so i was looking up stuff about birth control throughout history and
Buying Tumblr is a big enough deal for Yahoo that they clearly aren’t intending to ruin it or shut it down — like YouTube and Google, Tumblr will probably become an extremely important part of Yahoo indefinitely. And I believe they’ll do a good job with it. Yahoo today is a very different company than the Yahoo that neglected Flickr for years — it has extremely competent new leadership making bold changes. (Including fixing Flickr.)
More importantly, it gives David, and the rest of Tumblr’s team, the freedom to continue making the best product they can while offloading a lot of the grunt work to Yahoo’s leadership, staff, and infrastructure.
As for me, while I wasn’t a “founder” financially, David was generous with my employee stock options back in the day. I won’t make yacht-and-helicopter money from the acquisition, and I won’t be switching to dedicated day and night iPhones. But as long as I manage investments properly and don’t spend recklessly, Tumblr has given my family a strong safety net and given me the freedom to work on whatever I want. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.
Side note: If you haven’t seen it yet, the new Flickr redesign is ace.
So where, I ask you, is the “post new content” button?
The new google+ is interesting chiefly because behind and beneath all the little and big design changes – the responsive design, the style unification, the hashtags, the “data-informed design”, the hangout, the forty-odd new features, the “stream with style and smarts” –, there seems to be a central but not overtly communicated design goal at work here, to wit: to slowly but surely let all affordances align in one direction of transfering user behaviour from content creation across genres into a de-facto photo/video-sharing network.
It’s as if facebook woke up one day and said: “Ok, what do we have to do to BE Instagram, one year from now? Such that although people in principle COULD share links and text and stuff, they WILL only share photos, so our stream will be one clean, unified stream of beautiful photos, a stream that people in our app will mainly browse, consume, upvote, comment and re-share, rather than create new content in it?”
Google Plus’s answer to that question:
- Auto-upload mobile phone pictures: People don’t even have to think/want to share their images, we’ll get them automatically. Huge instant-population of the stream with images right out of the bat, without users having to change their behaviour. And just to the browsing eye, the whole stream changes from one of texts, check-ins, links and stuff into one that FEELS like Pinterest, one image after the other. Social proof by technical default: The impression that this thing OUGHT to be used for images, because now 90% of what traverses the stream IS images.
- But wait, a lot of these images are crappy! The typically Google solution to that issue: Strong algorithms + strong datasets. Auto-filter the auto-uploaded images using algorithmic measures of beauty and graph data of what users/images you personally are most likely to be interested in. Blow up in size what is beautiful+relevant, shrink/filter out what is not. Also, auto-enhance the auto-uploaded pictures in their beauty. Again, the idea: You user might not WANT to use g+ instead of fb or Instagram, and you do not WANT to go through the friction of switching platforms, but we’ll get you nevertheless by auto-slurping your stuff, such that at a certain point you feel it’s even easier to let us auto-upload and auto-beautify your pics without you even thinking rather than having to go through the motions of thinking about which smartphone photo app to use, how to link them up with what sharing networks, etc.*
- But wait, people are still posting all this ugly, non-visual STUFF on g+, all these links and texts and so! For us, Google, they’re irrelevant, because they don’t really drive traffic, but they still litter our beautiful new design and de-facto Instagram stream! The solution: Hide away all content sharing/creation features that are not auto-uploading of pictures (and later, we can assume, YouTube videos). True, this may be a mere design oversight – but for a social network, hiding the “create post” button is a pretty big “oversight”, no? You might say it’s there up in the screen, you ‘just’ have to hit the Google+ home button, be scrolled back up in your screen, and there the entry window awaits you. True, but there’s NO visual indication that that’s the way (the ONLY way) to post new stuff once you scrolled down your stream a bit. And it arguably creates quite a bit of friction, because by scrolling up again, you lose your position within the stream: You then have to scroll back down again, and remember where you were, etc.
Have a look at their self-presentation video above. It presents the vision: ALL content in their stream is PREDOMINANTLY visual, an image or a video. What people do on the platform is upvote, comment, or subscribe to hashtags. The one interaction in the middle of the video – post a new question to friends – looks like a lonely and forlorn line of text in this sea of BIG images. Compare this vision of how the clip projects the aspirational ideal of what the new Google+ ought to be with the screenshot of my current stream at the top of this post: As of now, people (at least in my social network) are still sharing predominantly ugly text with ugly bits of white space and controls around it.
I don’t say this ‘hidden agenda’ is ‘nasty’, or ‘evil’, or anything like that. It’s a conscious design choice, a testament that there actually IS (to my mind) an underlying vision behind the forty-odd new features. I guess usage data told Google that photo/video drives engagement for them, not text/links – that they felt they had the choice of EITHER trying to be twitter, OR Instagram/Pinterest, and they opted for the latter. It’s just interesting to see how the new design shifts away from the differentiator of “post EVERYTHING, and post texts NO MATTER HOW LONG” into “Instagram without having to think”. As a designer, I applaud the depth of thinking and the complex intertwining of backend tech + interface + interaction design required to pull it off. As a researcher, I think THIS is the real challenge for talking about “code is law” or the power of algorithms in the year 2013: To describe, capture, measure the effects of such a complex interlocking set of features from which systemic affordances emerge that make use of social impression formation as much as perceived effort. Interesting times.
* This technical ‘let’s make it easy’ solution of course overlooking that people’s presentation of self online is ALL about careful curation of the symbolic meanings entailed in what pictures you share and not share, what pictures you filter how or not, what pictures you share through what platform, what platform you use or not, etc. pp.
So the ABC here in Australia have a show called Good Game, and they asked me a couple of days ago for any ideas I might have on fashion in game character design. I just wrote a massive email to them explaining some of my ideas, and I thought it might be of interest to you. Here it is.
Fashion in games has a functional aspect. It helps the player to differentiate between different player and non-player characters. One of the key concepts that character designers have borrowed from fashion design is silhouette — the outline shape of the body. Our eye comprehends silhouettes much faster than the fine detail that goes into a particular look. By having strong silhouettes the player can efficiently digest the placement of lots of different characters within a single screen. If we think about something like a raid situation in World of Warcraft, where dozens of characters are collected together in the same screen space, the striking armour styles in combination with the different body types create highly identifiable silhouettes.
In fashion design the use of silhouettes differentiates different customer/demographics. A silhouette is understood as young, old, masculine, feminine. There’s a lot of cultural shorthand going on in the creation of silhouettes, and the same is true of game character creation.
Silhouette lends itself to the promotion and marketing of videogames. Players who are accustomed to looking at the silhouette of a given character in a franchise can identity at a glance the character in a promotion or advert. The look of the assassin protagonists in Assassin’s Creed — the distinctive hawkshead hood design — are immediately clear. Even more subtle silhouettes, like the bulky, rounded shoulders and armours of the Gears of War characters work in the same way, subtly different from similar soldier figures in Halo, Killzone etc.
When games made the transition to 3D, a whole new set of problems to do with legibility at a distance were introduced. Enemies and NPCs that would appear small on the horizon had to be designed in such a way that players could register them — silhouette and colour became a crucial design consideration.
Tetsuya Nomura’s character designs from Final Fantasy 8 onward took this basic functional need for interesting costume to the next step and created an explicit connection with fashion. Character clothing has a plausible, if somewhat outlandish, construction that worked in the context of the fashions that appeared in the world. Whereas many popular franchises involved soldiers of one sort or another wearing armours and fatigues, Nomura’s vision for Final Fantasy presented a group who seemed to be adventuring in something resembling personal fashion. These fashions were of course interacting with the real world fashions of Tokyo’s fashionable districts — and in the process speaking to the mixed gender teen audience of the games. This FF/Fashion connection became explicit recently in the Prada campaign that used the heroes from FF13 to showcase various looks: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/116637-Final-Fantasy-Teams-Up-With-Fashion-Line
Clothes have, of course, become a key part of the DLC marketplace, with customisable looks becoming standard fare in the action adventure and RPG genres.
The key thing to keep in mind is that fashion presents a fantasy identity, and helps us to interpret the body and identity of the hero. Fashions anchor the ideas a developer has about a character. Let’s talk about some particular characters.
Take for instance Link from the Zelda franchise. His hat and tunic are now iconic, which means that they are inseparable from the Zelda universe. Their softness evokes the idea of pyjamas, dreaming and fairy tale worlds. Even at its most lucid and gritty, Zelda is always a fairytale first and foremost, where bad guys are fantastical creatures or phantoms, hidden in deep dungeons and caves.
Lara Croft’s image is contradictory. On the one hand it is strongly bound to the idea of feminine individualism and self reliance, showing Lara wearing pragmatic and functional accoutrements like the gun holsters and the rucksacks and the climbing boots. On the other hand, her costume is figure hugging, heavily emphasising her breasts and bottom — in other worlds, she is sexualised for male consumption. She is both a vision of no nonsense female athleticism and a male fantasy of an modern Amazonian.
Some characters, particularly non-player characters, work in a different way. They’re more like metonyms, individually symbolic of a larger idea of style. Elisabeth in Bioshock Infinite works in this way. Because the point of view deprives the player of a perspective on their own appearance, this supporting character takes on the aesthetic responsibilities of the lead. Her look strongly conveys the period motifs that underpin the steam punk fantasy of the world. Steam punk is a combination of old and new — possible and impossible. Her floor length dress, petticoats and shoes convey her modesty and innocence. In contrast, her bolero jacket, similar to that worn by a Spanish matador, brings a contemporary edge that suggests a more contemporary look echoed by her smoky eye make-up and pageboy hair. The neck halter and corset add a third element to the look that reflect her narrative. These constraining, tight items reflect her role as a “trapped bird”, with the enclosing corset inherited from her domineering mother. The shift from her early carefree look to the more structured later look reflect the twists and turns of the story, and our developing understanding of Elisabeth as a character. Taken together, her fashion echoes contemporary interests in burlesque, vintage and retro that resonate with the steam punk setting.
Solid Snake’s appearance reflects his origins as a kind of action hero inspired by movies like Escape from New York. His military gear, which remains essentially the same from game to game, renders him as a sort of action figure — timeless and toy like, to be played with by the powers that be. Like a piece played by the gods in a endlessly repeating tragedy, the figure of Snake is resurrected, similar yet different, over and over in various guises. The doll like Raiden of MGS2 and more recently Revengeance similarly points to this existential attitude to the protagonists of the Metal Gear games. I think that it is very important to the narratives Kojima conceives. The key concept in fashion of the Metal Gear games is Serialisation — the idea of something being created numerous times, perhaps with subtle differences in each version. Like the sequence of looks that make up a fashion show, the evolving image of a similar but different Snake attunes the audience to appreciate the subtle differences that become so crucial to Kojima’s universe. If he radically changed the look of Snake from game to game, he would lose the visual anchor and serialised aesthetic and the games would feel very different.
Ezio from AC2 works slightly differently. He wears the period fashions of renaissance Italy, and at the same time wears the trappings of the brotherhood — the cloak and hood. We can think of these as traits that are either permanent or impermanent. The clothing of the brotherhood is an essential permanent trait of the Assassin’s Creed series — they have to be present from game to game to give it that essential serialised aesthetic. On the other hand, the game jumps across various periods of history, and period fashions are crucial to the setting of the games. As such, the design and silhouette of the lead characters in the series has to reconcile these two different aspects, bringing together the permanent and impermanent. The hood and cloak “permanent trait” become increasingly tenuously placed in the world, and sit somewhat uncomfortably alongside the period fashions. This incongruity leads us to think of the protagonists as increasingly separate from the societies they occupy — time travellers, or perhaps spacemen in the alien worlds of ancient history. I think AC is an example of where fashion elements in a character design are pushed to perform a function that doesn’t necessarily work with the narrative ambitions of the game.
Bayonetta is an incredibly interesting character design. On the surface, the titular Witch is presented as a hyper-exaggerated male fantasy. In a skin tight catsuit, with high heels and a forthright bosom. Her glasses embellish this fantasy with the trope of the sexy secretary or schoolteacher, ready to follow orders or administer discipline. If we examine these tropes more closely we can see that this fantasy is pushed to breaking point and beyond into ironic representation. Her dialogue is hyperconscious of her own image, anticipating and second guessing the framing of her actions with increasingly absurd sexuality reminiscent of Barbarella. Her hair, which transforms into monstrous forms to defeat enemies, recalls two different mythic concepts. First, the Yūrei — the female ghost of Japanese folklore whose long black hair becomes the instrument of revenge and terror. Second the concept of the monstrous feminine, a nightmarish concept of womanhood epitomised by the concept of the vagina dentata — the toothed vagina which castrates and destroys men. Bayonetta’s design evokes these two images in a deliberate projection of a vengeful anti-heroine. Much like the Bride of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (and the films its references starring Meiko Kaji — Lady Snowblood and Female Prisoner Scorpion.)
Kamiya’s Bayonetta is a woman whose fashion is a lethal extension of her agency. Like the Bride, who seemingly knows she is located in a film and a genre and performs according to its conventions, Bayonetta knowingly acknowledges both her image and her function within the game, complicating any notion of sexualisation with a deliberate irony that comments on the absurdity of male desire. Her humiliation of her enemies and knowing acknowledgement of the realm of the player build on the work of Kojima in the Metal Gear series; her fashion is like that of the image of Snake — asking, what are we really looking at, and what are we looking for?
I would like to read a lot more about this. Disclaimer: I have no idea how fashion works.
I recently received an email from an anonymous fan sharing how she pulled a Hawkeye Initiative themed prank on her CEO to illustrate a problem with some artwork.
My personal compliments to her and her accomplice on a mission well done; they perfectly took the concept of The Hawkeye Initiative one step farther, and effected actual change. I hope this gives you as much of a laugh as it did me (the artwork is currently my desktop), and inspires you to be unafraid to stand up and take action in your own awesome way.
Now, excuse me while I go play my new favorite mech game. :)
I work with an all-female team of data scientists, in the gaming industry. This makes me the professional equivalent of Amelia Earhart riding the Loch Ness Monster.
I love my job. Our company in particular is great. Firstly, our game (HAWKEN) is beautiful and people love it. Secondly, half of our executive branch is female. Half of them are punk rock, and all of them are badassed. Our gender awareness standards, compared to the industry at large, are top shelf. We are talking Amelia Earhart in Atlantis, at a five star resort, getting a mani-pedi from Jensen Ackles. I have it good.
For the last six months of my tenure at Meteor Entertainment, there has been only one thing I did not love about my job. This
Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.
I loathe this picture.
Why do I loathe it? How, you ask, can I stay mad at a sweet young belle who has so obviously taken a break from her important welding to offer me a piping hot cup of coffee and/or a vigorous hand job? (And probably, given her apparent safety consciousness, simultaneously?) If you don’t already know the answer, you might want to check out things like #1ReasonWhy, and the Bechdel Test, and also this, and this, and this and this, and all these other things. (And while we’re talking you should check out this other bullshit right here.)
So at our office holiday party, while our CEO was having everyone in the company sign it, I stand there grinding my teeth into tiny shards. Until, suddenly, it came to me: a vision.
And so it came to be that I approached Sam Kirk, a wickedly funny co-worker who shared my sentiment. Sam, turns out, is a very talented artist who can be bribed-slash-inspired using a medley of feminist indignation, hysterical giggling, and two $90 bottles of añejo tequila.
A month-and-a-half later, our vision was a reality. I give you:
Bro-sie The Riveter.
I want to make it completely clear that everything in this prank that required actual talent was done by Sam. Find this, and more of Sam’s art, at TheRealSamKirk.com.
We blew (ahem) Brosie up poster sized. We framed him. And then, at 7:30 on Monday, April 1st, we snuck into our CEO’s office and switched them.
I stood in the entryway, dizzy with joy. It was glorious. There Brosie stood, proud, nipples testing the air like young gophers in springtime, the post-apocalyptic breeze gently swaying his banana hammock. Brosie said, loud and proud: “Get ready, world! I am here to lubricate your joints and tighten your socket.”
I basically spend the next few hours having a joy-induced neurological episode.
As the morning progressed, Brosie (ahem) revealed himself to our co-workers. The air resounded with startled, suppressed gargles of mingled joy and horror. Some take pictures. Some instantly turn and flee. Several men blush and grin in vindicated solidarity. Several women ask us for prints. At this point I am in total rapture. This is the moment I have been dreaming about for six months.
Yet somehow everyone in the office manages to keep quiet about it. Until, finally, our CEO arrives.
We hear a loud: “What the hell is this?!” And then all goes quiet. Ten minutes pass. We panic.
We are both suddenly and painfully aware that we have, in fact, just punked the CEO of our company. He is by all accounts an awesome dude. He is also a late-50s ex-army guy who happens to determine our employment futures in an at-will state. Meep.
Twenty more minutes pass. And then our CEO comes up to my desk, taps me on the shoulder, and says this:
“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”
Ruby Underboob and Brosie the Riveter, together at last
Yeah. That happened.
This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:
Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.
We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.
There is only one solution to that, ladies. Bust out your baby-Gap tee and your protective welding goggles, and let’s turn this damn industry into the environment we want it to be. It’s hard work, and yes, there are a couple genuine assholes along the way. But if Ruby Underboob can brave the occasional droplet of molten metal, so can we.
Speaking from experience, it’s worth it.
About our CEO, Mark Long:
Mark has a long and storied history with, among other things, research, games and comic art. He’s a partner in the RoqlaRue gallery in Seattle, representing “chick art.” Mark considers himself a feminist activist. He is proud to have created a graphic novel trilogy with Nick Sagan (Carl’s son) that features a female hero so strong, Hillary Swank is attached to star as her.
Mark and I are now in an open dialogue about gender in comics and gaming.
THIS IS SUPERB.
Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy, in case you hadn’t heard. How dare she remove those ticking time bombs from her chest, amiright? Like, hasn’t she learned by now that her body is public domain and we all get to vote on what she does with it? Sheesh, how selfish can ya get.
Two weeks ago, we sent out a second survey to the over 18,000 people who signed up to help us work on our reader. In our first survey, we focused on core discovery and reading features. This time around we wanted to learn about the more ancillary features like read later and sharing….
The email stats are interesting.