Collaborators will be shot! Upwards!


Enjoyed listening to Charles Cecil and the panel talking about collaboration between video games and other creative media (and remembering to include comics, books, music, tv and film). Ubisoft sharing a platform with a flash games company, an indie movie company and BBC Kids TV and chaired by TIGA and paid for by NESTA at BAFTA.

Critically, the important message is “two way collaboration”. Games have an awful lot to gain if they can learn more about character, story, emotion, and distribution. Other media have an awful lot to gain by introducing interactivity and gaining access to the monetisation channels opened by interactive and online games for mobile, social media and the web.

Makes me wish I had shouted louder in 2002 when I first realised that cross media development was the only real way forwards for the interactive industry. I have at least followed that – I’m working with mobile, comics, web and social media as well as core games, and each one I get to know makes me realise how much they all need each other.

Avatar: The Game is clearly the poster boy for this sort of collaboration (a collaboration that Ubisoft clearly did not have in mind when they took the licence for Oliver Stone’s Alexander from me in 2004. Ironic, since I had been working in Hollywood on the core scripts, materials and characters from the day of first rushes). Whatever the history, Ubisoft have clearly learned from their past mistakes and now realise they have to get in on the ground floor of new movies and “expand and enrich the movie universe”. Importantly, the movie companies now see games as more than just “$1m to the Producer” by way of a licence fee!

However, there is still a way to go. Let’s highlight some of the key areas that need to come into alignment:

1 – profit sharing (still neither transparent, nor fair in most cases)
2 – time-scales (movies, comics and games have wildly differing development times
3 – language (amazingly games created their own language of creativity, ignoring most of what movies and television already knew, and this inability to speak to each other hamstrings many co-developments)
4 – career expectations (contractors, temps, crews and full time teams find it hard to understand each other, or even get together)
5 – technology (cinematographers are always gobsmacked when the engine has to go back to programmers to enable it to achieve a shot, movement or effect – kind of like sending your camera back to the shop and redoing the chemistry on the film between takes)

Then, even if all of that does align, we must never forget that the audiences are either different or the same audience is bringing different expectations to each medium it is addressed through.

Which segues nicely into the wonderful piece by Breakthrough games in which they invited us to learn to love Uwe Boll and go to see “Alone in the Dark” the movie after playing the game. Why? So we can all learn what not to do 🙂

Johnny Two Shoes really made me smile: two young guys doing what they love, all the time, and getting paid for it. Stereoscopic Flash games on mobile, in case you wondered. As ever, in my world, an enthusiastic, clever, passionate and articulate guy is always going to get my attention over any amount of over-worked marketing spiel and guff! Go, Guys!

I’ve long had a soft spot for Bamzooki (UK, Cambridge, from the great guys at Gameware and now with a great team as well as lots of BBC support). The UK has had, then lost, some great interactive IP. “Creatures” was one of those, and it is good to see some of that learning survived into Bamzooki. Even better when I realise that Spore, much hyped, though it was, really owes a lot to the core ideas that make ‘Zooks so cool and engaging for kids to interact with.

The signs are there for all of us: collaborative creativity is the way ahead, and the sooner teams get together the better their audiences are going to be served.

Having read this far, do you want to know what you missed by not being there? OK, here is my observation: the games industry has aged. Other media are driven by young people. This means that, over 10 years, power is likely to leak away from games and back into other media. Unless games can attract more young people into development and publishing fast. Perhaps mobile and social media will save us, then?