Three Highlights From the Upcoming 2013 Game Developers Conference Schedule

Also titled: Why I Want Game Skinny To Send Me to San Francisco.
The Emerging Landscape of African Game Development (Wesley Kirinya, Eyram Tawia) 
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There are hundreds of tribes in Africa, each with its own rich culture and games. For African audiences, video games are only a new medium to play what has already existed for centuries before. A video game developer in Africa must be able to design across the cultural boundaries, and educate the player in using new interactive technologies. There has been tremendous growth in mobile technology and the number of mobile users, so mobile phones have become the most popular gaming platform. However, political issues have affected many communities on the continent, which has led to any media, such as newspapers, television, and radio, being sensitive about the content they release to the public. Video games are no exception to this rule, and thus game creators must be careful about the themes and ideas behind their games. Sharing over 7 years of experience as game developers in Africa, the speakers will present an overview of the African market and the emerging landscape for game development.

Bet you’ve never thought about the game market in Africa, have you? I sure haven’t. Kirinya and Tawia are the founders of Leti Games, an African-based company that does exactly what you’d think: create culturally-relevant games for an African audience, like iWarrior, which is a neat little game about protecting your village from wild predators. 

Strange Love: Game Theory vs. Game Design (Frank Lantz)

Game theory, the mathematical analysis of conflict and decision making, is a field of study with important applications in economics, politics, law, and biology. But does it have anything to contribute to the creative discipline of game design? This talk will examine game theory from historical, conceptual, and philosophical perspectives to reveal the points of contact between the abstract equations and rational actors of game theory and the mysterious pleasures and elusive meanings of game design as a creative form.

Every time I tell someone about studying psychology and game design, they will inevitably ask, “What, like… game theory?” It’s a really interesting struggle to answer them (mostly because I generally assume they have no idea what game theory is). Frank Lantz, Chair of the NYU Game Center, is apparently just as frustrated by this question as I am, and I would give every penny in my bank account to hear his take on it.

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Ferelden (Heidi McDonald)

Schell Games narrative designer Heidi McDonald, creator of the ICING model for writing more satisfying NPC romances, is taking her work a step further. Breaking up her prior survey data by gender, she will discuss the differences and similarities she found in the way that males and females approach NPC romance. Using gender data from over 500 surveyed gamers, McDonald will share the steps narrative designers can take to address the romance motivations of several types of players at once.

The survey has shown that men and women romance in games for different reasons. Therefore, there are specific steps narrative designers can take to make NPC romance more appealing to everyone. The most far-reaching of these steps would be to increase the complexity of female NPC and player characters.

Look, dear GameSkinny reader, I’m not going to lie to you. If I have the option of pursuing a romance in my game, I’m making a bee-line toward it. As a writer, as a social psychology nerd, as somebody really, really interested in the concept of digital genetic algorithms (if I can have kids, you should pretty much just get out of my way), the science behind what motivates people to video game romances is mighty intriguing. 

So far the dates for these sessions are to be determined, but I’d be watching these three pretty carefully. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re some of the most-attended at Game Developer’s Conference this year.

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HC Billings
HC Billings is an excellent gamer, acceptable writer, and laughable parkourist.