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Star Wars Identities

Finally it’s not a secret anymore!

November marked the public announcement of one of my projects this year: Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition.

I contributed interaction, writing, and game design for the visitor experience, working with a wonderful team at exhibition development firm gsmprjct°.  They are one of the creative Montreal companies that make up the X3 Productions exhibition creation group, who launched their much-lauded Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeaology exhibit earlier this year.  That one is already traveling, and opens this week in Valencia, Spain.

The Star Wars exhibit runs April 19th to September 16th 2012 in Montreal, and then will go on the road in Canada and abroad.  Go see!

Stoking the Difference Engine

Unicorn Justice Fighter / Unicorn Robber Baron by Una Lee, one of the games created during first Difference Engine incubator

I’m looking forward to my whirlwind trip to Toronto this week, for a few days with some Canadians who have developed new initiatives to bring more diversity to video game creation.  First is a stop at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to give a short presentation-conversation at TIFF Nexus, followed by a mixer with the members and friends of the brand-new support network Dames Making Games.

Next I’m mentoring the second cohort of Difference Engine game creators.  I can’t say enough good things about this incubator project initiated by the Hand Eye Society.  They are tackling head-on the challenge of increasing diversity among game makers, and I’m honored to be a part of it.  I’m really looking forward to seeing and responding to what the second group have created so far.

On my way back from Toronto I’m stopping in New York where I will visit the Carsten Höller Experience exhibit at the New Museum, and I hold a precious ticket to Sleep No More.  It’s going to be a really interesting week.

vote for OhMiBod Remote app

Dear friends of Perfect Plum,

Content Award 2011.  Show your content.  Make it win.Today and tomorrow are the last few days of a public-voting award for digital content created in the city of Vienna (my new hometown). OhMiBod Remote is nominated for the public award for Apps, and it would be soooo great if you could help me get the word and the vote out!

It’s pretty easy but it’s in German, so here are the key steps:
1. Go to http://www.contentaward.at/registrierung
2. Fill in your registration info (this is pretty clear – email, password, and captcha)
3. Wait for the incoming email and click on the link.  Now you’re logged in.
4. Go to the OhMiBod app voting page: http://www.contentaward.at/voten/381
5. In the light blue box click on “100” – this awards 100 points to the app
Vote 100 points
Voting ends Friday Oct 14 (Vienna time) so if you have a moment on Thursday Oct 13 to do and/or share this, that would be most awesome!

Love, Heather


I’ll be at South By Southwest this weekend, speaking on a panel in the ScreenBurn (indie game) track. If you’re awake on Saturday at 11am, come hear iPhone game devs, veterans and newcomers, talk about our experiences and contemplate the future.

Staying Alive: Can Indie iPhone Game Development Survive

Body Heat is now the OhMiBod app!

Version 1.3 of everyone’s favorite “personal massager” controller app has just launched in the iTunes Store (if you’re at least 17 years old, that is.)  Now you can save, load and rename your favorite vibration patterns (15 of ’em!), and a quick menu on the interface screen lets you stop the vibration, or jump to any of your top three favorite patterns.

I’m extra proud to announce that as of this version, the app is now the official OhMiBod app. I’m so excited that my app has joined the line of products that inspired me to create it in the first place!

OPEN Signs

Before we get too far away from it, I’d like to mention my other transmediale.11 project, an exhibit on open culture which I curated at the Embassy of Canada in Berlin.  OPEN Signs showcased seven artworks by nine artists based in (or originating from) Canada, all of whom used open processes or technologies in the creation of their work.

The exhibit was held at the Marshall McLuhan Salon inside the Embassy, which is an unusual space – a round room with four built-in large monitors, connected to a hallway with five interactive “pods,” a reading nook, and three large monitors facing into an open-air passage.  It was a gratifying challenge to curate the physical and screen space with relevant pieces. 

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and how many folks came to see it, both during the vernissage and during the week that followed.  The fantastic staff at the Embassy played a huge role in how well everything came together, including some heroic last-minute phone wrangling and social engineering when a transport company literally lost one of the pieces en route!  Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the curation effort and hope to take on similar projects in the future.

More about the artists and works featured in the show:

– The Radio Of Songs In People’s Heads and other stories by Mouna Andraos & Melissa Mongiat

РRequiem pour Flocons de neige Bless̩s / Requiem for Injured Snowflakes by Brandon Balleng̩e

– A selection of dreams from “Dreaming Machine #2” installations by Ben Bogart

– Tafel by Alexandre Castonguay

– Rip! A Remix Manifesto; user-contributed content and remixes by Brett Gaylor

– N by Metanet Software Inc.

royalty f(r)ee by the memelab

Controlled Invasion

The Mechanics of Change:  Sources of InfluenceLast year, “gamification” started popping up everywhere – both in the marketing world where the term seems to have been born, and among game designers from the ARG scene, the “serious games” field, and in the social network space.  Popular presentations about “games invade the real world” by Jesse Schell and others suddenly had me thinking back to the keynote presentation I gave at Nordic Game Jam in 2009, while I was Creative Director of Breakaway, a game-for-change created at the Emergent Media Center and sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund.  In fact, this weekend is the Global Game Jam 2011, so it’s exactly the two-year anniversary of my talk!  Wow.

My presentation (which you can check out here) is based on the excellent book Influencer which talks about how long-lasting positive social change can be designed and reinforced (hint: it’s freaking HARD to inspire real change and make it stick).  The book doesn’t talk much at all about games, but I saw a clear connection between almost every aspect of its techniques, and how game design skills could be applied to them.   If I’d pursued that line of thought, I could be on a white-hot lecture tour right now.  But not only did I not pursue it, I hid the presentation in a folder, slunk away, and didn’t mention it again.  The problem is, I couldn’t deal with the professional ethical quandary implied by my own ideas.

The Mechanics of Change: Personal AbilityWorking on a meaningful game that is trying to invoke real-world behavior change is both an inspiring and somewhat terrifying prospect.   It’s not something we as game designers can treat blithely, without deep examination.  I still haven’t worked through all of my feelings about what adding deep gameplay to the real world is going to ask of us as designers.  My mind and heart are filled with questions like:  At what point does our power to rhetorically and physically influence a player become simply glorified control?  With such a powerful emotional and behavioral tool at our disposal, how can we possibly know that we are working within the bounds of ethics?  Do the ends justify these means?

If you’re a game developer right now, chances are good you will eventually be asked to integrate what you do with real world situations and behaviors.  The boundaries of your magic circles will dissolve into homes, families, government, commerce, religion, and more.  We need to start educating ourselves NOW.  We need to be ready.

On February 4th and 5th at Transmediale festival in Berlin, A MAZE’s Thorsten Wiedemann and I are hosting a two-day video project, Controlled Invasion.  We will be interviewing game designers and thinkers, as well as folks from across the spectrum of art, critical theory, technology, philosophy and the body.  Our goal is to research and generate a manifesto – a compelling set of values and statements to focus the attention of game designers and content creators in the face of our ever-increasing moral responsibilities.  It will not answer all the questions, nor demonize games as a medium.  I hope it will help us make wiser choices about why and when to use the incredibly compelling physio-rhetorical power of gameplay.

Controlled Invasion

Last Game and Testament

The start of a new year means time to do a little bit of house cleaning!
Most of the dust bunnies will be swept under the rug, of course. But here is one to be held up in the sparkling light of a January morning.

Last Game and Testament by Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson
Just shy of 1 year late, here’s the game concept that Erin Robinson and I developed in our bid to reclaim the GDC Game Design Challenge for a second year, this time on the theme of “Real World Permadeath.”

Slide deck: Last Game and Testament (pdf 4.7mb)

A couple of writeups, so you can follow the bouncing skull, as it were:
Kokugamer: GDC: Deadly Game Design Challenge
The Escapist: GDC 2010: Game Design Challenge – Real Life Perma-death

And GDC Vault members can watch the video here.

I was especially pleased to share the stage with Kim Swift, whose unfortunate and news-making exclusion from the 2009 Challenge laid the path for our initial victory.  Sadly, we lost the throne (congrats, Jenova!), but I’m extremely happy with our design, our process, and our presentation.  So, enjoy!  And, ponder.

P.S. Buy Puzzle Bots!

Body Heat – big news++

Since we last tuned in back in October, when I had just jumped through all Apple’s content hurdles and got the app launched in the iTunes App Store, a lot has happened with Body Heat!

– After launch, I reached out to the creators of the music-driven vibe that it works with, OhMiBod. They bought the app and the IP, and have relaunched it with the OMB brand.

– Along with a fantastic video team in Vienna – Andy Schmoll and Tom Weilguny – I wrote and directed (and OK, narrated) a sultry promo video showing off the interface and features.

– Working together with the folks at OhMiBod, my team (Damien Di Fede, Amanda Williams, and I) developed a new Version 1.2 which includes the ability to save, load, and rename favorite patterns.  The new version hit the App Store yesterday!

– This week I’m at CES with OhMiBod, helping pitch the App and the vibe to nerds, tech buyers, and media.    Come visit the booth!  South hall, #36004 (near Yahoo).

– To kick off CES, Body Heat was named Number 1 in Hot Sex Apps by Jenny Block, the sex columnist at FoxNews.com

– Last night, Jay Leno’s last joke in his opening monologue was about Body Heat! (now if he would only mention it by name…. c’mon, Jay! Show a little love here….)

Body Heat news

Since we last tuned in back in September, a lot has happened with Body Heat!

– I jumped through all Apple’s content hurdles and got the app launched in the iTunes App Store.

– I reached out to the creators of the music-driven vibe that it works with, OhMiBod.   They bought the app and the IP from me, and have relaunched it with their brand attached.

– Together we developed a new Version 1.2 which includes the ability to save, load, and rename favorite patterns.

– This week I’m at CES with OhMiBod, helping pitch the App and the vibe to nerds, tech buyers, and media!

– To kick off CES, the app was named Number 1 in Hot Sex Apps by Jenny Block, the sex columnist at FoxNews.com

– Last night, Jay Leno’s last joke in his opening monologue was about Body Heat!  (now if he would only mention it by name…. c’mon, Jay!  Show a little love here….)