Gender Norms, Learning Curves, and Public Game Development in the Indie MMO TUG on Kickstarter

| 28 May 2013 17:00
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Peter Salinas, Founder of Nerd Kingdom, Developer of TUG explains the independent MMO for you.

TUG or, The Unnamed Game first caught my eye when I noticed the academics who were advising TUG's developer, Nerd Kingdom. These folks are early pioneers in the academic study of video games like James Paul Gee, Dmitri Williams, and Ted Castronova. Each of these individuals has had an impact on games that many players experience. Unfortunately, may players many have never heard of any of these fine researchers.

As their Kickstarter developed, I was struck by how thoughtful and open their development process has been. Nerd Kingdom seems ambitious in that they want to create a game that answers common criticisms of games in general by openly asking players what they think and through additionally evaluating them by what they do in-game. From procedurally generated rhythms using ambient noises to approaching griefers and trolls in creative ways, Nerd Kingdom is taking their experience as behavioral science researchers and as game modders as the central foundation for developing this game.

With just 3 days to go and a little under $20,000 in funding left to achieve, I sat down with Nerd Kingdom founder, Peter Salinas and asked him a few questions about the balance between forcing a player to do something and creating situations where upon players could achieve what they wanted as a group.

Peter cares so much about TUG and Nerd Kingdom that he managed to answer these questions despite a kidney stone!

Warcry: Hi Peter, can you give us a little background on how a collection of Computer Scientists, Social Scientists, Artists and Gamers came together to form Nerd Kingdom?

Peter Salinas: Don't forget the modders! Those guys have more significance on this project and in the industry as a whole than they ever get credit for. As games became more social, especially online, it becomes increasingly apparent that these worlds are translations of our own lives and interactions. These interactions and economies are all very real; they are driven by real people facing real decisions and identifying real trade-offs. Being gamers -- all of us -- those interactions made for very compelling play. EVE Online is a great example of this. But why could that not exist in a more accessible form? Our own world has such complexities, yet we manage to exist without being overwhelmed by them.

So we knew there was an opportunity to create something, but in addition to making an intuitive yet complex world, we also wanted to create something that would be fun, beautiful, and fantastical... not something eggheads are always great at doing. Taking a step back, we knew that the creation of our own civilizations has been a grand convergence of minds and perspectives, so we set out to see how we could translate that into play. We began to talk to more and more people from different perspectives -- places like art, narrative, design, and AI -- and it just naturally formed. This was all a modder mentality; it was the drive to create something, not the drive to monetize it.

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