Game Theory / Play Money

| May 18, 2010

Last month I attended a panel put on by DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) that was hosted by the Columbia Business School called Game Theory / Play Money.
It was comprised of two panel sessions, the first featuring a handful of academics involved in different roles within the gaming community while the second portion focused on business and industry. I’ve included some of the main points.

GAME THEORY.

Basically this first session helped to inform a sense of the state of gaming in New York City and explored the phenomena of why games are so popular and how game play can be transferred to other experiences. For example using digital games to promote social change as Games for Change advocates. The panel discussed the reasoning behind best selling games commercially which are sports games and simulations, because of the relationship of novelty and consumption combined that provides the actual value and that it is a challenge to successfully mimic this.

It was interesting to get a sense of the process of getting involved in this industry from an academic start, for example what schools offer what classes? Most academic institutions do not have an independent department or program for gaming yet. This could be a contributing factor to the disconnect, the panelists voiced, that exists between the academic community in feeding local talent to NYC companies. NYC has great programs of art and design, but the integration of these programs into the industry need to be eased to promote more access and building in the industry. Specifically at TC I know of a few opportunities to get involved strictly with gaming, which are two classes that are offered by Jessica Hammer the first is video games and education and the other is a follow up class she offers as an advanced option to actually pilot your own game. EGGPLANT is the gaming lab on campus that students can go and play with a plethora of games and there is also a space online that contains many resources and where the community can share. Anyone who is on Moodle can get on the Wiki for more information on what people are doing and ways to get involved. Please just leave a comment, letting me know you are interested and I can pass on the pw so you can add EGGPLANT as a course.

PLAY MONEY.

This panel featured members of game companies, CEO’, designers, as well as a lawyer with experience in game industry cases. Basically NYC is expensive! From commercial real estate to the non-existent perks such as tax breaks that are offered in other states around the country, the bottom line is that there are not as many support systems built into the game industry in New York compared to other venues such as LA or Seattle. This is a major factor in what can exist, the attitude to work in NYC because it is NYC or for personal reasons are main reasons people stay. It was also noted by Wade Tinney, co-owner and co-founder of Large Animal Games, that from a business aspect, NYC lacks programmers for gaming. Since NYC is so expensive, most programmers go into other areas because the take home pay is more than what they’d make in a small gaming company. Ideally the panel voiced such changes or directions in the future to include tax incentives, educational incentives (scholarships, programs, internships), having a presence at the GDC (Game Design Conference), banding together to create a more significant NYC center- get a critical mass going and also to educate the investment population to get support. All of these attempts would be to attain the goal of getting NYC on the radar as a significant gaming center in the country. It was stated by one of the panelists that NYC is in a period of transition but we are like 5 years behind. It is believed New York has the potential to be a great center but changes need to ensue, for more information the Center for Urban Future published a report that expands upon these issues.

So many questions remain as far as when and how the concerns of the panel will be reached. Specifically I am interested in how we go about fostering connections between our academic communities and the game companies? And will this effectively aid any of the other suggestions that the panel raised, such as creating a critical mass?