Archives for the month of: October, 2011

In the last couple of days, I have appeared in a couple of top-notch video projects about games.

I’m featured in the latest video in the PBS web series “Off Book,” where I talk about games alongside game scholar Jesper Juul, game journalist Leigh Alexander, and Babycastles curator Sayed Salhuddin. Stay tuned to the end of the video for a great list of game recommendations.

When I was in the Netherlands speaking at the DiGRA conference, I was also shot by a crew from the Dutch website Submarine Channel and they also put together a great video based on that interview.

I’m not sure what it is in the air these days, but I’m happy that such great videos on games are coming out.


The Metagame Culture Edition is OUT! If you’ve been reading my blog for the last six months, you have undoubtedly read about the Metagame, the card game I created with Local No. 12 (John Sharp and Colleen Macklin and myself) in which players debate about videogames.

After we premiered the game at GDC and in the midst of our Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a bigger printing, we were approached by Esopus magazine to create a special edition of the game. The result is the Metagame Culture Edition, which expands the game content to include film, music, theater, literature, fashion, architecture, television, comics, and other forms of art, design, and media.

You can get your Culture Edition cards here on the Esopus magazine website. There are three sets of cards, each with a unique set of cultural references. To get the entire game, you’ll have to purchase all three versions of the issue.

If you’re in NYC on November 1, Esopus is holding a launch party for the issue. More information and RSVP here.

I can now officially announce a game I’ve been working on for the last couple of years – a Kinect title called Leela, which I created in collaboration with Deepak Chopra and Curious Pictures, published by THQ. I played the role of lead game designer.

Yes, you heard right: Deepak Chopra. Leela (the name means “play” in Sanskrit) is a game about play as a form of meditation, and conceptually it is based on Yoga traditions centered on the Chakras and meditation. While I’m not a disciple of Deepak, I do study Kung Fu and I am interested in meditation through physical action. Perhaps more importantly, Leela is also an experiment in game design on several levels.

The Kinect platform is quite new, and we started work on Leela before it had been released. It presented a tremendous number of design challenges, from working within the technical limitations to creating interactivity using a player’s whole body. Leela also offered a content challenge – making a game about Chakra meditation. Working with Lewis Kofsky, the Executive Producer, and the teams at Curious Pictures and N-Fusion (who spearheaded coding the game), we opted for a quite abstract approach in which different games within Leela focus on different parts of the player’s body.

Then of course there was the challenge of making a game about meditation. While I firmly believe that any well-designed, deeply played game is capable of a meditative experience (think Tennis or Tetris or Halo), in Leela we tried to create a game that foregrounds the idea of playing and meditating.

The game hits stores in a couple of weeks (November 11). I’m not sure if it will be hailed as the most interesting game yet developed for Kinect, or instead as a bizarre, new-age experiment. But I look forward to seeing what people think about it.

I recently keynoted two game studies conferences – Think Design Play, the Digital Games Research Association conference in Hilversum, Netherlands, and F.R.O.G., the Future and Reality of Games conference in Vienna.

At DiGRA, I gave a talk called “In Defense of Beauty” which made an argument to consider games from an aesthetic standpoint. The FROG talk, which I delivered together with Nathalie Pozzi, was called “Spaces of Possibility” and explored the mechanisms by which games create meaning, leveraging architecture as a model for thinking about game design.

One common theme in both talks was the idea of a “Ludic Century” – a recent turn in our culture that gives games a special relevance to literacy. I also want to challenge game scholars to stop instrumenalizing games and instead use research approaches that foreground their role as educators of the public, while also doing justice to the ineffable spirit of play.

I also presented games at both of the conferences. DiGRA featured a conference-long Metagame, in which each of the attendees were given a starter deck and a tournament was held at the closing ceremonies. At FROG, Nathalie and I premiered a “tabletop” version of Sixteen Tons that groups could play at the conference dinner. Nathalie’s graphic design was quite stunning, and perfectly color-matched the wooden game pieces – perhaps we should sell some of them onlne as a limited edition of the game.

I also enjoyed the culture of boardgame bars in Vienna. “Spiel Bar” and “Brot & Spiel” were right around the corner from my hotel.

Michael Brown at Cultured Magazine has devoted an entire issue to the Metagame. Featuring interviews with Local No. 12 collaborators Colleen Macklin, John Sharp, and me, the magazine is stuffed with more info than you want to hear about the history and design of the Metagame. You can download a free digital copy of the magazine, or order a hard copy online. Thanks, Michael!

Stay tuned here for more Metagame news, coming soon…

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