Hyperbole

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I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests on the latest season of Joe Martin and Harriet Jones’ podcast, Unlimited Hyperbole. The episode has just gone up, and is perfect coffee break listening-size. In it, I talk about how the games industry is missing out on a future it could still have, if only we could get academia to work a bit closer with industry. I might be sounding like a broken record lately – I said the same thing when I launched The Saturday Paper just a few weeks ago. But it’s something that plays on my mind a lot, because it’s so easily fixed, and because there’s so much exciting research going on out of people’s reach.

Research that people would be interested in, too. The first Saturday Paper, which went up a fortnight ago almost, has had 1500 readers on this site, as well as an unknown number over on Gamasutra (where it was crossposted). So far I’ve had 80 clickthroughs from the site, and conversion rates are generally quite low, so I’m hoping that means there were a few hundred readers over there, too. Potentially a couple of thousand people decided to read about an experimental research project – with over 130 people downloading the paper itself (again, not including Gamasutra). I’m hoping the next paper, due up this saturday, will get a similar reception.

In the Unlimited Hyperbole episode I come across as quite harsh on the industry, but as I’ve mentioned since I know that these things go both ways – hence my attempt to reach out with The Saturday Paper, and spread the word about things I think are interesting, exciting or relevant to the games industry right now. Everyone needs to work at getting closer and collaborating more.

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Another thing crops up at the very end of the podcast, where I say this:

[Gamers] have lost their belief in what computers can do, and we’ve all become very cautious in what we dream about and what we wish we could have in our games. Everything is non-traditional unless we have this culture of experimentation and investigation.

I really believe that. When I see wishlists, or people asking developers to add things to their next game, it’s really just more of things – broader scopes or elements from other games. Yet this is the same demographic that is supposed to love science fiction and the promise of the future. In recording the podcast with Joe and Harriet (the same Harriet who did the amazing promotional art for A Puzzling Present) we talked more about this, I think – because getting people to dream, to ask for crazy things, is a great way to power research forwards. I like talking to people about AI, because wheedling weird ideas out of them is a great way to get new ideas to work on and think about. I’m still pondering the idea of an AI as a political representative, thanks to a school student in I’m A Scientist.

In games this is even more important. Games are wish fulfilment. Even simulators, or ‘realistic’ games are about experiencing things differently, or things we couldn’t experience ourselves. That means you get to ask for whatever you want. So don’t be afraid – because someone out there crazy enough to try is probably listening[1].

Attendees of CIG 2011 – my first academic conference! The crowd includes (to mention a few) Mike Preuss and Noor Shaker, who both run successful AI competitions as well as being full-time researchers; Julian Togelius, whose huge breadth of experiments in PCG inspired ANGELINA; Dan Ashlock, an amazing mathematician with a love of roguelikes; Alex Zook, a member of the terrifyingly interesting Intelligent Narrative Computing group; and Giel van Lankweld, who showed that the way we play RPGs can reflect who we are as well as a personality test.

  1. [1]Apologies to those I didn’t link to – I’m proud that there are too many names to fit in.

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