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Persuasive Games: Video Game Snapshots

September 11, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

In the late 19th century, photographs were primarily made on huge plate-film cameras with bellows and expensive hand-ground lenses. Their operation was nontrivial, and required professional expertise.

The relative youth of photography as a medium made that expertise much more scarce than it is today. All that changed when Kodak introduced the Brownie Camera in 1900.

The Brownie was different. It was about as simple as cameras get: a cardboard box with a fixed-focus lens and a film spool at the back. It took 2 1/4 inch square photos on 117 roll film, which George Eastman had first used a decade earlier.

Millions of Brownies were sold through the 1960s. The simplicity of the camera made it reliable, and its low cost (around $25 in today's dollars) made it a low-risk purchase for families or even children.

Both camera and film were cheap enough to make photography viable. Easy development without a darkroom made prints possible for everyone.

The Brownie, and later the 35mm camera that replaced it, didn't just simplify the process of making pictures; they also ushered in new a new kind of picture: the snapshot. Snapshots value ease of capture and personal value of photographs over artistic or social value.

The Brownie brought photography to the people, but not without some help. The snapshot concept was borrowed from a hunting term for shooting from the hip, but Eastman contextualized the act for the masses.

For its advertising, Kodak coined the "Kodak moment" and encouraged photographers to "celebrate the moments of your life," as they still do today. Eastman's promise was "You press the button and we do the rest."

What if something similar were possible for games, a sort of video game snapshot?

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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This is exactly the kind of critical discourse we need to see more of with regards to the games we make, the games we play, and the changes that happen as a medium matures and becomes widespread. The common idea that there are new 'untapped demographics' misses the point entirely. Technology and cultural acceptance drive changes in our industry. Just as painting and drawing changed with the advent of photography, so too will the nature of video game development change.

Well written, thank you.

Luke Rymarz
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It sounds like someone should put together a site that makes it easy to create micro-games like those in the WarioWare games. I imagine something a step up from ytmnd, but with an easier to use, flash-based toolset. The results could be interesting.

Emily Skopic
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A cool new technology just launched at DEMO and you should keep your eyes on is Wild Pockets! It is a free web-based 3D game engine that is easy to use. It just entered Beta, you can see a demonstration at

Noah Falstein
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Kodak's intrusion into pop culture went back farther than the Brownie. In Gilbert and Sullivan's "Utopia Limited" in 1893, Gilbert satirized the camera's ubiquity and the slogan you quoted:

Then all the crowd take down our looks

In pocket memorandum books.

To diagnose

Our modest pose

The Kodaks do their best:

If evidence you would possess

Of what is maiden bashfulness,

You only need a button press—

And we will do the rest.


All of which is kind of irrelevant to your main point, but I know you like obscure references. Gilbert also was one of the first to joke about the telephone, in H.M.S. Pinafore - and for years after making the game PHM Pegasus, people were still referring to it as HMS Pegasus. There, I brought it back to games!