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Summary:

Jesse Schell, founder of Schell Games and former creative director of the Disney’s Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, at the DICE 2010 conference gave a presentation about the future of games. He could very well be talking about the future of technology itself. Watch the video.

Forget everything you did today. Clear your schedule and spend the next half hour watching this video. It’s a presentation by Jesse Schell, founder of Schell Games and former creative director of the Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio. A veteran game designer, he is also on the faculty of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

In a talk at the DICE 2010 conference held last week in Las Vegas, he gave a presentation called Design Outside the Box. It is the most mind-blowing thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. And while this presentation was about the future of games, Schell could very well be talking about the future of technology.

Schell, in a very articulate manner, weaves together various technologies — from the social web to reality television to the iPhone to geolocation data — and lays out the future as he sees it. And I buy it. He talks in particular about how no one saw Facebook games coming, and why they threw many people into a panic.

He quips that “there are more Farmville than there are Twitter accounts” and that in Facebook you “pay real money to get virtual money.” From the Playfish acquisition to billions of dollars in revenue generated by WiiFit and Guitar Hero, he talks about how the new games are essentially “psychological tricks.” For instance, Club Penguin offered everything free, including free virtual currency, but in order to spend the virtual money you needed to go to a store where you paid real money.

Schell points out that the future of games is in finding psychological angles and making experiences based in reality. If the past of games was about fantasy, today’s games are about reality (not realism), much like our collective obsession with reality TV.

Schell talks about why technological convergence is a total myth. Technologies are like species on the Galapagos islands, and like them they diverge. Of course, there are exceptions — such as the iPad, which is essentially a new kind of Swiss Army knife. It works as a Swiss Army knife because it fits in your pocket. In comparison, the iPad is stupid because it’s essentially a giant Swiss Army knife that doesn’t fit in your pocket.

I can go on and sum up the entire talk, but you should just watch it. I would never be able to do justice to its brilliance. (Hat tip. #)

  1. I watched the entire thing from start to finish and the last 8 minutes had me slack-jawed in amazement. When he described all the points and incentives we were earning from walking, taking the bus, high-fiving your buddy, I could see myself doing all of those things. Gowalla, Foursquare, MyTown, Waze, Traveller’s Quest are all a part of my daily life and that’s just iPhone stuff. The Weight Watchers part was great. Our lives are turning into games because of the instant gratification they provide. It’s no wonder my students (I teach elementary school), don’t want to wait for anything: they are used to getting everything now. This could be dangerous…

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    1. I think it represents a bigger challenge — it represents what I think is the future of engagement. What that means is that in the near future we are going to see how the advertising is going to be redefined — completely. The traditional idea of brand advertising is about to be transformed.

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      1. I just hope the future of advertising isn’t some augmented reality mashup of Yelp Monocole and Foursquare like in Minority Report. Or that we end up like the sloth humans in Wall-E.
        I did like how he ended the talk with it talking about shaping our behavior for the good: walking, taking public transportation, reading quality books.

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  2. I think there is one BIG FLAW on the whole concept. It will never happen because we will never give up our PRIVACY.

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    1. Tell that to Facebook’s 300MM users, 40% of whom probably have their privacy settings “wide open”, and the Foursquare/Gowalla types who happily broadcast their every footstep.

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      1. I have a new faceplace birthday every two or three weeks…. it’s the best thing EVER!

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  3. Does anyone know where I can get one of those Swiss Army Kitchen sets?

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  4. I think it’s bigger than that. Millions of people manage very complex transactions in the course of playing these games. They interact with people and the results of those interactions give rise to things IN the game, BUT, the real benefit is if we turn reality into a game. Use real world data and generate virtual effects, use virtual actions to create real world effects.
    E.g. how do I manage 50,000 customers and keep them satisfied? What are the tools I have to do it? What behaviours am I seeing currently in the customer base? Ever managed a virtual farm online?

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  5. I do not this this coming, peolpe get bored by all these kinds of bonus and point systems … a few exceptions, weight wachtchers for instance, the point system works because it tells you whether u r on track … but its still the track of becoming thin that people are intereseted in. So the point is, that a system that gratifys your eagerness, only works if its for a long term goal that seems to be desirable … honestly, no one would read a book through, if you find it borig right from the beginning only to get some bonus points that could save you some dollar. ok ok, kids gets distracted from a lot of things, but grown ups don´t get fooled that easily

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  6. Entertainment is all about new experiences.

    I hate the term outside the box. Thinking outside the box. Designing outside the box.

    That’s what thinking and design are by default – outside the box.

    Otherwise it’s not design or thinking. It’s just following a blueprint.

    What’s a bit scary is this guy is envisioning a world where we are all digital junkies.

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    1. Wont we be though? Generations will pass on and keep passing on. Kids now adays all have their electronics and their lives will only get more intertwined with technology. Of course Im not talking about third world countries.

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  7. Let’s have a look:

    Anybody seen Typewriters, Calculators, Transparencies (military called them FOILS) with projector lately?

    So much for the argument of convergence as a myth. Convergence is a function of available CPU power and software advances.

    Not meant personal Om. But how complex would the back end system be to allow you to participate and survive a system driven by Game designers, Food industry and Pharmaceutical industry? Point is, even common heart disease becomes pretty personal pretty fast, like anything else. How secure has it to be, or am I allowed to have some fun with your “guidance” system if I don’t like an article? And people think buzz was a screw up.

    I don’t want to go into his arm chair psychology. Let’s just say I’m not impressed, with the whole thing.

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  8. Fascinating to hear, but there’s NO WAY I’d want to live in that future. I still believe that most of things you do should be done because they should be done, not because some advertising agency will give you 100 bonus points for them.

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  9. Wow that video was really inspiring. Thank you for posting it.

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  10. I can imagine a time when commercial interests and public interests converge to promote individual behaviors that lead people to act as better citizens of their town, country, and planet. Having your life become an ongoing game could be one way it happens. Even the most severe libertarians could find nothing to object to if individual behaviors that add social value were objectively tracked and rewarded. It distills “rugged individualism” to its absolute essence-your contribution to society (as a consumer or as an involved citizen) will be precisely measured.

    I imagine most people will want a “time out” option, though, so they can go eat a cheeseburger, down a scotch, or go into finance and design the next generation of securitized subprime mortgages and credit default swaps.

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