Maggie Shiels

Gaming luminaries chew the cud

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 26 Mar 09, 08:30 GMT

Microsoft is apparently working on the next version of the Xbox.

No surprise perhaps, but that little nugget of information emerged from the "luminaries lunch" held at the Game Developers Conference.

Game developers at For the second year in a row, a select number of journalists were allowed to come and eavesdrop on half a dozen industry players over sandwiches and wraps at the W Hotel in San Francisco, which has become a sort of semi-official hang out during the week long event.

News of the successor to the Xbox 360 was dropped by Rob Pardo of Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind World of Warcraft and Diablo. He said that he had been in talks with Microsoft and seems to be the only developer that has so far been approached.

The issue came up when David Perry, a 25-year-old veteran who started in the industry aged 15, posed the question "What direction would you take Microsoft or Sony to ensure they lead and not follow in the console business?"

At first pass, Will Wright, the creator of the Sims and Spore, said he would like to "decline the job" while Warren Spector of Deus Ex fame and boss of Disney's Junction Point Studios, indulged in a little mischief.

"I want to see what you guys are going to do with the Wii," he quipped to Mr Pardo.

The Blizzard boss merely raised his eyebrows and kept his own counsel on that one.

To spice things up Mr Perry announced that "on the record the PSP is going to be a digital device. I know that for a fact."

The discussion for a while rotated around content with Mr Spector saying too much of it is knuckle-headed.

"What we need to do is change the content. Am I going to get an axe in the head, or is it going to be a club? Which car or truck is going to be rolling down the street?" he asked.

"We don't need another game about space marines saving the world, we don't need another game about elves and orcs," he concluded.

The discussion then took a decidedly weird turn when Mr Wright said "I'm sure half the people in this room have played the urinal game."

As the room erupted into laughter, he tried to explain the premise of the game and went on to say "we need to make games about the world that are interesting, surprising and illuminating.

"We can make games much more relevant even across cultures and demographics."

That comment came amid a conversation about social gaming which was sparked by a remark made at the recent BAFTA awards by Nolan Bushnell, who is considered the father of electronic gaming and is the inventor of Pong and founder of Atari.

He said that going to a bar is social, but that sitting in a darkened room communicating with thousands of people virtually, isn't social.

A 40-minute discussion among these luminaries ensued.

"Social gaming is becoming cool," said Mr Pardo who also paid reference to the World of Warcraft community and pointed out that "many of them have jobs, and kids".

But Mr Perry questioned whether hanging out online playing games constituted a "real relationship".

"Is it the same as having a beer," he pondered.

"Who cares," replied Mr Wright "If it's real. If it has value that's all that matters."

Brian Fargo, who founded Interplay productions, said that all this "socialising online" has had a negative effect on his behaviour.

"I've become more antisocial as time goes on. I have a Blackberry and I have all these friends.I can't tell you how many times I think I wish they would just e-mail me.

"This is a great philosophical issue. Are we becoming more antisocial? I probably spend more time e-mailing, text messaging than talking," he said.

Neil Young the founder of Ngmoco, which makes games for the iPhone, noted that this "august" group of people were beginning to sound old.

"People who instinticlvely understand multi-tasking as a way of life and grew up with our medium are more willing to fully explore it.

"I would argue next year none of us should be here (at the luminaries lunch). We should figure out who the top six freshest game makers are. I bet you will have different talk and they won't talk about fantasy games or sci-fi."


  • Comment number 1.

    So reading between the lines, it kind of tells us what wii already know - casual gaming is a growing market...

  • Comment number 2.

    Casual gaming has always been a big market - just look at the fact that Electronic Arts bought out Pogo. Pogo has always been casual gaming with a heavy bent towards the social culture. EA realised the market potential and paid real real money for it. Then there's the plethora of bingo sites that take online gambling to the casual gamers.

    I'm just wondering what this urinal game is.

  • Comment number 3.

    The urinal game is a flash game that's been around in one form or another for a good few years online.

    You are placed in a public men's loos looking at 5 urinals and the game gives you different scenarios with different numbers and types of men standing at the urinals, it's your job to guess which is the correct urinal to stand at.

    Invariably men tend to do well and women do poorly. I'm not surprised if Maggie hasn't heard of it though!


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