I just now received notice that my proposal for a lecture at the Game Developers Conference has been rejected. I believe that this is because I have been blacklisted by a handful of people who have had it in for me for years. There is no doubt that some people in the industry consider me to be the spawn of Satan, and it is no surprise. I have long been very critical of the industry’s weaknesses, and my penchant for well-phrased put-downs has certainly made enemies. A brief perusal of this section of the library will turn up many examples of my razor-sharp pen. This is the second time that GDC has rejected a proposal from me. The first time, I was proposing to talk about interactive storytelling, a subject in which I am clearly a “leading authority”. I suspected that I was blacklisted that time, but this second rejection makes it quite clear that there’s skulduggery at work.
Ah, but perhaps the rejection was based purely on objective evaluation of my proposal. Right. Let’s review some facts:
I am a top-notch speaker
People pay money for me to lecture at their institutions. I have given hundreds of such lectures all over the world. My lectures routinely earn rave reviews. My Dragon Speech at the GDC twenty years ago is considered by many to be the best lecture ever delivered at GDC. Check it out.
It was a carefully prepared lecture
I had prepared it for delivery at Bath Spa University but was prevented from doing so by a screwup by United Airlines. I had prepared a huge slide set — some 137 slides — to accompany the lecture. I had rehearsed it many times in preparation for Bath Spa University. This was definitely a well-done lecture.
The topic is of great significance
The title of the lecture is “Paradigm Shift in Game Design”; it reflects an improved version of concepts that I first presented in this essay. The theme is that games are stuck in a rut because they cannot address issues of human concern. In the lecture, I outline a number of strategies for dealing with this problem.
Here is the content of my proposal, filling out their predefined form:
Summary for advisors
The games community is finally coming around to recognizing a truth that I have been ranting about for at least 15 years: that game design is stuck in a rut from which it cannot extricate itself. Googolplexes of electrons have been spilled discussing what to do, and nothing has been accomplished.
My claim is that the game design community is finally entering a period that will culminate in a 'paradigm shift'. This term was coined by Thomas Kuhn 50 years ago in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".
In this lecture, I will begin by explaining what a paradigm shift is, what its components are, what factors impel it and what factors obstruct it, and how it finally triumphs.
From there I will discuss the current games paradigm, focussing on these fundamental components: 1. spatial reasoning, 2. puzzle solving; 3. resource management; 4. hand-eye coordination; 5. gratuitous violence; 6. a juvenile approach to sex; and 7. fun.
Then I will explain that fun is perhaps the most confining component; all other entertainment media have fun as just one subclass, but games have no subclasses other than fun.
I will then introduce the bumper-sticker slogan for the paradigm shift, the banner under which the revolution will be fought: "People, not things!" Good entertainment is about people, not the cold mechanical factors that comprise the 7 components of the games paradigm.
Then I get constructive, offering the five core problems required to achieve the goal of this paradigm shift:
1. Faces with emotional realism. Games have faces with lots of photorealism but zero emotional realism. Compare the movie "Final Fantasy" with "Shrek", and you'll see what I mean.
2. Personality modeling. I suggest a simple basic model for initial experimentation.
3. Language. People don't interact by pushing buttons, they interact via language. This is a major hurdle, but the creation of "toy languages" is within our grasp.
4. A narrative engine. This is an immensely complicated piece of software that manages the interactive with the player in such a way as to create dramatic responses. I briefly describe my own engine.
5. An IDE (integrated development environment). Interactive storytelling is too complicated to be manifested in a basic programming language like C. It needs its own development environment. I briefly describe my own IDE for Storytron and its strengths and weaknesses.
I attach a PowerPoint document containing the 137 slides that I have already developed for this lecture. These slides will be difficult to interpret because I have long maintained that in using PowerPoint, language must come out of the mouth and the images should never be used for text -- instead, they should illuminate the points made orally.
I am still working on the slide set, and expect it to be larger and better by the time of the lecture. I also expect the lecture to change somewhat as I continue to develop it.
The game design community is stuck in a rut producing the same old, same old designs over and over again. It is obvious to everybody that something has to change. That change will require a 'paradigm shift' among game designers. A description of the current game design paradigm will be followed by the essence of the paradigm shift: "People, not things!" Five core problems obstruct the path to this holy grail; strategies for solving those problems will be offered.
A new way to perceive the constraints of current game design; a fundamentally different way of thinking about game design; and some strategies for realizing the new paradigm.
Public Speaking history and weblinks
I have delivered hundreds of invited lectures all over the world.
What do you think? Can you think of any reason for rejecting this proposal other than animus directed against me?
November 18th, 2014