Playing to the Masses

We have been lucky to have attracted significant publicity to our products.  Much of it is drawn from the fact that PeaceMaker and Play the News are inherently so different than the old-fashioned public perception of video games.  Politicians, parents and non-profits constantly deride the medium for being a “time waster,” “violent and shallow,” or even accuse it of being “a silent epidemic among our children” (Senator Clinton).  What would make a better feel-good story than a game about peace in the Middle East or Web games that connect people to headlines?

But such debates tend to be overly black and white.  I like this story in The Guardian, not only because it highlights us, but because it presents how much it’s not only about “shallow vs. deep” or “violent vs. peaceful,” but about a real passion to diversify the interactive audience and present new models to think about:

“Mainstream videogames may have all but conquered the 18-34 male demographic, and proven extremely pervasive throughout others, but their social stigma persists. One of the most obvious reasons for this – and one of the key points of the Byron Review ( – is the vast “generational gap” between gamers and non-gamers. Of course, this argument implies it’s just a matter of time before MP Keith Vaz sits down to a game of Grand Theft Auto VII, but Burak believes that before this can ever be achieved, we need to “dismantle the notion of the ‘gamer'”. “If you think about it,” he says, “you won’t call someone a ‘radio listener’, or ‘TV viewer’ – I mean, you might, but everyone is, right? Everyone is a filmgoer. This idea that people are ‘gamers’ is going to have to change. Everyone should be a gamer!”

As game developers and “gamers” shouldn’t we be happy that more people enjoy our medium?  When guests visit me I love getting the Wii out, creating a Mii for them and letting them wave the remote.  Especially for those who never tried it before – their eyes widen, their jaws drop and suddenly they realize that if they are not careful they could easily end up “gamers” themselves.

Sometimes PlayTheNews Becomes the News

On two separate occasions our news games were drawn into the event we had represented, when the real-life characters began paying attention to them.  How weird.

First case: a game we published with Read Write Web about Data Portability.  The founder of DP, Chris Saad, who is represented by a role in the game, played it and promised not to spoil the game since he “knows the answers”.

Second case: our recent game about BoingBoing and Violet Blue was posted and hosted by Violet Blue on her blog, open to comments by her audience.

Will we see future feedback loops?  Say Obama looking at our community predictions/opinions for his prospective VP?