Next up at PlayTime, London Games Fringe Festival, 4/10/06:
Jamie Cason, Executive Producer for BBC Interactive Entertainment
At the Beeb they’re interested in storytelling using digital platforms and 360 degree commissioning (which usually doesn’t mean much more than marketing popular shows). ‘If TV is God,’ said Jamie, ‘then games are Jesus.’ The BBC view is that interactive = games. What they’re aiming at are those time-wasting moments in the viewer’s day when BBCi can slip in and fill up with their content.
Here’s why the BBC do games:
- to reach an audience
- to develop & exploit IP
- to innovate
The average age of a user visiting a BBC site is 13. Market research has shown that for kids, games are as important as TV and that their PCs are more important to them than TV sets. So the BBC feels justified in spending license fee money on games, although the debate is still open about what constitutes a public service game.
Jamie Kane is an example of an online game from BBC that is not about promoting a TV programme. Wanabees is a forthcoming game to look out for, currently in Beta testing, that consists of broken narratives interrupted by moments of interactivity.
Incidentally, BBC Interactive Entertainment began life as Fiction Lab.
Play is a serious business
It’s over a month ago since I attended PlayTime! – part of the London Games Fringe Festival – hosted by digital writer Tim Wright. It was a fantastically inspiring day and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since. Luckily the notes I made at the time make sense (I think), so here goes.
Pat Kane’s Play Ethic
Pat Kane, writer of The Play Ethic: a Manifesto for a Different Way of Living, kicked off with the proposition that:
Play is a way to cope with the 21st Century. Industrial society was dominated by a Puritan work ethic, but now we’re in play times. It’s all about quality of life issues coming to the fore – happiness, well being, play, idleness, slowness, soft power… These are the dominant ideas in a post-work society. Identity is shifting from being defined by routine-work to creative-play. Play is adaptive potentiation (an idea from ‘The Ambiguity of Play’ by Brian Sutton-Smith).
Kane identifies 7 Rhetorics of Play, some ancient, some modern:
Modern rhetorics of play:
- play as freedom
- play as imagination
- play as a developmental process, educational
Ancient rhetorics of play:
- play as power
- play as community – carnival, festival, ritual
- play as fate – the gods at play, chaos
- play as tomfoolery, knavery, humour
Pat Kane’s mission is to develop and encourage play literacy. An obsession of his is the dark side of play and games.
Think about the shadow side of digital play. Hmmm… I can’t remember if that’s something he said or whether that’s a note to myself – whichever, I’ll think about it.
Poetry rooted in play has a dark side too
Surprisingly, Gavin Stuart – poet, digital artist & academic – carried on the theme of the dark side of play in his presentation about poetry. Surprising because he showed the fun side of poetry and had us all joining in with a poem he usually performs with children. He described poetry rooted in play as something where accidents happen but no one’s to blame, and he said ‘Play is about not being afraid to fail.’ So play keeps ones fears at bay – I think most people could identify with that from childhood, but it’s interesting to think about it in terms of adulthood too. Like Pat Kane, Gavin also believes that play is a survival strategy.
Having set the context of the seriousness of play, the day progressed with many other interesting presentations – Jamie Cason from BBC Interactive Entertainment; Dan Hon of Mind Candy; Tom Hume of Future Platforms; Rob Bevan of XPT; Stuart Nolan, NESTA Fellow & magician; Tom Morris of the National Theatre; and Tassos Stevens of Coney Communications & an associate of the mysterious rabbit; and Tim Wright who had us all in a playing-golf-on-the-moon simulation out on the street.
Much too much to put all into one post, so I’ll blog about others separately.