Articles of Interest

Via Kotaku, “Only 20% of games that begin production will ever finish. Of those 20% that are finished and released to the market, only 20% of them will ever realize a significant profit.” I’d be surprised if these stats were significantly different five+ years ago.

During my IGDA Leadership Forum lecture, I mentioned that a wide variety of studies had called into question the value of bonuses for white collar employees. Dan Ariely has posted some information about related research of his own. From that post: “people offered medium bonuses performed no better, or worse, than those offered low bonuses. But what was most interesting was that the group offered the biggest bonus did worse than the other two groups across all the tasks… We found that as long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But when we included a task that required even rudimentary cognitive skill, the outcome was the same as in the India study: the offer of a higher bonus led to poorer performance.”

PlaySpan has raised $17m for its virtual goods platform and online payments system. “PlaySpan indexes all of the items in a game and markets them to gamers based on relevancy. It takes into account a player’s character and experience level, then offers a virtual good just when a player needs it most.” PlaySpan’s “PayByCash” division has 70+ payment solutions in 180 countries, and offers a prepaid Ultimate Game Card that is available in 20k stores.

There is ever more evidence that video games are great pain management tools. The latest: Snowy Game, a “basic 3D environment where players move along a snowy path and fire snowballs at nonmoving targets. They wear a virtual reality headset that ensures the patients aren’t viewing their therapy, and the challenge focuses their mind on aiming instead of the physical discomfort. The cool imagery takes their mind away from the burning pain, and the ‘shooting’ keeps their minds occupied. This sort of pain management benefits not only the patients, but the staff dealing with burn victims. (Emphasis mine. BTW, for insight into burn-related pain and the way it causes psychological pain to both victim and hospital staff, I refer again to Dan Ariely, who wrote a remarkable paper on his own experience as a burn victim.)

Keith Bakker, founder of Amersterdam’s Smith & Jones Centre (which treats gaming addicts) suggests that 90% of people seeking treatment for game addiction are not actually “addicted,” but instead suffer from severe social problems such as isolation, school bullying, etc. Totally unsurprising to me, and I’m very glad to see someone speaking out on this topic.

Russell Carroll has written a thoughtful review of Wii Music, which has been trashed by most critics. From his review: “Then there came that moment, after an hour plus of rehashing and playing the same song over and over again, where we really did jell together. It created the same sensation of accomplishment that I got when doing piano recitals and band concerts years ago. We really sounded pretty good. However, in watching the video, we saw areas where we could do better. That’s just one of the great moments in the game. An even more amazing moment comes as you push past making a particular song sound great and start making it sound like it is yours.”

There’s more to life than games:

While I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, I am increasingly impressed with the no-nonsense, intelligent positions taken by Congressman Ron Paul. Check out these two Q&As with the Congressman on Freakonomics.

We need to ask ourselves why we live in a society in which it is even conceivable that a holiday sale at Walmart could cause shoppers to smash down the doors of the store and trample an employee to death. (Seems like I read a story of this sort at least once every couple holidays. I know that these are isolated incidents, but they highlight our national, unhealthy obsession with shopping.)

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