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CS Colloquium: Video Games and the Human Condition
Jonathan Blow, Independent Designer/Programmer, Author of Braid
date:3:30PM   to   5:00PM   US Central (GMT −0500)
Monday, September 27, 2010
length:1 hour, 30 minutes
location:McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
sponsor:Computer Science

Video games have evolved tremendously over the past few decades; they're much more entertaining than they used to be. That is not by accident; we, the community of game designers, have been continuously refining our techniques. The most common way we do this is by testing out our games on you, the players, and optimizing for the "best" result (where "best" is defined by us). As this process is ongoing, what kind of relationship exists between the designer and the player? Is it artist/audience, experimenter/subject, entrepreneur/customer, or tycoon/resource? Invariably it's some admixture of these things, the particular ratios for a given game being chosen by its designers (usually without awareness that a decision is being made). Today, due to the way the Internet is widely used, and because game designers are becoming more serious about certain aspects of their craft, the iteration time of this game design optimization process is shorter than ever before: designers can observe their players much more thoroughly, and more quickly, than they ever have in the past. At some point a quantitative change becomes a qualitative one: the result of all this competency may be heavily destructive. Some aspects of the current notion of "good game design" may in fact be very bad, or at least indefensible, from an ethical standpoint. Today's "better" video games spend a great deal of effort to undermine defenses that took you tens of millennia to evolve. They tend to be successful at this. As designers keep evolving their craft and gain greater analytical power, what will happen?

Biography of Jonathan Blow:
Jonathan Blow is a designer-programmer whose goal is to make video games that are mind-expanding in ways special to that medium. He is best known for the well-received game Braid. He is also a partner in the Indie Fund, an initiative to help creative new developers grow stronger while remaining independent.

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