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Filmed on Tuesday July 27, 02010

Jesse Schell

Visions of the Gamepocalypse

Jesse Schell is a professor at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, CEO of Schell Games, and author of The Art of Game Design. Formerly he was chair of the International Gems Developers Association and creative director of the Disney Virtual Reality Studio.

Games perpetually revolutionize computer use toward denser interaction with the human mind. To do that, they perpetually revolutionize themselves. Understanding the next frontiers of the genre is one way to understand where society is going.

In this talk Jesse Schell explores the social, cognitive, and technological trends in computer game design and use.

Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, the author of the authoritative text, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, and a Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon, specializing in Game Design. At Walt Disney, he was Creative Director of the Imagineering VR Studio.

Gaming the World

In a glee-filled evening, Schell declared that games and real life are reaching out to each other with such force that we might come to a condition of "gamepocalypse---where every second of your life you're playing a game in some way. He expects smart toothbrushes and buses that give us good-behavior points, and eye-tracking sensors that reward us for noticing ads, and subtle tests that confirm whether product placement in our dreams has worked.

The reason games are so inviting is that they offer: clear feedback, a sense of progress, the possibility of success, mental and physical exercise, a chance to satisfy curiosity, a chance to solve problems, and a great feeling of freedom.

Accelerating technology has made some people give up on predicting the future, Schell said, but in fact it should make us much better predictors, because we get so much practice in finding out so quickly whether our predictions are right or wrong. He feels confident in predicting a number of driving forces that will make games subsume all other media and occupy ever more of real life. They are:

  • Nooks & crannies---new niches for games in people's time, in specialty groups, in various world cultures.
  • Microtransactions---which will really take off when they blend with social networking.
  • New sensors---tilty smart phones are a glimpse of what disposable sensors everywhere might bring.
  • New screens---live displays on everything.
  • REM-tainment---lucid dreams as a play field.
  • AdverGaming---commercialization money drives powerful innovation.
  • Beauty---everything is getting gorgeous.
  • Customization---you can already get personalized M&Ms.
  • Eye and face tracking---universal face recognition is coming, and so is having your avatar reflect your real-face expressions.
  • The curious will win---games so reward curiosity and fast learning that the incurious will be left behind.
  • Authenticity---"real" constantly pushes toward real.
  • Social networking---Facebook!
  • Transmedia worlds---Pokémon showed the way, embracing a game, TV, cards, and toys.
  • Speech recognition---soon you will have to persuade a computer character to do something.
  • Geotracking---the real world becomes the screen.
  • Sharing---Wikipedia showed its power.
  • Quantitative design---detailed real-time analysis of what works in games drives exquisite adaptation.
  • Extrinsic rewards---gold stars everywhere, but Schell recommends the book Punished by Rewards and believes that intrinsic rewards are better to promote because they last.
  • Whole life tracking---the endpoint is immersion. Hopefully in what James Carse calls "the infinite game"---where the point is not in winning but in always improving the game.

Asked in the Q&A about short versus long games, Schell noted that massive multiplayer games have such scale and scope and offer such endless new goals and progress along with their social intensity that World of Warcraft now has 10 million players. We may well be passing our avatars on to our children and grandchildren.

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