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Q&A with University of Southern California’s Tracy Fullerton!!

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Video Game Industry News and Views From the ESA

July 2018

Q&A with University of Southern California’s Tracy Fullerton

Tracy Fullerton is a professor and chair of the University of Southern California (USC) Interactive Media & Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts, as well as director of the interdisciplinary USC Games program, a collaboration with the Viterbi School of Engineering that has its own publishing label, and the USC Game Innovation Lab.

Would you tell us more about the USC Games program and the university’s approach to teaching game design?

The USC Games program is designed to be a multidisciplinary environment with degrees in both the design and production of games and in the technology and programming of games. Our approach to games is as an expressive medium, and we bring students from across the fields of design, art, animation, sound, UX, and programming together in our classrooms to work collaboratively on their games, all with a focus on creating the best player experience possible. The faculty are all experts from industry and independent games, and so their mentorship is all very current and hands-on.

The major difference, I think, between our program and others, is that we began our program inside of a cinema school, so that from the get-go, we have been surrounded by colleagues who understand the potential of the medium to move players emotionally, and that training students as thoughtful media makers is at the core of what we do. We see games as an important part of cultural expression and we see our students as the future of what will be an even more influential media form than it is today. Our goal is to train them for that future.

Academia has an obvious role teaching the next generation of game makers, but what do you believe its role is when it comes to making games?

I think it is an important opportunity that we have in academia to publish games that might not be getting a voice elsewhere. We have always felt strongly about creating an inclusive community for our students and faculty so that they can make games that go beyond the traditional definitions. This opportunity to now publish those games, through a label that embodies those values, is what we’re focused on now. It’s one thing to say that students can just self-publish, which of course they can, it’s another thing to curate a label of important work that we can present and amplify as part of the research that we do here. I look forward to expanding the offerings of USC Games as we move forward, and as we have more resources to put behind the label.

I also hope to see other universities taking on that role of amplifying important work through publishing as well. Providing access for new, alternative voices and for experimental work to reach a wider public is part of what I see as the value of academic game development, and that, over time, will be part of a richer, more mature games industry.

 

Continue reading the full Q&A here.

E3 2018 Closes as the Most-Watched Video Game Event of All Time

Video games captured the world’s imagination during a record-breaking E3 2018. Official E3 streaming partner Twitch recently announced the event broke the platform’s all-time concurrent viewer record, with a peak audience of 2.9 million people.

“E3 2018 was an enormous success, amplified by the thousands of gamers in attendance and the millions more around the world who watched online,” ESA President and CEO Michael D. Gallagher said at the close of the show. “E3 2018 reinforced the cultural prominence of video games for a global audience. Congratulations to our innovative exhibitors, members, and partners and to the millions of gamers who celebrated a spectacular E3 with us.”

More than 69,200 people attended E3 2018, which featured more than 200 exhibitors showing 3,250 products and giving a behind-the-scenes look at the most anticipated games and announcements of the week at E3 Coliseum. Eighty-five of the companies at E3 2018 were exhibiting at the event for the first time.

Numbers from Twitch also show viewers at home watched twice as much E3 2018 content (1.6 billion minutes) than they did during E3 2017. Additionally, the volume of live chat and the number of chat participants also doubled compared to E3 2017, with 1.9 million users generating 35 million chat messages during E3 2018.

E3 2018 featured an expanded E3 Coliseum, with a full three days of panels featuring Westworld series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Elijah Wood, Amy Hennig, Darren Aronofsky, Jack Black, Hideo Kojima, Camilla Luddington, and many more of the biggest names in video games and entertainment. E3 Coliseum was open to all 15,000 gamer pass holders welcomed to E3 again this year.

ESA also continued its support of talented young developers at E3, naming Brigham Young University winner of the 2018 E3 College Game Competition. The competition recognizes the best in college and university game design, giving finalists the opportunity to show their games at E3. Joining the finalists at E3 were UQAT, winner of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada’s E3 College Game Competition, and Lienzo, winner of ESA’s Mexican game competition Videojuegos MX.

E3 2019 will be held June 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Gamers with Disabilities Bring Their Perspective to E3 2018

Gamers at E3 2018 left the event with a host of video game titles to look forward to in the coming year, but gamers with disabilities also left looking forward to greater accessibility in their favorite titles. Given the opportunity to network with leading companies at E3, members of the disability community expressed optimism about their time there and its impact on improving accessibility.

“I was supremely impressed with the level of access you guys gave not just VIPs with disabilities but to everyone with a disability,” said DAGERS Editor-in-Chief and Accessibility Consultant Josh Straub. “That was what struck me the most.”

For two years, ESA has invited representatives from the disability community to E3, providing them with unique opportunities to network with the video game industry. At E3 2018, ESA hosted a VIP tour, networking luncheon, and evening reception for the group, which also had reserved seats for the E3 Coliseum Accessibility in Games panel.

Above: Members of the disability community

hit pause on their VIP tour to pose for a photo.

“This year, E3 was extremely gratifying in the sense that I was respected as a handicapped person and allowed to move about freely,” said Team KAIZEN Vice President and Lead Artistic Conceptualist Trevor Hughes. “Attending E3 in my wheelchair with my disabilities shows game designers and companies that there is a face to these problems. When they add features to their games for accessibility, it bridges the gap and raises the tide for all of us.”

E3 is both a showcase and a forum for the video game industry and, since the introduction of gamer passes in 2017, its biggest fans. Having gamers at E3 connects the industry with its players and inviting gamers with disabilities is no different, helping the industry better understand their needs.

“Attending E3 provides me with an opportunity to talk directly with either developers themselves or individuals who can pass my information on,” said gamer and accessibility consultant SightlessKombat. “Such efforts of dissemination wouldn’t be possible without being able to attend E3 in the first place.”

“Any time I get to network, it’s wonderful and it’s awesome, and there’s no better place to network … than E3,” added Straub, who was able to line up a number of meetings with video game companies. “The nice thing about E3 is you put all of the decision makers into one place. We can set up a day’s worth of meetings and have a half-a-year’s worth of work done when we come out.”

Like all gamers, those from the disability community have a passion for sharing their hobby with others. E3 2018 provided them with a unique chance to engage with the industry and the global game-playing community, helping further the industry’s continued progress making video games for everyone through accessibility.

“My favorite E3 moment as a gamer was to be able to attend to the accessibility panel to watch people share how they have dealt with their disabilities and how gaming helped them,” said Chris “Phoenix” Robinson, Founder of DeafGamersTV, whose second favorite moment was trying yet-to-be-released video game titles and discussing accessibility with the developers. “I hope that meeting a gamer with disabilities … and learning what we can’t do … will help developers see what can help fill that gap to ensure gaming can be for everybody.”

Criticism of WHO’s ‘Gaming Disorder’ Grows After Release of Latest ICD Draft
The World Health Organization (WHO) continued to invite controversy in June with the release of the latest draft of its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community, the WHO chose not to remove its so-called “gaming disorder” from the document.

The ICD is widely used as a manual by healthcare practitioners and often is implemented by many countries in their national health policies. The decision to keep “gaming disorder” in the latest draft drew immediate criticism from numerous members of the worldwide video game community, including eight organizations representing video game publishers and developers – the Brazilian Union of Video and Games, Entertainment Software Association, Entertainment Software Association of Canada, European Games Developer Federation, Interactive Entertainment South Africa, Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, Interactive Software Federation of Europe, and Korea Association of Game Industry.

 

“Video games across all kinds of genres, devices, and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than two billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognized,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “We are therefore concerned to see ‘gaming disorder’ still contained in the latest version of the WHO’s ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community. The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive.”

Medical and scientific experts have spoken out against the WHO’s “gaming disorder” since 2016, when 36 leading mental health experts, social scientists, and academics from research centers and universities around the world opposed the inclusion in an open debate paper. With the release of recent ICD drafts, those same experts reiterated their opposition in March through an open paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions. Some highlights from their arguments include the following:

  • “Much confusion remains – even among authors supporting the diagnosis – regarding what, exactly, gaming disorder is.”
  •  “We maintain that the quality of the existing evidence base is low.”
  • “Robust scientific standards are not (yet) employed.”
  • “Moral panic might be influencing formalization and might increase due to it.”
  • An addiction “should be clearly and unambiguously established before formalizing new disorders in disease classification system.”

Using some of the same arguments, the Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46 of the American Psychological Association, called on the WHO to remove “gaming disorder” from its ICD in a March statement.

 

“An obsessive focus of the WHO on

would appear to us to be a response to moral panic,” the statement read. “One which in turn is likely to fuel more moral panic, including miscommunications that game playing can be compared to substance abuse.”

The latest draft of the ICD will remain open for consultation until the WHO General Assembly formally approves a final version of the document in May of 2019. Follow ESA on Twitter @theESA for news and updates on the issue.

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2018 Special Olympics Featured ‘Forza Motorsport 7’ Competition

Statistic of the Month

Sixty-four percent of US households own a device that they use to play video games.

(ESA’s Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report)

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