The Long Tail of Game Development (or How I Got to Talk at Y4iT)

11:27 pm PHT

I last blogged about Wikimedia Philippines’ participation at Y4iT 2010 or the 8th Philippine Youth Congress in Information Technology which happened two weeks ago. Well, I was also involved with this year’s Y4iT in a personal capacity, separate from being a member of Wikimedia Philippines: I was invited as a sort of last-minute speaker to talk about (video) game development.

Game development? What do I know about the game development? Well, it turns out that I know enough to give a nice talk about developing games from my perspective. The trick with developing games is that it is still basically software development, except that the software is a game. And anywhere you can develop software is also a place where games can be made. You just need a bit of creativity. I’m quite sure that most, if not all, programmers have created or helped develop a game or two, whether it be as simple as a making a guess-the-number game, while learning the basics of programming, to being a part of the team that produced Blizzard’s Starcraft II, currently the hottest real-time strategy game.

Many people don’t know me for my game development activities, but I do actually develop simple casual games. For instance, I blogged about making games in QuickBASIC back in the late 90s, or that I’m known as the gamemaster in the office for creating games that are played during break times. If you’d like a sample, you can try the DHTML version of the game show Kapamilya, Deal or No Deal that I made.

Anyway, in the week before Y4iT, I received a call from Majill, an orgmate and classmate of mine back in college as well as a neighbor. It turns out that she’s the overall Y4iT Project Manager and that she was looking for someone to talk about game development to fill in their speaking slots during the last day of Y4iT. Since I made Lakbayan, Majill thought that I could talk about that in the context of game development.

I told Majill that I would think about the invitation. I wasn’t long before I agreed but instead of talking about Lakbayan, I said I would talk about the Long Tail of game development, which she agreed was a better topic. My thesis is that simple casual games (which I like making) best exemplifies the long tail of the gaming industry and that you don’t need to work for the likes of Nintendo, Electronic Arts, or Blizzard Entertainment to be successful in the game development industry. To drive home my point, I would talk about Desktop Tower Defense and Scrabulous (now known as Lexulous) as two hugely successful long-tail games.

In typical fashion, I crammed making my presentation only the night before my talk. (But I did create the outline, conducted research, and downloaded material a few days before.) I went with an unorthodox presentation structure in that I didn’t have a title as my first slide and only mentioned my talk’s title in a sentence a few slides down the line. (I actually like how my slides turned out.)  :-)

You can download my slides if you’re curious, though they may not be quite understandable without my actual speech.

My talk started with me saying that I am not a professional game developer and that I consider myself to be located at the far end of the long tail of game development. I then explained the concept of the Long Tail for the people who don’t know, showing the book and music industry as examples, before applying it to game development as making casual games. I explained that Facebook, Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and small web apps are some of the popular platforms for creating casual games. I also showed some graphs from O’Reilly showing that games are the most popular category on both the Apple App Store and the Android App Market.

I then presented Desktop Tower Defense and Scrabulous as success stories, mentioning that these games made their developers a lot of money to inspire the audience. After that, I talked about my experience making games for the office and demoed a few such games to the audience. My version of Text Twist and Deal or No Deal were the two games that elicited the most reaction from the students.  :-)

It’s actually quite refreshing to talk about something not in my usual league and I think that my presentation was well-received. If my memory doesn’t fail me, the audience at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora has been the largest I have ever given a talk to.

Thus starts my career as an invited conference speaker (since I only volunteered for the Form Function & Class mini-conference). Hehehe. Maybe at next year’s Y4iT, I can talk about neogeography (and OpenStreetMap) as the current big trend in IT (next to mobile computing) since I’m much more passionate about that topic.  :-D

Filed under and

Add your comment | No comments yet


[an error occurred while processing this directive]