The Essay Question

2. ‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’ (Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper, ‘The splintering of the fourth estate’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/19/open-collaborative-future-journalism/print .. viahttp://www.fglaysher.com/Post_Gutenberg_Publishing.html ).

How is the diminution of traditional, and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life? You should choose one broad area of publishing, such as, for example, journalism or music publishing.

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The diminution of large traditional intermediaries has certainly changed how publishers, developers and customers interact in the PC game publishing scene. The internet has made way for many alternative methods to publish a game over the traditional method of going through a game publishing company. However, the role that game publishing serves in the social life, to distribute and promote, remains the same.

The role of large game publishing companies for was to fund, promote and distribute games (Brand & Knight). It was very important, if not critical, for a game to be backed by a publisher and this can be seen in the history of SimCity. The initial version of the game was created in 1985, but didn’t come into the public eye until 1989 when Broderbund backed and published the game (ACMI) which gave it the boost it needed to start off the popular Sims franchise.

Today, the efforts of large game publishing companies such as Ubisoft can be seen day to day from adverts on television to official websites that serve to entice customers to buy the game. One notable recent example of a heavily promoted game from Ubisoft would be Far Cry 3 that has a collection of video clips, an official website and television adverts amongst others. Ubisoft takes its role to promote seriously, as seen from the €304, 941, 000 on marketing alone in the financial year ending on March 2013 (Ubisoft, 2013). From Far Cry 3’s official site, we can see that the publisher has control over the distribution of the game, and how that game will be distributed.

Companies such as Ubisoft, Electronic arts and Nintendo are fulfilling their role as a publisher by promoting and distributing the games that they back. In the social life, their role is to bring their products to a target market.

The diminution of traditional intermediaries such as these can be seen through the many new channels of publishing that are now available to game developers. Platforms such as Steam and Desura in addition to funding methods such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo allows game developers to publish independent from large companies. These indie developers are able to take control of how and when they distribute their games, without fear of being rejected as a risky investment (Langlotz, Rhode & Whaley, 2008) or influences from the publishing company.

Steam is a popular and well known game distribution platform used by professionals and indie developers alike. It features a Greenlight feature that allows indie game developers to publish their games, provided there’s sufficient community interest (Steam). The process involves paying a one time fee of a hundred dollars then upon approval, steam will organise price and launch with the developer (Steam). From January to May 2013, Steam has launched on average fifteen games a month (Steam, 2013).

Desura is another digital distribution platform that can be used by indie game developers to distribute their games. It comes without the fee that Steam has, and the process is much simpler than Steam’s Greenlight process. Game developers have the ability to upload materials of their game without a community approval process (Desura).

Both Steam, once the game has been approved, and Desura offer games their own pages from which game developers can post news and update their games as well as offering services to distribute digital copies of the games, fulfilling the role of distributing that game publishers originally had. These platforms can also serve as a step in the role to promote games. Steam and Desura have large communities surrounding them, and the chance to showcase game on these platforms can serve to boost exposure (Booker, 2012). This isn’t to say that developers don’t need to market and promote their own games, because they do (Grayson, 2012).

Of course, these are only two of many ways to publish and distribute games. The internet has a range of filesharing methods, and game distribution can occur through file downloads from a server. A well known indie game, Minecraft, makes use of this method and distributes copies of the game through its website.

The ability to share things easily across the internet also means that developers can promote their own games through things such as social networking sites and blogs. One example of a developer who has used this method is Wollay. He had a blog that documented the development of Cube World which is a 3d RPG game. Now he’s moved to an official site and twitter to post updates on development to an audience of about 36, 000 people (Von Funck).  On top of this, the Cube World Facebook page has around 38, 000 likes (Cube World), meaning a significant number of people are aware of and following it. These platforms, Twitter and Facebook, both help the developer to promote and engage with the community that they’ve built surrounding their games. It fulfils the game publisher’s role of promoting a product and bringing it into the public eye.

Another example of an indie game that’s growing in popularity is Project Zomboid who has forums, communities on large websites (such as Reddit) and an official site. These websites help them create a community around their game which drives it forward. They rely on word of mouth to spread news of their game over traditional marketing methods such as television advertisements or ads.

Thanks to social media and its nature of creating networks, game developers can utilise them to reach a larger audience than previously possible.  This means that the job of promoting can be done with tools available to everyone, and much cheaper than the tactics that large publishing companies employ though obviously through different forms and down a different route.

Due to the diminution of large publishing companies, this means that the middle man in the publishing process can be cut out and as a result developers and the fan community are able to directly communicate to each other. What this means for the fans is that they could influence how the game is developed and what features will be included in the game.

An example of this can be found if we look back to Project Zomboid which has an official forum containing a subsection dedicated to hearing suggestions from members of the community.  This enables fans to also interact and hear from developers of the games, and there are collections of developer responses posted up (TheRedStranger, 2013). The forum in general provides a way for developers and fans to interact, and can act to foster good relationships between the two. This could be seen as a form of promotion in that a positive relationship is being formed with the fans which encourage them to participate in the community.

If we refer back to Wollay, we can see that his Twitter stream can also connect him to his fan community in the same way. His twitter answers questions that the community has asked about Cube World as well as just friendly interaction with fans. This can serve to strengthen the relationship between Wollay and the community, and the public nature of this medium also means that others can see the conversation, become curious, and decide to look further into what Cube World is. Wollay’s Twitter feed also becomes an important source of information for the fans, and can help drive interest for Cube World especially if the fans are able to feel part of the project as it’s being developed.

The use of Youtube and video as a medium to spread news and information has also helped indie, and commercial, developers promote their games through trailers and gameplay videos that give a glimpse into what the game is like. For developers such as Wollay who have a game in the process of development, videos that show gameplay features can serve to hype up the audience and increase interest for something that is not yet out to play. Project Zomboid also has multiple videos up showcasing and encouraging people to play. Even lesser known games such as Zafehouse: Diaries and Call of the Wild have videos to promote and reach out to more people. Used effectively, videos can garner an interest in the game, show what it’s about and how it’s played.

Another thing that is helping boost a game’s exposure are gaming websites which decide to write articles about certain games and game reviews from sites such as JayIsGames. This is true for Cube World, who has appeared a few times in DIYGamer with positive opinions. JayIsGames has also mentioned Project Zomboid in one of their articles, saying “Having purchased the game a long time ago myself, I can tell you that it’s definitely unique and shows a lot of promise, especially for fans of morbid narratives” (Dora, 2012). The good words put in by websites such as these could promote this game and encourage more people to tune in and find out what it’s about.

Minecraft certainly got a lot of mentions throughout its growth from many magazines and websites such as PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. During Minecraft’s early Alpha stage, it was mentioned in Rock, Paper, Shotgun with incredibly positive words (Rossignol, 2010) and again later in a series of posts called “Mine the Gap” (Smith, 2010). Around the time of announcement for the Halloween Update in 2010, Minecraft was also featured in an article on PC Gamer regarding a new feature in the update (Francis, 2010).

All these mentions and articles could have been a large factor is Minecraft’s quickly growing popularity. It also serves as promotion for the game, drawing in more and more people from the audiences of these magazines and websites. Releasing information about upcoming features could also serve to excite the players and generate more hype surrounding the game.

The success of word of mouth tactics and social media as promotion falls on the nature of the internet, which allows people to easily share and connect with other people. Perhaps in the past it was necessary and crucial for game developers to work with large publishing companies as they simply didn’t have the resources and tools to promote and distribute their works (Langlotz, Rhode & Whaley, 2008). However it’s a very different situation now, and with publishers increasingly focused on established franchises (Brand & Knight) indie developers are increasingly turning to these alternative methods of publishing their games.

In conclusion, the diminution of large game publishing companies can certainly be seen by the amount of games that are seeking alternative methods of publishing. Platforms such as Steam and Desura are two popular platforms that developers have turned to, and the rise of social media has also allowed developers to promote their games themselves. While this means a change in dynamic between developers, publishing companies and consumers, the role of game publishing in the social life, to promote and distribute games, remains unchanged. What we are seeing are new methods and channels to achieve the same goals and objectives in publishing.

References List

ACMI, The history of Simcity, ACMI, accessed 12 June 2013, <http://www.acmi.net.au/games_simcity.htm>

Booker, L 2012, Being on Steam Greenlight is exciting, frightening and most of all… confronting, Kotaku, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/09/being-on-steam-greenlight-is-exciting-frightening-and-most-of-all-confronting/>

Brand, J & Knight, S, History of Game Development in Australia, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), accessed 12 June 2013, <http://www.acmi.net.au/global/docs/games_history_australia.pdf>

Cube World, Cube World | FaceBook, FaceBook, accessed 13 June 2013, <https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cube-World/217630671603658>

Desura, How to get the most from Desura, Desura, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.desura.com/groups/desura/howto>

Dora, 2012, Link Dump Friday, JayIsGames, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://jayisgames.com/archives/2012/03/link_dump_friday_259.php>

Francis, T 2010, Minecraft Halloween update preview: Meet the Ghasts, PC Gamer, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.pcgamer.com/previews/minecraft-halloween-update-preview-meet-the-ghasts/>

Grayson, N 2012, Valve on Steam Greenlight’s failings, fixing them, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/09/27/valve-on-steam-greenlights-failings-fixing-them/>

Langlotz, A, Rhode, M & Whaley, C 2008, Video Games Industry Overview, International Business Project, accessed 12 June 2013, <http://holgerlanglotz.de/downloads/BU4510_VideoGamesIndustry_LanglotzEtAl.pdf>

Rossignol, J 2010, Chockablock: Minecraft revisited, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/08/10/chockablock-minecraft-revisited/#more-35548>

Smith, Q 2010, Minecraft: Mine the Gap, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/mine-the-gap/>

Steam, Steam Workshop :: Greenlight, Steam, accessed 12 June 2013, <http://steamcommunity.com/workshop/about/?appid=765&section=faq>

Steam, 2013, Announcements, Steam, accessed 13 June 2013, pp. 1-8, <http://steamcommunity.com/games/765/announcements?p=1>

TheRedStranger, 2013, The big no’spart two: the list, The Indie Stone, accessed 13 June 2013, <http://www.theindiestone.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=8986>

Ubisoft, 2013, Ubisoft reports full-year 2012-13 sales and earnings figures, Ubisoft, accessed 12 June 2013, <https://www.ubisoftgroup.com/comsite_common/en-US/images/Ubisoft%20FY13%20earnings%20English%20finalCtcm9997146.pdf>

Von Funck, W, Wolfram Von Funck (wol_lay) on Twitter, Twitter, accessed 13 June 2013, <https://twitter.com/wol_lay>

Week 12: Data Friction and Infrastructural Globalisation

In this week’s blog entry, I’ll be talking about data friction and infrastructural globalisation.

What is Data Friction?

According to Edwards (2010), data friction refers to the effort that you expend to consolidate data into a coherent piece of information. The context that he had used this in was to gather readings from weather measuring instruments into a book that attempts to show the history of global weather and climate records.

The way that I think of data friction is of different data that isn’t easily put together, hence the friction when you do try to re-arrange them in a meaningful manner. I feel like this can relate to the reading A Hacker Manifesto by Wark (2004) where it says “To abstract is to construct a plane upon which otherwise different and unrelated matters may be brought into many possible relations”. Where to abstract may refer to the creation of information, data friction refers to the effort that we use to wrangle these different matters into something related.

This can be seen all the time in the publishing industry by authors of articles, research papers and pieces of work that involve turning data into a more digestible format. People who go out to gather and research a topic in order to write an article would need to piece together everything that they’ve found to make a complete article and this involve data friction.

One example of this can be seen in this article from Webdesigner Depot by Sara Vieira. The raw data that is the topic of this article, the markdown language, can be hard to digest if presented in a table. However, to present and explain the markdown language in an article like this helps the reader understand. To put the article together would  have involved some measure of data friction. Another example goes back to visualisation of data. In this graph which depicts colours in cultures and what they mean, there would have involved data friction to get everything into a graph as opposed to tables of data.

What is Infrastructural Globalisation?

Edwards (2010) refers to infrastructural globalisation as the way that “the building of technical systems for gathering global data helped to create global institutions and ways of thinking globally”. I interpreted infrastructural globalisation as the way that technology becomes a frame that the mind can use as a structure for thinking.

An obvious example of this would be the internet. The internet lays the foundation that gives us the ability to communicate and share information across the globe. It is with this infrastructure in place that we begin to re-think our place not only on a local scale, but on a global scale. Communities form that consist of members from different countries which exposes us to a variety of lifestyles and new knowledge. In this way internet, the underlying infrastructure, is what has allowed us to interact and think on a global scale.

Ways that we can apply infrastructural globalisation  to publishing could be the various news websites. Newspapers were previously very geographically focused and reported on news that were closer and more likely to affect the newsreaders. This was due to the medium (paper) and the industry practices (sending journalists out into the field in person), but compare this to news websites and we’ll find that not only has the content changed in form, but also in subject. Articles can be published online at any time, the use of emails means that authors no longer need to be in the same physical location as the publisher. News has also come to cover a larger scope, including local, national and world news, just take a look at ABC News.

Word: Aggregation

 

References

Edward, P N. (2010). Introduction. In: A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of global Warming. Cambridge: MIT Press. xiii-xvii.

Wark, M. (2004). Abstraction. In: A Hacket Manifesto. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. paragraphs 001-023.

Week 10: Importance and Impacts of Aggregation

The internet is ever-growing, with countless data and information being uploaded every minute. There are messages from your friends, photos from your relatives, articles from five magazines, news from four websites. How are we meant to keep track of it all?

The answer is through the use of aggregators.

Aggregators, as the name suggests, bring content and information together. This is a vital service in relation to the internet because of how vast it is. Aggregators allows us to keep track of things as well as showing us what we’re interested in.

But in a way, aggregators relates to the concepts of archives in that it is an archive of yourself. It can be seen as a form of expression because it’s made up of things that relate to you. A glance at someone’s feeds could tell you a bit about them, just as taking a glance at what magazines and hobbies someones has can.

Aggregators don’t only bring content together, it’s bringing content that you choose to follow, and so it is essentially an expression of yourself. There are different types of aggregators. There are the most obvious ones such as Netvibes, Google Reader (until July 1) and other RSS feeds. These services give allow you to subscribe to websites and shows you when there is new content.

Another type of aggregator are the social media websites such as twitter and facebook. Some other sites that can serve as aggregators are tumblr and reddit. They all bring in content from a range of sources and show it to the user in a relatively easy to digest way.

It reflects our society’s shift to a post-broadcast society, in that the information now revoles around the user and the user’s choice rather than a corporation deciding what the masses gets to see.

Word: Social body

Week 9: Visualisations

Here’s a question for you, which would you rather look at?

This picture or this table about Twitter?

The answer probably depends on why you’re looking at this image in the first place, but the image is easier to digest and puts things in perspective compared to the table of statistics. That is, this visualisation of data has helped to point things out in a way that is easier to understand than hard data alone.

Visualisation is about presenting data in a visual form in order to bring a certain aspect to our attention. It’s existed for quite a while, going back to 1854, and has evolved to bring us new things such as the Google Glass, but more on that later.

It’s existed for a long, long time in games through a heads up display (HUD) which tells the player information about their stats. This could be their health, mana, ammunition or progress through a certain level. All this is to tell the player important information that they could get at a glance.

But we have visualisations in aspects of our everyday life too. The weather forecasts using suns and rain icons could be said to be visualisations. The stockmarket charts that display the prices are also another one.

I feel like Google Glass is one way that HUDs can now be seen in our daily lives. The video on their site demonstrates a few ways that it can bring us real time information about stuff like weather and on screen gps.

Another way that visualisation has manifested is in the form of VJing, which is the act of remixing visual images, usually in sync to audio. Two VJs described themselves as content creators aiming to “blow peoples minds”. Their works typically use distortion of an image or video paired with audio to create new visual experiences that you can get lost in. They go on to talk about their VJing software and how it can work with the variables and waves created from a video file, allowing a range of effects to be achieved by syncing a certain element of a song to an aspect of the video.

I feel like VJ is currently only used as a creative or entertainment device to create things for enjoyment. However it also shows a new way of manipulating video data. There are new software and new tools being developed to work with and manipulate video in new ways which could open the doors to new methods of data visualisation. I feel like it’s certainly opening the door to a new area of visual experience, but it’s too early to see how far it can go.

Another example would be the work of AntiVJ who created Paleodictyon, a work that is featured on the roof of a curved building. I think this shows not only the ability to create a new experience out of something stable, but also shows the visual capabilities that we now possess.

We can go beyond models of the real and concrete into something that is more abstract and programmable. This visual technology could be used in areas such as criminology (by looking at crime-heavy areas and if they correlate with any circumstances or changes) or economics (how/if the jobs are changing from new influences). Visualisation can help us draw links between things that were not obvious to us beforehand as they’re presenting data in a new light.