Monday, November 16, 2020

Vote for 2021 SXSW and SXSW EDU PanelPicker Ideas!

Hi, I apologize for not updating the blog. I have not been feeling well these past months. I did in fact win a 2020 Women in Games Hall of Fame Award. I was completely flabbergasted and very grateful. Thank you so much to the people who voted. I need your help again because the SXSW and SXSW EDU Community Voting period is ending November 20, 11:59 PM, Pacific Time. That's this Friday! Check out our panel offerings.

Both SXSW and SXSW EDU will be online next year.  Anybody with an Internet connection who makes a PanelPicker account can vote during Community Voting.

For SXSW, we have panels about emergent narrative, immersive story worlds, and designing games for social change.












Creating Touchstones in Emergent Narratives

Games have a unique ability to establish empathy between a player and a world and characters, but game players don’t always follow the path the narrative lays out for them. This panel discusses how designers and storytellers can build in empathic elements that can be found and engaged with even when the larger narrative gets delivered out of order.

Playable Story Worlds in Immersive Storytelling

Do you need interaction for immersion? How do you feel about the use and manipulation of VR/AR/MR in the rise of immersive storytelling? Do you think you can tell the difference between art, words, or music in the manipulation of audience interaction? In storytelling, we are seeing the potential of VR/AR/MR to aid storytellers, designers, and artists to enhance audience experiences. How will this enable us to tell more interactive and personalized stories in ways we have yet to imagine? Join Timothy Braun, Sande Chen, and Kimberly Ungeras they discuss the concepts of playable stories, interactive audience design, and the future of immersive worlds building.

Vote here for this panelhttps://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/108757

How Not to F**k Up Games For Social Change

Can life really be gamified for the better? Or is that just a gimmick to interest a more tech-savvy generation? Learn how video games and technologies like VR can be used to create truly transformative experiences that promote social change. In this panel, four game design and community professionals discuss the overhaul of design systems to be more diverse, equitable, empathetic, and inclusive - without making them worse.

Vote here for this panelhttps://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/110000

For SXSW EDU, our panel focuses on using game-based learning in the classroom.













Using Games For Inclusion in the Classroom 

Students of all ages can benefit from games and game creation in the classroom, especially as a way to promote inclusion, equity, justice, and compassion. In this talk, hear from educators and game developers on how to design your own creative and inclusive activities for the classroom. We will share the latest innovations in using games for good--whether your classroom is in-person, remote, or hybrid. We will help you to create the classroom of the future!

Vote here for this panelhttps://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/111484

SXSW EDU will be held on March 9-11, 2021 and SXSW EDU will be on March 16-20, 2021.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

2020 Women in Games Hall of Fame Awards

Hi! I'm thrilled to be shortlisted for one of the 2020 Women in Games Hall of Fame Awards and I am particularly excited that I can spotlight learning games and serious game development within the global game industry. Although we've been confined to virtual conferences, it's been great to share my knowledge this year at LudoNarraCon, GamerJibe Career Fest, and the Freelance Writing Success Summit.

Women in Games is a non-profit organization for women in video, mobile, online games, and esports that is dedicated to empowering women to reach their full potential.

If you would, I would appreciate it if you would register and vote for me (and 5 other deserving women.)

Vote here: 2020 Women in Games Hall of Fame Awards

Voting ends September 10, this week!

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer with over 15 years of experience in the game industry. Her writing credits include 1999 Independent Games Festival winner Terminus, MMO Hall of Fame inductee Wizard101, and the 2007 PC RPG of the Year, The Witcher, for which she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in Videogame Writing. She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform, and was a contributor to Secrets of the Game Business, Writing For Video Game Genres, and Professional Techniques for Videogame Writing.





Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Evolution of Digital Storytelling

In this article, game designer Sande Chen reports on Sam Barlow's presentation at PLAY NYC, in which he describes how the digital world is transforming the art of storytelling.

Speaking at PLAY NYC on August 11, 2020, Sam Barlow, the mastermind behind the award-winning games Her Story and Telling Lies, explained the sweeping changes that have occurred in storytelling in his presentation, "The Death of the Container: What TV and Movies Should Learn from Video Games."


The line between television and movies is blurring, he said, with the increasing variety of new program formats. Content creators can no longer package neatly wrapped story content, i.e. a container, in this digital world. With smart TVs and access to streaming, consumers don't tune in at a certain time to watch programs. Instead of Must See TV, the operative word is now "binging," in which viewers watch through several episodes at once. That's a lot like putting in the hours on a game. Personalization, which used to be limited by genre categories in a video store, is commonplace. NetFlix even personalizes thumbnails for you based on algorithms. 

But television and film are still limited in choices. The viewer choice boils down to: Do I continue watching or do I stop?

Video games are known for player choices as well as self-expression and exploration. "Stories," said Barlow, "are information with emotion. Can we explore them?" Like the digital newspaper that assumes its readers won't read page by page, video game stories are unbounded, allowing players to replay, rearrange, and watch again while looking for new context. Video games purposefully acknowledge player participation. Players are allowed to explore with curiosity, usually in an open world, and feel immersed. Moreover, players are the main driver of the story. Players create a rich, full story in their heads and it's not only due to the order in which they came upon the story.

Barlow cautioned content creators not to get too excited about branching narrative and popular story choice apps, which he said only gives an illusion of a system with cause and effect. He finds that players want to go deeper, not broader, which is to say that the Why is much more important than the What If. To him, emotion comes from specific emotional moments, which requires an understanding of the story, and not from exploring different story branches.

In summary, Barlow offered up this analogy. The audience is saturated with storytelling. They've eaten a lot of pie. We shouldn't offer them mini pies and think that's special. A smart chef would offer a deconstructed pie. Similarly, he said, "To cater to the information overload generation, we must deconstruct stories for them so they can experience them fully again."

Sande Chen is a NYC-based writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

VR and Galaxy's Edge

In this article, game designer Sande Chen discusses the use of virtual reality in creating the theme park Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

Years ago, I was interviewed by Disney Imagineering for an internal documentary on design. I pointed out that level designers of video games are often inspired by amusement parks. Amusement parks are designed to lead visitors through a physical space. Imagineers call this "physical storytelling" or "narrative place-making," which sounds very similar to what we would call environmental storytelling.

In creating the theme park Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the Imagineers wanted to know the details of objects as small as doorknobs or rusty wires. They wanted visitors, whether they were hardcore fans or casual attendees, to be fully immersed in the land. In other words, they wanted this world to be feel alive.


Galaxy's Edge
CrispyCream27 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
It was interesting to me to learn that Disney Imagineers used VR to create Galaxy's Edge - not to create VR rides, but to create physical rides and architecture. They built Galaxy's Edge in VR first and that helped not only in designing the architecture and hiding mundane Earth items like heating and cooling units, but also with how actual construction could occur.

Disney also used VR to design the rides at Galaxy's Edge. Designers used VR headsets while in a vehicle. The display shows all the visuals and the controls. The simulation helps the designers experience the ride before it's even built.

Just another example of a "serious" game!

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear Daughter: A Quarantine Essay

It is with heartfelt joy that I announce the publication of "Dear Daughter," a personal essay written about my quarantine experiences, on Nearness. As a site inspired by the need to share and seek solace from each other during the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not have found a better home for this piece. I also plan to submit the essay to the Greenburgh Library Covid-19 Memory Project and other such memory projects.

This personal essay grew out of a desire to record the rapid changes happening in the world and in my life. While the pandemic has certainly been stressful, I also found life-affirming moments by seeing, feeling, and experiencing firsthand the ups and downs of parenthood, especially during the time when my daughter entered toddlerhood. As an educational design expert, I feel like this time alone with my daughter has not only been incredibly valuable, but also magical.

I want to thank those who have provided feedback and encouragement: Phi Beta Kappa NY for its Quarantine Stories session, my colleague Juliana Loh, my fellow writers from my USC writing circle, and Alia Wilhelm from Nearness.

I don't often write personal essays, but in 2019, I did a reading of 3 personal essays about growing up in the Hudson Valley area.  "The Writer in Westchester" was part of a performance put on by Tutti Bravi Productions called Where the Heart Is: Reflections of Home in Westchester.

Here's the link!

"Dear Daughter"   Words by Sande Chen
You will not remember this year, your mother knows, but one day you will read this letter and see it as a record of your resilience
https://www.nearnessproject.com/dear-daughter

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer with over 15 years of experience in the game industry. Her writing credits include 1999 Independent Games Festival winner Terminus, MMO Hall of Fame inductee Wizard101, and the 2007 PC RPG of the Year, The Witcher, for which she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in Videogame Writing. She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform, and was a contributor to Secrets of the Game Business, Writing For Video Game Genres, and Professional Techniques for Videogame Writing.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Game Idea Lists

In this article, game designer Sande Chen discusses the practice of generating game ideas on a daily or weekly basis.

In writing classes, students sometimes are asked to journal or write daily.  Similarly, game design students may be asked to generate lists of game ideas or mechanics. The idea is to promote accountability and consistency with a daily assignment. In fact, well-known game industry professionals have mentioned this practice before at conference talks.

In 2008, Patrick Curry, now CEO of FarBridge, spoke about generating 52 game ideas in 52 weeks as a lead designer at Midway Games. The talk is available free at GDC Vault and the transcript is here. As he explains, he became an "idea sponge" because not only did he have to come up with game ideas, he had to sift through them and decide which were viable. He described the benefit of doing this even on bad days or with ideas you don't necessarily like because as a professional game designer, you have to stay productive.

You can still look through Patrick Curry's 52 game ideas and comment on them. As you can see, they are brief but still explain how to play the proposed game.

While Patrick Curry had his own rules for which game ideas would be acceptable, you can come up with your own rules. This game enthusiast's site, Three Hundred Mechanics, is about coming up with novel game mechanics.

Is this something you've considered doing or have done?  Let me know in the comments!

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Vision of CYOA Future

In this article, game writer Sande Chen reports on Gary Whitta's vision of what would be a compelling choose your own adventure experience.

At the GamesBeat Summit in April 2020, Gary Whitta, screenwriter of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, laid down his vision of the future of interaction fiction in an interview session called "Choose Your Own Adventure: The Evolution of Storytelling through the Next Generation." Unfazed by the uncanny valley, he wished games weren't limited by technology and were more lifelike.

Whitta has written for The Walking Dead game and said that game designers try to include a player decision every 26 seconds, but if it were really true-to-life, he mused, decision-making would be every second.

Speaking of role-playing games, he hoped that in the future, NPCs would include more adaptive AI so that their responses would sound more improvised and less scripted.

He marveled how it would be if a player could talk to any NPC and not just the ones with ! on top of their heads. A player could end up getting involved in numerous stories within one game world.

But he did concede one difference between reality and interaction fiction that would have to remain: A game story has to be logical out of fairness to the player.  In the real world, life is unfair and illogical, but in a game, players don't want to invest time to find out it made no difference at all.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.