Should we be doing more to recruit new players?

Almost ten years ago I was hanging out with some non-game industry friends and we were playing Buzz! – a well known quiz game at the time. I wasn’t working in the games industry yet, but I was well into writing my Masters thesis on MMORPGs, if not completely finished. I was blogging about games here and I was a contributing writer on two other games blogs. I was giving lectures on games and I was constantly procrastinating reading about games. So my friends cunningly tried to avoid the “Video Games” category in the game feeling fairly confident that I would beat their asses without breaking a sweat. Eventually one poor sod had to go up against me. And you know what? I couldn’t get a single answer right. Not one! I didn’t recognize any of the games that were mentioned and I remember the room becoming eerily quiet. My friends were awkwardly embarrassed for me and I was stunned. The only games that were mentioned were kids games that were associated with kids movies. I had no clue about any of them. I didn’t have kids, none of the games blogs I was reading at the time had even mentioned any of these.

Discussing the awesomeness of Firewatch to the a room who hadn’t even heard of it

I think this is one of the first times I really understood how segmented this industry is. 16640695_10158361202625235_6815700435215193673_nAnd now that I’m in the industry I’m constantly disappointed with the lack of knowledge of indie games when I meet gamers. Last year I was in a panel discussing something about games, I forget the theme, but after the panel had been discussing Firewatch passionately for 10 minutes, I asked the audience who had played or even heard of Firewatch. One person raised his hand acknowledging that he had heard of the game (this may be a slight exaggeration but it was dramatic). We were in a room full of people who play games with a passion.

I remember feeling a bit saddened by this. How can we discuss the awesomeness of games when the general public has only played 1% of them (totally a made up statistic by me)? The value of us discussing it to this crowd is that they probably went home and looked it up after. But it seems too small to me!

With so many indie games struggling to reach profitability and yet the number of gamers seems to be increasing, I wonder if there is something more that we can do to remind the average game consumer that there’s a rich variety of amazing games out there.

From the inside of the industry it certainly feels like the platforms and consoles are doing their best to promote games and they always make sure to bring indie game titles to their shows and more. I think that’s brilliant. But a friend of mine, who recently left the games industry to work for a young and hip internet company called me one day and said with amazement “Linn! These guys haven’t even HEARD of Steam!”.

Defining and reaching a broader market

This has to mean that there’s an untapped market out there, right? How do we tap into that? Here are three of my thoughts on the topic:

  1. A marketing campaign for games in general.
    I sometimes feel like the world of video games is an exclusive club and it’s

    600_245713792

    Taken from a Code Kids event at The Bergen Public Library

    dangerous to tell others about its wonders and gorgeousness. I guess we’ve just been through a scandelous time because of it. I believe that reaching new markets will take some capital investment. Whilst the industry recognizes that it’s the games from the independent game studios that are pushing the boundaries and coming up with new creative gameplay expressions, more often than not, these studios will not have the funds to market to new audiences. Even if they’re signed with a publisher, I believe the marketing budget is targeted at the audiences that they know.
    So I’m wondering if we should gang together and create a campaign to spread the incredible diverse array of games that are out there? I have no idea what it would look like and where to target such a campaign. But I wonder if it would be worth some time and effort to look into what we can do?

  2. More visibility in mainstream media. 
    This is half the reason why I’m so intent on getting more articles about games into women’s mainstream media and magazines. I want games to be more accessible. I certainly don’t want anybody to feel like they don’t have the skills to play games. There will always be room for specialized media for games that has the knowledge and experience to cater to devoted gamers. I would like to expand our reach to more mainstream media as well, but to do this we need to find another form of rhetoric other than consumer journalism. The work that Spillpikene (Norwegian group of women writing about games) has done on this issue is really impressive and should definitely be considered an example.
    I keep having the same discussion with with people in the games industry and journalists. All of us agree, but we never seem to be getting anywhere. Particularly on my end of things. I keep wanting to start things but never truly following through.
    I’m very impressed with what Brie Code is doing by designing games for non-gamers. I love the attitude and vision of her work. But I also genuinely believe that there are so many undiscovered games out there which the sceptics, the ones who think gaming is a waste of time and boring, would love.
    In search of the right rhetoric, I’m currently working on curating a talk for people who’ve always been curious about games – but have yet to understand their appeal. First I’m organizing a dinner with a bunch of local business women I’ve met on my journeys that are keen to get engaged with games, but have yet to understand their appeal. We’ll see where it goes from there.
  3. Festival/Award/ – Sundance/Cannes for games
    I know what you’re thinking! Not another one, right? We’re all already constantly exhausted and jetlagged because of all the trade shows for games! Yeah …. I almost didn’t put this here. It’s just when I think of the films industry I’m not so knowledgable. Sure … I’ve picked up a thing or two from our local film festival and I’ve been a member of a film club or two through my life time, but I’m not one of those that actively seeks out indie films on iTunes or something. I think of myself as a mainstream consumer of film. But when I see the words “Sundance” or “Cannes” on the film – I instantly think that it may be worth my while. I think BAFTA has done some great work there and many many others. But I’m not finding it hitting home among mainstream consumers yet.

Clearly – I don’t have the answers. But I would like to contribute to the conversation and this is my start of that.

Advertisements

Let’s start talking about advertising games to women

This has been a subject that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. Should we focus on advertising more games specifically to women, in which case, what would this look like and is it really necessary?

It seems to me that there’s still a template for advertising games that focuses on a predominately teenage male audience. Which makes me feel uncomfortable at times. I also often find myself wondering how I would learn about all the beautiful and amazing games that I play, if I didn’t work in the industry. I follow game developers, game media, game journalists, game academics, game musicians and game artists – so of course I get access to great new games, because this is my life. But if I were just a woman playing as a hobby, where would I go for my information, who’s opinion would I listen to?

We know that women play games. We play quite a lot actually according to the last ESA report:

Adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (18 percent).

So I guess we’re doing rather well without having female targeted marketing? And that’s awesome! This makes me so happy! But I wonder if we’ve only scratched the surface?

Let’s not paint everything pink just yet!

Continue reading

Something’s brewing in Norway part 2

In part 1 I started introducing the game developers in Norway starting with Bergen. So far I’ve mentioned Rain (keep an eye out for them at GDC – they’ll be at the Nordic Game stand), D-Pad Studios, Henchman & Goon and Turbo Tape Games. I still have a few more I’d like to mention:

Mentalfish Mentalfish logo

This is pretty much a one-man band named Petter Sundnes. I’ve had the privilege of working with Petter on a few potential projects and I enjoy his visions and game developing skills. We’ve also worked with students together and he’s an excellent and patient teacher  while introducing Unity (I’ve even started dabbling with it). His game mechanic skills are excellent, creativity top notch and management skills are great. I hope to work more with him in the future and is my number one choice to bring along for meetings with potential new clients.

Read more about Mentalfish here.

Vostopia

Vostopia is slightly outside Bergen in beautiful Voss. Vostopia’s founding father is Bjarne Rene who has the most impressive game developing CV that I’ve seen around here. I keep describing him as a person with gravitas, by this I mean he is a man with experience and connections and we all value his opinion greatly. But he’s also a genuinely nice and fun guy who’s very willing to share and contribute to building a sustainable game developing industry in Norway. Here’s a little profile piece from our local paper, BT (again – in Norwegian): http://lisa.bt.no/btmultimedia/prosjekt/vestlendingen/#story_13

Vostopia offers avatars or avatar systems for game developers. They’re very versatile and fun and I think it’s a very smart business idea. Are you creating a game in Unity I would definitely recommend having a look. Here’s their demo reel:

Continue reading

Naval War: Arctic Circle

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.

Continue reading

Wonderful geek tv!

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!

PS. For non Disneyland explorers, this is the freaky dolls he’s referring to in his intro.

Leigh Alexander on being a female game journalist

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!

The Story part 3

I’m determined to get my thoughts from The Story documented somehow, although a week has passed, I shall continue on.

7) I was late coming back after lunch and missed the introduction of Paul Bennun & Nick Ryan. This is a session I would have loved to be more prepared for. I didn’t know who they were and wish I’d looked them up and played their games before attending, because their story was astounding!

Their story was sound. Together they have created a game based entirely on sound called Papa Sangre (downloading now).

Continue reading

The Story 2011 part 1

So I’m on my annual (2nd year this year) pilgrimage to London. Why? The Story! This has got to be the most inspirational day (I hesitate to call it a conference) of the year. The Story is the brainchild of Matt Locke. As he says, he just wanted to create the conference that he really wanted to go to.

I was there last year, but was unable to rearticulate the pure joy that the day brought me. So much inspiration! This year – all I want to do is write about it. I haven’t felt so inspired to write in FOREVER! But that’s the whole point of this pilgrimage – to be inspired, hear new good stories and celebrate storytelling. I must admit that I feel exceptionally geeky travelling from Norway for the event, but it’s just so worth it. And after, I have the whole weekend to work on my inspiration and write in lovely London.

Margaret Robertson was the perfect MC for the event. She excused herself for only being interested in games, but her storytelling geek surfaced quite well. So I’ll do the talks chronologically:

Continue reading

Is Facebook a virtual world?

I remember being absolutely gobsmacked when I first read about Edward Castronova and his economic analysis of the online game Everquest. And it all spiraled from there … do you remember? We all got caught up in the rights of the avatar. I remember being enthralled in discussions about what is real and what is not real and what rights avatars have in games such as Everquest. Because we  saw avatars as extensions of ourselves, therefore we should have the same human rights as we have in our own ‘real life’. Ownership issues and freedom of expression where things that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and debating.

Continue reading