Article re-posted from February 24, 2015
After reading an article on Polygon regarding Apple’s appstore filtering of content, and the problems with ‘Serious Games’ (or any game with an opinion for that matter) I felt the need to express my thoughts on the issue.
The solution I think was already covered in my previous post as it removes Apple’s concerns of looking like ‘they are supporting the views of their content creators’.
Like Steam, Apple needs to distance itself from its content to ensure a democratic platform, and its content-developers can expand the inevitable nature of games, expressing their opinions with this popular medium.
It’s this ‘inevitable nature of games’ that I’d like to talk about, as a lot of people might agree with Apple’s stance on not allowing politics of offending nature on its platform, let me start out by stating that ‘offense’ is extremely relative; as the political opinion of one person can be seen as ‘offending’ by others.
The Youtube communities suffered from a consistent false-flagging whenever a video was deemed ‘offensive’, even when it was merely a political expression that others simply didn’t agree with.
The obvious answer is ‘this is freedom of speech, you don’t have to watch it’, yet these ‘flaggers’ know this, however they simply don’t want the content to exist in the first place, and thus abuse the content-flagging in an attempt to censor the outlet of a particular opinion -> this is information war… If given into, this gets dangerously close to fascism where only a particular voice can be heard. As George Orwell so elegantly put it:
‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’
What does this have to do with games? Games are growing beyond the medium of simple ‘entertainment’; they’re so ingrained in our every-day-lives that games are now becoming a tool of expression.
While Apple does not censor (with some exceptions) books and movies, it does so with Games, which means a discriminatory-oldschool view is held on what games are.
Serious Games have little to no chance on the appstore, mainly because if they dare touch a ‘controversial political subject’ as in the example of the Polygon article, they’ll get removed, and even if they would be accepted, the flagging of ‘inappropriate content’ will scare the curators into removal.
Whether you agree with the content-creators point of view is irrelevant, this self-censorship based on the corporate wish to not have to deal with inevitable backlash is a cheap and dangerous position for us to accept.
It’s possible to promote things, but not possible to criticize things whether it be politics or religion; progression as society is seriously hampered with the increasingly popular attitude that is framed as ‘respect’ but in reality is more a stance of ‘convenience to avoid confrontation’ which is fueled by the extreme fringes of political, national or religious groups, and then broadly accepted by majorities under false these pretenses: we would never accept this behavior in the press, so why do we accept it in videogames?
The Polygon article makes a good point that the problem is that we’ve allowed corporations who have little commercial competition, to write and filter the rules on what expressions are allowed and what not, but I feel this is broadly carried by the public as well, under the above-mentioned ‘convenience to avoid offense’: we’re evolving into a people that choose to avoid problems, rather than face them, as life is ‘yolo’… remember.
Another interesting part in this, is how selective this filtering really is; as people have no issues with the critical games on corporate greed, or anti-interventionism, yet all other subjects are off-limits.
This is exactly where the front-lines are, and it’s not really Apple’s fault for deciding not to engage in journalistic ethics, yet limiting freedom-of-speech on such the world’s Nr1 platforms is, and it is a situation they can easily excuse themselves from by allowing users to filter, almost like ‘Zite‘ does with news-articles or establishing curators whom people can choose to expose themselves to. It’s time to say ‘no’ to the extreme fringes that are demanding certain content simply not exist, just because they themselves don’t like it.
We still have along way to go here, but I think it’s time we start demanding more of our freedoms and democracies to actually be represented on the platforms we spend 95% of our time on.
Article re-posted from May 4, 2015
‘The Thinking Helmet’, or why AI won’t take over management anytime soon. I once read (cannot find the original author, plz help!): ‘a rational mind learns the rules of the world and adjusts himself to the world around him, while an irrational mind adjusts the rules to himself. Therefore, progress is built on the irrational mind’.
An interesting saying with a core of truth that can be used in the discussion about AI; irrational thinking creating randomized outcomes that might push progress towards new heights unimaginable with rational thinking based on existing available data. It’s the ‘leap of faith’ so to say, and while I’m not advocating for irrational behavior to be norm, we also cannot dismiss it.
This is one of the weakest links in ‘the AI will take over’. When working with neural-network AI I’ve seen the element of progress in AI thinking which basically follows the formula of: ‘attempting something, then gathering info and forming an opinion about it by placing it in a hierarchy’, however AI can only use parameters defined by current-state rational formula’s, therefor will need a bit of a ‘magical input from time to time’.
Now what this ‘magical input’ really is delves too deep into the philosophy of our conscious being and thinking, but the key message here is; raw intelligence/processing power isn’t the only formula to success and until we’ve figured out how to reproduce the ultimate balance between the rational and irrational elements that make our thinking and behavior exponentially more innovative, AI will always remain an extension of our own thinking or dependent on it (even if it is ‘smarter than us’).
Think about it, your computer is already smarter than you in a very selective way; calculating things, statistics-gathering & filtering, etc. -> why is it still ‘stupid’ and requires constant human input and upgrading?
The real AI threat will come from human-terrorism (humans inserting this behavior), not from sentience that supersedes us in raw intelligence (at least not for the foreseeable future).
Anyways, didn’t want to rant too long on AI, I was going for what I think will be the one of the biggest expansion towards human abilities to advance in the near future which does combine the 2 in an elegant and practical way: brain-processing-expansion…
Whenever it comes to technological advancement we’re always limited to a random dice-roll level of intelligence we get at birth (as well as proper nurturing ofc). Now even with bio-engineering ‘upgrades’ we’re still limited towards bio-mass unless we start doing some horribly risky things (genetically manipulating people to the point where we resemble ‘Dune’s navigator-worms’).
No, the short-term modern solution which is the most plausible will be a device people put on their heads which increases their brains ‘processing power’. What this does is take perfect advantage of our desire to be ‘in control’, minimizing the risk of enemy-human or random-bug/error interference and provides optimal balance between a ‘humans touch’ and ‘raw industrial intelligence’.
Think about it, we already have a device that upgrades our abilities where we can see at night:
and we’re currently developing devices that form a ‘heads-up display’ to process information ‘for us’ to ensure our thinking can go towards decision-making, rather than information filtering/gathering:
The most logical step towards the requirement of more intelligence to push beyond our current understandings and ever-more-complicated society therefore is a device people can place on their heads like a ‘helmet’ or ‘glasses’ which provides an enormous amount of extra processing power for their brain to utilize during that time-period.
Considering it’s likely an exhausting experience for your brain, I wouldn’t think people would use it for more than a couple hours a day, yet it would be used in work situations mostly.
This might sound weird but you don’t really need extra intelligence for anything else than work, learning, studying, etc. so as collage students these days are already taking pills that enhance their concentration and learning abilities today, in the future this could be an as easy a thing as putting on your ‘VR / Computation glasses’ which focus on doing all the processing for you, so you can focus on the creative decision-making, learning whats most important or creating something new.
After that, likely a nap is in order Quality over quantity people, don’t forget
Last but not least; I’m not grasping this out of thin air, a quick Google already provided some interesting articles that are already a step in this direction:
Article re-posted from November 14, 2014
One of the big problems in todays appstores for mobile is the discovery process: how do I find what I like? There have been a number of automated processes which gather information and filter content for you, yet all that does is give you more of the same: its always running ‘after you’ never ‘in front of you’ if you know what I mean.
What makes it worse is that once you have a successful app, large ‘clone-companies’ make 30 variations of your app, upload them all across their networks, and end up ‘killing yours’: they don’t even need to design their own games, there’s hundreds of thousands of good games that failed because of exposure for them to pick from.
That’s not to say they all should have been successful, but it’s a sad day for appstores when noone really wants to invest in original high-quality content, unless they can spam tons of apps a month, have an enormous marketing budget, or monetize an existing cross-promotional setup to hurl their app through the masses.
The discovery process of the diamonds in between the dirt is extremely, and only limited to occasional ‘lottery-style’ success stories.
Another issue with appstores, is their content policies which, while I understand and respect given the stance of the company, seem to cater to large ‘grey areas’ while human interest can best be described as a large collection of niche-tastes, connected through occasional overlapping mainstream successes.
What I mean with that is that we each have our own specific taste, and right now, the appstores, both Apple and Google have a fundamental flaw in the way they feed and take responsibility for the content on their platform.
There’s an overarching content policy that aims to suit the needs of the largest group of people, minimizing potential bad publicity for the content vendor (in this case, Apple or Google) by removing or minimizing the exposure of content that ‘soccer-moms might not approve of’.
However, this content policy and strategy eliminates large chunks of the market and varying forms of entertainment.
For the ones skeptical, lets do a test, look at the selection of media below, and tell me if they’d be accepted or successful on the appstores of today (in game form of course). In addition, look at the production-budgets they got on TV/Film, and think if anyone would risk this on the appstore:
Now it is worth to note that many of these have ‘partner apps’ on the appstore, yet they are following Hollywood blockbusters and generally are censored as much as possible: the point is that a newcomer, the next Quentin Tarantino or Paul Verhoeve who like explicit content (yet in gaming of course), wouldn’t get his/her app through the content policy or get any serious exposure to warrant descent production values (it’d be labeled as too risky as casual is what sells -> note this isn’t the case for similar products on TV/Film!).
Both these problems are solved by the following:
Appstores tone down their content policy, limiting it to legal-limits, and instead of filtering themselves, curators step in who take responsibility in filtering and posting content. This works great for, Steam, who risked suffering a similar app-store fate due to the enormous influx of content, implemented a similar system:
Note that in my case, most of my Appstore discovery already comes from reading sites like ‘pocketgamer’ and several others who filter out the good apps for me. Why not make them curators and make things easy for people?
This formula has already been proven, as this innovation isn’t really originating from pc-gaming, it’s been running for decades on Television:
Your cable-company simply offers you a selection of channels you can purchase/hire/get in a package, and doesn’t interfere with the content. This lightens the curating load off the cable-company, and makes it so content-vendors separate from delivery platforms cater to their target audiences.
It’s a brilliant system as it finally manages to cater to the varying markets, creating a proper discovery process that works: my discovery process for television generally comes from varying online sources I trust and like reading, not some algorithm that’s trying to predict what I like.
Many people like Disney, and the ‘Disney Channel‘ is one of the best places to let your kids run free, especially since it’s also risk-free: how many parent’s have had their kids overspend in a kids-game that ‘seemed legit’ only turning out to be a micro-payment disaster?
Companies that ‘spam’ don’t get through the curators, who pick-by-hand, and so we’re back to creating original content, with good production values, for the specific curator (in TV/Film: channel) we’re pitching too.
The future is a separation of powers: Apple and Google should only have to care about their platforms success and delivery of the content, while leaving content-policy to a selection of ever-growing trusted curators.
If one of the curators approved something ‘illegal’ or ‘unethical’ they are responsible, which means curators will be strict as to to not lose their curator status.
The content-policies however, as long as they stay within the legalities of the target-country, are their own, and so adult-rated TV-shows with swearing, nudity, sex: explicit content, can serve the market they choose; and risk-takers aren’t inherently destroyed by the platform and it’s hungry-shark mega-companies who copy-paste a formula using 400x variations, counting on a strategy of spamming the app-stores to ‘beat the automated system’.
Something like this, but pretty of course :P
Article re-posted from October 13, 2014
When going about analyzing new markets, one might do well to consider looking at the changing of demographics in society: with a birth-index of less then 2.1 (the index required to replace existing populations), most Western countries not only have shrinking populations, but a demographic shift towards older people.
Now most people within the current, or near-future retirement age didn’t grow up with videogames, or were late-adopters, in which it’s safe to say the majority probably will be more drawn to reading novels, browsing the internet and watching television (along with the occasional card-/boardgame).
However, the first generation of gamers is well into the 40s, with even general gamer-averages already shifting towards aging gamers. Now we’ve all seen the increase in retro-game sales (for example GOG, and now on Steam), but have we considered that these people might want new and unique entertainment, that plays to their nostalgia?
I love the games-of-old, and often tried DOS-boxing them again, but quickly got frustrated with how dated and unpolished most 90s games were (not to mention horrible UI and balancing). We’ve probably all wished for ‘why don’t they make this game, exactly like it was, just better’ productions, yet the industry is still way too focused on being ‘hit-driven’.
Some of the most profitable and long-lasting game-companies build hardcore niche games,.. think about that… why is that?
They are delivering to their target audience, and have little to no competition because everyone is trying to shoot for the stars.
My point is not to, not shoot for the stars, but merely look at the videogame market as a broad spectrum of niche’s, and some (overcrowded!) mainstream genre’s: this might be a good business-case to make the games you always wanted to make, rather than feeling forced to ‘shoot for the stars’.
If someone were to make ‘Command and Conquer Tiberium Sun HD‘, which simply takes the game exactly as is, yet makes it 3D, polished, beautiful yet with a bit of a isometric/retro-look to it, clean graphics, meaning no wishy-washy blurs and depth-of-field effects, it would sell well. Sure, it won’t make 1 billion USD, but only a few games a year do that, and mostly these are games with investments of around 200 million USD.
Starcraft 2 is a great example of a game that plays towards the original Starcraft 1 audience, and doesn’t attempt to ‘broaden the audience by compromising the concept’.
They could for example have taken the ‘next gen graphics’ approach and littered the game with particles, blurs, etc. (like C&C3 did), yet knew very well that their target audience wouldn’t care much beyond the first 10 minutes, and from then on gameplay and easy competitive-driven visibility was key.
Too many times you see IP’s fail because they try to ‘broaden the audience’ yet fail to deliver the experience the original audience wants. That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment, but you should always play towards the expectations of who you are selling to. Starcraft managed to go big with their niche, but most can stay small and focus on their audience, making them profitable, long-lasting and fun.
Long story short; there’s a case to be made for niche markets, if you can keep investments down, and focus on what your target audience wants. So you think there’s a market for HD retro-gaming remakes? You’re probably right, yet don’t spend 50 million dollars doing it, use smaller budgets and economically, rather than the slim possibility to make 50 million profit over 1 game, you could make 1 million profit per game, reliably… now which accountant wouldn’t high-five you for that?
This leads me to the original topic: Retirement Home Gaming (which could become a huge niche!); with the aging gamer in their 40s, within 30-40 years tops, they’ll be the first in retirement homes playing videogames against each other. The hand-eye coordination will be bad, so likely the games won’t be fast-paced, or if they are, limit nauseating featuresets like motion-blurs/depth-of-field/etc. and focus more on clear-cut graphics (like Team Fortress 2 for example) that are easy to grasp for the ‘aging eye’ (ignoring the fact that bionic eyes might become a reality by then).
Think of the good ol fun of retirement homes then, no more boring card-games, or ‘The Price is Right‘ on everyone’s TV (another example of brilliant non-hype-driven-television), but instead retirement home gaming tournaments, MMO’s, and maybe even competitive retirement home gaming teams (Orlando Retirement Home A, versus New York retirement home B). Twitch-TV becomes flooded with old people streams and entire gaming communities pop up aimed specifically for these groups of gamers.
Now the good thing is that we probably won’t need to wait 30 years for this to become a reality; as many older people have started picking up on ‘Peggle‘, ‘Candy Crush‘, ‘Farmville‘, ‘DrawSomething‘ and many more casual games; the stage might already be set for the starts of this market, and what’s great about it, is that niche markets hardly switch from one hype to another, meaning they are loyal customers; why do you think the golden word for Free-2-Play investments nowadays is ‘mid-core’?
It used to be ‘casual Farmville house-wife’, yet now everyone is gunning for mid-core… This is because while mid-core is more niche than casual, generally they are more loyal and spend more money.
Now when have you ever had an old person change a habit? Hardly ever right? Now imagine if you got the aging gamer hooked now, or older people in general, how healthy and long-lasting do you think your business will run? ‘The Price is Right’ has been running since the 50s!!!
McDonald’s built it strategy around creating a ‘fun experience for kids so when they grow up they’ll remain loyal customers as they have positive memories and a strong attachment to the brand, therefore taking their kids there, keeping the cycle going’ -> you think that clown’s there for us?
Business aside, for me, the future is only going to be great, I don’t fear aging, as I think with modern technology and medicine, the downsides will be minimized, while you’ll not only be a more ‘complete individual’, you’ll also have the time to explore / re-live / spend time on entertainment, that you never really anymore ever since you were a kid.
Now hows that for optimism?