Ross Smith, from Microsoft sat at the Serious Play Conference which I hosted last week with the Serious Game Association and Digipen Institute of Technology. Ross came to see Nolan Bushnell, father of Atari and more currently CEO of Brainrush, a game company based on neuroscience.
Nolan had to rearrange his presentation day for family and within 24 hours we decided we’d put him on the second day. 2b3d Studios asked Nolan, “Have you ever been in Second Life before”. Nolan said, “Yes, let’s give it a whirl”. We jump into action. Paulette Robinson from the National Defense University graciously steps into Nolan’s original space. We announce a change in the program – Nolan Bushnell will keynote tomorrow afternoon.
Nolan sends me his avatar name, we set up permissions to access 2b3d Studios Theater. Our graphics guru pumps out real-time signage. Our team preps and sends out invitations before the day is over. Slides are loaded up. And, we conduct midnight rehearsals the night before, Nolan tweaking Mountain Lion on one side, us tweaking the PA system on the other side. It all works. We green light it, and wait for the next day’s show.
As Ross Smith sits down in his real chair watching the big screen at Digipen, the camera zooms into 2b3d Studios Theater, closes in on Nolan Bushnell’s avatar, and pans across the backstage . Ran Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3d Studios, double checks everything with Nolan at the podium – well one is in California and the other is in Washington, but the avatars are in the same place at the same time.
As the screen is ready and Nolan’s taking the podium, suddenly Ross Smith, sitting in the front row, shouts out loud to me from day two of the Serious Play Conference. “Hey Ran, I’m putting this on my “I Never Thought I’d See That” list on my blog. Ran grins. A twitter rushes through the audience.
What a wonderful honor, and what a twist of fate. Ross Smith is a speaker at the conference, but he is also the director of test for the Microsoft Office Lync Client team and now the newly acquired Skype. He leads a team of testers who put the Lync family of unified communications products through the paces to find defects.
When would anyone ever have guessed that we’d pick a technology, virtual worlds, to save the day and make sure our Keynote presenter, the father of Atari could bring a new and fresh experience to a serious gaming conference.
We thought, the technology gods are serious gamers too, so let’s roll, let’s see what they do to us today. It worked! Nolan’s avatar faced the audience. The lip animations began the minute he spoke. His hands gestured with his words. His jokes were on point. He ran his own slides.
In the background, the 2b3d Studios team produced a show – moving camera angles, supplementing with on screen text, zooming on presentation – in short, it was a full scale production television-like team, working on the fly in a virtual world.
Come question time, the audience rose at Digipen, asked their questions, interacted with Nolan as if he were there. Nolan picked up the nuance of the question, paced himself in the answer and acted as though he were standing in front of the speaker.
His avatar somehow suddenly had a twinkle in its eye. Apparently, when the situation is real, we project into the environment, making it real. Whatever – this was a serious use of gaming technology, it was used as a business application, it was an instant solution, and it worked like a television production. And it was pulled off with only the team’s time to make the production flawless.
What a day for serious games, serious players, and serious software.
Whatever software we use to deliver content over the web, the more it acts like a human, the more human the experience. When we say serious games, we mean gaming software that does serious things – like deliver on a business goal. So, I’m delighted we made Ross Smith’s list, and I’m even more delighted that Nolan Bushnell had fun in 2b3d Studio’s Theater in a virtual world. In addition to making Ross’ list, I heard Nolan say as we were closing, “You know, I think this experience is really neat. I think I’ll do this again”.
Score. Level Up.