Could Games Be The New Antidepressants?

PSFK picks the brain of Kill Screen magazine founder, Jamin Warren, about the exciting breadth of the current gaming community and why he thinks that games that affect our moods are the next frontier.


Leading up to the release of our Future Of Gaming report, the PSFK consulting team spoke with the founder of Kill Screen, Jamin Warren. Kill Screen a videogame arts and publishing company exploring the intersection of games, technology and culture. For its original commentary in this space, Kill Screen has been profiled by Wired, The New Yorker, and NPR. We recently caught up with Jamin to get his thoughts on the future of gaming:

Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and tell us what you do.

I used to work at the Wall Street Journal covering culture to run a videogame arts and culture company called Kill Screen. We publish a website, a magazine, and have produced events at MoMA and the New York Film Festival. We’ve teamed up with writers from GQ, Esquire, the New Yorker, Colbert Report and others to produce our editorial and the press has been great so far — Wired, NPR, New Yorker, New York Magazine and others. Our site was named as one of TIME’s best of the year; we curated a section of Billboard; and we launched an editorial partnership with Pitchfork as well. We were even cited in a Supreme Court decision!

We recently launched a production arm called Kill Screen MFG and have been building games (such as Incubattle for Sony Music) and working with brands and agencies to help them with their game projects and doing presentations on the power of games. My partner Tavit Geudelekian spent the last five years at Atari working on things like Ghostbusters: The Videogame and then started up the digital arm for music publisher Primary Wave.

What exciting about the gaming space right now?

The breadth! For years, game playing was essentially split into two categories: board games and videogames. The wide variety of game playing communities from Facebook to traditional consoles to digital distribution services like Steam speaks to ubiquity of play as an orienting piece of being a human.
One of the areas I’m interested is the physiological approaches to how we play. We wrote a story about Katherine Isbister, a professor at NYU-Poly, who’s been studying feeling as it relates to play. One of her interesting findings is that the types of games we play actually affect our disposition. So angry games actually make us angrier, raise our testosterone levels etc. I think there’s a whole space of research that looks at the emotions and bodily changes accompanied by playing games.

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What are the interesting ways that you’re seeing games being used? Education, problem solving, skill building, health etc.

I’m most excited by the future of the Kinect as a cross-over commercial device. Microsoft recently opened up their SDK for commercial applications and there a host of activities that the device could aid such as allowing surgeons to queue documents and files during surgery. The Wii-mote had lots of non-playing applications but those were limited to hacker and home-brew communities. For Microsoft to affirm the already percolating Kinect hacking community is really exciting.

What’s your feeling on the use of social, and the ability for collaboration?

This is actually an area of gaming that still feels very primitive. One of the best arenas for that has been Minecraft. The Lego-like atmosphere of that game allows for different types of playful expression. For those who build, it’s a sandbox for development, but for players like me who like to lurk, I can still participate simply by occupying spaces others have built. That type of collaboration is more oblique, but that wasn’t something I could do in games before.

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What are the compelling motivations for people to play/participate?

There are too many to list! I think one of the misnomers about games is that there are chiefly two types of game players — hardcore and casual. These are accompanied by two descriptive motivations — the former wants competition and the latter wants to waste time. While there are certainly many in both category that fit the stereotype, we’ve been more interested in the grey areas: hardcore players who play casually and casual players who play in a hardcore way. Breaking down those categories allows for a much wider understanding of what play means. We should be asking how people play games not what they play.

Thanks Jamin!
Kill Screen

To learn more about what’s going on in the gaming space today, order a copy of PSFK’s Future of Gaming report.

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