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robertogreco : robinhunicke   8

4 years "real" — Funomena
"two very different games that each aim to express the same core messages about community, empathy, and the ultimate value of every person on this planet."



"Making games is a process of creative discovery - embracing the unknown. With each challenge, we have learned new ways to collaborate, to face uncertainty and most importantly to accept our own mistakes and failures as a part of the learning process that makes each of us better colleagues and creatives."



"Most importantly, the process of making art together helps us grow as individuals, capable of dealing with the ups and downs that naturally emerge while solving difficult problems, together, as a team."
funomena  robinhunicke  teams  collaboration  2017  discovery  creativity  empathy  games  gaming  videogames  problemsolving  community  personhood  uncertainty  mistakes  process  howwelearn  learning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Robin Hunicke Wants to Change Video Games, But She Can’t Do It Alone | VICE | United Kingdom
""As a developer, it's my job to evangelise the games that I think are different, that are doing new things. And when they come out, I want everyone I know to know about them. But it'd be really awesome if we could somehow give away space, or create platforms of promotion, that were just about innovation."

Robin Hunicke knows a thing or two about going against what the gaming public might perceive as the stylistic grain, the marketable middle-ground, sales-numbers safe spaces of play. Having worked on MySims and Boom Blox at Electronic Arts, the San Francisco-based game designer (and professor of game design, at the University of California, Santa Cruz) moved to thatgamecompany, where she produced Journey. Perhaps you heard of it, as it was kind of a big deal.

Journey was a critical and commercial success that arrived without much in the way of how-it-works precedent, playing like nothing most that picked it up had seen before. A multiplayer game in which human-to-human interactions were all but stripped away. A short experience, coming in at under 90 minutes from start to finish, but with lasting, memory-making resonance. A story told only one way, yet left open to all manner of individual interpretation. Journey earned rave reviews and collected all manner of industry awards (dominating the 2013 Game Developers Choice Awards), and broke PlayStation Network sales records."



"Quite where Woorld fits in the wider gaming landscape, though, is hard to get a handle on. This is a new tool, a new toy, for new technology, coming through at a time when augmented reality is enjoying a spell of popularity courtesy of Pokémon Go; but without that kind of massive IP to drive its marketing, merely the wonderfully colourful and somewhat surreal visuals that Takahashi's fans have come to expect, it's not like the game is about to follow in said record-setter's monstrous footsteps. And Robin sees this problem of visibility, of public accessibility and appetite for something left of the expected, not just as a headache for Funomena, but everyone making games outside of the triple-A sphere.

"There are a lot of very different games out there, but as an industry we're not so good at presenting that in our marketing, and our PR, and the stories that we write. And that's what really carries this medium forward – how people perceive it. How many games get covered that are radically different from whatever else is around? How many of them are featured on the front of the online stores? How many are appearing in top ten lists? When your top ten lists are based on sales, and sales are influenced by marketing budgets, you're only rarely going to see a Papers, Please or That Dragon, Cancer, or Firewatch or even The Witness, right up there amongst the most popular games. And I think it's on us to change that.

"Wouldn't it be great if anyone could make the next Minecraft, or the next Journey, or the next Papers, Please? If independently made games keep growing in popularity, and we keep on expanding the marketplace – because there are a lot of people right now who don't play indie games at all – then that'd be amazing. Let's do that."

One way of doing that would be for distribution channels to place greater emphasis on highlighting experiences that are so far from the norm. "Why not have an innovation tab in online stores?" she asks, rhetorically. "Maybe the labels we're using are out of date. What are they, like, twenty, thirty years old?"

Those labels don't just mean "action", "adventure", "puzzle" or "sports"; Robin's talking about the language that flows through every way that the gaming industry presents itself, how it reflects and addresses issues that eat away at its insides.

"I've been to the White House on this initiative called Computer Science For All, and I try to volunteer for it whenever I can. That's full of fantastic people, and the last time I was there I met with the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Megan Smith, and she was talking about Maria Klawe's work at Harvey Mudd, and she's been promoting an idea that when people come into the college, as programmers, they get divided into two groups: people who've already programmed a lot, and people who haven't at all.

"So you have experts, and beginners – two safe communities. It's not about gender, or race, or class – it's about how much experience you have. Then, in both of those groups, unconscious bias is being removed from the learning cycle. In this exercise, you will help the robot move rocks into a pile. That's one version. In this exercise, you will help the robot move the groceries from the kart into the boot of the car. The same exercise, essentially. Then in this exercise, you'll help the girls from Frozen move these snow bricks over here so they can build a castle. Same exact programming. Separate the frame from the exercise, separate the communities into beginner and expert, and they're at parity in six years.

"So let's do that across gaming – separate the gender and the cultural status of developers from their work, and from the way we write about it, and the financing, and the relationship of scale from our evaluation of its innovative qualities, and use better vocabulary. We do all that, and in ten years, we'll have moved very far away from the problems of having to discuss things like gender imbalance in the industry, and towards a situation where our values – the things that we value – are reflected in the things that we write, and the way that we give awards, and the way that we promote.

"I think it's just about living the values that we want to live, and saying the things that we want to focus on, rather than reacting to older labels that may or may not be appropriate. There's always going to be room for great art, and room for new experiences. And, if you invest in those experiences, the chances are that one in ten, or one in twenty, will deliver a really big return, on a level with a game like The Witness, or Journey. But it's impossible for one, small person to really know how we proceed."

Impossible at an individual level, maybe, but Robin's words are essential food for thought for what could, or should, happen on a united front. During our time together I ask for her opinion on how to bring more women into the making and marketing of video games – but as she so neatly elucidates in her answer to me, I'm really speaking to the wrong person. And in many ways, video gaming is constantly asking the wrong questions to the wrong people.

Want to get more women into games? Go and speak to the guys that hold the keys to those positions, not the women knocking on the doors. Want to see more innovative, independent games being played alongside the big-budget shooters and sports sims? Consider why those cover-grabbing games are enjoying such heightened visibility, and if you need to add to their oxygen of hype at the expense of something genuinely new. We could all be better at supporting games-makers who want to progress this medium in all the right ways – through sharing, through inventing, through fun, rather than rinsing and repeating what's known to "work". Robin Hunicke is just one of many people wanting to encourage change in the way we work within and relate to video games, but it's exciting to imagine what'll happen when all of the voices around hers, singing equally inspiring songs, do band together."
robinhunicke  games  gaming  videogames  gamedev  2016  funomena  thatgamecompany  jenovachen  keitatakahashi  computers  compsci  education  learning  play  gender 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Robin Hunicke's extraordinary journey • Eurogamer.net
"Hunicke's path to this moment was unorthodox and unexpected. She grew up near the mountains in Saratoga Springs, New York, close to Vermont. Her mother taught maths and weaved. Her father was a nuclear engineer. They lived on a street alongside 20 or so other families, all with children of similar ages. In the summer Hunicke and her friends would build forts in the forest, and race twig boats in the frothing river. In the winter there were board-games and NES. It was a playful, often idyllic childhood, she recalls. Each summer during high school, Hunicke would be sent to art camp, where she'd paint and build.

One year Hunicke and her father built a grandfather clock. It had been, rather befittingly, her grandfather's project originally. He built the base from African red hardwood then, upon realising the scale of the job, shipped the materials to his son and granddaughter to finish. Hunicke's father ordered the clock mechanism from Germany. The finished clock still lives at her father's house. Every time she returns home she listen to the rounded tock of the mechanism. "It fills me with joy," she says. "I love the experience of seeing something you've made come to life."

Video games were a natural fit for Hunicke's nascent interests, combining her mathematical talent ("At night, when I couldn't get to sleep, I'd count the leaves on a branch out side of my bedroom window," she recalls. "I'd multiply that by the number of branches I estimated the tree to have, and that figure by the number of trees in our yard, then our road, then our town, then our State") and her artistic sensibilities. But she has a magpie temperament. "I was interested in everything", she says. "So when I went to college I made up my major, a combination of fine art, film studies, women's studies and computer science." While at the University of Chicago Hunicke's aptitude for computers earned her a job at a police station where she would schedule the officers on a database system. "I soon discovered that was less fun than working on the computer lab at college so I got a new job managing the Mac lab there." As Hunicke learned more and more computer languages her focus narrowed. She began studying for a doctorate in artificial intelligence.

Video games had, up to this point, played only a supporting role in Hunicke's life. Her first love was M.U.L.E., the Commodore 64 game in which players compete against each other and the computer in a bid for survival, which she'd play at a friend's house when she was 12. "I loved trying to outwit each other and the game at the same time," she recalls. It was only when Hunicke started her PhD in AI, and became interested in adaptive difficulty in video games, specifically Half-Life, that she began hanging out with game-makers."



""I needed a break," she says. Perhaps, but the peak she faced in Bhutan mirrored other towering questions in her life. Was she going to stay in Los Angeles? Was she going to stay in her current relationship? Was she going to continue making games? While ascending the mountain Hunicke met other English-speaking climbers who were also taking a step back to examine their goals and challenges. "It made me realise we are all on a similar journey," she says. "That helped me with imposter syndrome." As she came over the top of the mountain, a burden lifted, she says. Then, when she arrived in Los Angeles, she received a message from an old friend, Jenova Chen: would she like to be lead designer on his new project, a game about a pilgrimage to a mountain where, en route, you meet people who fleetingly join you. "It felt right," she says.

When Hunicke joined thatgamecompany she was the sixth employee. The team was working from a "closet-sized room" and had just completed a prototype of the game, which would later be named Journey, in Flash, in which players were represented as coloured dots. "I supervised the first four player playtest," Hunicke recalls. "We brought people in through different doors so nobody knew it was a multiplayer game. Then we brought them together to discuss what they'd seen. These were just coloured dots that could only move or, if the player hit the space bar, say 'hey!', but people immediately would project emotions and personalities onto the dots they were playing with, calling them the 'mean' one, or the 'helpful' one. That's when I knew the idea was special.""



"Takashi and Hunicke make for a harmonious paring. Both designers have a background in arts and crafts and Hunicke's new studio Funomena, founded in 2012 with her former colleague Martin Middleton, is filled with sand, clay, pipe-cleaners, wire toys and so on. "We often model stuff by hand before putting them in our games," she says. Funomena is currently working on three games, one of which, Wattam, is being directed by Takahashi. Wattam, for which a release date has not yet been announced, reflects the foundations of Hunicke's childhood: playfulness, creativity, collaboration. "Keita's view on childhood and play is similar to mine," she says. "People should make things. We want this game to be more about you as a player than about us as the designers, artists and musicians behind it."

Games that encourage this kind of playfulness rather than than seek to force a specific message are at the core of Hunicke's interest. While she holds up Papers, Please and Cart Life as prime examples of what games can achieve she wants her work to have looser interpretations. "I know people who make films who feel their film has a single interpretation," she says. "But they are rare. The majority of people who write or make films and art are just trying to get something out of them. When it's in the world it's there for everybody to draw what they will from the work. Besides, you can't control the context. For example, art that's made in this moment around Brexit could have a very different interpretation in ten years depending on what happens to Britain's fortunes."

For today's context with its climate of fear and uncertainty, of strongmen on the rise, of nations baring teeth, playfulness is, Hunicke believes, a necessity. "We've been spending a lot of time thinking about mechanics and systems as an industry," he says. "Doing something a little more open is important right now for this difficult, sad and important time. We're having conversations about all of the forces that inform how we behave, and how we sustain our planet. They are crucial conversations. But that needs the counterbalance of playfulness. All of the games I'm working on at the moment are about interacting with others in purely playful ways. I hope they encourage people to help one another, not for what they can get out of it, but just for the sake of it.""
robinhunicke  games  gaming  videogames  gamedev  2016  funomena  thatgamecompany  jenovachen  keitatakahashi  childhood  computers  compsci  education  learning  play 
august 2016 by robertogreco
11 video game trends that will change the future of the industry | Technology | The Guardian
"1. VR with friends rather than alone

2. Physically collaborative games

Virtual reality and its experimental tech contemporaries are exploring new ways to incorporate the body as more than just an anchor to the physical world. As Ghislaine Boddington, creative director of body>data>space, noted in her talk on virtual reality and the “internet of bodies”, the hope for the future is in recognising and augmenting physical bodies in games and play. She offers technologies like programmable gels used with the body in more intimate ways, such as rubbing “gels on to erogenous zones”, allowing partners to “connect together at a distance”.

Boddington also noted the future of physically collaborative and increasingly social spaces in AR, as seen in the very popular Pokémon Go: “Pokémon Go is definitely a collaborative share space. The Pokémon Go site, along with many others, allow the individual to join with the group into the middle, both in a physical and a virtual way.”

Implications of the physical are vast, as Robin Hunicke, co-founder and creative director of Funomena (Woorld, Luna) and previously of thatgamecompany (Journey), noted on the psychological impact of VR brought about by gestural controls, and recognising the capacity of range of movement from players. What does it mean for a player, psychologically, to encourage them to stand tall and strike a powerful pose? What might it mean to force them into a crouched position, to feel small? The necessity of an embodied experience in VR also brings up new questions, such as what the platform offers by way of accessibility.

3. The future of augmented reality

Pokémon Go came to the UK on the third and last day of the conference, and it felt like everyone in Brighton was catching Magikarp and Shellder and Seel and all the other water Pokémon the seaside town had to offer. Had this international hit been available a little earlier, the conference schedule would surely have contained a few more panels about augmented reality. Whether we can expect to see an AR-heavy Develop 2017 will depend on whether Pokémon Go represents the start of a new trend, or if it’s simply a one-off success carried by an already successful brand.

Ismail thinks the latter. When asked what he would do with Pokémon Go, he said that he would sell it, and that it hasn’t proven anything about AR itself. “We’re seeing a lot of discussion right now about whether AR just beat VR, and I think that would be a very wrong statement. Like, Pokémon beat VR, that’s for sure, but I guess Pokémon beat everything at the moment. Pokémon beat Tinder and Twitter, which is a big deal.”

Hunicke might not be looking to make the next Pokémon Go, but she’s still interested in the potential of augmented-reality games that “make the world more silly and joyful, and less logical”. One of Funomena’s upcoming games, Woorld, is described as “a hand-held Alternative Reality experience”, a “whimsical, exploratory application” that lets you place virtual objects against the backdrop of your physical environment. Created in collaboration with Google, with art from Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), this colourful augmented-reality game and sandbox will be available on devices that include Google’s new AR-enabling platform Tango, like the upcoming Lenovo Phab2 Pro.

4. Incremental console updates …

5. The next step for mobile: TV …

6. Sayonara, Steam: the rise of specialised stores

The number of games on Steam is on the rise, and with it, the number of games that go unplayed or unnoticed. Nearly 37% of all registered Steam games go unplayed , and it’s no secret that many indie games – even good, critically acclaimed games – get lost amid a sea of other green lit games.

In light of this, smaller more specialised distribution services are becoming more important. Itch.io, an “indie game marketplace and DIY game jam host” is already hugely popular in the indie scene, offering pay-what-you-want and minimum-pricing models. Just last year, Itch’s co-founder Leaf Corcoran revealed in a blog post about the site’s finances that they had paid out $393,000 to developers. Since then, the platform has only grown and it’s likely that we’ll see more specialised distributors following Itch’s model.

7. The rise of indie studios …

8. Rejecting crunch

Crunch, ie mandatory (and often unpaid) overtime in the weeks or months leading to a game’s release, has long been an issue for this industry. More than a decade since Erin Hoffman wrote about her husband’s experiences of unpaid overtime when working for EA, in an originally anonymous blog post known at the time as “EA Spouse”, crunch is still commonplace in studios of all sizes, and people are still fighting it.

At this year’s Develop, Machine Studios (Maia) founder Simon Roth gave a talk called “Killing the Indie Crunch Myth: Shipping Games Alive”, which began tweet:
People who support crunch are going against 100+ years of data and science. They are the flat earthers of software development.

9. Design that puts feelings first

The design practice underlying Hunicke’s studio Funomena, and the focus of her keynote, is one she calls “feel engineering”. As Hunicke describes it: “Feel engineering is the process by which you create a game backwards from the feeling you want to create in a person forward towards the mechanics and the dynamics of the game itself.” She notes that while feel engineering isn’t easy, due to its time commitment, high cost, and level of emotional investment asked from development teams, it’s worth it. Hunicke speaks to the positive studio culture of feeling-focused engineering, and its contrast to the toxicity of crunch is evident. “The process of making it is so delightful,” she adds. “It’s so much better than anything I’ve ever done.”

We’ve already seen aspects of feel engineering in the mobile market, with games looking to reverse-engineer social situations people already find fun. Haslam outlines how the design of “co-operative shouting game” Spaceteam was inspired by the social experience of playing a board game with friends, an experience its lead designer Henry Smith already enjoyed.

10. Trying – and failing …

11. Feeling twitchy about YouTube and Twitch"
games  gaming  videogames  future  2016  vr  virtualreality  ar  augmentedreality  youtube  twitch  funomena  kickstarter  crowdfunding  indiegames  design  gamedesign  spaceteam  social  collaboration  braid  worldofgoo  steam  itch.io  mobile  phones  smartphones  pokemongo  keitatakahashi  robinhunicke  thatgamecompany  ghislaineboddington  body>data>space  bodies  play  physical  oculusrift  ramiismail  jordanericaebber  katbrewster  pokémongo  body 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Gamasutra - Robin Hunicke's idealistic, silly, wonderful view of video games
""Who is our player?; Why do they care about this experience?; Why would a kid say to their parent, 'Hey, come and play this with me'?; Why would a girl turn to her boyfriend and say, 'Oh my gosh, we have to play this game together!'?" she asks.

These are the questions that Hunicke is asking as she and her team try to figure out how video games impact peoples' lives. They're difficult questions that almost always lead to other, more difficult questions. Possible answers are vetted and proven out through the rigorous playtesting and player analysis that she practices. The whole process is sort of a retro-engineering of emotional output in order to arrive at the game mechanics that can spark these emotions and inclinations.

Designing for empathy

Talking about designing for emotional impact also means understanding (or at least asking questions about) empathy. For Hunicke, she says designing for empathy may start here: "If you wanted to make a game that increased empathy on the planet, you'd ask yourself, 'Why do people not pay attention to one another? Why don't we care about one another?'"

This is an interesting angle. The obvious question, if you're creating something intended to bring people together, is to find out why people connect, and how. But asking why people disconnect from one another, in a world more connected than ever, can yield more interesting results.

It's a question that Jenova Chen, designer at thatgamecompany and Hunicke's former coworker, spent a lot of time pondering, she says.

"What is it that distracts us from one another?" she asks. You don't have to look that far to see that we spend a lot of time looking at our phones, we spend a lot of time worrying about the Likes on our Facebook feeds and who retweeted our Tweets. There are a lot of what we call "2D friends," says Hunicke. And often even when we're surrounded by "3D people," we instead opt to "connect" with the 2D people. (Just look at how many people are glued to their smartphones next time you go out to a supposed social venue, like a bar.)

"That's the trial of our times -- getting away from the immediate feedback of the 2D world that is inside of a device," says Hunicke.

Our culture is one that prides itself on the immediacy of everything, from hamburgers to information. That expectation and hunger for feedback right now causes challenges for game designers who want to encourage players to slow down, think, and feel emotions that are deeper -- or at least different -- than quick adrenaline shots.

"We've talked about this recently, and in my career in general this has come up a lot on the games I've worked on -- the 'gamey-ness' of a game versus the 'feedback' of a game," says Hunicke. "[We talk about] 'juicy' feedback -- the feeling the world is responding you to a beautiful way. … That's more immersive."

She categorizes atmostpheric games like Ed Key and David Kanaga's Proteus and Current Circus' Muse as games that give "juicy" feedback. "I really love that kind of a concept, where you feel like what you do matters, without having to earn points or hearts or that kind of stuff.""
games  gaming  gamedesign  gamedev  robinhunicke  funomena  play  empathy  slow  attention  relationships  videogames 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Funomena
Funomena is an independent game studio located in downtown San Francisco, California. The company was founded in January of 2013 by Robin Hunicke and Martin Middleton – two passionate game developers who believe that games can have a positive impact on the world.
funomena  games  gaming  gamedesign  robinhunicke  keitatakahashi  sanfrancisco  martinmiddleton  vikramsubramanian  chelseahowe  charliehuguenard  bencerveny  austinwintory  kelleesantiago  videogames 
july 2013 by robertogreco
LIFT Conference || Robin Hunicke (2008)
"researcher (studying artificial intelligence) now working for Electonic Arts. She is designing games for the Nintendo Wii - she worked on My Sims - and tells us about user-generated content and the importance of social software in gaming"
games  education  research  gamedesign  gaming  robinhunicke  creativity  video  happiness  arg  socialnetworks  facebook  play  socialnetworking  socialsoftware  flickr  storytelling  nintendo  nintendods  ds  difficulty  linear  reward  identity  linearity 
june 2008 by robertogreco
robin hunicke
"My research explores the computational and design requirements for dynamic difficulty adjustment. It examines different techniques for representing and reasoning about uncertainty, to see how these approaches can be extended and combined to create flexib
games  education  research  gamedesign  gaming  robinhunicke 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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