Upcoming events…

Flurry of activity before I disappear into a Freeplay wrangling flurry.

I’ll be running a session at the Emerging Writers’ Festival as part of their Business of Being a Writer Masterclass on Process and Organisation. This event has sold out (hurrah), but there are still tickets available for their myriad other events.

I’ll also be running on of their TwitterFEST sessions on play and the creative process, building on and discussing my piece in The Reader that you can read online here.

Through Freeplay, we’ve also organised a few playful storytelling things with them. Head over to the event on their website or Freeplay to learn more.

Early June, I’ll be up in Brisbane to talk at the IGDA / Creative Industry Precinct’s Game On program. There isn’t much detail on the site, but this is what I’ll be talking about:

The words we use to describe the space we work in – development, industry, culture, community – all describe structures built, either deliberately or as a byproduct of other processes, by people. In the face of a shifting industrial landscape, how can we build new structures that might better reflect how we’d like to live and work, what would the values of such a community look like, and what does it mean to connect with a wider creative, critical, and artistic culture? This year’s Freeplay will explore these ideas – along with many others – but before it does, co-director Paul Callaghan will talk about some of the history and philosophy behind Freeplay, what to expect from this year’s event, and what to think about into 2012 and beyond.

After that,  I’m going to be at the Continuum Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention talking games and storytelling. Look out for the launch of their full program here.

And lastly, I’ll be running a workshop with ExpressMedia on Innovative Storytelling as part of their Big Splash series.

The thin measure of success

I’ve been thinking about some of the implications of my previous post about Screen Australia‘s All Media Fund and in doing so have clarified something that has been on my mind for quite some time.

In particular, this quote in the original piece from an unnamed executive has rattled around my head:

“Strong story-telling elements are found in AAA titles – like the recent LA Noire by Team Bondi – (but) the budgets for these projects are beyond what most independent games developers can expect to secure,” the source says.

“It’s no accident that Australia’s recent success has been on the iPhone platform – Flight Control and Fruit Ninja are examples, and there’s been a shift towards developing games for social media networks like Facebook.”

I’ve come across this thinking a lot and have started to wonder: are these our only measures of success – LA Noire or Flight Control? AAA or iPhone? I think we do ourselves a serious disservice when we put barriers up about what we can create before we even create it or when we fail to consider the other options that might work from a mechanical and storytelling perspective – options that might not have examples in Australia but which certainly exist as part of the wider worldwide gaming community. Just off the top of my head, what about Stacking or Sword and Sworcery or World of Goo (stretching it a little, but it certainly has a story) or Machinarium or Costume Quest or Limbo?

Not AAA, and not Flight Control either, but interesting and successful titles with a narrative bent. Would Screen Australia fund these? I don’t know, but they certainly won’t if nobody applies. To damn a project or an idea before it has even been born because it doesn’t fit into the thin measure of success of being either a mechanically driven iPhone game or a multimillion dollar title seems to me to be economic & creative folly.

And anyway, someone has already done Flight Control, Fruit Ninja, and LA Noire. Maybe there’s room for something that’s different.

Screenplay and Screen Australia

Over on the Age’s Screenplay blog, there are some comments from me about Screen Australia‘s new All Media Fund in a piece about how “Australian game developers may not be able to access critical government funding because of requirements for their games to have significant storytelling elements and cultural significance.”

I think the piece focuses a little too much on what are seen to be restrictions of the fund rather than on its possible opportunities for game developers as well as what it’s actually designed to support. I’d urge everyone interested to read the full guidelines which pretty explicitly outline what they’re looking for and to take a look at decisions from the old innovation program to see the types of project Screen Australia have traditionally funded – some of which are games, and many of which I’d expect would still be eligible under the new guidelines.

As my comments in the piece were mostly about the cultural question, I’ve put my full answers below to hopefully expand some aspects of the broader discussion. And in the interests of full disclosure: I’ve done assessments for Screen Australia in the past & have also worked on projects which have received funding through the old innovation program.

Continue reading Screenplay and Screen Australia