Quote Of The Day: Kathy Sierra

I’ve already admitted I came in too late to be hooked by games.

However, I recognize their importance to people.

Even Douglas Rushkoff is involved with a game.

With tens and tens of millions of people playing them worldwide — instead of reading! — it’d be thick of us to ignore what’s going on.

Which makes me wonder: At any book conference, has anyone from the games industry ever been invited to speak, to deconstruct and explain what makes their business work? And how publishing might be able to adapt some aspects of its success?


Creating Passionate Users (Kathy Sierra’s brilliant website)

Previously here:

iPhone: Read About It Or BE It?

9 Responses to Quote Of The Day: Kathy Sierra

  1. jenn topper says:

    i heard something on On The Media today about how the newspaper industry is agonizing about its state of affairs, but they are not doing the heavy-duty market research and analytics that other industries find absolutely imperative to their survival. I assumed journalism schools were doing this, but the dudes in the office suites may not be listening. Or something.

    So like the dying newspaper industry, the traditional print publishers are either not listening, or they aren’t doing the hardcore research they need to. Inviting gamers sounds like a good idea. (I don’t get games either. Bring back Pong, dammit. I’ll even take Ms. Pacman.)


  2. Kathy Sierra says:

    Yep — several people. Including me. My blog *started* based on a presentation I gave at O’Reilly to book editors on just that… applying principles drawn from game design (and also filmmaking and advertising) to non-fiction books/publishing. I didn’t know what to call it, so we just wrote “creating passionate users” without thinking about it.

    I worked as a game developer, doing kid’s games at Virgin and then games based on films for MGM, Amblin’ and a few others. Also taught these principles at UCLA Extension Entertainment Studies program on New Media. I initially did not want to “do” books since I’m not a writer, but when forced by job loss, I figured the only way to have it be successful was to use this formula:

    1) They won’t recommend it to others unless they actually learn
    2) They won’t actually learn unless they actually read most of it
    3) They won’t actually read most of it unless they keep turning the pages

    So that was the challenge, given that everyone told us NOBODY actually *reads* tech books and there were already 2,000 Java books on Amazon. To make any money since this was just after the dot com crash, we’d have to take over the #1 slot. Oh, and very few people had ever heard of us. And we aren’t good writers. Yes, a nice tidy challenge, that.

    THAT is why we applied the ‘brain-friendly’ principles including what we know from game design to *keep people turning the pages and ‘getting it’*. There IS no other way, in our opinion, to make a successful how-to book other than to do whatever it takes to make that happen. There are many different ways… ours is but one possible implementation.

    Amy Jo Kim is another who has spoken at O’Reilly events on applying game design principles to software, and I *think* she’s generalized it in a way that applies to books as well. It is her specialty, in fact, more so than mine. I’m using game design as one of the tools in my toolbox, but she is truly an expert in this realm (as is her husband, one of the best puzzle designers on the planet).

    I’ve given a workshop on this for authors a few times as well — specifically for non-fiction books.

    I had a couple of loosely related posts on it, though they were too high level to be very useful, but they point in the direction we take:
    What Can Software Learn From Kung Fu http://bit.ly/10yPcq

    and Spiral Learning

  3. Kat Meyer says:

    Mr. Cane: The O’Reilly Media TOC 2010 conference will have the fantabulous Mr. Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner as a keynote speaker.

    So yes, a book conference has invited someone from the games industry to speak. And, they’ve gone a step further — Gomez is a driving force in the games, film, toy, merchandising and cross-media industries.

    So that’s pretty exciting stuff. I’m really looking forward to TOC in February. :)

  4. laura says:

    It was not a book conference inviting someone from the games industry, but I recently attended Futures of Entertainment 4 at MIT.

    It’s a two day conference sponsored by the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium that aims to discuss just what the conference title suggests, the future of entertainment. Conference speakers are a mix of academics and professionals from all industries: film, television, advertising, gaming, comics, books.

    You can find some information on the conference website, http://futuresofentertainment.org. This year, the panel entitled “Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play” included some interesting discussion on games & narrative, including the difference between story-making and story-telling.

    The transmedia aspects of the conference are a bit different than what you describe (but similar to what Kay Meyer is referring to, and for which I prefer the term transmedia), and much of the discussion focused on games as a way of creating collaborative narrative stories, but I would argue that it is important to consider how fragmented audiences experience and interact with content in multiple ways. While I agree that there are some good things writers can learn from game-makers, and that we are moving to a situation where the distinction between games and books ({\em stories}) is blurring, the experience of a game is usually a very different one from the experience of reading a book.

    [As an aside here, I will also say that I think the ideas of transmedia are intrinsically linked to the future digital book.]

    The conference was preceded by a talk by Jeff Vandermeer on experiments in new types of media and how they are influencing print novels. There was a little discussion on ARGs. You can find the podcast at http://cms.mit.edu/news/2009/11/podcast_booklife_the_private_a.php, but I haven’t watched it to find the timecode for that bit.

    Finally, another gamer perspective, but this time the other way ’round (and not a conference): how stories can influence games. http://www.costik.com/gamnstry.html

    • mikecane says:

      This is the first time I have encountered the term “story-making.” Is it an industry term?

      • laura says:

        Ah, I’m not sure. I’m still new to this.

        I noted it in a comment from, I think it was, Ken Eklund, referring to the crowd-sourced narrative in the ARG World Without Oil.

        • mikecane says:

          I’ve downloaded the podcast. Now I just have to remember to listen. (I’m better at remembering to watch TV video… sheesh.)

      • laura says:

        It’s probably obvious, but I forgot to mention that storymaking refers to creating a way for a story to be told, as opposed to telling the story oneself.

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