Post-television, Ouya and Extra Credits

My recent reencounter with video games was kind of strange. Before that, my experience with them was interesting, intense and sparse: Long time ago, my brother, my sister and I, had happy chilhood days with our Atari 2600. Then at 13, I had my game compulsion with Arcade Consoles and I remember spending all my lunch money on coins instead of food, for a while. At some point I thought that that was enough and I stoped playing with only few game incursions on Doom and Descent in my freshmen years and that was it, until recently. Curiosly, whan returned me back to video games was not a particular video game, but a sum of things, specially two:

  • Indie Game, the Movie, (IGTM, for short.)
  • My sister's relation with video games, which occupy a good part of her life.

IGTM was revelaling because until then, I see no place for me as a player in the gaming scene. I don't like what my friends play: Call of Duty, FIFA, Guitar Hero and that kind of games with a lot of demand for the player to be played and a lot lot of buttons to be pushed and a lot of time devoted to them. I don't see myself investing my time or my money in such kind of activity. But after seeing IGTM, I saw another picture of the game scene: a place where individuals have a voice and a bet, and, as a free software advocate, I can connect myself with this kind of self expression and the search and respect for diversity through technology. Most importantly, I can see my sister and my nephews playing the games spoted in the film. Games were a way to connect my search for diversity, self expression and empowerment in digital technology with their world as video gamer. In fact, Braid was my gift to them the last Christmas and was kind of nice to see their response to it, to help them to know that there is more that the big names (of games, studios, and consoles) and to see that, for them, that kind of diversity is also healthy and enjoyable. [3]

This post will be about an exploration of that diversity, how it let us to see a glimpse of a possible future where television as we know today is less important, and the things I have learned seeing Extra Credits from the Ouya game microconsole, mainly about the access issue. May be this would become a multi-part series dealing with these subjects.

So, as I said, I'm diversity biased, especialy with digital technology, because of my filiations to the FLOSS [1] communities and when a lot of people is seeing in the same direction, I try to see somewhere else and ask myself what part of the picture are we losing. May be is my hypster gene at work, but I think that exploring diversity is worth by itself and despite I don't think something is good just by being different, I have found a lot of good things that are not used widely (yet or may be never) by my family, friends, coworkers or acquaintances, like Leo Editor, web2py, Haskell Language [2], E17, or Arch/Manjaro Gnu/Linux, and recently Ouya. Most of them are in the kindom of geekdom, but Ouya brings a new kind of disruptive experience that the Global South is easier to perceive. I wrote a previous post, on how in a post-television future and in the Global South, Ouya is better that Roku and that rater long rant can be resumed in:

  1. Hackeable by design is a key advantage defining what kind of post-television future we want to create. Adding new info sources, like Netflix (addressed on that post) or Extra Credits (addressed on this one) is vital in enabling a global conversation wich is, at the same time, sensible to local context.
  2. We need also sensible price options: Free to play + microconsoles + Indie + micropayments, gives to the non-hard core gamers a way to participate in the gaming culture beyond hi-tech and expensive graphics, games and consoles[#hard-core-gamer]_.
  3. Content streamming is not enough: post-television future needs the kind of interactive experience that only video games can bring.

I talked mostly about a, said something about b. and only made a short mention of c. So let's expand the points. At some point I will talk about access as a key factor to become relavant for culture, and, in fact access is the core axis where a, b and c, are build.

Suport for Netflix was my main reason to buy Roku and the main deception/disappointment for their lack of support for it in the Global South, pushing the "geo-segregation of people through content" policy of Netflix even beyond their desires. At that time I was suffering my Breaking Bad compulsion and Netflix provided my my daily fix of it until season sixth, and the last ones were provided via BitTorrent, beause for Netflix, despite having (still) a single (breakable) Internet, releasing their content happens according to the merits of each country.

I said also that I had enabled another of hi quality globaly available content like TED talks and Jamendo selections and that I see a lot of potential in contents like them. Recently I added Extra Credits and I have been enjoyed it as I was previosly with Breaking Bad. Of course my feelings are different for each content, but what I try to say is that, as in Breaking Bad, I'm eating the series episode after episode, and even if I'm not a core gamer, there is a lot of things I have learned from Extra Credits (EC for short). I like their narrative, their graphics, their approach to subjects, their sincerity and good "vibra". I also learned a lot on gaming, narrative, mechanics, dynamics, even for my table top non high tech role play games with my friends. I know some few video gamers, role players, designers, story tellers and academics who would like to have EC contents as a part of their daily TV grid and preferably with translated captions. Anyway I have made EC, in these days, part of my daily talks with closer friends and I would talk about it with even more friends and people given, the access and translation conditions.

Talking about translations, I know that if and a lot of game content were translated (subtitles would be enough for many) a lot of people would be talking about them. If fact I wondered why there is not a much bigger community of ad-hoc translators as happens with TV series and Cinema Movies, but I think that I have the answer: access. Video gaming is still a niche phenomena. As someone said, content which is relevant for culture, for the daily conversation, is not the one which is mainly good, but the one which is mainly accessible. I know that people of Extra Credits is making their content widely available and have a good actitude towards translations, but thats the exception in the video game industry. Free to play model in Ouya is chaging some part of the access problem slowly, but they need to be also part of the enablers of global community of translators, if they want to become relevant outside English speaking public and as I said in the referred previous post, Latin America and the Global South are places where Ouya proposal has much appealing. As with mobile phones, after the Global North market saturation, this will be evident, but I don't think is necesary to wait for so long to create the proper conditions here (for example building that communities of translators).

Net has changed the way we experience TV. Seeing several episodes of a content is increasingly the default experience and having a lot of good series accumulated, waiting for being discovered and watched helps with that. This will be the default experience for a lot of people in the post-television world. And in that future being a high or low budged show doesn't matter for being a relevant part of the culture though daily conversation, if the content has quality and is widely accessible (including localization and translation). In that scenario, discovery matters. I would no have found Extra Credits, if there wouldn't be because of Indie Game, which shown Penny Archive Expo, and because of channels in xbmc for Ouya [5] [6], which let me add a lot independient content beyond big budgets' usual content channels (which is also the rule on Netflix) and without knowing exactly what to look for before hand. Extra Credits is a valuable content that I would not search for in a screen different of my TV screen. This kind of exploratory nature embedded on Ouya was the one that led me to Extra Credits, and the fact that was in a leisure moment, in front of my home TV, configured a sustantial different experience of what I would have done or search for in front of my laptop or smart phone screens.

So, in a post-television future, the fact of having a "Smart TV" hopefuly will mean "Smart in your own way TV", not only the ways of Google, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony, and that would mean having an extesible/exploratory device attached to your TV screen, not any other ones (but connected with the other screens). At that moment of your day when you're prepared to rest, to be amazed, and/or to be engaged, in a playful state at your place, your discoveries and actitude will be substantially different of the ones you will have in front of any other screen in other places. In fact, for me, there is not a coincidence that, most of the time, Extra Credits players, are drawn playing in front of a TV screen with a classical game controler in their hands. Tablets and phones have a place in a more diverse gaming ecosystem, and may be we will have augmented/alternaty reality games (as EC pleople said) to be played outside the home, but they will not replace the different experience in front of your TV (may be they will be complementary). Big (shared) screen in your home is different of small (personal) ones anywhere else. And is precisely because of the kind of experience and discovery they bring, that I'm trying to have this conversation on how Ouya, Extra Credits and Post-Television fit together, as a particular example of more joinings like that to come. As I said before, that explorations will start at the periphery first, but will increase their central role in the way people experience their content in the no so distant future in any other places.

Next post I will talk about discoverability of content and how I think that Ouya in particular and microconsoles in general could be spreading their "prosumer strategy" from streaming "static" audio/video content to something more dynamic and interactive using what I have called "chronotags". Also I will talk about what Extra Credits people said of Ouya and why I think they're wrong. Stay tunned :-)


[1] FLOSS: Free Libre Open Source Software
[2] For the moment I have just interest in the Haskell language, but not the time for exploring it properly. I have started just using pandoc and some colateral inquiries.
[3] Now I need to follow the EC advice about not just giving them indie games, playing the same games, but also playing side by side with them. May be that doesn't apply for puzzle alike games like Braid, but there are plenty others which we can play together and even share some clues on puzzles also :-)
[4] This doesn't mean that Ouya and microconsoles in general can't deliver a hi-defition graphics experience, but the core of the media (gaming, audio and video streaming) experience is not centered around having the more expensive photo-realistic games out there.


Comments powered by Disqus