Water Cooler Games

a forum for the uses of videogames in advertising, politics, education, and other everyday activities, outside the sphere of entertainment



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Ian Bogost (editor)
Gonzalo Frasca (editor)


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Serious Games Summit Europe 2005
November 22, 2005 - by Gonzalo Frasca

The Serious Games Summit is coming to Europe, to Lyon, France, more precisely. This one day event will take place on December 5th. Lyon is a great city, well-known in France for the quality of its restaurants. You can learn more about the summit here. My ITU colleague Jesper Juul will be keynoting and Anders Frank - from the Swedish National Defence College- is also among the speakers.


A few notes on the European Advertising in Games Forum
November 21, 2005 - by Ian Bogost

I attended the European Advertising in Games Forum last week in London. WiFi was unavailable at the venue and difficult/expensive to find in the city in general, so I wasn't able to cover the event live. Not that I necessarily would have been able to; it was a rather oppressively downtrodden one to say the least. Partly that had to do with the venue -- a theater in the medical (?) campus of Imperial College London, one of those postwar reconstruction buildings that blights the city. But the attendees, the presenters, the room in general was morose and by and large uninteresting. It was nice to see some old friends, including former Yahoo! Games head Geoff Graber, who is now at the helm of in-game ad network company Double Fusion.

There were a few tidbits worth sharing. First, I should remind our readers that the industry continues its desperate hope to find a new media buy-driven ad market in games. This folly continued at the Euro event, with "advertising in games" having been essentially elided with this unfortunate type of advertising. My much-maligned nemesis Massive had only a minor presence, with no speakers, no sponsorships, and only one attendee. They were probably out trying to fleece some investor out of $40 million for their next round of funding. But speaking of funding, two recently-funded, "kinder and gentler" competitors to Massive were in attendance, Berlin- and UK-based IGA Partners and the previously-mentioned Double Fusion. For those keeping score, that makes three (3) in-game advertising network providers. But perhaps the most telling fact I learned at the conference is just how few games actually support dynamic ads. Try to guess how many, then click through to continue reading...

... Continue reading "A few notes on the European Advertising in Games Forum"


Volvo Drive for Life
November 14, 2005 - by Ian Bogost

The NY Times reports that Volvo and Microsoft have collaborated on a game for Xbox called Volvo Drive for Life, "a showcase for the Volvo nameplate, three Volvo models and the longtime Volvo brand identity as the car designed with safety foremost."

Clearly, this won't be a Burnout clone -- players drive on a proving grounds course with and without safety features in the Volvo S40 S60R, and XC90. The player can then drive the car in three real-world courses, Pacific Coast Highway, the Italian Grand Prix, and the road to the ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi. Real-world is relative, I guess.

This is a good approach to an advergame; it focuses on simulating the features of the actual products and gives the player an embodied experience of using it. Of course, cars are much easier to simulate in games -- we have a long chain of precedents to rely on -- unlike other consumer goods. That's where we have to work harder.

It's unclear if the game will be sold commercially or not. The Times article suggests that it will be given away at auto shows and possibly through Netflix and GameStop, but I'm not sure if players have to buy it. If so, I wonder what the price point will be... surely not the US$50 we expect to pay for a commercial game.



Samsung Mobile Mystery
November 22, 2005 - by Ian Bogost

Samsung D600Perfect Fools up in Stockholm have just released a new adventure/puzzle style mystery game to promote the Samsung D600 mobile phone. As the game starts, a mysterious woman hands you a mobile phone before rushing off. As the player, your job is to discover and use clues on the phone to help solve the mystery. The game follows the conventions of classic point-and-click adventure games, as well as the more contemporary escape-the-room type games like Crimson Room and Viridian Room. Players who find all the clues (and who are residents of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, or Iceland) are entered for a chance to win a D600 phone.

What's interesting about this game is the central role of the handset. The main interface for the game is a simulation of the handset, and to play the game the user must learn about the features and functions of the device. The marketing is a bit heavy handed in this game for my taste -- the game even explicitly asks you to pay close attention to the product features, and when you use a feature a sidebar pops up with more information -- but the idea is sound: integrate the functional capabilities of the product into the gameplay. Of course, one might argue that we have very little practical need to solve murders using phones handed to us by passing beautiful women, but the potential for extension is certainly there. The game creates a space between the product and the player that the latter can try to fill in with the more mundane details of his own life, and make a set of assessments about the product's potential worth.

The production value is very high, although the game pays for it with frequent loading sequences. The game also apparently ties in with a TV spot of the same theme, which I haven't seen of course, given that this handset is not meant for the US market.

... read more

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