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About the Conference

by Michael Cole - January 30, 2001, 11:01 pm PST

The Younger Plumber attends the conference "Entertainment in the Interactive Age" and tells us all about it.

I know there are those of you who are confused about what the “Entertainment in the Interactive Age” conference was all about, so I’ll give a brief summary of what I experienced these past two days. The University of Southern California regularly holds special events with guest speakers, and this time around, the topic happened to be about electronic entertainment—specifically video games—and what is in its future. Various speakers talked about different forms of user interaction in video games. Some games, like The Sims, allow the player full control over the game and story. Many of the speakers focused on how intricate the story is to a game, whether it be created on the spot or predetermined. They wish to get in touch with the user’s more sophisticated emotions—not just anger and fear. Uniqueness is the key. Each player should have his or her own unique experience: no two paths should be exactly the same. In some games, user-made “mod”s can be downloaded and used in the game, extending the game’s life. Other games let the player make up his or her own adventure. In this way, there can be INFINITE possibilities. Many also talked about the online gaming community, while a few (like Ken Lobb) gave some insight as to how a developer goes about creating a game well.

Now that you know what the developers were preaching, let me tell you what it was like for your everyday peon like myself. Upon walking in to the reception room the first day, I found the room bubbling with enthusiasm. The really cool thing about this conference is that the speakers mingled with the rest of the crowd. In between segments, I was able to meet some interesting representatives of companies like Infogrames and Bioware. The second day, I was also able to attend a press breakfast, which gave me the chance to meet a few more guys in the business. The revolutionaries in this industry are definitely down to earth. Of course, I was often denied a quick interview, but the chance to listen to something like Warren Spector’s opinion of “boring games on rails” or Ken Lobb’s comment about how the BFD team refused collecting from the get-go is a wonderful experience that I wish all gamers could enjoy. Shaking Ken Lobb’s hand and receiving his card will be something I remember for years to come.

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