For the past three years, Eric Zimmerman (of the gameLab group) has brought together a trio of designers to tackled a difficult game concept. Last year's Emily Dickinson challenge was a surreal poetry experience. This year Mr. Zimmerman took a more serious tack, by putting forward the concept of 'The Nobel Peace Prize' for the participants to ponder. Read on for notes on the presentations from Harvey Smith, CliffyB, and Keita Takahashi.
PeaceBomb (Harvey Smith's Presentation) -
A Web-based game played through the Nintendo DS, which organizes flashmobs of players to do constructive projects. A gameworld in which Earth is crushed under the jackboot of a soulless government/corporation. Players come up with ideas in a community-driven format, where the participants can create good ideas. If the idea gets enough good karma from other players, the game 'creates' the flashmob by asking players to show up and do something specific. Examples include donating money or clothes to a shelter, cleaning up an economically depressed area, or donating time to a Habitat for Humanity project. The game would feature the ability for others to vote project idea. It would also allow users to sign petitions with the DS stylus, and similar.
Empathy (CliffyB's Presentation) -
A game targeted at the leaders of the industrialized nations. The game would be an attempt to humanize the effects of war by forcing leaders to face those most affected by war: Civilians. As a leader of a household, within the game, you attempt to keep your family together and alive during a conflict. The player (a national leader) goes through the process of joining the military, and has to deal with the stresses of training and the disruption to their family. The game would be intended to evoke sympathy in the civilian, not in the soldier. A key would be realistic graphics, to ensure empathy with the family characters.
Keita Takahashi's Presentation -
The creator of Katamari Damacy essentially stated that games are a luxury. Games are only around when the game player is in a peaceful situation. If we could somehow get games to everyone all around the world, it would lead to peace by osmosis. His presentation was marked by his struggle with English and a surreal Katamari-esque powerpoint presentation. Despite his obvious effort, Takahashi's English was quite good and his warning at the beginning that we might not understand him turned out to be unneccessary. The presentation ended with a smiling globe and ever propagating happy gamer-people.
After a few questions from the audience, the audience voted via their applause for the design they liked the most. The vote went to Harvey Smith, for his Peacebomb idea, by virtue of a huge audience outpouring. Will Wright was on hand to put his pretty 'reigning champ' tiara on the head of the winner.
For another view on the event, please check out Next Generation's coverage of the challenge.