One of my first Casual Connect meetings was with a developer who talked about writing up docs, several years ago, of an interactive gameworld made up of cubes, like cubic water and cubic plants and cubic minerals. Players would collect the cubes for building and crafting. He shelved the project, and all but forgot about it, until he started playing MineCraft. Oh, he thought, my ideas were great! This game is awesome!
After that, I attended a session from Arkadium, which discussed (among other things) the ways to optimize a game based on player feedback. Modifying the game to respond to how players actually engage the game doesn’t mean the original design was “wrong” or that a creative director has lost face, but that players could like the game even more. Players would like to play for longer sessions, engage new parts of the gameworld, bring in friends, and ultimately want to give you more money. Not every single piece of player feedback is valuable, for obvious reasons, and a good community manager needs to triage valid, useful feedback. After “No one cares what seven Calypso ubers think, Meg.”, it felt good to hear that it is not a failure of design to listen to the players.
I listened to Perfect World on what casual can learn from MMOs, but the focus for me was on building in-world economies, and creating interdependency between different types of players. I don’t know for sure that I could have done this, but it feels good just knowing that what I was working towards was valid.
I heard Hidden Variables on using an ensemble cast to make games sticky. Like I said on IGM:
This was fascinating for me, because I’ve often responded to this style in fiction without giving a lot of thought to how this can be applied to games. With an ensemble cast, players pick a favorite (or an un-favorite), almost without thinking about it, and connect to that character’s narrative, and therefore, to the game. Think comic fans arguing over the best X-Man, to see just how effective this is. (It’s Rogue, in case you were wondering.)
Finally, I went to a session from Gaslamp Games on using humor in game text. I knew this was going to be the one of the best sessions going in. It was great to hear Gaslamp Games’ Nicholas Vining saying explicitly that rape jokes are never funny and don’t belong in games, and it was even better see how a roomful of games industry professionals responded to this assertion. Sad that it needs to be said.
It’s been argued that a couple of rape-joke losers in the industry are outliers, and that it hardly needs to be said that most game developers aren’t at all like this.
Most guys in the industry aren’t dickwolves, but don’t feel the need to explicitly say that they respect women and don’t find sexual abuse funny, so it usually falls to the ladies to say unfunny things like “Hey, are you going to PAX?” “No, because I don’t support rape culture in my industry.”
We often talk about what can be done to bring more women into game development. Explicitly saying that you don’t find a sexual “joke” funny, whether you hear it in a game or a game studio, is something any individual can do to make games a better place for women.
Added 9/16: Calling out a sexist “joke” is exactly what this forum mod at the awesome Gaslamp Games did. Well done. Bonus points for the follow-up where the posters uses the “just kidding” defense, and is squashed again.