Freeplay Independent Games Festival

The Twine Revolution

Now that it’s as easy to make a game as take a photo, new voices are coming out to play. This session will explore what happens when power is in the hands of the community, and what that community is choosing to make.

With Kircy Jong, Paul Callaghan, and Mary Hamilton

GCAP Government Round Table

This is the presentation I gave to the government round table at GCAP. Present there were representatives from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, The Office for the Arts, State Government, and others. During the discussion, PricewaterhouseCooper presented details from their Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook, the IGEA talked about their recent Digital Australia report looking at changing audience information, and I was asked to talk about games and culture.

Unlike last year’s talk where I tried to give a reframing argument of how to think and talk about games and culture, I – quite last minute – decided to look at the part of creative industries that haven’t had as much exposure in recent discussions about games and government support or interest – that of the essential maker communities.
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Turning off our screens

This is the presentation I gave at GCAP 2011. It’s drawn from other blog posts & thoughts I’ve had, notably on industry, culture, and the language we use. There are some new ideas and facts – notably the early analysis of Film Victoria’s game funding program, which I hope to dig into more detail on soon – but it’s the first time I’ve collected it all together in a single talk. It also hit some of the beats from Mike Acton’s keynote, which was fortunate as we went on just after each other at the conference.

I’ll be uploading the talk I gave to the Government Round Table on the importance of maker communities to creative industries in the next few days, as well as the data I’ve collated from the Film Victoria reports.

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Thoughts and notes from GCAP

At the tail end of last year’s GCAP the news of trouble at Krome hummed through the crowd during the final session – a panel with Shaniel Deo, Bob Loya, Greg Short, and chaired by me. In it, as people discovered what was happening to Australia’s largest studio, we tried our best not to focus on that but to frame the learning of a conference that felt unlike previous GCAPs in that it actually had a personality and something to say about the changing shape of studio and industrial development – changes thrown into relief by the sad news.

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Writing roundup and upcoming events…

Emerging from Freeplay, things haven’t particularly slowed down – and digging through my submissions, it looks I missed a few things too.

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The Emerging Writers’ Festival…(& podcasts, interviews, and reviews…)

The Emerging Writers’ Festival just launched their program, so it’s time for the obligatory spruiking blog-post.

I’m running a 2-hour writing for games workshop with Express Media on May 22nd from 2-4.  Details here.  I’m going to cover the key similarities and differences between games & more traditional media and how to approach the process of games writing.

I’ll also be on the panel ‘Never Surrender’ on May 29th at 1:45.

Never surrender
Writing isn’t all about success stories! Join our writers as they speak candidly about rejection, creative risk-taking and projects that took ten years from creation to publication. Why do they stick with it, and is it all worth it in the end?
With — Paul Callaghan, Elizabeth Campbell, Sean Condon and Dee White. Hosted by Simonne Michelle-Wells.

And 20 minutes before the program launch, I was interviewed for the Arts Alive program about my experiences with the festival and why I think it’s a Good Thing(tm).  (Summary: Writers > Readers for inspiration!)

Thanks to Lisa Dempster, I was at last month’s Format Festival in Adelaide talking about writing & technology on the Non-Paper Publishing panel.  One of the other speakers, Estelle Tang, recently interviewed me about games writing for the Kill Your Darlings podcast.  You can listen to it here.

And lastly, I reviewed The Pleasures of Computer Gaming for RMIT‘s Second Nature Journal.  You can read that review here.

Writing for games workshop…

I’m running a writing for games workshop with Express Media and the Emerging Writers’ Festival on May 22nd.

Details from the Express Media site are:

Express Media in partnership with the Emerging Writers’ Festival presents:

How To Write Computer Games with Paul Callaghan, 2-4pm. The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

$10

Games, like all mediums, have their own strengths and weaknesses as a storytelling medium. This workshop takes a look at what makes games tick, what you can learn from traditional forms, and what you should know about the expressive power of mechanics.

link

And so it begins…

2010 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting year…

I’ll be at the Format Festival – Academy of Words in Adelaide on March 13th. Definitely talking about non-paper publishing, but might also be chairing something else. Details here.

I’m also taking part in the next Meanland event – Reading in a Time of Technology – on May 19th at the Wheeler Centre.  Details here.

And, lastly,  I’ll once again be talking at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, sometime from May 21st to May 30th.

The season of acronyms…

As the year scrabbles to a close, the steady stream of conferences and presentations comes to an end.

World Congress of Science and Factual Producers

On Friday December 4th, I took part in a speed-networking event at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers.  What was interesting about this was being able to step away from the traditional pc/console space and think about new opportunities to use games and games technology.

In talking to the directors and producers, I had the thought that perhaps games were closer to documentary features than to narrative features.  The topics explored – happiness as a contagion that can be tracked using network theory, or a man who built his own 300-million search-and rescue empire – were built on the film-maker exploring the world, creating theories, and constructing the narrative as they go, which is a clear analogue for what players do in games.

Not to say that there isn’t room for narrative in games, but modelling gameplay & the reveal of narrative in more of a documentary style might prove to be a useful template.

Game Connect Asia Pacific

Or GCAP as it’s less mouthfully known, took place at Crown from December 6th – 8th.  I gave two presentations – one on games and games literacy (which was attended by only 5 people due to a last minute room change) and one on the creative process of writing and how that applies to games.  Due to meetings and general schmoozing (and also pulling together my writing presentation), I saw almost none of the conference itself (other than Tim Stellmach’s keynote & the indie games that I was judging), but came away with the overall impression that from an art & design perspective, the content was unfocused and weak – which is reflected in a single stream that contained all of the art, design, and audio talks.  As design is one of our local industry’s challenges, it would be nice to see an increased focus on it next year.

Details on the presentations after the fold.

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Game Connect: Asia Pacific 2009

Details of the 2009 GCAP program are now up on the website.

My session, What Does a Writer Do Anyway?, is on Tuesday December 8th at 3:35 as part of the Art / Design / Audio stream.

What does a writer do anyway?

Telling stories is an essential part of our cultural fabric, but in the face of a new medium, one in which mechanics, rules, and play are at the heart of the audience experience, we’re still learning how to work the thousands of years of accumulated knowledge in writing and storytelling to our best advantage.

An often-neglected discipline in video games, this session will look at the skills and craft that writers use when approaching storytelling, dialogue, structure, and characterisation, and how to apply those to video games without losing the particular strengths of the medium.  By dissecting the craft of writing, it will demonstrate the thought processes behind story creation, what does and doesn’t work within the medium of games, and why some of those boundaries exist.  It will also show how some of those core concepts are applicable to games without stories, informing mechanic, level, and systems design.

Looking to the future, the session will lastly speculate on the marriage of traditional narrative and mechanics, and the sorts of stories that can only be told in the medium of games by exploiting the fundamental gameplay forces of agency, choice, rules, and goals.