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Open Data + Video Games = Win

Secret Lab
February 02, 2016

Open Data + Video Games = Win

Slides from our presentation on using open data, mostly from government, to make video games. Presented at the Open Knowledge Miniconf at Linux.conf.au 2016, in Geelong.

Secret Lab

February 02, 2016


  1. None
  2. Hi!

  3. @desplesda @parisba

  4. We make games, and write books.

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  9. Open Data + Video Games = Win

  10. The Situation

  11. Governments like the idea of open data

  12. Hackathons are fashionable

  13. The idea:
 1. Put a bunch of nerds in a

    room 2. Stew for 24-48 hours 3. Extract innovation
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  15. Australia/New Zealand-wide 
 "open government data sources" hackathon

  16. Some really great stuff gets made

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  18. The problem with hackathons

  19. Often very oriented around producing product-like results

  20. But they're almost never followed up on

  21. Game jams know this

  22. Game jams aim to do two things…

  23. 1. Make something

  24. 2. Show something cool

  25. Game jam games are made quickly and abandoned immediately.

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  27. Game jams are for practice, and for honing skills.

  28. Why games?

  29. Games matter. Even in serious environments.

  30. Games teach.

  31. Games are engaging.

  32. What We Did

  33. Twisted the concept into an excuse to have a game

  34. … without being jerks

  35. Conceiving of Game Ideas

  36. Anything can be a game

  37. Example: 
 Global Game Jam

  38. • 2009 - "As long as we have each other,

    we will never run out of problems" • 2010 - "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain" and "Deception" • 2011 - "Extinction" • 2012 - An image of Ouroboros. • 2013 - Sound of a Heartbeat • 2014 - "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." • 2015 - "What do we do now?"
  39. Every one of those resulted in awesome games

  40. There’s no reason “taxes” can’t be an awesome theme for

    a game
  41. Or census info

  42. Or the energy efficiency ratings of household appliances

  43. That last one is what we did …

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  45. “Appliances all have these stats on them…”

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  47. … and the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science collects

    the stats for every device sold in Australia. https://data.gov.au/dataset/energy-rating-for-household-appliances
  48. “Why don’t we make a Pokémon style creature- battle game?”

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  53. “A game in which players yell at each other about

    whose fault the problems are”
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  60. Actual politicians are really good at this game

  61. https://twitter.com/parisba/status/498395309089648641 A real-life politician

  62. “A quiz game about how elected politicians vote on the

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  64. Hansard

  65. TheyVoteForYou

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  68. Also: Hansard is AMAZING DATA

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  71. Creating engaging games from dry concepts

  72. Games are built out of systems

  73. The world is built out of systems

  74. Find the similarities and play with them

  75. Preserving the spirit and meaning of your games

  76. Don't try to model real- world processes

  77. Taking liberties is absolutely fine

  78. But not so far as to make the player lose

    sight of the underlying theme
  79. You need to engage three groups of people

  80. The player

  81. Fellow participants

  82. Whoever deals out the prizes

  83. Multiplayer is the best way to do this

  84. It's much easier to be fun

  85. Removes a need to create an AI player

  86. Fun to show in person

  87. People want to see a game between players

  88. Fun to show in demo videos

  89. That said, multiplayer is HARD

  90. Do local multiplayer if you can

  91. Don't ever try to do stuff over the Internet

  92. Turn based is easier than real time

  93. If you must do real time, keep it simple

  94. Don't get clever

  95. Make assumptions about the environment

  96. Ignore latency. You have unlimited bandwidth. Poll the server.

  97. Don't try to prevent cheating.

  98. Trust the client.

  99. Forget long term balance and replayability.

  100. Your players will spend no more than 15 minutes in

    the game.
  101. You will never return to this code.

  102. Make it work at all. Forget about making it work

  103. Staying on-message

  104. You need to remain relevant to the context of the

  105. You're subversive enough just by doing a game

  106. Don't get too weird with your idea…

  107. This also helps to keep your design simple

  108. Cut mercilessly

  109. Cut often and early

  110. Cut in the direction of the theme

  111. Audio is absolutely vital

  112. Jam Advice

  113. Time is your enemy, but not in the way you

  114. Time limits foster deadline-oriented thinking

  115. "We only have 48 hours! Engage crunch mode!"

  116. All nighters are deceptive

  117. You will never do your best work on an all

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  119. Go home at night

  120. Get a good night's sleep

  121. Arrive rested at a decent time

  122. Quality of the result is better than quantity of work

  123. This is also another reason for cutting mercilessly

  124. Preserving meaning with games

  125. … you often don’t actually need to …

  126. Raising engagement in the topic, rather than going in depth,

    is often enough.
  127. Why do any of this in the first place?

  128. We get asked “how do you make games” pretty often

  129. The best way to do it is to make games

  130. Problem is, games are hard to make

  131. Part of that problem is games are often seen as

    “big” projects
  132. Use the external pressure to constrain yourself

  133. It’s fun for you, it’s fun for players, and it’s

    fun for event organisers!
  134. None
  135. @desplesda @parisba @thesecretlab