BAVC’s Producers Institute kick-starts innovative online documentaries, serious games

Events, Games
6/27/08

BAVC logo

I was recently invited to be a mentor at the Bay Area Video Coalition’s Producers Institute, a week-long intensive workshop in which teams of independent documentary producers are immersed in interactive technologies and techniques and then develop pitches for interactive projects based on their work. At the end of the week the project teams pitch their ideas to potential funders and hopefully get a kick-start on the path to getting their proposals underway. Though I was only able to help out for two days towards the end of the workshop, it was still a pretty amazing gathering to see and be a part of.

The main project I was involved with at the Institute was the forthcoming work from Take Action Games (TAG), the company best known for Darfur Is Dying, a game about the crisis in Sudan which received a lot of media attention and helped to put serious games on the map for many people. I’ve had the pleasure of consulting with TAG team members Susana Ruiz and Huy Truong before, and have found their professional style to be a wonderful mix of a strong vision combined with a genuine excitement about the medium and an openness to new ideas. Looking forward to finding out more about their latest project, In The Balance: The Death Penalty Game, I wasn’t disappointed, as Susana, Huy, and Ashley York are again bringing their talents to bear on a challenging social issue and stretching the boundaries of the medium in the process (the project was recently written up in the Washington Post).

I met with a number of project teams while at BAVC—the whole atmosphere of the gathering had a lot of camaraderie and intensity as the various groups, flush with new information from the Institute’s various speakers and events about leveraging documentary content online, sought to assemble compelling pitches for a host of fascinating projects. For a taste, check out the following video from The Drax Files, whose creator Bernhard Drax was documenting the goings-on. This clip touches briefly on In The Balance during a chat with Tony Walsh, a veteran BAVC mentor and founder of the game development firm Phantom Compass. Drax filed a number of reports from the Institute, so check out The Drax Files if you want to see more.


 

iPhone SDK launches Apple into mobile gaming

Games, Interactive Design, iPhone, Wii
3/20/08

iPhone SDK image'

Excellent article today on Roughly Drafted about how the release of the iPhone SDK has suddenly catapulted Apple into a very strong position in the mobile gaming market. I heartily agree, having happily participated in the stampede that brought down Apple’s servers subsequent to the SDK’s release.

The fact that Apple is taking one of the hottest pieces of hardware around and making it so accessible is incredibly significant. In fact, when the SDK was released I had been planning to post a lengthy diatribe about the relative inaccessibility of Wii Ware to amateur developers. Nintendo’s insistence that Wii Ware developers be established companies (no home offices allowed) was a bit of a let-down, but the iPhone SDK more than made up for the disappointment—so far it seems to be everything I hoped for from Wii Ware and more.

Even though the SDK is still in a limited beta (and I’m one of the thousands who got my very own “we’ll be expanding the beta later, hang on for a while” email from Apple), it’s abundantly clear that they’ve gotten a lot right with the release, including the revenue sharing model. The ground is so fertile here that it’s convinced me to start hastily learning Objective-C (happily, C seems much easier to me now than it did eleven years ago, the last time I tried to pick it up...)

Such an exciting time right now. Man!

 

3DV Systems’ Z-Camera: Game interaction post-Wii?

Games, Interactive Design, Wii
3/4/08

IGN Wii Editor Matt Casamassina recently posted video on his blog of 3DV Systems’ Z-Camera technology, which was showing at GDC. It looks pretty impressive--enabling body motion sensing in 3D without the need for an input device. As the comments on Matt’s blog indicate, there’s obviously going to be many applications for which you want to be holding something anyway, but the idea that that something could be a cheap plastic toy instead of an electronic device is an intriguing one. Matt hopes Nintendo is considering the tech for Wii 2--what should Nintendo do for Wii 2, anyway?


 

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