Popcap Social Gaming Research: the wrong way?

A recent research about social gaming was conducted by Information Solutions Group for the american casual game developer/publisher, Popcap Games. Survey has been completed by United States and United Kingdom members of Toluna’s Internet ePanel between 7th and 12th january 2010. Of the 1202 respondents, 900 were from the US (67%), while 402 were from the UK (33%).

Here are some selected informations about it:

—> 58% of social game players in the UK are women, as are 54% of those in the US.

—> There is two big major categories of social game players: single people with no children (28%) and married people with children living at home (28%).

—> Social game players’ average age in the UK is 38, which is far more younger than the 48 year old average in the US. As you can see on the graph below, 46% of americans are 50 or older, that is twice as much as UK players (23%), whereas only 15% of americans are under the age of 30, while they are twice as much in UK (31%).

Age Stats

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Master degree in Serious Games : An Interview with Per Backlund

Per Backlund holds a PhD from Stockholm University in Computer Science and is currently a senior lecturer at University of Skövde, Sweden. He is currently managing the InGaMe Lab (Interactive Game Media Laboratory) research group which is focusing on the fields of computer games and other interactable media. He has worked on different serious game projects within different application areas such as training, education and rehabilitation (health field). He is also the coordinator of the study programme of a recent Master degree in Serious Game at University of Skövde. He has kindly accepted to answer to my questions about it during an interview.


Per_Backlund1 Simon Bachelier: First of all, thank you very much for accepting to answer to this interview.  The summary above is short and I’m sure there is plenty of things I forgot to tell about you, so what about a second informal introduction by yourself? What kind of interest lead you to study games for “serious purposes”?

Per Backlund: After I finished my PhD in 2004 I was in a position to choose what to do. I had good contacts with some of my colleagues who had just started to organize research about computer games. As our university had run study programmes in computer game development for a couple of years it was a good situation to do a real commitment to research within that area. At that time I had not done any research having anything to do with computer games. I had an interest as a consumer and parent so my thought was: are these possible to combine? My background is in information systems and to my mind a serious game (or any game for that matter) can be seen as an advanced information system. Hence it’s actually the case that moving to serious games has been a way for me to both broaden and deepen my filed of research.
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Noah Falstein’s 10 tips to succeed a serious game production

Noah Falstein speech 2009

Last monday, I was at the 2nd edition of e-virtuoses in Lille, which is a convention of serious games producer. There are around 60% of french products and all the others were international products (from India, USA, Sweden, Netherland, UK, etc.). During this event I was moderator of the workshop on high-risk job (e.g. firefighter). I could talk a lot about what I have seen and who I have met but for this post I will only focus on the Noah Falstein’s opening talk. Just to recap, Noah Falstein was an employee at LucasArts Entertainment (formerly Lucasfilm Games) and later at 3DO Company. For instance, he worked on two great adventure games: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992). Currently he runs The Inspiracy, a consulting firm specializing in game design and production for international clients and tries to focus on serious game development. During the opening session of the convention, Noah Falstein gave a twenty minutes talk about his 30 years of experience in the video game industry and about serious game production. He presented 10 tips to lead a serious game project to a successful production : Read the rest of this entry »

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What video games boxes have to teach us

Space Quest 1 Goodies - Keronian ale

Six years ago, I had to move from a place  to another one, and I needed a lot of space so I decided to re-organize my stuff and sort it by categories : things I wanted to keep VS things I wanted to throw away. Many old junks have been thrown in the garbage but the hard part was about all my videogames. There was no way for me to throw any of my games away but in the other way, I really needed space and all these boxes were taking so much space ! It was a heavy dilemma for me, but I had to make a choice and I finally find a solution : If I could just fling away the boxes and only keep the disk/cd I would still have the games ! After all, boxes were useless or at best decorative, and there was no other motivation for me than materialist one… Finally I was nearly convinced and proud to be separated from these materialist object which were invading my place, year after year !

Recently, I just felt stupid about this choice because I thought I was making a kind of “preservation of video game heritage”, but in fact, I wasn’t ! Nowadays it is generally easier to get a good “abandonware” copy of any of my old games than get a good scan of their covers or even their handbooks. If you consider this from a player point of view you will probably don’t really think there is much to worry about. If you consider this from a historian point of view, it is a real shame. As an art historian and a game studies researcher I now realised that I have lost precious informations. Video games covers and handbooks embody a part of video game history. I will try to summarize why: Read the rest of this entry »

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How controllers can shape the way you play?

I remember old discussions with other computer gamers about First Personal Shooter (FPS) games some years ago and how masochistic console players could be playing with a pad controller. Since 1997, the year of Quake 2 on PC and Goldeneye 007 on Nintendo 64 there has been many discussions about the so “valuable” skill of PC players compared with console player. Because of the lack of handiness providing by a gamepad, FPS players on game console got a poor reputation. Even if gamepads have been improved nowadays, the same reputation seems to affect the console players.

Damien Lopez - A History of Game Controllers (edited version)

Damien Lopez - A History of Game Controllers (edited version)

The frequently blame we can hear about it is the fact that gamepads do not allow an accurate aim unlike the use of a mouse. As far as I know no real experiment or serious observations have been made about how “good” a player can be according to the controller device he uses. It is just generally accepted that keyboard and mouse are the best way to perform in FPS and nobody seems to be looking for the reasons why it might be true (or not). It could be interesting to confront a group of very good console players against another group of very good computer players in a FPS game that would have been designed to be released, on computer and game console (e.g. Halo series). What could be even more interesting would be to observe and to analyse how console players play in comparison to computer players. Perhaps it could be possible to detect different performances and playing behaviours between both groups. This could leads to draw some behavioural patterns according to player habits and raise assumptions about the influence of the controller devices.

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Ethical choice in video game: the Manhunt case

Checking my RSS reader yesterday evening, I found a very brief post from Jesper Juul’s blog that drew my attention because of its title : “Gamer facing an Ethical Choice?“. He was talking in a single sentence about the fact that a game could help people consider ethical dilemmas, if it is played in a serious manner/state of mind, instead of looking for an optimizing approach, such as high scoring.

It is too bad the author didn’t develop more about this topic. Instead of that he has put a funny video on his blog I have embed here in order to start with a funny point before getting more serious (it’s about ethical choice but also a parody of a scene in the movie The Box):

Jose P. Zagal, a professor at Depaul University who mainly explores the challenges of using games as the subject of learning, add a link to one of his last paper called “Ethically Notable Videogames: Moral Dilemmas and Gameplay“. I think this paper is quite interesting on many aspects. It drew my attention particularly because of the choice of Manhunt as a case of study. Manhunt is a third-person stealth action game with a lot of violent graphics (if you don’t know it yet, it could be interesting for you to have a quick look at the wikipedia article). Read the rest of this entry »

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World of Goo(d) (part2)

Finally, the special offer “Pay-What-You-Want” to get World of Goo is over and 2D Boy has just released its last results. The first thing that the authors noticed is the fact people gave a little more money the day after they published their first results. If we don’t allow the randomness factor in this change, we can believe people felt guilty about paying less than 0.30$ (remember, they did’nt get anything under 0.31$ because of Paypal fees. You can still read my last post about it).

2D Boy also published details about customers OS and how much each group paid (Linux groups are the most generous). One element that makes me happy is the last board they published about customers country. I was very surprised to saw that french people was in second position in the list of the best average payments done during this special offer. Of course, it is just a mean and without more details informations (such as standard deviation) we can not properly estimate how these payments have been mathematically distributed, but this is the only indicator we get. The first three countries at the top of the list are Switzerland, France and Norway, while the last three countries are Lithuania, South Korea and Turkey.

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Windosill : what you click is what you feel

Two weeks ago, I found a game that caught my attention. At first glance, the features of the game look very childish to me. The first screen shows a room with different objects which look like kids toys. After a couple of minutes of wandering, I found how to reach the next screen and all started here. I just could not stop myself playing to it until the end…

Windosill title

I’ll be glad to share my view about this childlike/dreamlike adventure game, but in order to not spoil your own experience about it (if you didn’t tried it yet), I invite you to stop your reading at this line and try it for 5 or 10 minutes here. My tips for you before you play are : put your sound on, take your time, be as curious as a kid, “touch” (click) everything and enjoy ! The first half part of the game is available online for free, and if you want to usnlock the other half, you will have to pay 3$. A relative fair price in my opinion, even if the replay value is close to nought for an adult player.

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World of Goo(d) (part1)

World of Goo(d)

Recently (since the 13th october), the creators of World of Goo, 2D Boy, have launched a special offer for their game. In order to celebrate the first year old game, you can buy World of Goo at whatever price you like. A lot of blogs and websites have spread the word during these last days and a lot of copy has been sold (around 57 000 items in six days).  2D Boy have published some statistical data about their sales on their blog in order to show what kind of results one could have with such a special offer.

According to these numbers, I must say I was quiet surprised by the number of people who only gave them, not 1$, but 1 cent. There are 16 852 people just bought World of Goo for 0,01$, while 6483 bought it for a price between 0,02$ and 0,99$, that is 23 335 who just purchased it under 1$ (almost 41% of the customer in 6 days). Knowing the fact that PayPal fees are usually around 5% plus a minimum amount of 30 cents for each transaction, 2D Boy didn’t earn a penny under 31 cents . If these customers had paid exactly a buck to get the game, they would have given around 15 000$ (Paypal fees subtracted) to their creator…

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First lines

Here comes the first lines…

It seems to be more and more trivial nowadays to write a blog about games, after all it begins to be a pretty common topic to talk about, don’t you think ? No ? Well, personally I don’t. Actually, my purposes are not to open another blog about video games review. Instead of that i would like to study relationship between games, art and education, and also think about games in our “modern society” in a more general way…

Having been a player for the last 20 years doesn’t made me an expert in this field, or a “veteran” to quote Leigh Alexander, the actual director of Gamasutra, about one of her recent blog entry, but it provides me my own personal background and a purely practical knowledge. As an academic, I also want to use some methodological approaches to analyse and observe topics I’m interesting in. These topics would be about serious game, independant production (sometimes mainstream prod.), digital art, experimental game, game design and a lot of other issues around games studies.

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