October 6, 2005

Designer Discusses PC Game Aesthetics

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Well-known independent game designer Ernest Adams delivered a lecture last night discussing everything from aesthetics to the popular video game Madden NFL Football. His lecture, entitled “The Future of Computer Entertainment, 2005-2050” followed a game design workshop held in Upson Hall.

The talk, presented by the Game Design Initiative at Cornell and funded by the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, the Department of Communication, and Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, focused on Adams’s view on the future of technology, marketing, and aesthetics in regards to game design. Adams, known for founding the International Game Developers’ Association, opened his speech with his opinions on the importance of technology in regards to game design.

“Technology is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for commercial success,” Adams said. He went on to elaborate that while consumers can expect advances in video game console speed and power, the industry’s focus is shifting to character design.

Adams, a visiting fellow at the United Kingdom’s University of Teesside, also contradicted the popular notion that the personal computer is going out of style. In a segment titled “Why the PC Will Never Die,” Adams offered his views on why the market for PC-directed games will remain healthy.

“People need to own PCs for other reasons, so developers will still make games for them,” he said. An area he did foresee expanding in the next 50 years was that of virtual and augmented reality.

Adams, who is currently acting as a consultant for an Australian company dealing with augmented reality, also predicted that immediate technological challenges would entail both improving quality for virtual and augmented reality and further exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence in game design.

The next portion of Adams’s lecture dealt with demographics and marketing issues in the video game industry. He anticipated a greater focus on both second- and third-world countries as markets for new video games.

“India and China are ones to watch,” Adams said, citing their friendly policies towards foreign companies. He also spoke briefly about the obstacles to such international expansion for game companies. Chief among the challenges for the game industry was piracy.

“Piracy is hands-down our biggest problem,” Adams said. He called for government support in passing legislation and enforcing laws against the growing market of pirated software.

In his lecture, Adams attempted to address the piracy situation by suggesting new ways to market games. His ideas included electronic software distribution and video game delivery on the Internet – both efforts to get game developers closer to their consumers. He also incorporated the idea of marketing “mobile entertainment,” or games for PDAs, cell phones and other portable devices into this segment of his talk.

“Just as everything now contains a digital clock, everything will contain a cell phone,” Adams said. He urged further development of games for cell phones, noting that Japan was experiencing continuous increases in the popularity of mobile entertainment.

In the final section of his lecture, Adams discussed the future of aesthetics in regards to game design. He foresaw a gradual shift to the recognition of game design as an art form, calling for serious academic research to be done into the aesthetics of game design as well as replacing previously-held conventions about video and computer games.

“We must find new ways of attracting customers,” he said. These included everything from new types of games to new art styles for them. Adams made references to the need for an impressionist-like movement in the game industry. His ideas also drew parallels from the present-day movie industry with plans for highly-publicized awards for game design.

Audience members were very receptive to Adams’s views on the future of game design.

“Adams had a lot of insightful points and wasn’t afraid to contradict popular opinions regarding trends and the future,” said Greg Akselrod ’09.

Adams encouraged students in the audience to explore game design and test new concepts while still in school.

After remaining to answer audience questions, Adams offered his final thought on both the present and the future of game design: “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people.”

Archived article by Christine Ryu
Sun Contributor