March 24, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Game designers aim for Nobel Peace Prize

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Winning a Nobel Peace Prize may seem like a stretch for a video game developer, but on Thursday three leading designers attempted to show that it's possible.

In the third-annual Game Design Challenge, put on by GameLab CEO Eric Zimmerman at the Game Developers Conference here, "Katamari Damacy" creator Keita Takahashi, Epic Games lead designer Cliff Bleszinski and "Deus Ex" lead designer Harvey Smith presented game concepts that they each believed could win the coveted peace prize.

Photos: Game Design Challenge

The annual challenge--which in its two previous incarnations was won by legendary game designer Will Wright, creator of "The Sims"--isn't about building an actual game. Rather, it is about designing a fleshed-out concept for a game that could conceivably be developed and published.

Last year, Zimmerman tasked the competitors with designing a game built on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In 2004, the challenge was to create a game about love.

Zimmerman told the crowd that his yearly theme is based on a hot topic in the game industry. Thus, last year's theme came from persistent buzz about game titles built on licenses of other material, such as films. The theme in 2004 came from chatter about narrative interactivity.

"The goal of the Game Design Challenge is to think about what it means to wrestle with complex game design challenges," Zimmerman told the packed ballroom. "Why was (the Nobel Peace prize concept) selected this year? Because there is a lot of talk about serious games, those games that are not just for entertaining but for some function other than entertainment and pure fun."

Because Wright had won the two previous years, he wasn't a competitor this year.

"Will begged me to free him from the clutches of the Game Design Challenge, which I did," Zimmerman said. "But until we reach the end of the session today, (he's) still the reigning ruler."

At that point, to tremendous laughter, Zimmerman called Wright on stage and placed a tiara on his head, then turned the floor over to the competitors.

First up was Harvey, who began his presentation by explaining that the inspiration for his concept was two game mods. One, called "Escape from Woomera," was about the Australian government holding noncitizens prisoner. The other, about Japanese interned in the U.S. during World War II, was called "Beyond Manzanar."

Harvey's proposed game was based on the idea of flash mobs--a crowd of people that assembles suddenly in a public place, doing something unusual or notable, and then disperses.

He explained that in his "Peace Bomb" game concept--a multiplayer game for the Nintendo DS handheld device--play would evolve from the digital to the real world.

"The game creates flash mobs in the real world," said Smith. "After pooling together and trading resources, players can win on a quarterly basis, or every six months or whatever, and (the) flash mob erupts around a socially constructive movement."

He said players would have to form social networks and exchange resources virtually to work toward their goals.

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4 comments

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ViD Designer would benefit with an AVi change-up toward capital investment.
Bitmaps and 2D mastery have seemed to fruision. Direct X formats are currently upgraded for further debate with Sony advicasey; no announcments are planned.
Posted by Pop4 (88 comments )
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Peace Bomb wouldn't work.
Or, it would be an exclusively online game, but even then it wouldn't work. That is, without a wifi connection, how would it update itself on the 'flash mobs'. We gotta remember that the DS has a 30 ft. maximum range on great conditions.
All I can see is preset flash mobs inside the card itself, but that would lead to another slew of problems.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
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Peace Bomb Pros and Cons
The idea of Peace Bomb is a perfect game for DS.
Ofcourse the competetive aspect will require the gamers to compare scores globally and also a way to get new "flash mobs". So 1 a wifi access will be necessary for either updates on flash mob events, and also for score uploads. A feature should be inplace that you can't always group with the same people for each flash mob event or at least varrying point would be given for each unique and repeat person you interact with.

In a business standpoint, if the card based game does get public interest, the possibility events created with in cards could really result in more sales of newer events, but that can also be a draw back for many people who would not want to constantly buy new games.

This is a great idea to look into. I think the feasibility of this game is very possible, now will ther be any company that will take on the idea is another thing.
Posted by jcmahal (10 comments )
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Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize, anything is possible
Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize, anything is possible.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
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