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Playable Data: when Big Data meets Video Games


4c0c2071f264c830_640_data1Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Every time you do something on the internet, data is produced.
From booking a flight to just watching a youtube video about cute cats. Most of the time this data gets lost, sometimes they are archived but ignored and almost never, data is used wisely.

Why are data so important? Because they tell a story: your story. This means that data could make everything that surrounds you a personalized, familiar and warm experience. This is scary and amazing at the same time. Scary because it means that your life’s decisions could be out and used to design every single user experience you participate in. Mostly this means convincing you to buy things. But there is also an amazing bright side: you can get what you want, when you want it, and in the exact way you want it. I have to confess I love it when Amazon suggests new novels about romantic British Queens (yes, this is one of my hidden pleasures). I know that they know me because I gave them my data after buying a bunch of books, but now they can show me titles I could have never found by myself.

What does all of this have to do with Video Games? A lot!

Of course you have played Candy Crush. What makes it such an engaging experience is that it learns from your performance and adapts its difficulty to you. Difficult enough to challenge you but easy enough to avoid scaring you. You are happier enjoying your game and King is happy making money.

icejam-logoOk, this example is the easy way to use data, but even being just a simple log interpretation, is a huge step in the usability race. But what else could be achieved using data? The Canadian company Icejam has a lot to say about this.

Icejam was founded in 2014 by Stuart Duncan, responsible for free2play (games free of charge that integrate micropayments to advance faster) titles like Trade Nations, and The Simpsons: Tapped Out, which has been estimated to have generated more than $130 million USD in revenue to date. Stuart successfully sold his two previous companies and jumped into his new project: Playable Data.

icejam gameAs he defines it, Playable Data are data of any kind that allows a game to evolve. Data is interpreted and incorporated to the game to personalize what is offered to the player and make it relevant. Just a simple example: We all have downloaded an app that bombs you with notifications: “Hey! It’s time to feed your pigs!”. Some of them also have sounds, which is cute the first 20 times…but quite anoying at 2am when you forget to switch off your tablet. Could this be avoided? Absolutely. But what Icejam hints goes further than that, though they are giving away very little about their first game scheduled for release on 2016. A long time to wait for the future of free2play games. So meanwhile, why not think about other possibilities of Big Data and Games interaction?

MMOs that adapt user experience to game styles, Achiever, Killer, Socializer and Explorer? Virtual pets that get used to owner’s life habits and not viceversa? Micro-transaction packages really customized (and juicy) like Steam Bundles?

An what about Education? Could Serious Games evolve with students detecting their best and weakest points? And Health? Maybe physical rehab games could help patients in all the stages of their illness… The possibilities are just amazingly wide.

So, what do you think, do you have any other ideas about how could Big Data be used to improve Serious Games?

About Belén Gómez

Graduate in Communications, Movie Direction and finishing a degree in English Language and Literature, her multidisciplinary career includes TV and movie direction, script-writing, video games localization, game design, international project management and multi-platform video game production. Curious about everything, she divides her time between onseriousgames.com, Serious Games projects, any Assassin’s Creed title and her Mandarin Chinese lessons.

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