One of my favorite recent pastimes – simply because technology writing is now old enough – is to dive back into future-leaning writing of the 1980s and 1990s & see how things turned out.
It turns out that book sales in the Bay Area are full of such ‘artifacts’. And Douglas Rushkoff’s Cyberia – originally written in 1992, and published in 1993/1994 – is writing that deserves looking at, more than 20 years later.
The original hardcover description of the book on Amazon explains of Cyberia: “In a vivid journalistic portrait of the underground trendsetters of the 1990s, Rushkoff ventures headlong into cyberspace–the weird and unmapped terrain of hackers, smart drugs, virtual reality, cyberliterature, and technoshamans.”
So yep, the meat of Rushkoff’s book actually delves deep into some of his own journalistic and personal interests – in particular, the ‘smart drugs‘ movement, as also showcased in crossover cyberpunk magazines like Mondo 2000.
But the first 50 pages or so of Cyberia are an overview of the burgeoning early ’90s technology scene, and an attempt to forecast where it may go. Rushkoff is known for coining terms like ‘viral media’, and while much of the book feels very much ‘of its time’, these pages are worth analyzing and highlighting to see how things actually turned out. So let’s do that:
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how game creators get paid for their work, particularly on mobile. Specifically, I’m wondering whether there’s any middle ground between the minority of devs who rake in the vast majority of revenues, largely through higher-paying ‘whales’, and the rest of us.
Firstly, let’s lay out the ‘problem’. Obviously we’ve seen that certain F2P games are commanding large swathes of market share on mobile – Supercell‘s trio of titles – Clash Of Clans, Hay Day, Boom Beach – grossed $1.6 billion and had a $500 million profit in 2014 – crazy.
Besides the obvious ‘stickiness’ and quality of the games, these folks are making off with the lion’s share of the dollars because well-constructed IAP (in app purchase)-based ‘games as a service’ are a sweet spot for today’s digital game biz, and have two major advantages.
[We took a little bit longer to make something special for the latest video game-themed StoryBundle that I put together for Jason Chen’s excellent eBook bundle site! And the optional charity _and_ all of my curator cut goes to the excellent women in games org Pixelles. Here’s lots more info!]
Continuing its popular “pay what you want” ebook bundles, StoryBundle is proud to present the Summer Video Game Book Bundle – the sixth in the super popular series. Curated over the past 6 months, this specially picked set of 20+ fascinating game culture & history books/magazines.
It once again features over $100+ worth of books & magazines for a fraction of that price – including a world exclusive debut and literally thousands of pages of amazingly written and compiled content. This summer, either binge on the lot, or pick your favorites to read at your leisure!
This year’s E3 trade show in Los Angeles, which I’ve just finished attending in person, was an interesting one for the video game business. While there’s been a lot of talk of the rise of mobile, indie, VR, or what have you, E3 itself has reinforced its focus on the core console gamer. And it’s emerged as a dynamic force in that particular space, which is still an incredibly important part of video games.
After a lot of painful consolidation (of both publishers and independent console developers), we’re down to just a few ‘big’ console game publishers and platforms – who are also the financial backers of the ESA, the trade organization which organizes the event. They’re notably led by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision, and Ubisoft, with Disney, Warner Bros, Bethesda, Square Enix, Capcom, and Take-Two also having significant show-floor presence.
As Wikipedia handily notes, regarding the Horsemen mentioned in the title, “in most accounts, the four [Horsemen Of The Apocalypse] are seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine & Death”. And none of these things are particularly nice, to be honest. (The only Death I’m a fan of is the one in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and mainly because he’s terrible at Twister.)
But I wanted to use the idea of gradually advancing, uh, harbingers for virtual reality, now that I’ve tried four or five VR systems with games, movies, and apps. We can then apply them to a sliding scale of immersiveness within VR right now – and discuss why it’s vital to understand the differences, when it comes to mainstream adoption.
And it turns out the four steps that take us inexorably towards the Apocalypse are quite a handy metaphor for just that! So let’s go ahead and see which technology lies with each ‘ride’, and uh, exactly what the heck I’m talking about:
[This was originally sent to 100 or so subscribers to my TinyLetter email newsletter, but thought it might be interesting to the Internet at large, so am reposting here.]
Having finished up the behemoth that was GDC 2015 since the last newsletter (GDC Vault recordings coming this week, with LOTS of free talks, folks!), I thought it might be nice to pass out some things I personally learned from the show.
This edited post was originally posted on our company’s internal Wiki/Hub space, and while it needed to be pared down (it was originally Five Lessons, but a couple need to be internal only cuz reasons!)
It’s largely for an internal audience, and I hope it doesn’t come off too self-congratulatory. But we _did_ hit >26,000 people – another record for attendance – and it was a week that I know a lot of people regarded (and still regard!) fondly. So, some thoughts on it:
[Picture of Iam8bit’s ‘You’ve Got Game Show!’ from GDC 2014 – here’s the full gallery of curated spaces from last year.]
As you folks may have spotted, there’s just a week to go ’til we hit Game Developers Conference 2015 – and there’ll likely be 25,000+ game developers converging on the Moscone Center to check out talks, Expo, and everything in between, yay!
And actually, it’s the ‘everything in between’ I wanted to talk about in this post. When the organizers looked at GDC, 3 or 4 years ago, we realized we were providing lotsa neat stuff in the conference rooms, and on the Expo Floor. But some of the larger ‘common spaces’ when walking around Moscone felt, well, a bit empty.
So we started putting a lot more seating/hangout spaces in there, plus commissioning, paying expenses and giving free space to awesome people who were curating and showing ‘interesting things’. Best of all, these spaces are viewable and interactable by any GDC pass holder, from Expo to Exhibitor to All-Access. And we do them _solely_ to make your experience a lot more fun, thought-provoking, and social.
These GDC ‘curated spaces’ are listed, day by day, on the GDC 2015 Events page, but I thought it might be useful to highlight them and add a little ‘co-director’s commentary’ – with full credit to Meggan Scavio (da true bosslady!), Sandesh Nicol & Ashley DaSilva, plus our amazing ops team – and ALL of our partners listed below – for making this all happen: Continue reading
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – oddly, since I don’t play it – is World Of Warcraft. Blizzard’s 10-year-old MMO behemoth has outlasted pretty much every expensively funded competitor, at least in the ‘pay a monthly subscription’ category. (Although I’ve heard reports that some of its ‘failed’ rivals in a galaxy far far away are surprisingly profitable on a monthly basis.)
Anyway, current profit/loss numbers for rivals aren’t really that relevant. What’s clear is that the dream of creating multiple $1 billion ‘hardcore’ MMOs, before the rise of F2P on mobile, was doomed to failure. World Of Warcraft was the first to get multiple millions of subscribers, and there it pretty much stayed, as the sole mega-success.
But why was that? Besides the fact it’s a beautifully crafted game, of course! Well, I think VCs, funders (& developers!) failed to understand that WoW players were a large percentage of the total market for ‘super hardcore’ games. Not only that, but the social networks built up with guilds and multi-hour raids meant that in order to tear someone away from WoW, you literally had to uproot their entire social network (and Leeroy!) en masse and get them to switch games simultaneously. That’s a high barrier.
It’s hardly a ‘duh’ mistake, though. I think it was reasonable to presume that, just as World Of Warcraft overtook EverQuest or Ultima Online, someone could make a game that would be ‘the next World Of Warcraft’. But in all the research I presume was done ahead of these investments, did anyone grok what I’d like to call ‘the Share Of Voice problem’ that games – and hardly any other creative medium – have? Continue reading
[This is excerpted from the fifth issue of my new TinyLetter email newsletter, dealing with ‘musings on games, tech and life’ – go ahead and sign up if you dig it!]
As I noted on Twitter, one of my most beloved Christmas presents this year is Stewart Lee’s book ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life And Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian‘. And one of the things it’s taught me is sorta, well, chicken soup for the soul, in an underfed Dickensian orphan kind of way.
(For anyone who doesn’t know him, Lee – once half of British comedy double-act Lee & Herring, who I rather enjoyed as a callow teenager, is a master of edgy meta-humor – often on tough subjects like terrorism and religion – that’s more repetitive performance art than ‘real jokes’ at times. Which is precisely why it’s amazing. Check out his ‘Stand Up Comedian’ set – naughtily available in full on YouTube – and his ‘Comedy Vehicle’ series for the BBC.)
In any case, Lee has had an interesting relationship with ‘making things’ because of his history both writing and producing for comedy as well as theater – notably co-creating Jerry Springer: The Opera and being targeted en masse by protesters along the way.
The book, which is in majority annotated transcripts of 3 of his recent stand-up shows, also has narrative parts that talk about his life and method – and it’s clear he reaches way beyond the dick joke in an attempt to introduce theatricality into stand-up. But Lee is also caustic on how comedy is seen, and I thought this part particularly quotable: Continue reading