HouseMD Game
HouseMD Game

“What we’ve called a ‘game’ has radically changed,” expressed Ariella Lehrer, president and CEO of Legacy Interactive, at the breakfast keynote talk at the 2010 SSP IN meeting.

Lehrer, a 27-year veteran of the gaming industry, began her talk with many of the changes in her industry in the last ten years.

In 2006, her company moved from selling their products in physical stores to exclusive online downloads.  Part of their rationale was to attract a different demographic:

Most of our customers are 40-year-old women.  These are not people comfortable with walking into a game shop and purchasing a game off the shelf.  We try to make it comfortable for these people to try something new.

Legacy Interactive specializes in games based on popular TV shows, such as “House M.D.

Cutting out the distributor and vendor does not necessarily mean an easy sale, remarked Lehrer. “Our competition is not other $6.95 games.  It’s free games,” she said, reflecting trends in all areas of media sales.

Other games, such as Farmville, adopt a completely different business model, allowing users to play for free but requiring users to pay to purchase virtual products or reach higher game levels.

The purpose of gaming has also changed.  Traditional games have clear goals (beating an opponent, killing enemies, saving a princess).  We have new games where the goal is not entirely clear.  “Interaction and engagement can be a goal,” expressed Lehrer.

Spending much of her time on personal anecdotes (“this is not scientific, just n=1”), Lehrer described how her youngest son eschews long narrative books and how her 18-month old grandson has mastered the gestures required to use the iPhone and iPad. Ebullient about the future of e-books, she expressed, “The touch screen is the future!”

Pointing out the potential downside of tablet reading, Lehrer cites to studies suggesting that it takes longer to read from a screen.  Indeed, multi-purpose readers, such as the iPad, may distract from the attention to reading.  “Tablet distractions will make us all ADD!”  While some content may benefit from interactive media, it may harm others.  We need to think about the message and try to make an appropriate match to the medium.

“Context is really important,” she continued, and we lose context when we put text on a screen. Gone is the physical placement of text and page numbers and this may make it more difficult for future recall.  We need to find solutions to maintain the context of the book, or create new context for e-readers.

For Lehrer, the benefits of integrated digital content clearly outweigh the disadvantages. Providing a scenario where students annotate text in their class readings, share comments with peers, send real-time comments to the professor or chatting on the part you don’t understand, she views digital content as a way to benefit the learning experience.

Like the opening keynote talk by Kathy Hurley of Pearson, Lehrer concluded her talk with the frustration she has with the U. S. educational system:

Educational institutions are slow to change.  It was too frustrating for me.  We could do much more than what the schools were ready for.

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Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Phil Davis is a publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of citation, readership, publication and survey data. He has a Ph.D. in science communication from Cornell University (2010), extensive experience as a science librarian (1995-2006) and was trained as a life scientist.


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