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Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2011 about Games

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Friday 11th March 2011

  • Death of the Textbook, Emergence of Games

    by Alan Gershenfeld, Sara DeWitt and James M. Bower

    Textbooks published on trees are on the way out in Texas, California and the rest of the country and world.

    The Textbook industry is hoping they will be replaced with on-line versions spruced up with animated graphics. However, it is likely that on-line textbooks will be no more successful than magazine advertising that morphed into banner ads. Linear content with multiple choice answers at the end of each chapter, won't work. And as with banner ads, on the Internet you can measure that they don't work.

    What does work? Socially networked GAMES. The question for this panel is whether games will replace traditional educational media, and what those games look like.

    What will the teachers manual look like? How will learning be assessed? What happens to the classroom, or the school itself, when on-line learning is available 24/7? What does the PTA look like if parents can play along with their kids?

    What happens to the distinction between vocational and instructional if playing games is equivalent to performing a virtual job or service? And what happens to the college admission process, if instead of taking a standardized aptitude test, students have been playing a complex game for years. In fact, what happens to colleges and universities where lecture halls still reign supreme?

    There is a revolution underway, driven by kids and the games they play. Will the educational system adapt or die? We will see (and discuss).

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Sabine, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

  • Gamechanging: Turn Your App Into A Cooperative Game

    by Buster Benson and Thor Muller

    Game mechanics aren't just for games anymore. Designers of all social apps increasingly depend on gameplay to motivate users, and direct them towards goals. Organizations, too, use games to engage employees and customers to encourage full participation. Many familiar game mechanics are deeply rooted in competition, pitting people against each other using familiar elements like leaderboards and zero-sum rewards. But there's an alternative: cooperative games provide a wholly different palette to product designers that want to put their users on the same side of a goal.

    Cooperative games are one way to build a smarter social web, one which organizes people to work together to accomplish really big things.

    In this highly interactive session we'll actually play a cooperative game to demonstrate how they work. We'll trace these dynamics as they appear in board games (Pandemic, Lord of the Rings), knowledge games used in organizations for brainstorming and planning ("Gamestorming"), and social Web apps (KickStarter, Get Satisfaction).

    The session will explore the specific mechanics that make this such an effective method for inspiring group performance.
    - Victory conditions
    - External conflicts
    - Roles & special powers
    - Required sharing
    - Coordination & planning
    - And occasionally...Traitors!

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Social Games: Manipulating Your Brain Chemistry, For Good

    by Margaret Wallace, Adam Penenberg, Jason Brown, Brenda Gershkovitch and Michael Fergusson

    Generally speaking, there's an assumption that casual games are a waste of time. What can playing a "meaningless" Facebook game for a few minutes really accomplish, anyways? Do I really need to "rescue" another "sheep"? Another point of view is that they're a little bit sinister, manipulating you into emptying your wallet, or giving up personal information. But perhaps both positions are missing the point. This new genre we call "Casual Social Games" represents a fascinating opportunity to better understand our own behavior, and to direct it, intentionally, for our own benefit, and for the greater good of society.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Friday 11th March

    In Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center

  • The New Frontier of Social Gaming

    by Brian Reynolds

    In this talk, Brian will discuss the typical social gamer and how this profile has evolved in the last year. 2009 was about introducing social gaming to the mainstream. In 2010, social gaming has gone mainstream with 65 million people playing FarmVille alone. 2009 was about introducing social gaming to the mainstream. In 2010, the quality bar has gone up with the release of games like FrontierVille, which hit 20 million users in its first forty days. This talk is targeted towards social game developers. In the talk, Brian would discuss the innovation and mechanics it takes to build fun, viral and engaging social games.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Friday 11th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Games User Research: Oh no! You're Doing It Wrong!

    by Rich Ridlen, Marina Kobayashi, Ray Kowalewski and Bill Fulton

    Learn from the experts all about Games User Research and it's ins and outs - What it is? Why to do it? When to do it? And How to do it? Use this stepping stone to return to your organization charged with energy to make better products and user experiences (not just for games!) through user research. Bonus: Learn about what can go wrong in Games User Research (and maybe laugh at the mistakes of others? Who doesn't love a good anecdote from the field :-)

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • SXSW ScreenBurn Game Developer Meet Up Mixer Sponsored by GameGround.com

    Join host GameGround.com and other fellow Gaming Industry folks for a chance to meet, greet, and have a few drinks!

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Friday 11th March

Saturday 12th March 2011

  • Beyond Check-Ins: Location Based Game Design

    by John-Paul Walton and Zach Saul

    This dual presentation will explore common play elements in location-based games. We’ll analyze the popular "Check-In" mechanic (used by products like FourSquare and GoWalla), and take a look at the business and social forces that have influenced its emergence as the popular geo game model.

    The presentation will compare current location-based products, charting their strengths and weaknesses to identify where we believe large areas of opportunity exist in the market.

    We'll evaluate the challenges and untapped opportunities of Geo Games from the technological and design perspectives of the two presenters. We’ll outline how the limitations in location technology can be an elegant part of the game design itself, and how new innovations will help to create richer and more immersive parallel worlds.

    We’ll describe why we think its time to move beyond "social" Check-In systems, to “true games” that engage, challenge, and stimulate players.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Staying Alive: Can Indie iPhone Game Development Survive?

    by David Kalina, Steve Broumley, Peter Franco, Alan Knitowski and Heather Kelley

    In the fourth year of game development, the AppStore has evolved from an indie gold mine to a competitive corporate marketplace. How can an indie developer adapt?

    Every member on this panel has experienced large success in the iPhone market along with their share of failures. In addition, every member on this panel is a developer themselves, touching the content and code directly while also juggling biz-dev, marketing, and PR.

    This panel will dissect the rise and fall of an indie developer. What makes some developers close up shop vs. what makes some developers prosper (and others hang on by the skin of their teeth)?

    From a technical standpoint, we will discuss tips and tricks for developing for the iPhone. We will discuss what the technical difficulties with tailoring your game to the iPad vs. iPhone. And we will discuss which features in the latest hardware / SDK are worth taking advantage of.

    Then we will follow the development through to market and discuss tips and tricks on how small developers can promote their games. What sort of strategies seem to be working? What strategies are dead ends?

    Finally, we will discuss where we see the future of indie development going. And what’s next after the iPad?

    Note: This panel will have a mix of technical and creative, with both programmers and content creators on the panel.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Indie Game Developers: What Platform Suits You?

    by Jack Buser, Sophia Coney, Jesse Vigil, Rade Stojsavljevic and Jamil Moledina

    It starts with an idea and a handful of creative minds, but where it goes from there can be anyone’s guess. Today’s indie game developers face a unique set of challenges, not the least of which is determining which platform will best aide in their eventual success. Video game publishers continue to change overnight, offering developers new tools to implement into their titles and competitive options for extending the game value. With all of these changes, indie developers are left with several unanswered questions: how do I go about choosing the best distribution method for my game? Which platform harnesses the audience that my game is best suited for? How do I fully take advantage of all the aspects that a platform has to offer? This panel brings together representatives from various platforms as well as indie developers to discuss the lessons learned when developing games for traditional consoles, virtual worlds, portable devices, social platforms and beyond.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Keynote: Seth Priebatsch

    by Seth Priebatsch

    The last decade was the decade of social. The coming one will be the decade of games. Over the past years, a few key companies have built, and now maintain, a powerful framework to foster digital connections between our friends, family and colleagues. What comes next is another framework, not another social layer, but a "game layer". And it'll be even bigger. Instead of trading in social connections, the game layer traffics directly in human motivation. It's not about the number of followers you have, or how many people "like" you, but about how you can leverage game mechanics to achieve all sorts of great things. Use them cleverly and they can enhance education, empower local businesses and make your life more fun and more rewarding. Use them incorrectly and well... it's less good. Join Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja of SCVNGR, for a deep dive into the coming game layer, what to be excited about, what to fear and why your life is about to become a lot more fun.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom D, Austin Convention Center

  • Causebuilding Games: Fundraising & Social Gaming Streams

    by Evonne Heyning and Josephine Dorado

    With the rise of DIY gamebuilding engines the cost of game production now makes it possible for nonprofits, political campaigns and other public organizations to create a game overnight. Trends in social gaming for the social sector include persistent communities for causes, dynamic solution-based crowdsourcing challenges and transmedia campaigns that fit well with video and web planning for large or small groups.

    Are you trying to live video with virtual worlds for your upcoming fundraising event? Need to create a quick game, campaign or experience for your constituents but daunted by the task? Selling virtual goods to raise money for a crisis cause?

    Explore mixed reality production, streaming embeds, twitter and comment community integration, game creation on the fly, collaborative processes for production. Figure out how to get your teams building together in 3D worlds, video mixes, challenges and design jams. Play your passion and make it fun for new people to engage with you!

    LEVEL: Advanced

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 6AB, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

  • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

    by Jane McGonigal

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom D, Austin Convention Center

  • Storytelling through Advertising: Engaging Players in Online Games

    by Mike Sego and Manny Anekal

    What do Gillette’s Venus, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Skittles have in common? They have all successfully used virtual worlds and game play mechanics to engage players online. Social games, in particular, continue to be a growing form of entertainment, reaching nearly one out of every two Internet users and offering a unique platform for marketers to reach a specific target audience. However, social games always face the challenge of engaging players in a meaningful way without annoying them or detracting from the online experience. This session shares case studies from leading companies and discusses practical ways that brands have turned to social gaming to develop immersive campaigns that actually engage users and keep within a game’s narrative – and the serious risks of doing it wrong.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom F, Austin Convention Center

  • Surviving and Thriving as an Independent Game Developer

    by Cinco Barnes

    Cinco Barnes, previously Lead Designer of “Star Wars: Galaxies,” currently Chief Visionary Officer of Spacetime Studios, discusses how his company abandoned their charter to create large-scale PC MMO games and leveraged unique competitive advantages to find profitability in the emerging online mobile games market. This presentation covers strategies that Spacetime Studios employed to insulate the company from uncertainty while guiding it to a new market, as well as best practices for transposing well-known PC MMO features onto today’s mobile gaming devices.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Jane McGonigal

    by Jane McGonigal

    Jane McGonigal will be stopping by the SX Bookstore to greet registrants and sign copies of her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

    At 4:30pm to 4:45pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom D Foyer, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage write-up

  • Console & Casual Games Collide!

    by Tony Mora, Laralyn McWilliams, Mark Spenner, Ryan Schneider and Greg Zeschuk

    The casual games market explosion was among 2010's top tech stories. How will the space evolve? Some of the console video games industry's biggest developers and publishers have started creating casual games of their own. Others have integrated social media features in their console games. Come learn how both games worlds are colliding.

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Latin America: The Future of Online Games

    by Sergio Monsalve, Esteban Sosnik, Juan Franco and Andy Kleinman

    The video game revolution is expanding all over the planet. In the past few years, Latin America became a huge market for both video game development and consumption. From companies like Electronic Arts and Vivendi, to homegrown companies like Three Melons, Latin American developers have created a local industry that is becoming one of the most notorious and fastest growing in the digital world.

    We will discuss how some of these companies started, the secret to their success, their vision of the future, and everything that is happening today in the world of video games, online games, social games, etc.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Sabine, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

Sunday 13th March 2011

  • Mobile Social Gaming: The Next Frontier

    by Volker Hirsch

    80% of the world population has access to mobile vs. only 23% with access to the Internet! Social interaction has revolutionized (online) digital media as it has opened new demographics and provides for a more compelling and relevant experience for users in addition to opening new tangents for search, recommendations, etc.

    The transformative power of social context was especially pronounced in gaming (cf. Zynga ["Farmville"] et al. who have grown into large businesses very quickly).

    The mobile landscape is significantly more complex than the Internet (dozens of platforms, hundreds of distribution channels, hundreds of jurisdictions), and the medium has indeed very different underlying dynamics (screen size and general form factor, input methods, mobility, use cases, etc). It is therefore vital to gain deep understanding about the underlying dynamics of both the medium as well as the users' approach in using that medium.

    It is essential to avoid a "Galapagos effect" where certain models only work on limited platforms (e.g. iPhone) or in specific territories (e.g. Japan). Only a fraction of the world's 5bn (!) mobile subscriptions are on iPhones or are in Japan, and one needs to look to tackle the fragmentation dilemma in order to unlock the enormous potential the largest medium in the world has to offer.

    This session will show the rationales that need to be applied to understand the medium and will outline paths to successfully address it.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Sunday 13th March

    In Salon J, Hilton Austin Downtown

    Coverage slide deck

  • Texas Game Incubator

    by Jennifer Bullard

    The Texas Game Incubator is a non-profit organization focused on creating jobs and wealth in Texas through the promotion of game-focused entrepreneurship. Learn how TGI can help you connect with development professionals or provide support to your brand-new start-up company in the interactive digital media space. Our intention is to make Texas a global leader in the video game & applied games industries.

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Sunday 13th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • E-Race: Avatars, Anonymity And The Virtualization Of Identity

    by Wagner James Au, Lisa Nakamura and Jeff Yang

    Back in 2003, photographer Robbie Cooper photographed dozens of portraits of online gameplayers alongside their avatars for a book called ALTER EGO. The book is an incredible illustration of the ways that digital platforms have transformed fixed physical characteristics into a virtual wardrobe that can be donned or dismissed with a few clicks of a button.

    This phenomenon might be trivial if online identity were all "just a game"—but the truth is, the line between online and offline identity has increasingly blurred. Writing about a study he conducted exploring gender identity among MMO participants, researcher Lukas Blinka wrote in the journal Cyberpsychology in 2008 that “the data...shows that younger players tend to identify with — i.e. not to distinguish from — their avatars, and the younger the respondents were, the stronger the phenomenon."

    What are the implications for traditional aspects of identity in a context where they can be so freely and fluidly altered? What does the ability to hide or disguise identity mean in particular for the experience of race — and racism — online? This panel will debate whether digital platforms can enhance racial engagement and understanding, or simply encourage conscienceless and consequence-free acts of hatred and abuse — and explore how online identity is forcing us to confront new ways of thinking about race, ethnicity and gender.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Sunday 13th March

    In Hill Country AB, Hyatt Regency Austin

    Coverage sketch note

  • Companion Gaming: Single Brand Engagement Across Multiple Platforms

    by Chris Early

    This case study presentation will examine Ubisoft’s concept of “companion gaming,” which entails being able to play a game on one platform and have it relate to another game on a different platform, all within the same brand. Effectiveness of existing projects will be examined, including statistics on performance and adoption. Lessons learned and some suggested best practices will round out the session.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Sunday 13th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

  • Fun With The Lights Off: Interactivity Without Graphics

    by Adam Hoyle, Nick Ryan, Tassos Stevens, Paul Bennun and Margaret Robertson

    The pictures are better on radio, they say, and the same is also true in interactive experiences: games, for example, are possible using sound that are more realistic and immersive than the most complex 3D polygon-fests. But we're not talking soundtrack: we're talking fundamental questions of user interface, augmented reality and game design in audio. We're focusing on the development of Papa Sangre, a game in sound without graphics, and the world's first real-time generative audio-only virtual world. On an iPhone.

    Papa Sangre was commissioned by 4IP as a game in which blind people might be able to kick the ass of sighted people. Its development has been an adventure, pushing the capacity of the iPhone to the limit. It’s been an extraordinary challenge to imagine the design of a game and world where your existence is entirely through sound and where technological constraints become a mother of invention. You walk with your thumbs through a binaural sound environment, where you hear both the monster snoring to your left and the crunch of chicken bones and squeaky toys underfoot that may wake it up and bring death upon you. It’s a fundamentally different experience of gameplay, continually present-tense, totally immersive and therefore visceral – it feels like it’s you out there. The panel will discuss the process, the constraints, the vision and the philosophy behind a radical new genre of game and what this generally reveals for good game and experience design.

    LEVEL: Advanced

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Sunday 13th March

    In Ballroom A, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage sketch note

Monday 14th March 2011

  • Legal Aspects of Online and 3D Game Development

    As 3D and online games become more film-like in terms of their development and distribution, game developers need to be more concerned with procuring appropriate rights of 3rd party content and contributions from others. A legally sound game will attract more funding and more interest than others that carry a significant risk to studios and investors. Moreover, having one's legal ducks in a row at the outset, will protect the independent game developer and the licensing studio or development company from undue legal risk. Entertainment attorney, Larry Waks of Austin firm, Jackson Walker LLP, and Intellectual Property attorney, Erik Metzger of Intel Corporation, will provide a "from idea to distribution" overview of the legal concerns behind modern 3D and online game development. This panel is intended for the online and 3D game development community.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Monday 14th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Game Publishing Evolution from Traditional to Digital Distribution

    by Chris Petrovic, Rob Dyer, Steve Carlin and Chris Morris

    As we’ve seen with the music industry, more and more entertainment services are transitioning from physical goods to digital distribution. This panel will focus on the video game sector and how the growing acceptance of digital distribution is impacting both traditional video game publishers and retailers.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Games: Tools For Mass Communication

    by Benjamin Taylor, Michael Agustin and Brett A McCall

    Art, education, economics, propaganda. Games are arriving at the forefront of media to become an important way to engage entire generations of people. What's different from before? Five billion people are replacing the most common communication device, the simple cell phone, with a full-fledged gaming system in their pocket. There are multiple ways to publish and distribute games over the Internet and to the masses. For many, game creation is becoming a regular activity, as tools become both easier to use and more powerful for people without programming knowledge. This panel will cover unique perspectives on how games are becoming more meaningful forms of expression and a significant tool for communicating ideas.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom C, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage sketch note

  • Internet, Video Games & Mental Health

    by John Grohol

    The line between enjoyment of technology and feeling unable to disconnect or spend less time in front of a computer or TV screen is a fuzzy one. Professionals don't recognize Internet or video game addiction, yet many people still use those words to describe the sense of being sucked into the Internet or gaming and being unable to cut back. What have your experiences been with spending too much time online or playing video games? Have you ever tried to cut back? How successful were you? We'll discuss strategies to help you get back your life and re-connect with your face-to-face life. This is a core conversation.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Trinity, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

  • Game On: 7 Design Patterns For User Engagement

    by Nadya Direkova

    How do you drive up user engagement? What game-like design patterns get your users to complete the sign-up, bring friends and come back? This session will expose the design patterns of engagement and incentives, including relevant metrics. Led by Nadya Direkova, Sr. Designer at Google and game designer, it will teach useful techniques that can drive up - and keep - your user base. You will leave with an arsenal of 7 design patterns to: design effective sign-up sessions and tutorials, promote virality, invite return visits, and apply game mechanics beyond points and bagdes. About the speaker: Nadya Direkova is Google’s local search designer and a game mechanics consultant - helping millions of users find knowledge and fun. She comes from the world of game design, having created fun games for Leapfrog and Backbone. She’s taught design at M.I.T. and spoken at IXDA’09 and SXSW’10.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom C, Austin Convention Center

  • Tag, The Mobile Assassination Game

    by Alex Hachey

    Learn about the latest advancements in augmented reality and mobile game play in this detailed case study about Tag, The Mobile Assassination Game. Track friends using location and social tools, shoot them with your mobile camera, and upload the kill shot to the community for ratings, rankings and, in general, ruckus and entertainment.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 1:15pm to 1:30pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

  • Having Fun Yet? 10 Usability Heuristics For Games

    by John Mark Josling and Corey Chandler

    The joke goes something like this: if interaction designers had made Super Mario Brothers, the game would just have one large button labeled “Rescue Princess.”

    There is some truth to that. Interaction designers strive for products that let people get tasks done quickly and easily. Yet, the fun of gameplay is overcoming challenges and rules deliberately set to impede a player’s progress. So as interaction designers, how do we separate challenges that add to the gameplay from those points of frustration which detract?

    For game developers without access to interaction designers or researchers, the challenge can be even greater. When developing a new game, what general principles should be followed to make sure it remains safely on the fun side of frustrating?

    Jakob Nielsen gave us the ten canonized Usability Heuristics for web and system design; our humble goal is to do the same for computer games. This presentation will provide ten interface heuristics applicable to games as well a few useful “discount” evaluation techniques for when you don’t have the time, or the money, for a full lab study.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom C, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

  • Future of Mobile Gaming/Entertainment

    by Peter Vesterbacka

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:45pm to 4:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center