Offbeat theories kicked off the sessions at the Independent Games Summit in San Francisco today, as the first keynote was delivered by That Game Company's Kellee Santiago, Everyday Shooter developer Jon Mak, and academic developer Pekko Koskinen. The three-person presentation focused on provoking thinking about the relationship between games and gamers.
Santiago, the developer of flOw, argued that the personal value of games to players is something that needs to be better quantified if both developers and publishers are to get a better grasp of the importance of the medium. She argued that a focus on longevity and content was to the detriment of games being memorable and therefore valuable to players.
Mak looked at how the attitude of gamers towards a game changes depending on how a game looks, and whether we get to "own" the output we see on the screen, citing Guitar Hero as an example of how remarkably basic systems enthral gamers by producing output in direct response to their actions.
But it was Koskinen who had the most interesting and complex take of the session. He argued that while other media was tied to particular physical formats, games could be made out of anything at all. He cited the fact that chess could be played with physical pieces, on a screen, or even mentally. This, claimed Koskinen, means that games are all about how a player behaves, and his or her behaviour is the medium in which game designers work. Game design "is the art of fictional behaviour", said Koskinen.
The Finnish developer suggested that game designers could "design players in the same way that we design games", and that behavioural aspect of games would become a great tool in shaping how people live in the years to come.