out of our capital, Oslo, has the main focus, but I’m wondering if those of us who are a part of one of the “districts” of Norway are also coming into our “own”. We can debate on why later.

First off let me introduce my home town:

Bergen

There’s so much excitement in the air here in Bergen. We’ve got a unique community here that is all about sharing and boosting each other’s projects. We meet once a month for beer and informal chats and it’s quickly turning into one of the highlights of my month.

At present I count 9 game developing companies in Bergen and nearby districts. I’m sure there are more, so please let me know if I’m missing something.
Rain Games
Rain is very currently adding the finishing touches to their game, Teslagrad and it looks beautiful, or as Nathan Grayson from Rock Paper Shotgun puts it:

“Titled Teslagrad, the outwardly Braid-esque (read: hand-drawn and utterly gorgeous) sidescroller deals not in time-bending, lionsheep-smacking hijinx, but instead traverses terrain by magnetizing objects and characters.”

January 17th, 2013

They’re a very passionate group of game developers and artists with a very clear vision of the worlds they are creating. They’re very dedicated to their craft and the results are obviously gorgeous. Here’s a clip of gameplay:

 

It should be finished and ready for release March/April 2013 – so look out for it!

Other media mentions of Teslagrad:

Indie Statik

Gamereactor (Norwegian)
Bergens Tidene (Norwegian)

Continue reading

Konsoll

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!

So remember how I was writing about a game event in Bergen in October? Well we frakin pulled it off!

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.

 

Continue reading

Me and the film business

So I’ve had a brief encounter with the film business the last 3 weeks and it’s been so much fun and way too much work than I had time for. I was in charge of getting extras and to be perfectly honest, I amazed myself at what I managed to accomplish and get. I have a really lovely network that are just so incredibly helpful and lovely!

It’s a web series made by the incredibly hillarious Pistol Shrimps and Flimmer Film. The webseries is amazing! I had such a great time and needed to be away from the filming as much as possible because I was in stitches. A lot of fun! But new territory for me, so I made a lot of mistakes which in return taught me so much. Scary as hell to be out of my element at this age, but so humbling! And such a privilege to be around such a lovely group of talented people!

The loveliest thing about working with these guys was that they have fans! They have inspired teenagers to tell their own stories and make their own films and I think anyone that reads my blog knows that I adore FANS! And I LOVE it when teenagers find new ways of expressing themselves.

So here’s a lovely little short that was made by two fans after our big zombie shoot on Friday! Isn’t it lovely? I think they’re great!

Huldraheimen

So Huldraheimen is my version of 826 Valencia and Ministry of Stories. I’ve been talking about this for over a year and the name of the project is credited to a dear friend from our work together with The World Peace Game Bergen. I’ve been smitten by the 826 Valencia project ever since I saw Dave Egger’s inspiring TED talk:

Dave Eggers TED talk

Isn’t he inspiring? How can we NOT help him fulfill his dream? So basically Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegaristarted a tutor and writing lab with a street-front student-friendly pirate supply store in San Fransisco for lokal kids in the community, called 826 Valencia. It’s caught on in several cities around the world with different themes such as The Echo Park Travel Mart in LA, Brooklyn Superhero Supplies Co. and Monster Supplies in London.  So when Ministry of Stories was at The Story in 2010 selling Monster Supplies – I was even more smitten. But some ideas and dreams take a long time to take shape – and this one has for me. I’m still very uncertain why it’s so important to me to create such creative spaces for kids. I’m fairly certain that it is personal – so let’s not go there. One thing is for certain, though! I LOVE hearing children tell stories! Their imaginations are just so awesome, pure and uninhibited! There’s something so magical about these places and it’s lured me to start my own.

Huldraheimen logo by the fabulous Tini Malitius http://tinimalitius.com/

The theme I’ve chosen is Trolls. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that trolls are too old fashioned and boring for kids, but I think so! I believe that through some fun writing workshops we’ll manage to spice up the Troll stories from ancient. I’m also extremely keen on not only focusing on traditional writing. Can we not, for example, have a workshop that is all about developing an app for a Troll? What kind of app would be useful for a Troll? And why not even consider creating a game that a Troll would enjoy? There are so many fun levels that we can experiment with!

Again – I only have the project proposal in Norwegian so far – I’ll get around to translating it soon, I’m sure: Prosjektbeskrivelse Huldraheimen 31_05

So I’m begging for money and also talking to as many educators as I can possibly find! If this is a project that you would like to help with please let me know! I’ve got the interest of the people building The House of Litterature in Bergen and I would so love to have something up and running there when they open in December!

There’s so much more to tell and I’ll be starting a new blog about this project soon so stay tuned! ;)

Linn – an agent for game developers?

This is the one that I am most unclear about, but it’s so closely related to part 1 of my next adventures - so I’ll let you into my foggy thoughts on the subject.

Image

From Walter and Marianne’s wonderful house!

I want to establish myself as some form of agent for game developers. I want to help them find the best publishing and distribution platforms for their games and I want to help them with professional PR and advertisement.

I’m very strongly influenced by Bandello and UKIE, and I hope to learn more from them.

I think game publishing and distribution is coming into a very good era, but I also think that it’s a growing into a challenging landscape to coordinate in. I want to be the woman who guides these game designers on to the paths that are right for them.

I have a lot to learn and the last couple of months have been good research for me. I’ve been using the gaming event that I’m organising with Spillmakerlauget as a base for this research, which is also why I gush so when I write about them, for they’ve been very open and welcoming. It’s been a great way for me to learn more about the game development community in Norway and what their needs are. Where’s the gap and can I fill it? I most definitely can (when did I become so arrogant?) and I see there’s a lot of potential for me to start a good business. There are some pretty amazing games in production and I sincerely want them to do well.

I’ve been wanting to get into the computer game industry for a while now, I just didn’t know how. But I truly believe that this is something I could do well.

So this is where I’m at right now:

  • I’m setting up meetings and introductions
  • I’m writing a business plan
  • I’m trying to think of a good name – but struggling. Suggestions are very welcome!
  • And I’m reading wonderful blogs such as Games Brief to get a grip on the industry
  • I’m making my own map of what publishing and distribution looks like today in the computer game industry
  • Strongly considering bankrupting myself by going to GDC Europe to start establishing the relationships I need. Are you going?

I’m sure that this will be a forum where I brainstorm more openly about how to do this. Cause I’ll be honest with you – I’m kinda scared about this whole “found my vocation in life” thing. I have days of feeling very alone and vulnerable. But then I have a meeting or a phone call with a non-believer of the industry and I find myself doing well and sounding pretty convincing (yes – I surprise myself!).  I soooo hope that it is not an illusion and that I can make this work.

Game event in October with The Game Developers Guild

It dawned on me that I haven’t written about what I’m up to on my own blog! So in no particular order – let me list them up for you

1) Spillmakerlauget

Not “the” official picture but I love that they’re all cracking up! From the back left: Peter Wingaard Medahl, Ricki Sickenger, Espen Thomassen Sæverud. Infront from left Bjarte Sebastian Hansen and Stefan Svellingen.

I think the jury is still out on the direct translation of the wonderful name – either it’s Game Developer’s Guild or Game Maker’s Guild. Either one is pretty wonderful in my book. Basically they are a bunch of hard working game developers in Bergen, having a few beers and having a vision about making game development more accessible and open in Norway. The result has been a wonderful space where game developers can learn from each other, exchange ideas, exchange resources and of course – dreams. Their morals and goals are pure and sincere – and needless to say – I adore them!

The event – Console

I was introduced to the guild in february and when I learned that Indie Game: The Movie was being considered for The International Film Festival in Bergen (BIFF) I felt that I had to make my move. We HAD to make a gaming event worthy of the documentary and game developers in Norway. I got in touch with someone that I knew was on the board at the guild and he agreed to let me speak at their next board meeting. I remember being rather nervous. I have a lot of respect and admiration for game designers and I desperately wanted them to like me.  I got to make my case to the board of the six wise game developing men and I let my passion and enthusiasm have free flow – which is always a scary thing – but I just couldn’t help myself. I honestly had trouble catching my breathe at times. Thankfuly – they were in agreement! We should create an event in unison with BIFF and do something fun! I was also happy to hear that they were interested in making the games industry more available to the public. So we decided to make the event two-fold. One part for game developers and the other part for the public that may not know games as well as we do.

Continue reading

A little inspiration from a designer

My wonderfully talented friend, Tini Malitius, sendt me this very inspirational talk by Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swiss Miss): The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts. I would also add that it’s also about the power of community and how important it is to surround yourself with smart people. Not to mention the acknowledgement that haters are gonna hate! It’s a very personal talk as she bases it on what she wants to teach her kids. It gave me the boost and inspiration that I needed, hope it does the same for you!

 
The Importance of Side Projects
http://typotalks.com/embed_video/s/131