Saturday, February 20, 2021

Upcoming Panel at SXSW Online 2021


Hi!  Excited to announce that our panel Creating Touchstones in Emergent Narratives will be part of SXSW Online 2021 under the track Transforming the Entertainment Landscape.  

We had so much to talk about during our LudoNarraCon session that we felt like we could go on for another hour. The SXSW session will delve into new areas as we discuss recapture techniques, why touchstones are important, and more! Join us at SXSW Online March 16-20, 2021.

Here's the panel description:

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.

 


Meet the panelists:

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.

Kimberly Unger made her first videogame back when the 80-column card was the new hot thing and after 20+ years as a pro in that industry, the magic still hasn’t faded. Now she builds strategy for and sources leading-edge content for Oculus, lectures on the intersection of art and code for UCSC in Games and Playable Media, wrangles a monthly column on science-fiction in videogames over at Amazing Stories and writes about how all these app-driven superpowers are going to change the human race. She is the author of the award-winning Game Development Essentials: Mobile Game Development and the Official GameSalad Guide to Game Development. Her debut sci-fi novel, NUCLEATION is available now on Amazon and her next novel, The Extractionist will be available in November of 2021. 

Juliana Loh is an independent Producer/Artist whose background includes branded entertainment, UX, and art direction and health (mental health awareness). In addition to developing educational/gaming experiences, she has honed her artistic skills as a concept and gallery-showing artist while pioneering, empowering and supporting grassroots tech meetups and communities. Currently working as an instructor and immersive artist, she is keenly aware of how emerging technology is changing the way we relate to each other. She is currently evolving stories through world building and designing narrative and cinematic concepts in tiltbrush. Juliana is regarded as a pioneer in the world of spatial art/design. 

Matthew Farber, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Technology, Innovation, and Pedagogy at the University of Northern Colorado, where he directs the Gaming SEL Lab. He has been invited to the White House, authored several books and papers, and has collaborated with UNESCO MGIEP and Games for Change. His latest book, Gaming SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning, will be published in 2021.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

PlayCrafting Student Spotlight Update

It was a delight to hear from my former game writing students at PlayCrafting. They attended the one-night Game Writing Portfolio Workout sessions or the multi-week intensive Game Writing Primer course. Here are some highlights!

Kyle Erf made a career switch. He is now Director of Technology at Moving Pieces Interactive, makers of Dodo Peak, available on Apple Arcade and Nintendo Switch. He describes his current position as the "best job I've ever had." 
 


Christopher Graf is part of the team working on the upcoming mobile title, Petzebeville, coming in 2021.


Mary Georgescu is starting a new job as a game designer at Exploding Kittens. She received her MFA in Game Design from NYU. She is a co-founder of Eat Melon Studio, which was part of the 2020 NYU Game Center Incubator. The studio's storytelling game Nothing to See Here! will be coming out soon.


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, December 11, 2020

Live Action Online Games (LAOG) During Lockdown

In this article, Sande Chen reports on the use of educational live-action online games (LAOG), a variant of educational LARPs. 

During the pandemic lockdown, it was impossible to play Live Action Role-Playing games (LARPs) that require face-to-face contact. LARP designers like Isabella Negri were forced to consider how LARPs could be played in an online-only setting.  Live Action Online Games (LAOGs), as they were called, were not a new idea, but their popularity in Italy did not rise until 2020 due to the lockdown. 

Speaking at Games For Impact, an online festival celebrating games with social impact, in her session, "Justice Talk: Digital Educational LARPs Under Lockdown," Negri discussed the challenges in converting an existing LARP to LAOG format and gave tips on how best to approach the design of LAOGs. 

Negri first set upon trying to convert her existing eduLARP, Victorian Murder Party into a LAOG. She discovered there were several difficulties in this endeavor due to the nature of online spaces. Players could speak over each other, leading to chaos, or players could opt not to speak at all, which made for a very boring scenario. Most importantly, because body movement, touch, and voice were limited, the normal ways of energizing players could not be done. She further discovered that more than 6 players in a virtual room was not a good idea because it usually turned negative.

Negri found it far easier to design a LAOG from scratch and incorporate the online setting and facilitator into the narrative. Her design could take advantage of whatever digital tool the LAOG would use.  

Justice Talk, an eduLAOG based on the TV show The Orville, featured three convicted felons and a moderator (played by the facilitator) in a live broadcast. The viewing audience got to decide the fate of each felon. The educational goals were to explore biases, social psychology, modernity, politics, and heuristics.

LARPs typically have five phases: the icebreaker, workshop, game, debrief, and follow-up. Because of the online setting, Justice Talk needed a re-imagining of these phases. The workshop consisted of world creation with the audience and the game phase was split into 3 parts. First, the facilitator would get the three main participants to elaborate on their relationship and back story. Then, the televised Q&A would start, with some questions from the audience. Finally, the audience would vote on the verdicts. At the end, the featured players would step out of their roles and there would be a semi-structured debrief based on the issues.

In the Q&A section of the presentation, Negri revealed that icebreakers and energizers were difficult to conduct online. There were the logistics of muting and unmuting or accidentally leaving the microphone on for hot mic moments. Pacing was especially important as was ensuring there was ample opportunity for all players to participate and be involved in the story.

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.


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.