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Games still seen as "social ill" but there's opportunity in education - Hawkins

Games still seen as "social ill" but there's opportunity in education - Hawkins

Wed 05 Feb 2014 9:04pm GMT / 4:04pm EST / 1:04pm PST
EducationBusinessDICE 2014

“You ever feel like what we're doing is too much like pornography?” asks Trip Hawkins

EA and Digital Chocolate founder Trip Hawkins took the stage at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas today to discuss how the industry can grow its annual revenues to over $100 billion. The big problem, he said, is monetization. The industry veteran said that too many developers have been trained in making products for 3D worlds but that not enough have properly learned how to monetize their products.

"We have to learn how to monetize. Everyone's stuggled with it. In next five years we'll get to be more systematic with it... I know we're all going to figure this one out," he said. "We must get a whole lot smarter at virtual goods as a science." He noted that companies like Rovio and Supercell have excelled at this, but it wasn't by chance. These companies have been "really good at process" and have gotten smarter and smarter at what they do with each iteration.

Hawkins described the opportunity for the industry not only as one related to virtual goods, but more importantly, to education. His new If You Can company is launching a series of chapters in an educational universe called If. The goal is to teach emotional intelligence and combat bullying in schools for kids ages 6-12, which Hawkins called the "sweet spot."

Currently, he said, games are still viewed as a "social ill" and are resented by many parents and teachers because they are dominating kids' attention. After all, the top function of mobile devices is gaming, and teachers and parents aren't seeing educational value in that. It's hard to get people's attention off smartphones -- including adults -- and parents and teachers are frustrated. While kids older than 12 will likely be self-motivated to learn about things on their own, kids in the 6-12 range are still very much under the media influence of their parents, and that is a significant opportunity.

Hawkins pointed to games like Minecraft, which have proved immensely fun and popular, but also demonstrate educational value. Ultimately, the industry needs to change the general perception around games, he said. But for educational purposes the titles still need fun gameplay, a curriculum that the government cares about, and testing to show results. Hawkins mentioned the old typing tutor games that appeared over 30 years ago, where you could type to shoot down aliens, etc., but there's been a dearth of truly engaging educational games in recent years.

This, he believes, is how the industry can massively grows its revenues. The industry has been dominated for too long by young guys that are simply making the games they want to play. But if games can be designed to a specification, like Hawkins' team at EA Sports did years ago in Madden (following the NFL rulebook) there's a chance to create something immensely valuable and scalable. "It's about getting everyone to see the bigger picture," he said.

Virtual goods isn't the only answer either. Hawkins' IF is launching with a subscription model, with multiple chapters or episodes, releasing in the months ahead (the first one is free). IF is designed to teach social and emotional skills (SEL) like empathy and to put children in real-life situations. GamesIndustry International sat down with Hawkins at the show following his talk, and we'll have more for you soon.

7 Comments

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

787 931 1.2
Popular Comment
“You ever feel like what we're doing is too much like pornography?” asks Trip Hawkins
No, I answer.

Posted:2 months ago

#1
Popular Comment
This, he believes, is how the industry can massively grows its revenues. The industry has been dominated for too long by young guys that are simply making the games they want to play. But if games can be designed to a specification, like Hawkins' team at EA Sports did years ago in Madden (following the NFL rulebook) there's a chance to create something immensely valuable and scalable. "It's about getting everyone to see the bigger picture," he said.
This makes me sad. Not everything has to be always about revenue growth and wealth extraction. This industry has done just fine been(ing) dominated for too long by young guys that are simply making the games they want to play Suits ruin everything, just take a look around this world. Suits destroy because somehow everything has to be about greed for some reason.

Posted:2 months ago

#2

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

714 495 0.7
Only time I felt like a weirdo playing games was while having a chat with other gamers. It's a weird feeling of "Do I really belong to the same community as this guys?"

But answering that question of "You ever feel like what we're doing is too much like pornography?”. I think that if your company is focused into selling generic uncreative products, all of them are a copy of one another with the only target of a quick cash-in at the expense of masses without criteria which are searching for a quick hollow satisfaction... then yes, you are pretty much doing it.

Not saying this is EA's case, but certainly it can be applied to a a number of studios right now.

Posted:2 months ago

#3

Kingman Cheng
Illustrator and Animator

929 150 0.2
I agree with everyone's comments so far, yes people are trying to make money and trying to run a business. But it's some form of creative industry and it shouldn't always be about revenue growth. People usually get into game development because it's something they genuinely want to do, and if you can pay the bills doing something you enjoy then why not?

And not all games have to have educational value either, it's great to have games that's more than just entertainment. But sometimes 'just entertainment' is all you need. I'm sure he wouldn't complain about educational value with regards to movies or books.

And on another note about the parents and teachers, I know loads of parents who are gamers and some teachers as well.

I think the notion of exploring and considering ways the industry can grow is great. Peoples perception of games changes over time quite naturally as the industry grows anyway, but even so you can't completely prevent moral panic or some form of negative reception with any medium at any time. Anything that is created, be it video games or not, will be very well favoured by some people and not so much to others.

Posted:2 months ago

#4

Craig Page
Programmer

381 216 0.6
I played Mario teaches typing as a kid! Although I guess I didn't play it long enough, because as an adult I go with a typing method that's mostly just index fingers and middle fingers, but it's fast enough and accurate enough for me. My brain is the bottleneck in this arrangement, it just can't send the words fast enough to my fingers.

I think it's kind of dangerous to focus all of your efforts on perfecting a monetization strategy, because if you ever get it right then what is there to stop all of the other game makers (who focused all of their efforts on making games people actually wanted to play) from copying you?

Posted:2 months ago

#5

Roland Austinat
roland austinat media productions|consulting

112 57 0.5
I think there are really two stories in this one. Trip Hawkins needs to grab the attention of the DICE audience with the monetization numbers, but on the other hand he has a new projects in the works that actually is about giving back. VentureBeat had a great interview with Trip a few weeks ago where he stated: "It's not all about materialism." (quoted from memory)

Posted:2 months ago

#6

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

767 999 1.3
“You ever feel like what we're doing is too much like pornography?”
Not until we're actually allowed to have sex in games. And no, seeing two people kiss in a room that fades to black, doing QTE's for an off screen scene and having to mod your system in order to be able to see an unfinished sex scene hidden in the code do not count.

When it comes to sex in video games I feel like it's too much like comedy, except it's not very funny or entertaining.

Posted:2 months ago

#7

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