This week, Firesprite’s Playstation VR game The Persistence was released – and to great reviews! It was International Hobo’s pleasure to work on the narrative design, script, and voice recording sessions of the game. This was a significant challenge since the roguelike, procedural elements disrupted conventional storytelling and required careful construction to ensure the story did not get in the way of the game. We also worked closely with Firesprite to tweak the world building in subtle ways that will be invisible to players but which significantly improved the final experience. Firesprite gave us a lot more rope than we expected, and allowed us to create a truly unique story mounted as a two-hander theatrical play set against numbingly recurrent death. If you’re a PSVR player, check it out!
At this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, one of International Hobo’s RPG projects received two Best of E3 nominations, one from RPG Fan and one from WorthPlaying. The game, Shadows: Awakening – the latest instalment in the cult Heretic Kingdoms franchise that began in 2004 – is developed by long-time ihobo client Games Farm. Featuring an original narrative design and script by International Hobo’s founder, Chris Bateman, the game features characters voiced by Tom Baker, Sally Knyvette, Robert Ashby, Joanna Wake, Ramon Tikaram, Marc Silk and many other talented actors and actresses.
Due for release later this year by publisher Kalypso, Shadows: Awakening is an action RPG set in a dark sword and sorcery world. The player controls a Devourer, a kind of demon that can swallow the souls of the dead and manifest them as puppets. But who is really pulling the strings? Find out later this year!
How would you know if you were a good cyborg? My latest philosophy book explores this and other problems of contemporary cyberethics. From arcade machines to MUDs to World of Warcraft to Pokémon Go, encounter our strange relationship with games and technology from an entirely new angle. The Virtuous Cyborg is out now from Eyewear Publishing.
Go to cyborg.ihobo.com or click the book in the sidebar to learn more!
International Hobo’s founder Chris Bateman is at Develop Brighton this year with a talk entitled What Players Want: Understanding Player Diversity. This session is a culmination of more than a decade of work in player satisfaction modelling (not to mention game design experience from fifty published games), and presents a new way of understanding the psychology of videogames in terms of Player Motives. As well as helping clarify effective videogame design, the model can help studios make tough commercial decisions about which audiences they can or should be pursuing with a specific design concept.
How often do you go out without your smartphone? What’s the longest you’ve gone without the internet?
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, we have become cyborgs – human-machine hybrids. Whether it’s Facebook selling our personal data to be ‘weaponised’ by Cambridge Analytica, or Google suggesting answers to questions like “are women evil?” to people who asked for no such thing, our lives are affected by the machines we are living with. Cybernetic networks are all around us – and thinking about ‘neutral tools’ is no longer helpful. You’re already a cyborg… join us to help find out what would make a good cyborg!
Thursday 10th May 2018, 6:30 pm to 9 pm
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU - order your free tickets here!
- 6:30 pm Are You A Good Cyborg?
Game designer and philosopher Chris Bateman takes us on a journey through the strange world we now live in, asking what the good life might look like for us cyborgs.
- 7:30 pm Cyborg Living Panel
Lively debate about our relationship with technology, the internet, robots, and machines.
What does the Wikipedia know, and how can it know it? More to the point, how can anyone using an anonymously edited source, the contents of which change on a daily basis, know that what they are reading constitutes knowledge? In this provocative challenge to contemporary concepts of objectivity, four figures of knowledge – the Wikipedia, scientific experiments, anonymous peer review, and school education – are investigated in order to question the way we understand the world around us.
Rather than support the classical view of an objective world 'out there' that our beliefs must accord with in order to count as knowledge, Wikipedia Knows Nothing argues that all facts are the residue of skilled activities and that knowledge is better understood as a practice. Furthermore, rather than a single 'real world', the many worlds that we each live within form a multiverse about which our subjective knowledge-practices give us broader understandings than the objective knowledge produced by experimental apparatus.
The merit of the sciences doesn't lie in their possessing the only path to truth, but in their capacity to develop knowledge-practices that can resist objections across all worlds. This leads to an urgent need to recognise the role of practices in creating and maintaining knowledge, and the different ways that truth can be stitched together into distinct but non-contradictory patchworks of 'real worlds'. When we do, we must question any claim that knowledge can come from anonymous individuals exercising an unchecked power to silence others – whether this happens on the internet in wikis, or in professional academic discourse.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.
Cross-posted from ETC Press.
Two of the keynote speakers at this year’s SBGames conference in Teresina, Brazil, are International Hobo’s own Ernest Adams and Chris Bateman. Ernest, who was part of the award-winning games consultancy for more than a decade, received his doctorate in 2013 at the same time Chris was earning his as a PhD by Publication. Both have worked on numerous commercial videogames, as well as having published extensively on games in academic publications and elsewhere. The event in Brazil marks the first time that Chris and Ernest have been on the same speaking bill since their joint presentation at GDC Europe in 2004. They both look forward to meeting the delegates at SBGames this November!
The following Press Release has just been issued by University of Bolton, where I currently teach.
‘Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) first asked me to teach Game Narrative for them back in June last year,’ Chris explains, ‘but I had to decline because of my commitments at Bolton. But after thinking about it, I realised that with the high tech resources at both our campuses it might be possible to teach my class over the internet.’ That is what has happened. Using D2L’s elearning platform Brightspace, Chris will be able to teach his class on the other side of the world this Autumn.
‘I teach a world-class introduction to game narrative theory and practice in the BSc Game Design at Bolton,’ Chris adds, ‘and at LCAD I get to teach the subject as a Visiting Professor on a Master of Fine Art degree – which given the years I’ve spent defending the value of games as an artistic medium is a genuine honour.’ The class at LCAD is a modified version of a module Chris has taught at Bolton for many years, which in turn is based upon workshops he and a colleague used to run for both the BBC and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe when he was working as a full time consultant. The Bachelor's version of the workshops will also be used by Uppsala University, the oldest university in Sweden, for an Interactive Storytelling class commencing in January 2016.
Chris notes that his co-workers are amused that he’s working in Bolton and e-commuting to California: ‘They think I should have gone to California and e-commuted to Bolton instead! But I’m happy with how this worked out, and it’s a great partnership between two exceptional academic institutions.’
Sandy Appleöff, the Founder and Chair of the Art of Game Design MFA at LCAD, says that they particularly wanted Chris to teach the class for them. ‘We’d asked a number of professionals in the games industry to suggest someone to teach game narrative at LCAD, and Chris’ name kept coming up. It was a shame when he initially declined, but a great pleasure when he found away to make it happen anyway. Chris is globally recognised as an expert in game narrative, and is exactly the kind of professional we seek out to teach here at LCAD.’
Chris has enjoyed a highly successful career in game development, working on over forty five games including classic titles such as Discworld Noir and Ghost Master, as well as major global franchises such as Cartoon Network: FusionFall and Motorstorm: Apocalypse. He even self-funded an ‘artgame’ called Play with Fire that was featured in a travelling exhibition. Chris’ talents and work also go well beyond game development, stretching into groundbreaking academic research that combines game studies, neurobiology and philosophy. His work on the foundations to game aesthetics, published as the book Imaginary Games, is part of a long-term project combining philosophy and scientific research to help understand play and games. In 2013, he became the first person in the world to receive a doctorate in the aesthetics of games and play, via a PhD by Publication drawing from his existing work.
University of Bolton offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Game Design, Games Art and Game Programming, and Chris teaches on all the games degrees in various capacities, although Game Design is the BSc course that studies Game Narrative under Chris tutorship. The University was one of the first in the UK to offer degrees in game development, and its graduates have gone on to work at major developers such as Rockstar North (based in Dundee), creator of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and TT Games (based in Knutsford), who are responsible for the LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, and LEGO Jurassic World franchises. A team of game students from Bolton recently won two major prizes in this year’s Dare to Be Digital competition.
Laguna College of Art and Design is a world-renowned fine arts university located on the spectacular California coast line. It offers both Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) and Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree courses. LCAD is considered one of the best colleges in the United States for traditional and graphic arts, specifically digital game art, with graduating students quickly being snapped up by top gaming companies including Walt Disney Animation, Microsoft, EA, and Activision.
Pleased to announce that I’m part of the team behind a new conference provisionally entitled The Player Experience: The Emotions and Worlds of Digital Games, due to launch in the Summer of 2016. An inter-disciplinary event, we are intending to sit at the intersection between Game Studies and Cyberpsychology, but will accept submissions from philosophy, narratology, neurobiology, or any other field with connections to the subject. We also welcome delegates from the games industry who’d like to give a presentation, or who’d just like to attend.
The theme for the first conference in the series is Avatars: Presence and Immersion, looking at the representation of identity in and around the fictional worlds of games, and how these lead to presence (high fidelity of experience) and immersion (deep engagement) within those imagined worlds.
The conference will be hosted at the University of Bolton in Greater Manchester UK, and we expect the Call for Participation to begin in February 2015 and close around 30 May 2015. The conference organisers are myself, Dr. Angela Tinwell, and Dr. Julie Prescott. At the moment, we are asking for Expressions of Interest consisting of an email stating that you would like to take part and your academic field and institution, or your company.
Please email px [at] ihobo [dot] com - or click this Email Robot – to let us know this event interests you. Hope to hear from you soon!
ihobo will return in January 2015.
After 12 years heading up the creative consultancy brand International Hobo (ihobo), and running one of its constituent consultancies from both the UK and the US, Chris Bateman is stepping down from his role as ‘Creative Overlord’ to accept a position as Consulting Researcher at University of Bolton. The move does not affect International Hobo’s consultancies, which will continue to provide expert services in game design, narrative and player satisfaction, and Chris is still available for consultancy work himself.
Chris explains his move as “a natural next step for me”. Since publishing the paper “The Neurobiology of Play” (with Dr. Lennart Nacke) in 2010, Bateman has been gradually moving closer to his research interests in player satisfaction, game design and philosophy. His work on foundations to game aesthetics, published as the Zero Games book Imaginary Games, is the start of a long-term project combining philosophical theories of representation with empirical and practical studies of how and why people play games. His work in the emerging field of game aesthetics (which includes ongoing empirical investigation into the biology of play) finally convinced him to partner with a university with the necessary resources take his research to the next level. He states: “Bolton is delighted to have me as a researcher, a lecturer and as a consultant – and they have actively encouraged me to continue the kind of consultancy work I’ve been doing for the last decade,” adding “I’m sure I can do great things with the talent and resources University of Bolton has at its disposal.”
Relations with universities are nothing new for the International Hobo consultancies. Ernest Adams of ihobo’s Designers Notebook (specialising in game design consultation) has enjoyed close links with the University of Gotland in Sweden for many years, as well as serving as a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor for the University of Ulster, and teaching at dozens of other institutions. Similarly, Wendy Despain of ihobo’s Quantum Content (which provides game writing services) has been teaching a new generation of game writers at Full Sail, in Florida, while Richard Boon of ihobo’s Story Guy (providing narrative design and scriptwriting consultation) has been lecturing on digital and transmedia narrative for various institutions based in the United Kingdom, including the BBC.
For over a decade, companies under the International Hobo brand have delivered award winning consultancy in game design, concept design, dialogue scripting and narrative support, as well as offering cutting-edge player satisfaction services. It has worked on nearly forty videogames since being established in 1999, including million-selling S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and Bratz: Rock Angelz titles, cult classics Ghost Master and Discworld Noir, and recent AAA titles such as Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall and MotorStorm Apocalypse.