FOLLOWING ARE UNEDITED TRANSCRIPTS FROM "COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES COM E OF AGE, A NATIONAL CONFERENCE TO EXPLORE THE CURRENT STATE OF AN EMERGING ENTERTAINMENT MEDIUM," HOSTED BY THE PROGRAM IN COMPARATIVE MEDIA STUDIES AT THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ON THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY AND FRIDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2000. WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF EDITING THESE TRANSCRIPTS AND WILL REPLACE EACH ONE AS THE REFINED VERSION BECOMES AVAILABLE.
THESE TRANSCRIPTS ARE THE PROPERTY OF COMPARATIVE MEDIA STUDIES AND A RE PROTECTED UNDER INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT LAWS. QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS DOCUMENT SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO HENRY JENKINS OR ALEX CHISHOLM. THANK YOU.
THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2000
JENKINS: Take a seat, we'll get started. Since a lot of you are joining us now, let me again say that I'm Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program here at MIT. It is our delight to sponsor this conference along with the Interactive Digital Software Association. We have brought an interesting array of people, game designers, academics, journalists, here to MIT to have a conversation about the state of this important industry, the directions the medium may take.
I'm joined this evening by Trip Hawkins. Hawkins is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the 3DO Company. Established in 1991, 3DO publishes video game software for the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, PC and the Internet. The company hosts all of its development in-house, including the best-selling and award-winning brands Army Men, High Heat Baseball, Might and Magic, and Heroes of Might and Magic. Hawkins also founded Electronic Arts in 1982, where he was CEO for nine years and Chairman of the Board for twelve years. Despite entering a tumultuous marketplace with 135 competitors, Electronic Arts rose in only four years to become the largest supplier of computer entertainment software in the world, and achieved a consistency in profits and growth unrivaled in the industry. Hawkins holds a degree in Strategy and Applied Game Theory from someplace up the river named Harvard College, and an MBA from Stanford University. I've been told that there's no use trying to moderate Trip Hawkins, so my job is to get out of the way and let this guy speak, and we'll see what happens.
HAWKINS: Thank you, Henry. Well, I just flew in from California, and boy, are my arms tired. [LAUGHTER] Actually, the real reason that I'm tired is that you guys are an institution of higher learning? Now, the people up the river wouldn't have sent me to the wrong building. However, one of Henry's colleagues over there was nice enough to give me a map of how to find my way over here, at which point I discovered the Infinite Corridor. Turn right at the Infinite Corridor. I felt like I was in one of my role-playing games. So, I'm very relieved to make it. Here we are.
I'm just going to fire a warning shot across the bow. I want everybody to get our your McLuhan and dust it off, and I want you to prepare for attacks. I'm going to be turning around the violence issue about video games. I'm going to be attacking mothers. I'm going to be attacking parenting. I'm going to say that books may become obsolete. You'll see all kinds of popular things. I'm going to also attempt to cure men of their frequent problem of emotional suppression. I'm going to stir things up, I'm going to make us think, because that's why we're here. I will be focusing on the computer as a medium, not as an information appliance, not as a productivity tool, so please keep that in mind. I will be taking the mechanical, robotic computer as we all know it, and I'll bring it into the realm of feelings, because that's what it's really all about, as you'll see from what I'm going to say. And I will show that computer games are a new canvas for humanity, and they can take us back to our nature, and back to our roots, and that's really what we need. That's why it's such an important thing that's happening in society today. Over the course of my remarks, we'll touch on the history of gaming, media history, human nature, and I will try to prove that computers are at a watershed moment for humanity.
I got started about 27 years ago programming my first computer game. It was a simulation of the Super Bowl, and my simulation predicted that the Miami Dolphins would beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-6. I was wrong - the final score was 24-7 - but I believe that was the first sports video game. That was back in 1973. In 1975, I was working on a summer job doing computer programming, and one of my colleagues came back from lunch and told me that he had just visited a computer retail store. This just completely blew my mind, 1975. Turns out, he had been to Dick Heiser's store. This was the guy that started the first computer store. I was working in Santa Monica, California, that's where his store was. It was called The Computer Store. Raise your hand if you know what a KSR33 is. OK, you could go in there, and you could rent a KSR33 for $10 an hour, and that was home computing, and I was completely blown away. That was awesome, that was spectacular! And, then you say, well, that's nothing! There's this company, Intel, that invented a computer on a chip. I was completely blown away by all this. I accomplished nothing in the way of work the rest of the day. I went back to my office, and I sat down and I started trying to figure out how long it would take before I could start a company to make games. So, in that summer day of 1975, I decided that I could do such a thing in 1982.
Well, meanwhile in 1978, I decided I should probably learn something first, so I went to work at Apple Computer, a place that had about 50 employees. They'd sold 2,000 computers in their entire history. A machine today has 300,000 times more computer RAM memory, than the machines did then. So, it's come a long way. 1982 rolled around, and I realized that it was time to get going, so that's when I founded Electronic Arts. And, one of the first things I did there was define the industry model of how to be a game company, pioneering the idea of distributing product directly to retailers, which is done habitually in the music and the book industries. It hadn't been done with computer software at all, and everybody thought we were nuts, and we would go out of business, and sure enough it worked and everybody started copying it. So, that's still a prevailing business practice today.
The other thing that I did was define the production model. I didn't really invent anything, but my favorite definition of creativity is, the rearranging of the old in a new way. So, what I did was I looked at other media industries, particularly books and music and film. I tried to figure out how to apply that to the computer field. And, it worked quite well, for quite a long time.
Another thing that I did was create the first celebrity based sports game. It's called Dr. J. and Larry Bird go One-on-One. Anybody here play that game? [APPLAUSE] So, yeah, now this is funny, because in the design of that game, Larry Bird was supposed to have a better outside shot, Dr. J. was supposed to be better at penetration, and you'd play the game, and you'd swear that was really true. I mean, if you were a Dr. J. fan, you really felt like you were Dr. J. If you were a Larry Bird fan, you'd play like Larry, shoot from the outside. And then, of course, after we shipped the game and it became a best seller, the programmer admitted to me that they had never put that in. But, you could never convince anybody that played that game, they all believed it was in there. And, that's a little bit of a hint of the emotional power that you can get out of this kind of play experience that we're going to talk about.
Here's a shocking statistic. Since I've been doing this, guess how many different platforms - by that I mean media that have incompatible software types, where you can't just take a disk out and shove it in another machine and expect it to work. How many different ones do you think there have been? 250! 250 different machines. There was a period of time where all the European machines were different from all the Japanese machines. They were different from all the American machines. There was even a machine in France for a while, that used a three-inch floppy disk. Everywhere else in the world, you had a three-and-a-half-inch floppy disk, but Amstrad in France was selling this thing with a three-inch floppy disk. 250 different platforms. So, it's been a tumultuous industry, with just constant upheaval and churn and change. But, during this time period we've gone from zero people playing video games, to over 200 million today playing video games. And, the industry and the technology has grown up.
One example of that, that's fairly dramatic, is that the technology is so much better today that the production method has to be completely different. Fifteen years ago, any kid, any teenager living at home with his parents could make the best game in the history of the world, on his own home machine. Well, that doesn't work anymore. Now, you have upwards of 20 people or more, and they have to work together for a year or more. And, they represent several different professional disciplines, including writing, design, testing, programming, production management, art, 3-D modelling, sound, music, video production. And, all those professionals have to work together. So, it's a much more complicated production process, and because the machines have gotten so much more capable, it's also more expensive. You've got to create a lot of assets to utilize that hardware effectively. So, just in the last 10, 15 years the cost of developing a great game has gone up by a factor of 100, and it's created some radical changes in the way the industry operates.
Now, at 3DO, the last couple of years, we've been the fastest growing software game company. We make a baseball game, which is now called Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball. It's won four awards for the version we did last year, as sports game of the year. We've very proud of that, and we expect this year's version to be even better. I hope to give you a short demo of it. We also have a brand called Might and Magic, which is a multimillion selling brand. We have another called Army Men. We also have had a lot of internet experience. We launched a game four years ago, called Meridian 59, which many people considered to be the first graphically oriented, massively multi-player game. I don't know if I'd really say it's totally massive, because you can only get 500 people on an individual map in that game, and it's not really a scaleable architecture. But, believe me, that was a fascinating experiment in sociology. Everything that you could possibly imagine in the way of human behavior in forming a society that has no rules, and then adapting over time. The best of human nature, and the worst of human nature came out, and people were profoundly affected by it. Of course, you had all the cliched things happen like people becoming murderers, and then people deciding to become vigilantes to hunt down and kill the murderers, and then the development of gangs and gang behavior. And we actually didn't give these guys much territory to work with, but you would give them a room. Like, if a group of players wanted to form a guild, you'd say fine, here's a room you can have as your guild hall, and then all the other guilds would spend all their time trying to break in to the room, and steal their stuff. You know, boys will be boys. The other thing that happened of course, is that people started having virtual marriages, virtual divorces. No virtual children, we didn't provide for that. And, then real marriages. Real people got married because they met in this game, and had children. I mean, it just boggles the mind. This is really a brave new world.
If you look at the technology, and how that's transitioned over the years, for a long time, we had very little computing power, particularly mathematical computing power, which is required to compute the 3-D. We didn't have very much space. So, everything had to be represented in two dimensional images - a little bit like postcards. Then you tried to do flip book animations of those postcards, very much like a Disney still animation film. Now of course, we've migrated to 3-D technology, and the Sony PlayStation was the machine that really drove that turning point. A PC can do it now, and the Nintendo 64 can do it now, but the PlayStation was the first volume machine that really had a 3-D personality. And it's been part of a technology migration to be able to do that. One way that's a simple way of thinking about this 3-D thing, is if you're looking at a bunch of postcards, it's a little bit like sitting in a theater watching a play. You're not allowed to change the seat you're in, so you have a fixed camera view, and they can actually have props on the stage that are flat, two-dimensional paintings and things, and you'll still create an illusion because you're far enough away from it. So, that's sort of the paradigm of the 2-D looking game, and some great games have been made that way. Games like Tetris, games like Myst. There's many great games made that way. We have a game, Heroes of Might and Magic that's still done that way. It's very popular. In the 3-D environment of course, you're trying to compute everything in the environment, which forces you to simplify the environment so it's not too complicated to calculate in real time, and then also to store. And, that's something that's about to go through a rapid change, because the Sony PlayStation has about, well, it's a little less than two million bytes of memory for an application . It has to include all the art objects that you need to put into a scene, and of course if you want to have a nice feel, you're going to have to calculate that scene at a frame rate of around 30 frames per second. So, every 30th of a second, you've got to calculate everything that's happening in that scene. And, then you have to have a place to store it, so having a little less than two million bytes of memory to work with, it's not very much. The PlayStation II has 32 million bytes of memory, so that's a really big step that will allow the real beauty of a 3-D environment to come to pass in terms of the details of the textures, and the resolution and the number of colors, and the frame rate, and the complexity of the scene. So, it will get to finally deliver on the promise that it's had for some time.
There's also another major transition that we've gone through, which is that in the very beginning with gaming technology it was really all about the mechanics of the game play. The mechanics of game play was defined by the limits of the technology. So, if you have a really simple black and white display, and you can draw a couple of moving objects on it, and you have a potentiometer and a button, guess what you make? Well, you can make Space War, that's basically what you make, and it's very abstract. It's very simple, it's very mechanical. Now of course, you can make something that has an incredibly immersive fantasy world, where there's no mental gymnastics to imagine what it is. In the old days, kids tended to be the audience for video games, because you could take a little kid, you could say, "OK, you see these couple of dots over here? That's Planet X. You see these couple of dots over here, that's you. The princess is kidnapped, and she is on Planet X. You must go to Planet X and rescue her." The kid says great, let's do it. Now, you try to have that conversation with an adult. They go, "That's not a planet. What's planet X? What princess?" It's just too abstract for them to deal with. We're now at a point where you've got the power to make it immersive, you can design it to be accessible.
It doesn't have to be something that's just for affluent people. It doesn't have to be something that's just for technical people, but that's what it's been. I mean, to be completely objective about it, you look at the 6 billion people in the world, and out of those 6 billion people, and I don't know how many millions of households that is, but there's about 400 million households that have a color TV, there's about 300 million that have a VCR, there's maybe 70 million that have a PC. Most of the ones that have a PC, first of all they've got a lot of money, second, they work in white-collar jobs, and third they attended college. Now, once you've defined your household as having that kind of person in it, despite the occupants of this room, you're dealing with a very small percentage of the world's population. Most people are not like that. Even in America, the majority of US households do not have any of those things. They do not have anyone that attended college, they do not have a white collar worker, and do not have any money to spend on something like this. So, the PC up until now has been a business tool, something very much appreciated by white-collar workers and students. It's a great hobby device, very much appreciated by technical people, and you know people that like having that kind of a hobby to tinker with. It's very much a hard core gaming crowd, that thinks nothing of dropping $4,000 on a really, really hot PC, at least before they get married.
There is a problem with technology purchases like this, because guys have an unlimited appetite to screw around with tools, even tools they don't understand. That's part of the fun to try to figure out what is this for? What can we do with this thing? It's a great adventure. I think women look at it and go, if you can figure out some productive use for that thing, and figure out how to make it easy to operate and affordable, then I'm interested. There's a practicality there. I'm not trying to say that this is completely stereotypical, but the market research bears it out. If you go look at who buys what are called black goods, meaning electronics that have no extensible useful purpose, it's mostly bought by men. Then you go to what are called white goods, the stuff that has a useful purpose, that you need, and the women are buying that. So you know there's just a difference in attitude about technology and tools. Now, of course that's changing, in fact it's changed a lot in the last 20 years. Arguably kids are growing up today are a lot more similar in this regard and I think the male, female boundary is quite blurry. But it's been that way for a long time, so in the early days of this technology, it was really just a raw tool to be screwed around with.
When I started at Apple, my boss was one of the founders of Apple, and he said, hey, go figure out how we can sell these to businesses. I said, that's a good question. We don't have a printer, we don't have a modem, we don't have a disk drive, we've got 4k of RAM in this thing. What are they going to do with it? OK let's go look at the warranty card database and see if any businesses have bought one. I found about 50 businesses that had bought one. So, I thought, gee, there's only 50 of them. I'll just call them up and find out what they're doing. So, I called a guy, he said, "yeah, I'm a plumber." "What are you doing with it?" "I'm playing a lot of Star Trek." I called another guy, and he was running a small contracting shop, and he says "Yeah, yeah, I'm designing and implementing my own payroll, general ledger, accounts payable." I mean, these guys were clueless, completely clueless. So, of course then we set out to figure out how to design a better machine with better software, with more specific useful applications.
As far as the home side of it goes, you know again, it's really been a glorified hobby market. Look over at the video game consoles. Usually there's some guy that wants it, and then he's got to go to the Chairman of the Board (that's either his mom or his wife) for a budget requisition, and humbly offer up this idea for the family to blow a couple of hundred bucks on this thing. And, he'll notice tremendous pricing pressure, historically in video game consoles. When they cost $300, you know people are saying, no! You cannot have that. Get down to a $100, $150 - yeah, I was going to spend that much on your Christmas present anyway. You know, even if you get sick of it in a year, that's not so bad. So, there's been that history. There's been a lack of appreciation of computers by mass consumers, as something that they can relate to. That's about to change. It's actually changing very rapidly as we speak. We're at that watershed moment.
Every medium has its day. You know, if you look at media history, you've got the oral tradition, leading to the Greek tragedy, with the chorus doing lots of singing. Then you have Shakespeare with the great dialogue, then you have opera. Take a guess, a 100 years ago, how many opera houses were functioning in the city of San Francisco? By the way, the city of San Francisco was only about 50 years old at that time. So, take a guess. Today, there's one opera house. There were 100, 100 operating opera houses, 100 years ago. So, every medium has it's day. That was the day for the opera. Then you had the book, radio, film, TV and now you have computers.
Some media are natural. What I mean by that is that there are things that just come to us completely naturally in the way our species evolved. Examples: facial expressions, body language, singing, dancing, verbal language. I mean, kids just figure out how to talk. All you have to do is immerse them in adults that are talking, and they figure it out. They're got that natural ability. Painting would be another one, narrative video is another one. You can put somebody in front of a film that uses very little camera movement, and has a very linear narrative, and people will know. You can take a native out of New Guinea, and he'll know what it is. You start putting camera movement in there, he can't figure out what happened. It's a very interesting thing about visual literacy, that even subtle things like camera movement have to be learned, because that's not part of our natural experience. Our camera is pretty consistently coming out of our eyeballs. There's no quick cuts, no close-ups. You're not jumping around from scene to scene.
Another thing that is a tremendously natural medium is play. It's a really fundamentally natural thing, and also play with tools. I think that's where video games come from, and why people care about them. Web browsing is another such example. The Internet has been around for years and years and years, and suddenly one day you've got this thing called a mouse, and it's got one button on it, and it can go dupdadupdadupdadup, and stuff shows up on my screen that I'm interested in. So, suddenly everybody thinks that's something they can use, and it's true. It's valid, because now it's natural. Now you've got a fairly natural hand-eye tracking system, bringing up information that you're interested in.
Some media are unnatural, and they're just human inventions that are typically completely abstract, and completely arbitrary, depending on what the inventor was dealing with at the time. My personal favorite would be the qwerty keyboard layout. We're still stuck with it today. I'm sure you know the story about it. There's a lot of debate about whether or not this is true, but the story is that the mechanical typewriters got jammed, and they wanted to slow the typist down, so they scrambled the layout, to make it harder for them to do. It's a great story, I don't know whether it's true or not, but you have to admit it's a pretty strange layout. For whatever reason it got to be so strange, it's pretty abstract.
You can also look at books being this way. In America we spend in our school system over 250 billion a year, and one of the principal purposes is to teach people to read. That's a great thing. I mean, I'm glad I know how to read. I want my kids to learn how to read. $250 billion though? It's an interesting question. We've bought into reading because it's always been part of our lives, and part of our culture for the last few hundred years. But, it's an awkward, awkward medium. You come up with these cryptic little symbols, and then you have to abstract them into words and sentence, and process the whole thing, and you spend all these years learning how to do it, and then you can put a book in Russian in front of you, and you have no idea what it is. Of course we have no standard human language, so that complicates things.
MTV, there's an example of a new visual medium, where they invented this style of putting digital and analog and black and white, and color and mixing it all up, and having tremendous camera action, and just creating this blur. Kids that have grown up on that have, I think, a measurable increase in their intelligence, when it comes to spatial cognition and processing that kind of data. In fact, studies are finding that kids today, like you or some of your students in fact, are better at accumulating information because of that processing power. Then, of course they also find studies that suggest that maybe people are having a little more trouble analyzing and sorting and organizing the information. But again, MTV has proven to be a new kind of medium, that was somewhat arbitrary, that had to be learned.
Email is another example. The spreadsheet is another example. So, in any of these cases, if you have a medium that's unnatural, there's going to be some human cost to train people to do it. if it has a productive purpose then people are going to do it. But it's going to get less use if it's not natural, and I would also argue people are going to be less happy about doing it. I mean, there's nothing wrong with exercising a skill that you have, but there's something really beautiful about doing what you were evolved to do in nature. So, natural media, have demonstrably more potential.
My daughter right now is learning her letters and words. They went through a phase in her school where they could create a fantasy and draw a scene. One of the adults in the class would listen to them verbalize about it, and then the adult would write down a description of it. You look at these scenes, they're beautiful scenes, and these beautiful descriptions of these incredible fantasies that these kids are having. Then one day they said, "OK, now you have to write your own words, and if you need any help on how to spell a particular word, you just let us know." Suddenly the quality of the art went way downhill, and of course the lettering's very awkward, the sentences are really short. Now they're laboring, trying to figure out how to do these letters and words. My daughter's a classic example of this, where she's a great artist, and she wants to express herself artistically. When it comes down to being forced to actually learn how to do these letters and words, and spelling and so on, she's really not been interested. It's natural for her to express herself artistically, to build things, to paint, to do music. It's not natural for her to learn all this other stuff. Again, I'm not trying to say it's a bad thing, but oddly enough the computer is seen in the wrong way by society in this regard. I'm going to come back to that later.
The other thing about media, is that people don't understand new media. They really don't! There's so many famous examples. I mean, Martin Luther translated the bible into German, and I guarantee you, the politicians running Germany had no idea what effect that was going to have. Then you have Western Union, who has this monopoly on the telegraph. The telephone's invented, and it's offered to them, and they can get an exclusive patent on it, and they turn it down. Then you have television, which originally was thought only useful for civil defense communications. In our times it would be the story of IBM, the 900 pound gorilla of the computer field, completely missing the boat on the democratization of computing, completely missing the boat on the idea that it's not going to be a centralized mainframe. It's going to be a decentralized network. I mean whooooz! that was a big miss for them. They were considered a national treasure. Well, after a while it wasn't the case.
Another thing that happens, is that you can take one of these media and not understand what effect it's having on society. Television would be my favorite example. You go back to the '40s and '50s, when everybody was smoking cigarettes, and there's a comparable example. There's a lot of people who got addicted to television, without having any idea how it was affecting them. Now there's plenty of evidence that television is bad. I'm not going to cite my sources here, but just over the years I've seen a number of scientific studies where they found that watching television is one of the few human endeavors where people generally feel worse afterwards. They get depressed, they feel like they're wasting time. Does any of this sound familiar? So, you know, it's taken us a long time to tune in to these things. Another has to do with the brain development for small children, and the way imagery of television impedes that, and exposing young children to too much television can really retard their brain development. So, these media they go through transitions.
Again you have the example of the telegraph, and that's a pretty abstract thing. Learning Morse code. Again, practical people are saying, "Hey you know, if I could just like talk to it, then I might get interested. So, as soon as it's affordable, as soon as I can do something natural, like just talk into it. Just hear out it, and I'm not hearing little, ditditditidit." Now you got a much broader audience of humanity that's interested in it, and of course that's now migrating eventually towards video conferencing where you're adding an additional, in a visual sense, and a dynamic movement to it.
I would make the same argument about what's happened with the newspaper and the book. I'm one of these guys, I love the newspaper. It's a very important ceremonial ritual for me, to go out and get that newspaper. It's an important part of my life. It really is. My kids are going to get to the point where they're going to say, what are you doing? My kids are going to grow up and it's not going to make any sense to them that I even use a newspaper. They're going to be completely mystified. You have to go out in the rain, you have to get dressed to go out to get it. It's already out of date by the time you read it. It's not customized. I mean, it's got all these flaws, right? That's right, it gets on your hands. So, it's got all these defects. If you think about the migration of the book and the newspaper, what's happened now is the website is starting to replace the newspaper, and of course it will become much more sophisticated in how it does that.
Video is starting to replace the book. I'm not trying to say that books have gone away, but what has happened is that the number of people who will know a story from having seen it on home video, on video tape will be the greatest, or it will be right up there, in case it happens to have been on broadcast television several times. That's another way to have learned that story. And then after that, you have the number of people who will have seen it in a movie theater. And then after that you will have, you will have the number of people that read the book about it. You know, some of that has do to, again, with the natural experience of the medium and the fact that it's time-condensed and, you know, you can make an efficiency argument there. But the reality is again, these media, they tend to go through these transformations and transitions.
So let's talk about stories, because they play a really big role in what I'm saying about video games. I'm going to talk about how the role of stories has changed. If you go back a thousand years ago or any time before that, stories were used as cautionary tales. We didn't have books. We didn't really have any meaningful educational institution. We had story tellers telling people stories, sometimes to manipulate them, typically with a cautionary tale, where there's a bad ending. So, OK, kids, don't go into the forest by yourself. Let me tell you the story of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. Well, have you noticed that if you go to the movies today, it's very unusual to see an unhappy ending? Anybody been to a movie that had an unhappy ending lately? Yeah, name it.
PARTICIPANT: Arlington Road.
HAWKINS: Arlington Road? I've never even heard of that one, so there you go. [LAUGHTER] I mean, I saw Affliction. That's an example of an unhappy ending. But it's very unusual. And in fact people will get mad. I mean, if you go to a movie where there's an unhappy ending, you'll see people leaving the theater before it's over. You'll hear grumbling. And then when you're exiting, people will be complaining by saying, "That's not what I wanted. That's not what I was looking for. You know, why did we need to go to that one?" OK, why is that?
Well, things have changed. You have to look at what's going on with people right now. What's going on in our society today is that people are incredibly busy and particularly in an affluent society like we have, where a lot of families have two-career couples. They're both working. And you know what? People have a pretty good standard of living. There's plenty of wealth to go around. It's getting better all the time. And rates of depression are 10 times higher than they were a hundred years ago.
So what's up with that? Well, I believe that what's up with that is that if you move a human being away from what comes naturally, they're going to get depressed, period. You know, if you look at the way your brain works, you've got your old brain stem, your medulla, and you've got this great big limbic system, which other species don't have. And that's where all your emotional stuff happens. That's where all your creative stuff happens. That's what makes you human. If you're not behaving in a natural way, consistent with how that brain evolved, there's going to be a problem there. You're going to feel it. If you look at the last hundred years, the pace of life has accelerated; technology's kind of overwhelming people. There's a lot for people to deal with; stress levels are much higher. People talk now about teenagers having unprecedented high levels of stress.
So things are different for people. And that's why, when they go to a movie, they're not thinking about what it costs to go to a movie. That's irrelevant. What's the real cost of a movie? Two hours. That's the real cost. That's why people don't go to that many movies. The average American goes to maybe five movies a year in a theater. Because you can't get your schedule worked out to do it more often than that. So, here you are. You're depressed. You go to the movies. Here's what you want.
Actually, I should mention something else about why you're depressed. In the last hundred years, we have crushed the nuclear family. So again, there's something that is a very important part of your nature - how you feel about your family. I have sort of a trivial theory, a way of looking at human behavior, which is if you ever want to know why somebody does something, just say, what would their DNA want? And it pretty much always explains everything. So your DNA wants to be reproduced, obviously. [LAUGHTER] But it wants other things. It wants to reproduce well. And it also knows it needs resources. Because it takes about 20 years, some would argue 30 years, for an adult to get to maturity, where it can handle life on its own.
Now this is not the same in other species. If you look at a crocodile, a one-year-old crocodile is completely unbeatable and will live to the age of about 40. And it can do that without any sense of family. In fact if you're a crocodile and you're born, your first goal is to run away from mom. You know why? She wants to eat you. [LAUGHTER] She wants to eat you. The storks want to eat you. All kinds of people want to eat you. There's a very high infant mortality rate for crocodiles. But the ones that make it to one, they're like a tank. And a crocodile has no natural predators, except for that early period where they're very small and vulnerable, and the leather's not quite so chewy. [LAUGHTER] And they get to be a year old, and that little tank, can have one good meal a year and live. So you have these crocodiles in Africa living in an area where the river only gets water during the rainy season. And there's only two or three rainy seasons a year. That's when the herd comes through. That's when they eat. The rest of the time they're just sleeping. They're not worried about anything. Nobody wants to mess with them. Nobody can mess with them. But in the crocodile species, there's no sense of family.
Now the humans are the exact opposite of that. You come into the world, you're completely naked and will remain so. You come into a very sophisticated, complicated society that you know nothing about. You need 20 years of training. You need tons of resources. And you need security and protection. So if you think about that limbic system in your brain and why it's there, it's probably there more than anything else because your DNA built it, through the process of evolution, to make sure that you cared about family. So people have a very deep caring about family. And that's just one of the major emotional themes that people are going through.
That's why they want to have a happy ending when they go to the movies. What's typically happening in a movie is two predominant themes: good triumphs over evil and there is resolution of dysfunctional family relations. And why do people care about that? Because in us there is good and evil. We're rooting for the good. We're not sure it's going to win. We need a sense of hope. We need some optimism. If we can relate to another character in a story and that character has their good win out, that makes me feel good, that gives me a sense of hope and optimism about the future. It makes me have the conviction to go ahead and tackle my problems. And if I see dysfunctional family relations get resolved, it gives me some feeling that maybe my dysfunctional family relations will get resolved. Raise your hand if you have no dysfunctional family relations. I'd like to talk to you later, but I can prove it otherwise. [LAUGHTER]
OK. So, people change, their needs change. What we need from media is different today. And the fundamental need that people have with entertainment is you got this great big limbic system with tremendous capacity for emotion and creativity and imagination and fantasy. It needs someplace to go that's not part of the mundane aspect of your existence. And that's what entertainment is all about. I was with a group of kids and parents seeing a play based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. And it got to the part where the mermaid screws up, because she didn't do what she was supposed to do and she turns to green foam. All the parents are: "What is this?" In the Disney version, Ariel does not turn into green foam. She lives on to have the video series, the fashion line, the toys. [LAUGHTER] I'm looking at my kids going, "Are they figuring out that she turned to green foam? No? Good. OK. So, you know, oh, isn't that nice? OK. Let's get out of here." [LAUGHTER] It's just, things have changed. And they've changed for good reasons.
Today, if you look at media, computer networks are the new medium. And they're going to prove to be the most profound of all. I would say that you could call computers the next big thing in this sequence of media history, but you could think of network computers as the big, big thing. That's where it gets really profound, because it's got these four important qualities. Number one, it's immersive. That's really important, because you can lose yourself in it. So that way you can really get into fantasy. It's also interactive. It's visceral. It's personal. It's responsive to you and you are in control.
Going back to TV for a moment, can you imagine TV without a remote control? Well, you know, a lot of people grew up with that. How many of you tend to fondle the remote while you're watching TV? [LAUGHTER] Well, that's your control. And that's the only way you have to interact with the thing, and it's generally pretty boring to most people, unless they're changing it, turning it in to something else. Processing more data. People get to the point where we go, "OK, what's on that channel? What's it about? OK. I understand that." You know, they're going through these processes of accepting and rejecting things and moving on in channel surfing. Because we have such a compelling desire to interact with our environment. I mean, that's the only tool, a part of the TV. And that's where we're going to go.
Another one of these four key things is the social dimension. Not all media are equally social. Some media bring people together, some drive them apart. Look at the book. I think probably the greatest virtue of a book is that probably in our nature, we need cave time. And cave time is contemplative. It involves the repetition of routines that you are comfortable with and that you develop a sense of comfort and a sense of well-being about. And that's in a way what reading is. If you're sitting by yourself reading and processing all those little Arabic letters, you know, there's a feeling of comfort and contemplation in that, and it's rejuvenative. That's probably the best thing it's got going for it. But obviously that's not particularly social. You're doing it by yourself.
Now you compare to, say, chatting on the Web or playing games with people over the Internet. That's entirely social. In fact, you can even have a social component because human intelligence can be used to create characters that are virtual characters that you interact with. And, you know, obviously you're not interacting with the person. You're interacting with the intelligence of the person that created the computer character. And then finally, they're emotional. I mean, there's tremendous capability to bring out a completely wide range of emotional responses and feelings in people from interactive entertainment and software. Even though it hasn't always been that way in the past, that's predominantly the way it's going to be in the future.
Think about why the computer is going to play this big role. We've talked a little bit about human nature. So let's go back and cover a few other points about that. One is that you've got to be motivated. So where does human motivation come from? If you're not motivated as a human being, then your learning rate's going to slow down, your growth's going to slow down. You're not going to play as freely. By contrast, if you've bought into some fantasy and you get to be hero, and it's a very playful thing and you get to triumph, well, that's very motivating. People get really drawn to that. I sort of look at motivation as how your brain hungers to do work. There's some kinds of work that your brain's going to be more attracted to than others. And, you know, motivation is a key opening up that spectrum. So, you can consider the person who is not motivated - that's somebody who has little hope and is not very happy.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of people around today that are like that. And oddly enough, we actually have higher depression rates in the U.S. than a lot of undeveloped countries, because the people in undeveloped countries are living more naturally. In our country, you're at the office in your little box, and you go out and get in your little box with the four wheels on it. And you drive home and open up the little box and you put the car in. You put the car in and you close the door on the box. Then you go in and you turn on the TV and become a couch potato. I mean, a lot of people do that. That's not a human, that's not a natural human way to live. I mean, you might as well be a cow in a field chewing grass. So it's no surprise, you know, that people are unhappy and unmotivated and getting depressed. And, you know, we're medicating the heck out of ourselves from the standpoint of depression.
So I think happiness comes from nature. It comes from putting your limbic system to proper use, creating emotional attachments that create meaning for you, that arouse a wide range of feelings for you. That's how it evolved over time and that's where imagination and hope are going to get generated. It also comes back to the fact that we like to use tools to do things. You got to be motivated to do things. And you combine that with what your limbic brain would enjoy doing and what your DNA wants.
It comes back to the sort of fundamental themes like the family story. Just notice this the next several times you go to a movie or you see a movie at home, look for resolution of dysfunctional family relationship. In Hollywood, it's a hugely predominant theme. Because they've just tuned into the fact that people really feed off that. They really need that in spades. It gives people a chance to have some hope that they can fix what's broken in their lives and get empowered and hopeful, and become capable again. And get motivated and become happy again.
I'm talking about story in a fairly general sense, whereas the computer is an interactive medium. So it's important to say that we're here to play, and I'm not using that as a little sports slogan. I mean the species homo sapiens, we are here to play. Without play, what do you have? If we didn't play as a species, we would never use tools, we would never discover tools, we would have no civilization. So play is an incredibly important instinct that we have. And certainly other mammals do it. But they don't do it to anywhere near the same extent that we do. They don't have the limbic brain and the degree of emotion and fantasy that we have. All of that stuff's very important to us.
I started playing board games when I was a kid, and I discovered that I was much more turned on and my brain was a lot more alive and more active when I played board games than when I did anything else. I was quite gratified to discover this guy named John Dewey, an education philosopher. About a hundred years ago, he developed this idea of learning through actual experience. He would take a bunch of kids and they'd go out to a sheep farm, and they'd watch the sheep being shorn of the wool, and they'd collect some fresh cotton samples. Then they'd come back to the classroom. They'd have one group that would be picking the seeds out of the cotton. Another group would be darning the wool. It turns out that it's way faster to create useful wool than it is to pick seeds out of cotton, and that explains why for thousands of years wool was the predominant fabric used for human fashion. And so the teacher can be explaining all this stuff. Then she can bring out a cotton gin, turn the crank a few times and suddenly much more productive cotton is created than the wool group was able to generate. And then she can talk about the whole slavery thing. Because it turns out slavery was starting to die out. Eventually the cotton gin brought it back, because that meant they needed to have somebody to pick the cotton. So you're just going out to a sheep farm. You're just getting a sample of wool, but you are tangibly and palpably, you know, touching something real and feeling it and processing it. And that's a lot more meaningful to people. I thought that was just really wonderful.
The problem is, depending on where your school's located, maybe there isn't a sheep farm close by. And it's kind of an expensive proposition to always go out and do it through real experience. When I saw a computer, I thought, "Aha! Here it is." You have audio, the medium of hearing. You have video, the medium of viewing. The computer really is the medium of doing. It's the medium of play. By simulating things on a computer, you can really get to what Dewey was talking about.
Subsequent to that, I learned about Dr. Marion Diamond, at the University of California at Berkeley. Starting about 35 years ago, she proved that the single best way to increase mammal intelligence is through interaction. And she proved significant differences, depending on how much the infant mammals played. What she did with laboratory rats, was that she would have a control group having the normal rat lifestyle. Then she'd have an experimental group where they had more social contact with other rats, both adult and infant. They also had more infant playthings to manipulate. So they're doing more object manipulation, object play, pattern recognition. After a while, they'd cut up the rats and take a look at their brains. They found a measurable thickening of the cerebral cortex, a significant increase in the number of neurotransmitter connections. I mean, really significant differences. So she was the one that really proved that you learn by doing.
I think everybody just kind of knows that from your own nature, but we have a society that's not really built around that assumption. The school system, at $250 billion a year, is not built around that assumption. They're trying to force you to learn a completely different way. By the way, when I was in graduate school, I went to less than half of my classes. Because that was the most productive way for me to learn. Again, this is extremely low bandwidth transmission for you guys. You're capable of so much more than this. If you were listening to my speech on the Internet right now, you'd get 10 times more done and you know it. You just pop over and scan what I'm saying, and pop back to whatever that you're doing. You could be multiplexing across several different things, because you all grew up on MTV, right? Am I right?
So, anyway, Dr. Diamond proved that with rats. But then, you still had to have proof about humans. Since then, there have been these longitudinal studies where the same experiments were conducted with human beings. Of course, you can't cut them up later. So you have to watch them for like 15 or 20 years. And they found that if you did the same thing with humans, you'd get a 40% increase in the IQ on average. I mean, that's a profound difference, just because you played more. It's time for everybody to get it. Why are we spending $250 billion in a way that's not playful? It's just kind of unnatural.
You got all this evidence now that that's the way it works. And you can look at the computer now and you can clearly see that that's its real calling, that's its real potential - to be the medium of doing. If you look at who's bought into this and who's playing games, of course, it's changed over time. It started out with these hobbyists and little kids. And what's happened is that it's now gone on for 25 years, so they've all grown up. So there's guys like me that are in their 40s that are completely comfortable with computers and video games. Now guys that are in 50s and 60s, they're the ones that are still technophobic, computerphobic. They're saying, "No, no, no, that's not for me. I don't need that, etc., etc." It's hard to learn something new after you grow up.
It goes back to this idea of media being unnatural. If you sit in a classroom and you're a six-year-old and the teacher tells you you're going to have to learn how to read, then yeah, you're going to do it. You don't have a choice. But once you get to be an adult and somebody tries to force you to learn something, you can blow them off. So people tend to not learn these new media. And that's why, you know, if you look at the progression of media down through the years, your great-great-grandparents, they were really into the newspaper. And then maybe your great-grandparents were into the radio. Then your grandparents were into the early stages of television. Same with your parents. And you've got kids growing up now for whom it's completely natural and second-nature to use a computer.
My daughter, she's six and doesn't know how to read. But she completely finished Pokemon. Snap. And she would, you know, she would. I helped her get started. There's a lot of screens where you have to read. So I had to kind of work her through it until she felt comfortable with the controls, but the reality is, she can do it, it's pre-ergonomic control. There's a lot of good visual information about what you're supposed to be doing. You learn the routines. There's very few buttons that have to be pressed. And she completely finished that game. In fact, there was a point where I was sitting in the room and she's working on it and she says, "Hey, Daddy, can you help me?" I said, "Sure, what is it?" "Well, you know, I'm coming down the river and there's these three squirtles that are playing. And if you wait till the third one is lined up with the monkey on the top of the hill and hit him with a pester ball, then you'll hit him and knock him down the other side of the hill. And when you come around the river bend, he'll be down there on the other side. And if you wait until he's lined up with the red switch and hit him with another pester ball, you'll hit the switch that opens the secret level." So, of course, I'm saying, "I want to know how she came up with this." [LAUGHTER] Because this game does not talk to you. There's very little voice in it. It couldn't have been stuff on the screen. How did she figure this stuff out? So I go over there and, of course, she's got a hints book. And she's literally got the hints book open to page 60. And it's got so many good pictures, she had figured the whole thing out from digging through the book, finding the scene she was in and studying the picture. So again, you're just looking at a much more natural experience.
It's so natural that you won't be able to stop people from learning how to use computers. In another 30 or 40 years, everybody between the ages of zero and 70 will be computer literate and using computers. The only other thing you're waiting for at that point is for the cost to come down enough that it can be more widespread and not just be affluent people that can afford it. And that's something that's really beginning to happen. So from its humble origins, the computer is becoming the ultimate natural medium, I think. It's a fairly natural extension of ourselves and who we are and how we live to do.
But we also have to recognize there's kind of an environmental bias against it. This comes from the fact that you're biased towards what you grow up with. That's why right now, amongst a lot of adults, there's a bias in favor of reading and in favor of television. And you have this classic scene. I was waiting in a doctor's office last year. There were these two women sitting in the waiting room, and one of them said to the other, "Yeah, I don't what he's doing when he's in that game. He's just like a zombie. He's completely preoccupied and he doesn't look like himself." Blah, blah, blah. And the other one said, "Yeah, I think you're going to have to pull the plug on that." That's a prevailing attitude about video games. First of all, if a mother observes a child watching the television, then she thinks that's probably fine, because the kid is so bored that they're animated and they're moving around, they're talking and whatever. And the parent is comfortable with television, because that is what they grew up on, like Campbell's soup. Then, if the kid starts playing a video game, they get all passionate and excited, and they're turned on and there's all sorts of stuff going on. And Mom's kind of intimidated by that, so, it's a matter of that bias and working with it. It's one of the things that to me is clearly a social issue. It's just getting more money spent on computers and this kind of networking technology for the benefit of society and not being so biased about spending money on the older and mature media. Eventually, all those other media, they're going to get put in their little niches, and they're going to serve narrowing purposes and become ceremonial rituals, like going out to get that newspaper.
Meanwhile, the computer's grown up. One thing about that is that now, the technology (particularly PlayStation II) is so good that it's making itself irrelevant. That's a good fundamental design principle - that good design becomes invisible. When you can use that mouse very naturally and just move that finger, that becomes very natural. What you see is what you get; again, it's more natural. The technology on PlayStation II is so good that it'll be easy for people to create a compelling-looking immersive world. There won't be as much separation in the marketplace based on who has slightly better technology and who doesn't. Another example of this idea of technology making itself irrelevant is Pokemon, because Pokemon is all about story and characters. Kids are so emotionally compelled by that that they're happy to play these black and white Game Boy games on a 10-year-old, 8-bit technology.
So what we've seen happen here over this period of history is transitioning from a public place amusement environment for technology. You see this not just with gaming technology, but you also see it with film and music, where things start out in the public place, and then, over some period of time, they get to be cheap enough and understandable enough that people are doing it at home and eventually become ubiquitous. So games are going through that transition. Again, it's about moving away from the mechanics of it and the technology of it, moving towards a natural experience that is taking advantage of the story power that the medium has, creating emotional attachments.
Raymond Chandler said it best, I think. He said that a story is something that happens to characters that you care about. People are searching for meaning in their lives and they'll get attached to characters that they resonate with. There's this perfect example right in front of us. When Darth Vader shows up on the screen, he immediately is an appealing character, because you look at him going, "What's up with the helmet? Why is he breathing like that? He's really mean." And you can tell he's bad because he's all black. But he's sort of subhuman. He's clearly given up some of his humanity. That's something that's evident about him right away. And then you come to that scene where he says, "Luke, I am your father." And that blows everybody away. And the reason it blows them away, even if they're not conscious of it, is you say to yourself, "Wait a minute." "How can the most evil thing be related to the most pure thing?" And that resonates because that's how we feel about ourselves. Now we really care about this family of Luke and Darth. And you get to that point in episode 6, where Luke has to choose between power and love, and he chooses love, saves his father's life. The father is so moved by that that he whacks the emperor. It's his dying thing. It's like all through several episodes he's a really bad guy. And then suddenly Luke loves him enough that he can quit being a bad guy. And that's a very powerful and very resonating experience for people. That's why when the next movie came out, they were sleeping in the parking lot. They're sleeping in the parking lot, because they want to know how does that cute little boy make that shadow of Darth Vader? You know, what's up with that? And people care about that stuff - that's the best one of all time.
The computer is now obligated, I think, to deliver this level of emotional meaning. People get hung up on this. There's a lot of hard-core gamers though that just say "No, no, no, no." It's all about the game mechanics. Just consider this example. You can play catch. Purely mechanical. You can also play catch and pretend to be your sports heroes in the Super Bowl, the World Series, whatever. How many of you have done that? OK. Well, people that have done that remember that experience very fondly. If they get to the point where they have kids and they can re-create that experience for their kids, now you're creating an even deeper emotional resonance.
Look at a movie like Field of Dreams. It's a movie about a guy who needs to play catch with his dad. And Shoeless Joe Jackson comes back from heaven to enable him to do that, and every guy in the audience is crying, just because these guys are playing catch. Now you can probably take somebody from Europe, who's not into American baseball and they go, "What's the big deal here?" Baseball's an American cultural tradition, so everybody cares about it a great deal.
At any rate, computers have made this transition now. If you look at the emotional range that they used to be able to provoke, it was just competition and adrenaline and satisfaction of achieving something. Now you can bring in other feelings like sadness, love, hope. That's just incredibly powerful.
From a design standpoint, I just believe all this time that what you want to do is make games that are simple, hot and deep. You want to make things that are accessible, that anybody can figure out how to play. You want to have them be hot in terms of how dynamic and how well they use all of the technologies and have them at depth so that people can get into them as far as they want. Another unique thing about the medium is that it's completely customizable. It's the only one that is. It can dynamically modify itself to adjust to who you are. It includes when you set up to play something, customizing the controls, customizing the handicapping levels, customizing which things will be done automatically and which things will be done by you manually. And what that does is it completely levels the playing field, which allows it to be a powerful social experience. It means everybody can come in and play together in the same gaming world.
By the way, nobody wants to lose in playing a game. They all want to feel competent. That's a change in the mentality. In the old days, the game developer would say, "I'm going to make Mt. Everest." And the hard-core gamer said, "I want to climb it." And the game builder said, "I'm going to make sure you don't." That was the ethic. So now the ethic is, how do you make somebody feel like they're taking their family to a national park, in a car with an automatic transmission? It's, how do we make this as easy as possible to get to the pay-off? Being customizable. Having multiple people being able to play at the same time. Having cooperative modes. That's obviously happening now, and I think it's big trend for the future.
Just to sum up on the PlayStationII, the reason why that's such a watershed, is that you can look at everything that preceded PlayStationII and then say, "OK, it's a glorified piece of office equipment." "It's a glorified toy and a hobby product." You look at what the PlayStationII represents, at a cost that's affordable to a pretty wide audience, with capabilities that anyone could benefit from because of how immersive it is, with DVD capability for movies. So that's just another mainstream thing that a lot of people are interested in, with Internet access. And that'll be the first time that Internet access in a big way moves out of the realm of the affluent, college-educated, white-collar workers that have a PC on the Internet, to everybody else being able to be on the Internet. PlayStationII will just be the new model. It'll just pave the way. Machines that come out beyond it will conform to the same model and that'll just help drive it even further.
You have on the horizon other great things - broadband networking, voice recognition. Think about voice recognition. If we'd had voice recognition for the last thousand years, we probably would not have invented the printing press. It's a funny thing to think about the sequence of events. Artificial intelligence. We haven't really had much of a chance to do that. That term gets misused in the game industry, because there's never been, really, any artificial intelligence. But just the program behavior of the computer controlled objects and characters, there hasn't been much opportunity to do that because of the limitations of the machines. PlayStation II is the watershed where all the machines from now on will have plenty of capability for doing that.
We're also seeing finally, a standardization of good production values. If you go out and buy a book, you expect it to be professionally typeset and professionally edited. Occasionally you might find a typo. Unfortunately with video games, there's going to be a ton of problems because it's such a new medium and it's so difficult to wrestle it to the ground, and with all these changes in the technology, that makes it even harder. But I think you'll see that level out over the next several years. You'll see PlayStation II build a very big installed base. You'll see other products like Nintendo Dolphin, Microsoft X Blocks come along. And there will be a huge population. Devices like that and also hand-held devices, including, cell phones that have Web access and can play games. The number of people that are going to get involved in this, this is really the turning point. It's going to go away from being this limited, elite audience. Admittedly it's 100 to 200 million people in that elite audience, but it's not 6 billion. And we're about to make that turn.
I wanted to comment briefly on the violence issue in that, people have focused a lot on the subject matter of video games and said, "Oh yeah, the games are violent. That's really bad." Well, look. We have met the enemy and he is us. We are a violent, predatory species. That's how we took over the earth. How did we forget that? We've been fighting wars for thousands of years. I actually look at it this way. I look at America, which had a civil war, which has fought in at least four major wars in the last 100 years, maybe five, depending on how you want to count them. And they had a revolutionary war to kick out the people from the country they came from. I mean, this is a war-like people, clearly. Yet, in recent time, we haven't been that involved in major civil unrest and wars and so on. There's been plenty of that going on in other parts of the world. But in America, we have color television. We have computers and other technology and we have the NFL. And we basically have other places to channel that part of our nature so that it's harmless. But if you don't do something with it, you can't take it out of people's nature. What you can do is channel it differently.
It's pretty funny. The University of Texas at Austin did a study to look at different subject matter in video games and then try to measure the level of aggressiveness after playing to see if subject matter produced increase in aggressiveness. They found no correlation between subject matter and level of aggressiveness. However, they found something that was highly correlated. There was something you could do in a gaming session that would absolutely generate a tremendously high level of aggressiveness. And what would that be? Losing. And of course losing can be in the form of I can't figure out the controls. I'm frustrated. I'm trying, but I'm failing, whatever. It comes back to looking at interactive technology differently. Instead of thinking about it as something you design to frustrate people, think of it as something you design intelligently so that they can figure it out, so that they can get to the end of it. The same way that a good screen writer tries to construct a good linear narrative to keep you in the loop as you go through the story, so that you know what was important by the end of that as well. It's just a migration that we're part of.
Clearly, video games are not causing human beings to be bad people. I think if you want to look for causes, you got bad parenting. There's plenty of that going around. And you have bad gun control. There's plenty of that. So that's why we've had some of the tragedies that we've had.
Just to wrap up - I know I'm running a little bit over here - just to make some conclusions. We've come a long way. It's been a heck of a journey and it blows my mind to think that we've got machines today with 300,000 times more memory and lots more capabilities. It's a very natural medium. That's what always attracted me to it. And we're at this moment, we're at this watershed moment, and it's going to be part of history, folks. We're not going to be here, but hundreds of years from now, this moment is going to be the moment that will be remembered about computers and computer networking the way Gutenberg's printing press was remembered. You have to realize that after Gutenberg invented the printing press, it probably took dozens or even possibly hundreds of years for books to really proliferate. And, obviously, our industry, it's only 20, 30 years old, but this is the moment everyone's going to remember, because from this point forward, it's for the people. It's really a mass market situation that everyone's going to participate in. And, as I said, it's not just a social good. It's such a transformative event for society that I think among other things, over the next 50 years, computer networks are going to make television a footnote in history. So however much television meant to us, as we grew up with it, it's going to get relegated to a footnote status by this new canvas for humanity, the computer. It's an exciting time. I've been doing it for 27 years. I hope I get the opportunity, God willing, to do it for another 27. I asked you to think and to challenge you a little bit and consider some things. And just be sure not to forget, we're here to play. Thank you.
JENKINS: I know we've run a little long. I know some of you may need to go. If you want to go now, we will take a handful of questions. But if you need to go, do it and, quietly, and we'll get some questions up here in a minute.
PARTICIPANT: How do you see the convergence, the combination of consoles and computers and set-top boxes?
HAWKINS: I think the PC is a pretty different product in a pretty different business than the gaming console, which is a pretty different product in a pretty different business than the set-top box that's provided by your cable or phone company. People have been talking about various elements of convergence for a long time. But I think there are basic realities of consumer use and technology, and also industry structure, that will prevent, you know, a sudden convergence. What I think will happen is the same way the Internet broke out from all this discussion about digital television. There was a lot of discussion 10 years ago about cable companies and phone companies implementing a fully broadband interactive television system. Instead of that happening, people just added Internet capability to their PC. And I think you'll now see, in this next phase, people adding Internet capability to their gaming console and playing movies on it. And at some point, that'll just migrate and acquire over time more and more of the powers of a set-top box. Meanwhile, the guys that are running the cable companies and phone companies are going to be trying to figure out how to mess that up and do it their way. But there's no compelling argument that it has to merge.
JENKINS: OK. Over here. And please give your name first.
CHRIS: My name's Chris. I'm not actually in the game industry. I'm just interested in it. I had a question. You mentioned that you found computers to be the most natural medium. And I wonder about that, because I find a lot of game control schemes to be completely counterintuitive. Any time I've had to play a PC game, my hands are kind of splayed over the keyboard and it doesn't make much intuitive sense to me. The only two times I've actually found a game to be intuitive, or three, is Mario 64, Pokemon Snap and Tetris. And testament to that is my girlfriend's only played two games in her life that she liked: Tetris and Pokemon Snap. I think one of the keys for the next generation of games to actually penetrate into the mainstream market and to attract people outside of the gaming industry, is to have incredibly intuitive control. When you pick up the control and you see what's on the screen, it makes sense. How are game developers going to achieve that?
HAWKINS: I totally agree with that. When I was saying it's a natural medium, I'm talking about its potential. I'm equally frustrated with the PC, because there's a lot of design problems, ergonomic problems with the PC the way it turned out. It's a little bit of design by committee. If you look at PlayStation II, the console game machines already have pretty good ergonomics and simpler controls and simpler operation, and they're very inexpensive devices. And they keep upping the ante. If you look at those guys, just in the last five years, they've added analog joysticks to what were simpler digital joysticks. They've added what are called rumble packs, where you get forced feedback to shake the device. They've added other stuff and they've managed to still keep the operating model very simple. I think you'll continue to see improvements in that. When you start to layer in other things like voice recognition, then you'll see quantum leaps and simplicity of operation. But the PC is probably just permanently brain damaged. It's just never going to sort out its problems.
JENKINS: I think you were next.
STAPLETON: Chris Stapleton, Institute for Simulation and Training. You talk passionately about education. What are you doing to help bring game or computer graphics interactivity into education?
HAWKINS: Well, I'm very heavily involved in a nationally known school that my children happen to go to, and I'm a big financial supporter of that school, partly because , we share the same philosophy about it. I did tinker, about 10 years ago, with the idea of actually starting a school, but I just have too much fun making games. So at least from my point of view, I want to make games that build this stuff in. In other words, I want to make games that just have tremendous emotional meaning to people, that create themes that are relevant to them with emotional resonance and deeper meaning. Once you have people motivated, you can teach them anything. So you can learn about anything in the context of a game once you're motivated.
KOHLER: Chris Kohler, freelance writer, other stuff.. Interestingly enough, you were just talking about the evolution of video game controllers, things that are being added. It's interesting to note that analog sticks, vibration feedback and you also mentioned voice recognition, these things have been added to controllers recently by Nintendo. It's Nintendo that's adding these things and everybody else seems to be copying them. I just wanted to mention that. I have a system bias. Can you tell? [LAUGHTER] My question is, I'm teaching a course in the history of video games this semester, and a couple of weeks from now I'm sure we'll be getting to the 3DO system. How would you like it to be remembered?
HAWKINS: I had a tremendous optimism about human nature that compelled me to do that. Because the industry was really beside itself, crying, weeping and wailing about the sorry state of the hardware business and the licensing practices at the companies at the time. And everybody wanted something to be done. We, all of us also wanted to make the push to get to CD media. I certainly look back on it and I feel like, hey, you know, my heart was in the right place. It was an impractically optimistic view of human nature, believing that a federation of companies could all trust each other. That was one of the fundamental breakdowns. It's just hugely risky and expensive to launch a new format and there's no way the hardware guys can trust the software guys or vice versa if they're separate companies. The other really basic practical problem is that the technologies were ahead of their time. And that's a common reason why businesses run into trouble. You do the vision thing and then you try to force consumers to adopt something before the technology's really mature. So taking DVD as an example, the predecessor to DVD was the MPEG Group that developed the MPEG standard with the intention and the goal of playing movies on CD-ROM. Then of course they found out they didn't have the transfer rate for that, they didn't have the capacity for that. They therefore couldn't generate the quality. And so just around that time, there were a number of attempts like that to see if we could make that quantum jump and here we are now, making it with PlayStationII. It's a fairly common scenario in industries that it takes a little while to get it right.
JENKINS: OK. Hands over here.
TANG: Philip Tang. I'm an undergraduate in this department. You mentioned that computers are very social things and you mentioned online playing, as well as all the other aspects, like it's immersive, and it's interactive. So I was wondering, if it's social versus contemplative, which is what you were using when you were talking about books, then how are we going to get those emotions that are more relevant for contemplative situations? Sadness is a very nonsocial emotion, for example. Maybe you could comment a little bit on that.
HAWKINS: You know, strangely enough, I'm a big fan of sadness, because I think sadness provokes people to change. As Karl Deutsch said, "We are all torn between the will to live and the wish to die." And the wish to die becomes strong when we are no longer willing to continue to change. Something has to happen to motivate people to change. A human being that is not changing isn't really living. So I don't have a problem with the idea of stories that are trying to explore a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. I think that it's good to have a happy ending. It's good to sort it out in the end, give people some hope and some optimism. It's really the story and the characters and how you relate to them, and the fact that you are in the story. You're not just observing the story of somebody else. And of course, you can read a great book and get all fired up and emotionally drawn into the story also. And that's great. It's just that I think it's even more powerful if you're immersed in it as a participant in it.
Some people would point out, and I think this is valid, that a really brilliant screen writer can create a linear narrative with plot twists and turns, and just extremely good design, absolutely maximizing the emotional power of it. And that's true. That kind of story telling is always going to be with us. It's just going to transition to new media as time passes. And in the interactive medium, it's more about a fantasy world that you explore and some themes and some events. And of course then you have to be able to at some point connect the dots so you're sort of compelled to achieve certain goals and get to an ending. But it's certainly not going to feel to the designer like he's creating a totally linear experience. But the person who plays it, whatever they do, however circuitous their path may be, to them, it was linear. Again, it all depends on what they did, why they were motivated to do it, why they cared about the story and the characters. And, they're going to come away with whatever emotional pay-off there was.
BRACEY: My name's Bonnie Bracey. I'm a Lucas Fellow, but I also am a just regular classroom teacher. I want to come back to that reading thing. Because in closets in schools there's enough money that's not being used, - all the extra books and the iron filings and all that stuff. You don't like the way reading's being taught. George doesn't like the way reading's being taught. A lot of people probably will say that. So what I want to know is, since some of us have discovered how to bring together in the learning landscape, software, music, motivation using television, all kinds of things, why isn't there a way that we can bring all of those things together with your field trip story? Remember that? You can see the farm, you can hear the farm, you sing it. You can find the words and make a story. That can't be that hard to do.
HAWKINS: I think you can do it. You know, I'm not an expert on how to run a classroom, so I'm really speculating here, but the way I would like to experience it if I were a student, is I'd want the teacher not to lecture to me.
HAWKINS: I'd want the teacher to be a consultant. --
HAWKINS: -- And I'd want the classroom to be an environment with a lot of resources. I would have to have some goals that are really motivating. And once I've got those goals in mind, I'll go learn what I need to learn to do it. I think that if you look at how the computer technology can play into it, one example is just that a lot of the resources can be on the computer. And there can be a lot of role playing and other things that you do with a computer. Even something as basic as Pokemon or game play with console video games. I think a lot of schools would be better off if they had a positive attitude about it, because my kids are a thousand times more motivated to learn to count and read because of Pokemon.
BRACEY: Well so are all the rest of them.
HAWKINS: So as far as I'm concerned, it's almost entirely a good thing. There's a bad thing, which is this arbitrage thing where the nine-year-olds are beating up, you know, and trading for their cards and stuff. And it's like "OK, let's all have a lot of resentment, because nine-year-olds have created the stock exchange." [LAUGHTER] I mean that is unbelievably sophisticated. We should be going around, bravo! [APPLAUSE] Yeah, it's true that it's a side show that's interfering with what's supposed to be going on there. But it's a tool that you can use. If you can say to kids, "OK, you know, I'll give you 10 minutes today to play Pokemon Snap if you blah, blah, blah." OK, well, now they got some motivation. So it can be used as a reward, and then it's intrinsically beneficial. That's the thing that people have to realize is that if you're doing something interactive, you know, that's where your brain is really happy and that's where you're growing those brain cells. It doesn't really matter what the subject matter is. If it's productive subject matter, it's so much the better.
BRACEY: But isn't it the industry, the textbook industry that's keeping that from happening?
HAWKINS: No, I don't want to point any fingers, because realistically, again, you look in the rear-view mirror, you got a lot of problems with that technology. You know, a PC is a problem.
BRACEY: But I'm not just talking PC, I'm talking about the whole learning landscape, everything.
HAWKINS: From my point of view, if I was running the classroom, I'd say, "I want some Sony PlayStations in here that are 99 bucks." You'd see a lot of teachers going, "No, no, no. Video games are bad." They go, "If it's on the PC, it must be good. If it's on the Sony, it must be bad." I mean that. It's the same stuff.
PARTICIPANT: With your industry so dependent on technological advances, how much does your industry invest in research in technology and user technology?
HAWKINS: Almost everything. Actually, I wouldn't say we do anything that meets the classic definition of research, but almost everybody's doing development.
PARTICIPANT: Why not?
HAWKINS: Well, you know, we're kind of a start-up, so we're just in kind of the third year as a start-up and research tends to have a really long horizon about the pay-off. And you have to earn that. So once you're a bigger company and you're more profitable and you're generating more cash flow from operations, then you can earn the right to think further ahead. But for us as a start-up, we're just focused on what's right in front of our nose.
PARTICIPANT: But do the larger companies really do that?
HAWKINS: Large companies do do research, although I think there's been a breakdown of the system of collaboration between government and industry about research. I'm sure you guys are more familiar with that than I would be. There were a lot of good things that came out of it, 30, 40 years ago. And it seems to have broken down. So yeah. I would still be a big fan of that.
JENKINS: Over here.
RICH: Hi, my name is Rich. First I wanted to make a couple of comments and then I have a question. First of all, I wanted to speak a little bit about a couple of things that you thought were attractive features about video games as they've been evolving. One is the graphics improving and you, as a gamer, originally you would have to use your imagination to make the blocks turn into something. However, I think that it's actually a good quality to be able to develop the skills of just using our imagination.
RICH: And I think that in a lot of ways the trend towards increasing the graphic, the looks of the game is very superficial and detracts from the quality of the game, especially in areas of emotional attachment and really good game play. My question was about the emotional attachment that you might have with the game and the quality of the theme of the game and how it really is a medium of art. It seems most games are directed at an age range of maybe 10 to 14. I'm sure the demographics of 10 to 14 males are the major area of the industry that the games are being developed for.
I was wondering what might be done to make games more adult in that they would have a much better quality in the theme of the games, in the story line, in innovation in games, which would give it an adult audience, would really expand their horizons in terms of interactivity and feeling that it's a really good medium compared to a lot of great movies out there, for example I'm comparing the video games to mainstream movies that rely on Hollywood special effects and which are very gimmicky as opposed to having real innovation and real quality. And I'm wondering what could been done to make video games a medium that adults can appreciate and which will be more lasting in the future as a meaningful form of art and a medium of communication and education.
HAWKINS: I think it's a gradual process. I agree with the theme of the latter part of your remarks. I'm going to go back to what you said at first, which I would categorize as a classic hard-core gamer mentality. And what you have to recognize is that yes, it's true for someone who is willing to make the leap of faith conceptually to appreciate the beauty of something like Tetris. I think Tetris is the most elegant game ever devised. But it's hard to explain to people, particularly when you're in a mass market where people are responding to 30-second messages on television, it's really hard to explain to people. For every Tetris, there are thousands of abstract puzzle games that fail. So what that shows you is that part of the challenge now, if you want to be able to spend the kind of money it takes to make a good video game, you have to be able to explain it to people and they have to get switched on about it. To me, again, it comes back to the accessibility.
You were talking about why can't we get adults interested? Well, the truth is, there's a lot of adults that are interested. The demographic range is really more like 8 to 40. And I would say the average is in the 20s, you know, so it's definitely not concentrated in the 10-to-14 age range. Sports would be a good instance of this, because prior to 16-bit computers, there were very few adults because you couldn't do a sport. You didn't have enough technology to do it. With 16-bit, you could do a reasonable facsimile of a sport, and that category took off. It brought a lot of adults and a wider ethnic demographic in - because of the wider demographic of people that are interested in sports. And they could relate to it, you didn't have to explain it to them. They just instantly got it. And that trend's going to continue.
Now one thing that's going to happen though is that with, as with any medium, you can't control the quality of what people do. There's going to be good stuff. There's going to be bad stuff. There's going to be stuff that's in poor taste. There's going to be stuff that has good production values, bad production values. And, over some period of time, the cream rises to the top and the people that are good at it survive and get stronger, and you can weed out the bad stuff. You also have a method of criticism. You have a rating system. You have a bunch of structural elements that help weed things out, but if you just pick a video at random at the video store, it might not be very good. If you pick a book at the library randomly it might not be very good. That's just the nature of media.
JENKINS: We're going to take those that are currently in the queue. Were you in line? OK. Why don't you go ahead and ask then?
THURBER: My name is Lincoln Thurber. I'm a library student. You were talking about how modern lifestyle is very dehumanizing. How our educational system and probably the way we work is very dehumanizing. I just want to know, what is your company doing or what ideas do you have to more humanize your company?
HAWKINS: It's very different, very different. It would take an hour to give it justice, but we do a number of things. First of all, in an organization you have three fundamental forms to work with: bureaucracy, dictatorship, culture. So we put a lot of emphasis on culture. We're very clear about what our value system is. Our values have to do with passion, creativity, integrity, fun. Things like that. And, we maintain that value system and reward people based on it. It's an extremely flexible, informal, tolerant work environment. It allows people to really be themselves and support a lot of diversity in the work group. They just have to share the values that are important to how we need to work. There ends up being a lot of camaraderie and social bonding as a result. These people are very passionate about what they do. Again, I'm not really doing the topic justice. I don't have enough time.
THURBER: Do you think that's easier simply because you're a successful company, you've had a lot of success and it's easier perhaps?
HAWKINS: I'm a practitioner of what I just said and, when I was in school, I studied organizational theory.
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