Global Game Industry News Blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rough Smooth Phidgets

I don't blog frequently about what I'm actually up to, but in chatting with some folks last week in Montreal at 4S and the Playful Technocultures Unconference, I can't help myself. Bill, you started it, with all your edges and phidgets.

It got me to thinking about smoothness, roughness, edginess and un-edginess. What do I mean, really? It's about the ability or encouragement to pursue what lies beneath a technology. A welcoming to tinkering, I guess. But it is also about not alienating the desirability for "just working" which frequently accompanies smoothness (not always).

So, it got me to thinking, how can we encourage the development of edgy smoothness? What I mean by that is, technologies which "just work" or are aesthetically pleasing, but are also open to tinkering. Sometimes in learning however you'll find you have to go back and learn the edgy rough pieces too, but I think that is something discovered over time.

Am I being too abstract?

Take the Wii or iPod for example. Quite "smooth" devices in many senses of the word. These devices (mostly) just work. We use them and don't really desire to hack them or figure them out, unless you're just one of those people. But that desire to know more is also very important when it comes to learning and desiring to develop your own technological devices. Of course tinkering with these devices has largely become illegal based on the DMCA and other legislation, which unfortunately short circuits the very inquisitive functions which undergird the game industry's workforce. Set that asside for a moment.

What would an iPod that encourages tinkering look like, while also maintaining a smoothness which makes it such a compelling technology?

I just don't know. What's the relationship with Bill's phidgets? Phidgets are rough and edgy, for the most part. But there is actually something very smooth about them once you play with them. They inspire engagement in new and interesting ways. Ways which we need more of.

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