Liveblogging at State of Play, Day 2, Session 2

Session on kid and tween worlds.

Joost van Dreunen. Stepping away idea of designer as author, moving towards the idea of supplying tools to players or participants. Video games as meaning-making experiences. Interested in how kid worlds/tween worlds actually make money. [ME: I think this is a really good question where there are likely to be inaccurate or misleading assumptions.] In his view, this is partly about how you extend a commercial or consumerist presence into the home if you’re a media producer or consumer-products manufacturer. Question the designers have to solve is how to give children agency over spending decisions without violating legal restrictions or antagonizing parents; prepaid cards as major technique. Movement of toymakers into this space is a really significant development, online components to offline play. Sees power law; very small number of players keep the world going, draw other players in.

Angela Tiffin, representing Children’s Advertising Review Unit, self-regulation group, trying to control advertising to children online. Early on created guidelines for gathering personal information from children, which informed later legal regulation. Issues that are key remain: gathering information, controlling disclosure by children in chat, etc. A lot of concern now rising about the kind of information used for behavioral marketing.

Betsy Book, talking about There. Q: how to manage an unplanned shift in the demographics of the game in which younger teens/tweens started appearing more and more in the game. Older and younger users tend to feel rivalrous, how to deal with that. Also problem with use of credit card instruments by children that draws adults in with some degree of alarm. But also lots of positive interactions, mentoring that spontaneously forms. Refers back to discussion of Whyville yesterday; says that There really doesn’t see itself as teaching citizenship to children, but about enforcing content standards. More concern really about branding–do you really want tweens if that drives older players away, how do you keep the space culturally mainstream?

Erin Hoffman, game designer. Lengthy resume–GoPets, Dragonrealms, Shadowbane

Designing for kids is harder than designing for adults. Columbia University project to teach nutrition to kids through massive participation game. Trying to give a game for parents to run alongside, so parents can understand more of what’s going on.

Doug Thomas. Research question: what are kids actually doing in these worlds? we don’t really know as much as we could or should. Problem: it’s very hard to study kids. Hard institutionally in particular, enormous IRB issues. Asks: how serious is it actually for kids to give out phone numbers and so on online? What are the actual risks that kids are incurring? The probabilities of risk? The power of fear in controlling what can be done in design of kid worlds, do we want to push back on fear, and how?


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