Hi there, it's been a while. I got many things cooking lately and it made me procastinate a lot writing on that blog. I had started a series of articles about the video games workshop happening here at Enjmin, Angoulême, and I have a few notes about it, but I'm gonna sum it up.
Casual gaming was the major concern this year. It's important to note that there's no definitive separation between "casual" and "hardcode", it's more a state of mind regarding a certain game. Some people can spend hundred of hours playing Bejewled and then wander in Liberty City for half an hour. So maybe instead of calling them "casual games", it would be more appropriate to call them "mass games" because they're aimed to a wide audience and to people of any age. So these days, it seems that mass games are the only games selling, which isn't exactly true. On the contrary, what is true is that you do WAY more money with mass games than traditional games. They are easy and cheap to produce, they fit a load of business models, and their players are easy.
What bothered me is that it felt like quite some mass-games developers don't respect their customers, in the sense that they think of them as sheep. They are so easily satisfied than you can make them buy anything at any price. It's sad to realize that they get hooked to a game with very poor content or interactivity thanks to massive subterfuges (have you ever played a game on Facebook?). Digital Chocolate released 24 games in 2008! And many won awards and made excellent sales. My hope is: someday, people will realize that they are treated like idiots and that they're just wasting their time. They'll get tired of these empty games and ask for more.
Don't worry, this wasn't all bad. Other talks focused more on understanding why games like Wii Sports, Wii Fit or Mario Kart Wii worked so well. "Games are physical and social". Kids make up games by just imagining they are cops and thieves and cops and run after each other. Sports are based on really simple rules but get you exhausted and provide really important interactions with your team-mates or opponents. People also like to mimic gestures: the wiimote allow the player to hit, swing, steer, a plastic guitar can make the player feel like a rocker, etc. That was very interesting and we even experienced a nice game of Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper and Scissors! The next step is ubiquitous gaming, with interactions in the game and in real life. I'm curious to see that.