Category: Gaming

Pinball Economics

image-44Because I was trying to understand virtual items and micro-transactions, I researched the trading card industry. It made sense to me to consider the fundamentals from an industry that has been around for a while as a yard stick to relatively new terrain. (Yes, yes, looking forward through the rearview mirror. Thanks McLuhan. Now go back to bed.) Today I found a similar parallel between the incentivized game design so common in social games (e.g. Farmville) and pinball machines. — read on

Dissertation Revolutions

Two days ago I submitted draft 2 of The Disseration (tm) at 3:00 am. After my committee had punched some initial holes in it, the whole thing is in much better shape. It even has a spiffy new title: Social Gaming and Discursive Play: Games as Communicative Exchange.

This dissertation shows that video games are a highly social phenomenon, because playing is a form of expression. Traditionally, however, the study of the phenomenon has focused primarily on their socially detrimental ‘effects.’ I argue that this is the result of applying a linear, informational model of communication in studying video games. In its place I offer a contextual approach, and situate contemporary video games in a larger set of media practices.

Conventional wisdom on video games makes the following two assumptions. The first is that play, leisure and games are frivolous activities that exist as separate realms from everyday life. The second is that games “cannot express ideas, impressions, feelings, or information unrelated to the game itself.” (Limbaugh 2002) Combined, this amounts to regarding the phenomenon of video games as a suspicious activity that encourages a-social behavior, varying between a loss of social capital and outright violent behavior.

— read on

Dissertation Reloaded

[As I'm entering the final stages of writing The Dissertation (tm), I will be posted snippets online. You know, for purposes of fair use and the hope that seeing my own handiwork in a different context may help writing better. In this first installment, you'll find a section from the Introduction chapter, where I lay out the general theoretical approach. Comments welcome.] In studying communication and media we are confronted with the problem of how to describe what we experience, in the broadest sense, in the midst of experiencing it. Succinctly speaking, the former necessitates a consciousness that negates the latter. Moreover, for the same reason that we cannot escape our own media technological moment in order to describe it, we also cannot enter into one from which we are spatially, temporally, or epistemologically removed. Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form, a classic text in the fields of architecture and art history, reminds us that “it is essential to ask of artistic periods and regions not only whether they have perspective, but also which perspective they have.” (41) — read on

Player Modeling

One of the sexiest aspects of digital environments and online worlds is the ability monitor player behavior in an unprecedented way. Every single action, decision and event can be recorded, aggregated and analyzed on a scale that would make Orwell look like an absentee baby-sitter. — read on

Anything But Business As Casual

[Disclosure: A slightly modified version of this article appeared in the April edition of DFC Dossier.]

What in the early Internet days started as an afterthought today has grown into a market of its own. In 2008 the total revenue for casual PC gaming totaled a respectable $1.58 billion* in Western Europe, North America and most of Asia. DFC expects this number to increase to $1.69 billion in 2009.

Life’s been pretty good thus far: an average annual growth rate more than 60% has allowed everyone to do well. As more competitors entered the party, casual gaming also underwent a lot of consolidation as big-ticket publishers aggregated eyeballs for advertising’s sake. RealNetworks spent a lot of money to capture an audience large enough to sustain its ambitions for world domination. And as the current biggest casual company with 11.7% of total market share (based on revenue), it’s fair to say this strategy has paid off. The company is currently working to spin off its games division, RealArcade, as a separate entity.

— read on

Trading Card Freebie

  After spending a lot of time on free-to-play, I'm shifting to a game industry that is getting no love. Together with the wizkids over at To Be Continued, LLC I'm been working on a white paper that we plan to launch into the world in a few weeks. Trading Card Games (TCG), roughly the same size as casual gaming, are a natural extension of currently emerging free MMOs. For one, trading card games attract the same demographic. The immensely popular Yu-Gi-Oh!, which dominates with about 50% of the entire market, is hot sh*t with 12 year olds.
— read on

FlightControl by Firemint

Not entirely unrelated to my previous post, I DL-ed an $0.99 game for my iPhone which may well be one of the first ones to earn the label of worthwhile. While I maintain the theory that iPhone games suck (which they do), i'm observing contrary data points. FlightControl gets an honorable mention because it is clever and sans BS. — read on

Stizzate of Plizzay 6

After nearly two hundred days of radio silence, I return to jot down a few words. Last week Dan Hunter asked me to run a grad student workshop at State of Play 6, which will be held this June at the New York Law School. A lot of familiar faces will no doubt make an acte de presence, not in the least the members of the meme that is Terra Nova. — read on


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About Waffler

Joost is fascinated by games and human behavior. His research explores video games as an entryway to contemporary media culture. After completing a Master's degree in Media studies in Amsterdam, he continued his research in New York. There he was project manager on a landmark investigation of three decades of ownership trends in the American media landscape, the results of which were part of a congressional testimony, a series of articles and a book. In 2010 he received his doctorate from Columbia University for his dissertation titled "Social Gaming and Communicative Exchange." Joost currently teaches at the NYU Game Center.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Joost is also founder and CEO of an online games research firm called SuperData. In early 2010 the company secured multi-year seed funding, and today employs five people. Clients include publishers such as Electronic Arts, SEGA, Wargaming.net and Pokémon as well as all the major Wall street firms.

Joost lives in the East Village with his wife Janelle and son Maximus.

Selected Presentations
  • Video Game Data & Trends, Ottawa International Game Conference, Canada, 2013.
  • Business Principles and Market Trends for Multi-Platform Games, Festival of Games, Amsterdam 2013.
  • 2013 Game Changers: How Will Devices Impact Your Future Growth? (keynote), Game Developer Conference, 2013.
  • Free-to-Play State of the Industry, Game Connection Paris, 2012.
  • Online Games Research: Getting Publishers to Play Nice, New Media, New Demand Measurement Methodologies, 2012 Columbia University.
  • The Great Unboxing: Major Trends in the Transition to Digital and Free-to-Play Gaming, DCM East, 2012.
  • The Rise of Free-to-Play, moderator and co-organizer, Re:Play - The Theory, Practice, and Business of Video Games, 2012, NYU.
  • Trading Card Games: Delivering the Digital Promise, PAX East, 2012.
  • From Asteroids to Zynga: Three Decades of Game Design and Revenue Models, GDC Online, 2011.
  • Video Game Industry, 2010 Fordham University, 2010.
  • Social Media and TV, LATVfest, 2010 Los Angeles.
  • Top 5 Trends in Gaming, NY Games Conference, New York, 2009.
  • Kids, Tweens & Teens, State of Play IV, New York Law School, New York, 2009.
  • Game Theory, Play Money, Columbia Business School, New York, 2008. (event organizer)
  • Media Economics: The Question of Ownership, Hunter College, New York, 2008.
  • On Game Mod Communities, 106th Annual Meeting of American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, 2007.
  • Game Mods & Post-Industrial Play, CITI Visiting Scholar’s Brown Bag Lunch Seminar Series, Columbia Business School, New York, October 2007.
  • The Video Game Vocabulary and the Production of Meaning, MiT5: Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, April 2007. (abstract)
  • Cities, Games and Media: Playing with and in the Urban Setting, Time|Space Dynamics in Urban Settings, Technishen Universität, Berlin, May 2007.
  • The Aesthetic Vocabulary of Video Games, Seventh Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, November 2006.
  • Haussmann’s Media Environment (revised), Sixth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, Fordham University, New York, May 2005.
  • Media Technology & Society: Video Game Theory, Dissertation outline, Columbia University, New York, April 2005.
  • Good Day New York, Fox Television, aired August 20th, debate with Attorney Sanford Rubenstein on videogame violence, August 2004.
Contact: joost at waffler dot org

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