Column: 'Blogged Out: Media Process'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging, with links to MIT mastermind Henry Jenkins, indie-game champion Greg Costikyan, and Steven Johnson on Will Wright.
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: media, Lego, process versus data, and The Long Zoom. Go Lego Henry Jenkins’ media-research blog is pretty much essential reading for anyone with an interest in contemporary media, and it’s likely to be come even more interesting in the light of the news that he will part of the team heading up a game innovation laboratory in Singapore. Exciting developments indeed. While we wait to exactly what’s going to happen with that, it’s worth reading some of Jenkins’ voluminous postings, such as this piece on Lego and related collaborative content issues. “What (Lego robotics man) Lund has to say about Lego echoes what I report in Convergence Culture about the games industries. Will Wright, for example, told me that the game companies are now essentially competing to see which one can attract and sustain the most creative community since user-based innovation is the key to keeping a games franchise fresh and interesting over the long haul.” Greater Intensity And we seem to keep on coming back to Greg Costikyan. The master blogger is at again over on his Manifesto Games blog, this time arguing that we need to refocus on ‘process intensity’ after a glut of ‘data intensity’ in video game development. Costik discusses a term long ago defined by Chris Crawford thus: "Process intensity is the degree to which a program emphasizes processes instead of data. All programs use a mix of process and data. Process is reflected in algorithms equations, and branches. Data is reflected in data tables, images, sounds, and text. A process-intensive program spends a lot of time crunching numbers; a data-intensive program spends a lot of time moving bytes around." Costikyan goes on to make some smart observations, dragging in the big contemporary themes as he goes: “With Spore, Will Wright is pushing the notion of "procedural content"--that is, models and animations that are not created by artists and stored on a disk, but generated algorithmically. He holds this up as one way to improve the variety of experience provided by a game while also reducing the effective asset creation cost. Which indeed it is, and some have suggested that procedural content is the future of games.” “Perhaps so. However, the idea of "procedural content" is, in essence, a subset of the idea of "process intensity." Wright is using a computer's ability to process data to reduce the need to provide lots of data. He is, in other words, following Crawford's advice. But using processes to generate "content" is only one path to more variable and interesting games.” The Long Spore Also notable in industry writings this month (and another download of Will Wright-speak) is Steven Johnson’s New York Times piece on Spore, Brian Eno, artistic ways of seeing in ‘The Long Zoom’, an excellent read: "It occurred to me as I wandered through the halls of the Spore offices that a troubled school system could probably do far worse than to devote an entire, say, fourth-grade year to playing Spore. The kids would get a valuable perspective on their universe; they would learn technical skills and exercise their imaginations at the same time; they would learn about the responsibility that comes from creating independent life. And no doubt you would have to drag them out of the classrooms at the end of the day. When I mentioned this to Eno, he immediately chimed in agreement. “I thought the same thing,” he said. “If you really want to reinvent education, look at games. They fold everything in: history, sociology, anthropology, chemistry — you can piggyback everything on it.” " More welcome Wright love, then, or the beginnings of an entire cult devoted to him? [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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