Monday, August 20, 2012

Gaming, curation, and memory.

What is it about the ludic that helps us know more about ourselves? What is it about gaming that augments our current reality?

What do we remember after a game session?

When we preserve a video game, what exactly do we want to carry forward?

My weekend was two days of gaming. Saturday, I attended the "Playing Pong in 2100: How to Preserve Old Video Games" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum here in DC. Sunday, I ran a Deadlands game (tabletop RPG, and yes, that means caveman tools like pencils and paper) for a new group of friends that has dubbed itself The Explorers Society. The latter began ans a random group of steampunks in the DC area. Our first game session a few weeks ago made it clear that this group of veteran gamers and gamemasters had special chemistry.

All this got me thinking about user experience. We think of user experience online as being in the moment, without latency. Gaming is one of the ultimate user experiences, and latency is a core factor. The vehicle for that experience is personal and largely irrelevant--we game to have the memory of the game session, to feel our expertise with the mechanics, to have a triumphant endpoint documented in some way, whether through a slot on a leaderboard or through a well-worn and thus well-loved character sheet.

But how do we curate our game experiences?

If we rely on memory alone, then these experiences fade and die with the user. As Rachel Donahue noted during the first session of "Playing Pong in 2100," game companies have little interest in preserving their back catalogs and archiving game development materials, such as budgets and storyboards. This leaves much of the curation effort in the hands of gamers, game collectors, and museums such as the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY; Jon-Paul Dyson of The Strong also spoke at this event on the history and culture of gaming, noting that what we preserve depends on what questions we use to define the task.

What is lost when these things fade?

This week, I'll write more about all of this.

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