I was fortunate enough to be a guest at the first Off The Page event. The Off The Page events series is hosted by Four Colman Getty, a PR company who specialise in culture and campaigning and are frequently involved in helping clients think up the best quality marketing and digital strategies.
The event itself started at 7pm, but before then we had a chance to chat to the other guests and hear what they did and where they worked. This theme continued through-out the night, with the fact a Q and A session with the audience followed each speaker.
The first speaker was Charlie Higson ; judge at GamingCity, comedian and, most importantly, an avid gamer. He discussed how so-called ‘Old Media’ (such as newspapers and books) will continue to exist despite advances in the ‘New Media’ (internet, e-books) as many publishers who are successful in the e-book market would ideally like to be successful in the paperback/hardback book market.
He also stated that games should NOT just be full of cutscenes and FMVs as he felt these distracted players too much from the gameplay. He argued that what gamers wanted was to play games, not to watch movies in games. He also shared an interesting bit of info in that the book 50 Shades of Grey sold 3 million more copies than Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which further proves that the old media is still successful.
Another point made was that the console market was decreasing due to the mobile/tablet market on account of their easier accessibility plus low prices on games such as Angry Birds and Temple Run.
The next speaker was Phil Stuart who is Creative Director at London gaming studio “Preloaded”, which have won BAFTA awards for their games (an example of their games is 1066, which is an educational game based on the Battle of Hastings which is in a turn based strategy style gameplay in which you can play as either Viking, Anglo-Saxon or Norman).
Phil was discussing how the average age for gamers is 32, which destroys the myth that only children play video games and that also the video game industry is worth $74 billion (so more than Hollywood).
A belief that Phil was shared was that games should be more than just fun ; they should also make the player feel a new experience. An example of this is Journey on the Playstation 3 in which the player is supposed to explore an ancient civilization in the desert and can do it either alone or with other players online. The method of playing it with another person means that you help each other fight enemies and get up ledges which itself means you and the other player share the journey and the experiences which is a lot different to other multiplayer games like Call of Duty, which involve shooting other people and loosely supporting the other players in the team.
Next was David Morris who is an author , video game designer and creator of inkle Studios and the Frankenstein app, an interactive app where you can speak to Frankenstein and in which your choices affect the story and its outcome.
Another series David was responsible for was Fabled Lands : a series of fantasy gamebooks based on a mythical land. The series was open-ended so you could start with any book and finish with another without having to follow continuity.
He was discussing on how to get people and games to interact and argued that the player should have different methods of doing so, such as developing friendships or enemies in a game, which may in turn have the possibility of generating a new environment depending on the choices you have made.
He pointed out that games haven’t always used FMV as cutscenes ; an example being Max Payne 1 & 2 which had comic book style pictures in place of cutscenes, as the developer didn’t have the budget at the time to make CGI cutscenes (and also the comic book style fit in better with Max Payne’s noir setting).
The next speakers were Megan Goodwin-Patel and Valerie Bozetto who are part of Interactive Rights Management (IRM) and were former executives of Celador Studios. As well as making their own games, they work with other studios to help develop their games.
Their games are based on the interactive TV market such as SkyDigital and making casual games based on TV Shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Deal or No Deal allowing fans of those shows to play the games on their televisions to get the experience from their own home.
Another strategy they talked about was having games based from different media, e.g. Mastermind which is a board game in which you had to solve a code the other player made with coloured pegs, which IRM brought to the mobile phone market in 2005. By doing this they can reach an important market which longs for nostalgia yet wants the convenience of playing those games on the go.
In addition these ladies have been involved in adapting books into games, such as Agatha Christie’s titles which are seek and find adventure games in which you have to solve clues to find the murderer.
An important theme they spoke about was the quick phases in which media can go through and how it can make or break an app (also known as transience) . Examples of applications not getting the support and popularity they hoped were Big Brother and Corrie Nation which were Facebook applications which had gameplay similar to Farmville. However they were made after the popular market went elsewhere and hence those apps didn’t have many users and in the case of Corrie Nation was taken down 6 months after launch.
The final speaker was Dean Johnson who is Vice President of the company Brandwidth.
He and Mark Staufer were also involved in getting funding via Kickstarter for The Numinous Place, an e-book which has an interactive element with comic book cut scenes and video clips explaining part of the story and enriching it. There are pop ups inside which acted like messages from the characters sending it to the main character which in practice is the reader.
The end result is reading a book but at the same time experiencing something akin to playing a game by getting involved with the characters and the settings.
And that was it for this session of Off the Page, the next session is in June and will be about mobiles and how they are adapting towards the consumer and the market.
Once again thanks to Matt Railton for having us at Off The Page
~Tareq Ashry aka Cyburn