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19 February 2009 | Posted by Equipo Editorial de UX

Designing globally…

This essay will try to formulate several questions while not trying to answer them. Then, it is not within its scope of this document to explain everything but to make some sparks enlighten our brains.

The Oscars Ceremony is being held next February 22nd. Although the vast majority of the productions in there are north-American, it is not only this audience that is going to pay a careful attention to this show. The entire globe will get wired to it, everyone in Earth will be excited about the final results in all the categories and we will discuss them during the following day, while taking a snack and a coffee. Isn’t it interesting from a sociological point of view? we are all human beings, that is clear, but we come from so many different places with all kinds of cultures, religions, traditions, languages and habits … and then it seems that generally speaking, we do like the same kind of cinema productions and plays, with some slightly adjustments, of course. Could it be that we are not so different when regarding to feelings and true values?.

It is not really obvious if you take it from the game designer’s perspective. He or she must design for the entire globe, for a whole audience, if trying to put an international title in the market. It is well known that success may come if designing a game for the global market (an AAA or international market title) but roughly with a local one. It is commonly too risky to spend that amount of time and money in a production that, if constrained that way, might even success but hardly getting to report the necessary gains.

Furthermore, looking at the first paragraph we might say that a game designer has to follow some kind of “mankind rules”, that is taking feelings and true values, such as love or friendship, as the underlying layers of every production, to “partially guarantee” “global” success and audience understanding. But how to apply these statement, if right, to the four frames (mechanics, aesthetics, story and technology)?. In fact it seems nothing trivial.

Mechanics is about rules and those might be learned by any individual, if properly translated and adapted, regardless of the place of birth. It seems to be pretty objective then. But do those rules have something to do with our inner values? Do we have to take something specific into consideration, while building them, so that nobody gets intimidated or humiliated?. We might even alarm some people if the game would become too addictive…What about some nice tricks that might be quite coupled to very specific cultural understandings and conventions…understandable here but not there!!!.

Let’s land at aesthetics. Firstly, it seems that we all enjoy nice interaction paradigms (user-centered design). Secondly, it is clear that every culture has its own icons regarding colors, shapes, codes and so on. Moreover that, why would a game have a “different box” depending on the country where it is being sold then? There are places where some drawings should be avoided because of being considered obscene. I still remember “Barbarian”, a pretty well furnished game by the late eighties that came from “Palace Software”. They had this big controversy about the gorgeous girl in the front cover. Even some typographies might have very strong meanings, regarding for instance religion and cult.

A story might contain several elements. Among these we might surely find strong emotional ingredients such as those mentioned before. Even the simplest narrative can accomplish its purpose this way…take a look at some short films that we see, before the “big movie” or when beginning a new level in a game…it is always about happiness, joy, anger, fear, envy … that we are “talking about”. Anyway some conventions would arise if trying to sell the same story to the whole globe…again, are we harming someone? Is that comprehensible and accessible by all the mankind (we might be constrained by some specific parameters regarding our focus on a specific audience of course)? I just remembered of this curious case where the city hall in my place, “Barcelona”, has denounced “Midway”, the Chicago-based videogame company. Why? Because of this videogame, “the Wheelman” featuring “Vin Diesel”, where there are several violent scenes that take place within some of its neighborhoods and streets. They considered it to be a negative advertisement for the city.

Let’s finish with the technology. Does everyone share the same capabilities and opportunities when buying a new device? Can we find the same stuff everywhere? Do we have the same console market regardless (of the continent) of the country? Can we guarantee that everything will be fully compatible everywhere?. Just stop by a videogame company and ask them about the amount of time (and resources) that they need to spend when creating a PC title for the tones of possible combinations (memory, cpu, gpu, ppu…) above the minimal requirements required. What about the existing different formats for TV, video streaming, DVD supports, connectors, voltages…I bought a second hand “Playstation 2” unit here, in Pittsburgh, that is definitely not working in Spain…that is not about feelings and true experiences, but it’s also taken into account!.

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