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  Notes: ‘Gamer’s Games: Microcontent and User Creation’  
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
Following are my abbreviated notes from the SXSW panel "Gamer's Games: Microcontent and User Creation."

Mark Wallace
Betsy Book Dir of Prod Mgmt, Makena Technologies
Raph Koster Pres, Areae Inc
Reuben Steiger CEO, Millions of Us
Corey Bridges,

Book- What is user-generated content in a virtual world? In There, we have a developer program that allows a user to create stuff and sell via auctions. There's a lot of emphasis on stuff at the expense of other kinds of user-created content, such as events--you don't need 3 skills to run an event, write a blog, make a photo album, run an online radio station or podcast. There are also user-created brands, which may or may not be used to sell stuff [items, I assume].

Wallace- The Second Life Herald is a form of user-created content, a type that we often miss.

Steiger- We've learned lessons from failure. We found that we don't just build corporate experiences, in one of our campaigns we might get a lot of traffic in Second Life, but lots more in the press and via blogs. Our company gets paid to cause trouble/chaos. Chaos is leaving creations open ended so that users decide where these things go. For example, Pontiac built a dealership and gave away their land to residents of Second Life for car-related businesses. That's very chaotic and unpredictable.

Wallace- There's monster truck rallies, games where you run down zombies...

Steiger- It's very unscripted, we tell corporations that they write the first half of the first scene--the audience writes the rest.

Bridges- User-generated content is an incomplete term. I prefer "indie-generated content," because an independent person created it. User-generation implies that they are in a box in a particular world, but not necessarily affecting anything else. Multiverse mandates that there are a "huge" number of multiple worlds. We don't have a social world as such, our developers are building games and social spaces. What we see is the community of developers and users doing a great many different things, not just fashion, but interfaces, experiential models, economic models. The founders of many big web sites weren't necessarily professionals when they first started.

Wallace- In Warcraft, you can't do any building, but there are small aspects where users generate content in actions and certain items. The interface, however, is modifiable--users have created thousands of interfaces for the game.

Koster- We can't lose sight of the challenges in creating a lot of this content. From a strict business point of view, even an EBay rating can require a lot of resources. The most common form of user-created content on the web is probably a Rave on MySpace. User content is everywhere, it's created unconsciously.

Wallace- [demonstrates a video from WoW, where an online funeral for a player was attacked by other players] This is an interesting mashup between the virtual and real worlds. Both the funeral and the griefing are forms of user-generated content.

Book- What's really interesting about this funeral is that there's another layer with the YouTube video--did the players create this griefing event so that it could be filmed? I think so.

Steiger- User-generated content isn't just "making" or "rendering." I've never made a single thing in Second Life, but I'm sort of responsible for some things being made. Lots of people's experiences are like that--things are appropriated, even in a commercial transaction.

Book- Member developers don't just create content for money. Reputation is important, there is also a tangible spirit of giving.

Koster- I made a quarter of a million Therebucks on clothing... Attention is the currency of the future... Underneath the giving is a desire to be seen and noticed...

Wallace- What are the incentives for user content-creation?

Koster- The real world is lousy at incentives for content-creation... rewards are crap... everyone wants to create... in Austin alone there are potentially thousands of top-40 musicians... the most successful virtual worlds are the ones that stole the reward/incentive structures from games. You need rating systems, levels, profiles, badges... when you look at it has every one of those. There's a "game" in Amazon about being the most prolific reviewer.

Bridges- I don't think you need a hard, fast, rigid, level-up mechanic. It's not necessarily attention people are looking for, but achievement. Achievement does generate attention, resulting in peer recognition. We have a strong community of developers--customers--creating not just whole worlds but systems that are shared through web tools such as wikis. It was a priority goal to create a community--if you have something like that you can't have a big support staff--this is a role handled by community members. There are no direct metrics, it's an organic community. Level of achievement might be able to express it in revenue.

Books- There should be opportunities for people to contribute, even if they can't make things like objects.

Steiger- I agree with Raph--people like to have positive feedback and measure their performance. In places like Second Life, there's no objective measure of levelling, it's very much user-defined. You see trends and social ranking be very fluid, someone might become famous for social connections. We are entering a phase where we are coming out from the basement towards mainstream entertainment. Celebrity is democratized. TV is the most mainstream form of entertainment, we would identify with characters; reality TV blurred things; virtual worlds can share celebrity with people--users can be the main character of a "show" [i.e. Virtual Laguna Beach].
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Comment posted by csven
March 12, 2007 @ 3:12 pm
"Attention is the currency of the future"

For emphasis. Reputation is the metric.
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