terça-feira, 24 de setembro de 2013


In the early days of the videogame industry, PONG could be elected a huge turning point in this scenario. As Cohen (1984, p.17) reminds us, PONG was a tremendous success inside the arcades around the world and many people lined up to play the game.

And it’s important to remember that PONG, in these early years, became also a domestic console and one new component was added in the growing gaming market.

For the first time one person – at home or arcade - started to interact with a screen with real time responses using a controller. In this moment the spectator gained “new powers” and was transformed in something new: an interactor.

As proposed by Murray (1997, p.153) “the interactor is the author of a particular performance within an electronic story system”. In this new ecosystem the interactor would be a kind of spectator who has capacity for agency, understood as the ability to perform significant actions and experience the proposal of a fictional universe.

So, more than simple players, we have a world full of interactors. Today many people are not necessarily playing a game, but interacting with digital platforms that use the ludic language. I think it’s important to think beyond the player and try to observe a more complex piece in this complex stage: the role of the interactor.


COHEN, Scott. Zap: The Rise and Fall of Atari. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984.

MURRAY, Janet (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: MIT Press, 1997.

terça-feira, 17 de setembro de 2013

Candy, fans and profit

I’m an old school true gamer. I really like to play everything. I can have fun playing The Last of Us in the survivor mode and I can have equal fun playing Zombie Tsunami. One important thing in gaming research is looking at all kinds of games (and players) without prejudice. And this piece is about players, passions, casual games and fans.

Recently I started to play Candy Crush on iPhone. The simple game catches me. Not for the game mechanics (that is nothing new if you’ve played Bejeweled sometime in your life), nor for the thematic/aesthetics (I really don’t like candy) but the game has an excellent idea of business model and how to engage the users in the experience transforming great part of them in fans of Candy Crush.

The video below shows the game mechanics idea and the colourful interface:

– the studio behind Candy Crush - is the largest site for free games online. But “free” requires a good strategy to earn money from other sources and other formats. The most part of King.com games works on a “freemium” model.

Freemium (free + premium) is a business model by which a proprietary product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods.

In Candy Crush, King.com puts lots of efforts to create a balance between entertainment for players, sharing in social media and selling of virtual goods (extra lives, special powers, etc.). The game offers limited lives to the player and when they are finished the user has two options: 1) wait a few minutes to gather more lives or 2) pay with real money to get new lives (or powers) immediately. The addictive game mechanics create the perfect ecosystem to sell virtual lives and powers that facilitate the journey in the game. Players can also gain new lives sharing Candy Crush features on Facebook (bonus in exchange of advertising).

King.com is trying to create an intense relationship with the players to achieve more profit. More than just users, the company needs fans to grow. As Sandvoss and Harrington (2007) remark, for better or for worse fans tend to engage with their passions not in a rationally detached but in an emotionally involved and invested way.

Jenkins (2006: 41) reinforces this idea about the role of the fan in contemporary participatory culture. Although the author examines television shows and other kinds of fan activity, we believe his ideas may help us make sense of what goes on in the social networking service in question. Let us quote what Jenkins has to say about the way one becomes a fan:

One becomes a “fan” not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the program content with friends, by joining a “community” of other fans who share common interests. For fans, consumption naturally sparks production; reading generates writing, until the terms seem logically inseparable” (…)

As we know, fans have a special role inside social media communities. A community of fans that surrounds a specific platform becomes a fandom, and this audience deserves special attention. A well-structured fandom can become an effective marketing tool for any specific social media platform.

It seems that companies like King.com must understand how to motivate and activate the fandom audiences, as well as how to bring them closer. Meaningful experiences are important in this context because it’s a key for players to spend money inside the game experience. The idea of freemium is surrounded by strategies to engage the player as a fan.

And now let me try to finish the level 89 of Candy Crush.


GRAY, J.; SANDVOSS, C.; HARRINGTON, L. (eds.). Fandom: identities and communities in a mediated world. New York: NYU Press, 2007.

JENKINS, H. Fans, bloggers and gamers: exploring participatory culture. New York: NYU Press, 2006.

King.com official site (link here)

quarta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2013

quarta-feira, 4 de setembro de 2013

4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness

Is game art? Well, it’s a very wide discussion and I think a simple blog post is not sufficient to debate this, but, undeniably, games use lots of things from the art field. This post is about a very curious ludic experiment that mixes art with games. In 2010, the Nordic game designer Petri Purho took the main idea of John Cage’s composition 4’33’’ and transformed it in a ludic interface.

4’33’’ (pronounced "Four minutes, thirty-three seconds" or just "Four thirty-three”) is a composition by American experimental composer John Cage (1912–1992) and the idea of the performance consist of NOT playing any musical instruments during that period of 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The sounds of the environment is the only thing that the listeners hear while it is performed, although this composition is commonly perceived as "four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence".

In the digital gaming experiment 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness the user needs to look into a white screen with a black progression bar for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. To reach the end of the experience successfully, the “player” must be the only person in the world looking into the screen. You’ll win the game if you’re the only one playing it at the moment in the world and the experiment works online only.

The creative mind behind this ludic interface said in his website that 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness is “an exploration to what actually defines a game. You can win or fail in the game, but there is no user input or interactivity of any kind. I was tempted to leave the graphics out completely, but I figured that the white progress bar is abstract enough.”

You can play the experiment by clicking here.

And you can see a live performance of the John Cage’s composition in the video below:

Now on to your opinion.