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SBGames 2009: Glenn Entis On The 'Gameification' Of Media

In a keynote address at the Brazilian Symposium on Games & Digital Entertainment, Pacific Data Images and Electronic Arts veteran Glenn Entis discussed how game design is becoming crucial in areas far broader than games alone.
Glenn Entis is no stranger to Brazil. Having partnered with local animation company Globo during the early 1980s when he was heading up Pacific Data Images, Entis was a natural choice to provide the opening keynote for the 8th annual Brazilian Symposium on Games & Digital Entertainment, or SBGames. After showing off clips of the early PDI/Globo animation work, Entis -- also an EA veteran and now a VanEdge Capital partner -- jumped further back into human history. Entertainment was about live performance, community, immediacy, and interaction, Entis said -- meaning, for thousands of years, entertainment had been very intimate, with limited reach. During the industrial revolution, we moved to mechanical production, which lead to the mass audience. But the results had poor fidelity, and there was no mixing of media. There were words with no motion, sound with no images. Moving into the electronic age, we got live broadcast and recording, but still with poor fidelity and difficulty of manipulation -- more issues to solve. Entis’ key point was that there is always change, and change leads to disruption. Disruption, in turn, is opportunity in disguise. Entis had six trends to share, with the titular "gameificaton" being the final one. 1. Everything Is Going Digital All media is being converted into digital form. Among the obvious examples (like music and movies), Entis mentioned Amazon’s Kindle reader, which was just recently announce for release in Brazil. But the main challenge is that society is still dealing with economic issues related to a fully digital landscape: namely perfect fidelity and unlimited copies. 2. High Bandwidth While computers used to be isolating, now they are super-connected, providing near-unlimited access to content -– and each other. Further, the move away from hard goods opens up the entire world as our potential market. 3. Software As A Service The concepts of software as a service and cloud computing are impacting the base economics and risk of going to market. Entis described Electronic Arts' experience with FIFA in Korea as an example. At first, it was a constant for the company struggle to fight piracy, even though the brand was getting widespread visibility. Eventually, EA put up an online free-to-play version of FIFA, supported by advertising, and generated millions of dollars per month from the game. Entis noted that those first three trends of the digital era have led to the virtualization of media. In short, this has been driven by the desire to escape the limitations of time, space and materials. 4. Consumers As Producers To illustrate consumers as producers, Entis trotted out the usual Web 2.0 examples, noting the evolution of encyclopedias in particular. This trend is producing a huge volume of content, and is largely driven by the desire for personalization and customization. Media consumption (and production) is now part of our identity. In old media, we watched the hero. With new media, people want to be the hero. More and more games are following the paradigm of tool-as-content, citing Spore’s creature generator. 5. Consumers As Data Hinting at the "super crunching" trend, more and more, consumer behavior is being captured, analyzed and correlated. In part, the goal behind this trend is to create predictive intelligence -- think targeted Amazon book recommendations or Google ads. Entis noted that a particular strength of the game industry in this area is the collection and parsing of behavioral data. 6. Gameification In short, games are spreading everywhere. Games are designed around interaction and a great user experience. The value of good game mechanics is to be attractive, fun and addictive -- they are easy to pick up and hard to put down. But those are good characteristics for everything to have, not just games. Entis’ claim is that "gameification" will be needed for any successful consumer interaction experience. He provided a few examples linking common user experiences to what we think of as game mechanics: - Commerce: eBay’s star ranking system as is essentially a "leveling up" mechanic. - Retail: Nike's online shoe customization system is an avatar-style tool. - Advertising: There has been a proliferation of ad-sponsored games and game tie-ins, such as those from Burger King. - Design: There have been numerous logo design tournaments targeted at users. Entis implored the audience to think broadly, to think about how game design is not just for games. Game design is actually a critical skill for all kinds of design and human experience outside of games. Think big, he argued; think beyond. [Jason Della Rocca spent nine years leading the International Game Developers Association. Recently, he left IGDA to found Perimeter Partners, a consultancy focused on building the game industry via consulting on economic and cluster development efforts around the globe.]

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