#SKSP and Dare to be Digital 2015

I recently attended the Dare to be Digital Protoplay festival in Dundee, Scotland and wanted to take a few minutes to write down my thoughts on the event.

Before I get into what I’ve learnt, I would like to mention why I was there. It was actually two fold – partly to help promote Invertical Touch but mainly to get involved with promoting a 24 hour gaming marathon called Sick Kids Save Point (or SKSP). In October I’ll be going through a relatively grueling experience of playing a variety of games as a fundraising activity for a sick kids hospital in Scotland.

1024x1024LogoFor Invertical Touch the event was very successful. I’m not sure if I’ll get many extra downloads of the paid for or free versions of the game but money and sales isn’t my only (or main) measure of success. Knowing people have played and enjoyed the game is what I really care about and over the last weekend I’ve seen at least a hundred, possibly more (I wasn’t keeping tabs), people play Invertical Touch and really enjoy it. Some people returned for a second go, even a third or fourth. Some kids had to be practically dragged away by their folks to visit another stand.

Commercially the event is of course a loss (at best paying back for the bottled water I took along…) but I’d take getting to see one person really enjoying playing my game over 50 faceless sales earning me 30p each.

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It surprised me how many younger kids really enjoyed playing the game. The controls can be a little hard, especially for small hands having to make quick movements between jumping and inverting, but even then they failed the same bit several times the kids kept trying. We hear about dumbing down of games in terms of difficulty for the younger gamer but I saw plenty determination to beat a level!

Perhaps the argument that games are dumbing down is more that they no longer severely punish the player for failing. Playing many classic games, if I screw up I might end up restarting the WHOLE sodding game. In modern games you are if anything encouraged to try new things. Don’t worry about failing, just keep trying. Personally I much prefer this!

Hopefully my presence at the event was beneficial to the SKSP team. Obviously as a participant and someone who really believes in the cause it was easy for me to talk about the event (well as easy as it gets when you are a shy and socially inept individual) but also having the game present meant that I could introduce the kid to the game and then talk to the parents about the charity.

I’ll be posting details about my plans for SKSP 2016 in a future post, although to read more (and donate!) visit my JustGiving page.

Touching on an article I wrote on my gaming blog, it was interesting to play other people’s games but I preferred just watching. There were some very novel and fun games to play such as Johann Sebastian Joust, a great physical game, Advance and a bee game that I forget the name of (one player was a bear legging it from bees) but I’ve found that playing games at events can be a sub par experience.

With several people about you can feel a touch rushed plus you are doing the first impressions and learning the ropes with someone watching. Every time I mess up, especially if I found it tricky or didn’t fully understand the game, it felt a little embarrassing plus I feel like I’m making the game that someone has worked hard on look rubbish when its probably just me.

When playing games at home I am happy to try, die, repeat but less so with someone watching. The pressure I add on myself makes it a less enjoyable experience, therefore I would rather stick to just watching. I can understand the gameplay concept and identify what makes the game fun. Then I can go home and check out the game some more!

One thing I learnt from the event was to be more focused. As with 2013, I took along several games and if someone struggled with Invertical Touch or my tablets were in use then I’d try showing other games. Lesser quality games at that. Not only does this not show my best work, but stopping and starting things isn’t ideal.

Additionally as well as being focused with my selections of games, the posters and resources need to be focused on providing the best introduction to the game. Players are interested in the game, not the “studio” (i.e. me) therefore I shouldn’t be taking Oxygen Addict cards and resources to events – it should be “Invertical Touch”. Additionally instead of plastering the name everywhere or using different art to show off the game, posters should tell people:

  • The name of the game.
  • Very basic premise.
  • Controls.

The latter is so obvious but nearly no one does it. Telling someone about what key to press before they’ve started doesn’t help. Instead knowing they have to perform an action, looking up and seeing “Press B to do action” is desirable. (minor finding – most people hate being reminded how to play!).

I also found a very quick demonstration was very useful. For Invertical Touch I could take 5-10 seconds to visibly show the controls and the mechanism.  This was usually

  • “To start with I can jump on to the white blocks”
  • *jumps onto white blocks*
  • “but when I press this button I change colour and now walk on the black buttons”
  • *press invert*
  • “I can’t change when I’m in front of blocks”
  • *press invert* nothing happens
  • “But if I jump then I can change”
  • *jump and invert”
  • Player goes “ahhhh I get it” and away they go.
  • I bugger off and leave them to it

Before I started doing that, I blurted out the premise (you change colour and that changes what you can walk on) and watched them have a go, get a bit confused then help them out. This gave them an introduction and let them get into the game without the awkwardness of being watched.

(FYI – tips were turned off as they got annoying, particularly if they repeat what I had just said verbally)

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The final thing about Dare that I’d like to discuss is the one negative that I have. The audience was one very distinct market. 99% of people at the stands were young kids with their parents. Don’t get me wrong, they were all lovely with very polite and friendly kids and it was an absolute pleasure to share my game with them. However it would be nice to see more older teenagers, students and young professionals there. Given Dundee has a large student population for a small city and a thriving development community, it is a bit of a shame that so few of the 18-30 year old gamers made it out. Many of the games there would probably appeal more to folk from this age range and we wouldn’t want the games that go to Dare to be too focused on young kids.

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