The latest issue of Kill Screen Magazine is out – that brainy journal about game culture – and there’s a small piece with my mug in it. The article is about what will happen to games as players become older, and a few game designers, including Randy Smith, Manveer Heir, and myself, are asked for our opinions on the subject.
Kill Screen frames the article as old age potentially being the “kiss of death” for gamers because of the frailties that accompany older age. The other designers mostly mention things like screens for the vision-impaired and hand-eye coordination issues, but I have a different take on the subject. For me, many real-world games enjoyed by older players, such as Bocce Ball, are already as physically intense as a videogame and I see the issue as more about culture than biology.
Here’s a bit from my response. You can read the rest of my answer in Kill Screen, issue 6.
Videogames do not need to be redesigned for older players. Even the most intense controller-based videogame has fewer physical demands than Shuffleboard. And while videogames don’t offer the same kind of physical exertion, they do offer problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and social interaction – activities with incredibly valuable cognitive benefits.
But ultimately, people don’t play videogames because they are good for you. People play games because of pleasure and culture. They will play games if they are enjoyable, and if they are a part of the culture in which they live. Today we scoff at “old people’s games” like Bridge and Mah Jong – when we’re all senior citizens, the kids will laugh at our old-fashioned games like Starcraft and Angry Birds.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of German novelist Herman Hesse, and to mark the occasion, the BBC created a half-hour radio program about his work. I was interviewed about his book the Glass Bead Game, a story set in a future where a priestly class plays a mysterious game that lets them explore the relationships among disciplines like mathematics, music, and astronomy.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, in part because he keeps the actual rules of the game frustratingly ambiguous in his book. As a game that potentially crossed every other cultural domain, the Glass Bead Game was a big influence on the Metagame, a card game I created with Local No. 12 in which players compare and contrast different forms of art, design, media, and entertainment.
You can listen to the entire BBC program here. I come in about halfway through, around minute 18:00. Among other topics, I discuss how our geek-centric, information-dominated age was presaged in the Glass Bead Game’s society of intellectual scholar-monks. Thanks to producer Alan Hall for tracking me down in Berlin this summer for our very enjoyable interview.
Last night at the Eyebeam center for Art and Technology here in New York City I took part in the Jean Claude Van Jam as a judge. The event was a 48-hour game jam in which teams had to create a game inspired by a randomly selected Jean Claude Van Dam film, and I was joined by game designers Greg Trefry and Keita Takahashi to judge the results.
The games had a great sense of humor, and many of them featured unusual hardware input devices, which is impressive for such a short amount of time. The winner, Wrong Bet! was inspired by the film Lionheart and was a social game in which two players competed in a rock-player scissors-style duel while several other players bet real money on them and could influence their actions. You can view all of the games, as well as a video of their final presentations, here on the Jean Claude Van Jam website.
Congratulations to all of the entrants, co-sponsor of the event Babycastles, and organizers Kaho Abe, Ida Benedetto, Ben Johnson, Ramsey Nasser and Matt Parker. The world needs more strange and wonderful game jams.
Smart and stylish design website MoCo Loco has published a great little piece about Interference on their website. In addition to text and images, it features the new Interference video created by Emeric Adrain.
The subtitle of MoCo Loco’s site is Design / Interiors / Art / Architecture – and as a collaboration between an architect and a game designer, I have always liked to think about the work I do with Nathalie Pozzi not just in the context of games, but in the larger context of design culture. I’m very happy to see our work featured in this context.
Starry Heavens materials testing last week -
and yes that balloon Nathalie is holding has a light inside!
In just one week, Starry Heavens will happen in Berlin. (By the way, we do need some help to pull it off – see the bottom of this post for details.)
Starry Heavens is the fourth game in my ongoing collaboration with architect Nathalie Pozzi, a game that premiered last summer at the Kill Screen Arcade event at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In Starry Heavens, a central Ruler tells all of the other players how to move on a life-sized gameboard grid of connected discs. The goal is for one of the players to usurp the ruler, which only happens by working with and against everyone else. Above the game board, ten massive weather weather balloons create the abstract ceiling of starry heavens.
Between the 47 steel disks of the grid, the meterological balloons, and all of the helium and other materials required to stage the game, Starry Heavens is not an easy project to mount. That is why Nathalie and I are SO grateful to Berlin’s Invisible Playground game collective, who have included Starry Heavens as part of their amazing street games festival, Play Publik. More than 30 games will be showcased at Play Publik, from high-tech play experiments to activist political games to down and dirty street sports. We are psyched to be part of the lineup.
On Saturday, August 11, we’re presenting a game design workshop from 3-5:30pm, where we will be trying out new rules and gameplay ideas. Then when it gets dark an hour later, we’ll be doing a more formal performance of the game. The project is continuing to evolve and we have a lot of surprises in store, including balloons lit from inside and live musicians that will improvise in time with the movements of the players. We really want to thank the brilliant and supportive folks at Invisible Playground for making this game happen – we could never have mounted it without their collaboration.
But we need your help to make it happen! If you have time this week, we are looking for volunteers to help us prepare some of the physical materials for the game – specifically the new versions of the game board discs and all of the lines that connect them to make the playfield. We are looking for people that want to join us at our office at the University of the Arts on Tuesday, August 7 in the afternoon and early evening. Email me at e – at – ericzimmerman – dot – com for more details.