Written by Director of Emerging Technology Dan Phillips
Reality is subjective. Not everyone or everything experiences the world in the same way. Sometimes differences are subtle, sometimes markedly extreme. Whether it’s how you react to an election result, hear a tone in a song, or taste a delicious dish, see a rainbow, observable reality and consistency of perception is often not as objective as we think it is.
Emerging technologies such as augmented and mixed reality will over time further expand and blur this line of perception. With AR on mobile devices and head-mounted displays, we’re well within the beginnings of what it means to live an augmented life. Humans are doing a lot of fun things right now, like bringing gaming into our physical world and making our faces into playthings of fun with endless filters and enhancements and props. We’re also starting to find utility for AR in enterprise and education and in customer experience, and with the emergence of hardware designed for specific applications in business.
But AR is not just about the future of vision changing. AR can be the technological prism through which we see the world, but for humans it will also become the common device for the combined knowledge of the species. We will expand our tech parameters beyond display technology to deeper integration with machine learning and artificial intelligences and instantly searchable databases. We will tap into the power of 5G connectivity and beyond to create new merged physical environments. We will be able to intuitively read the reactions of people we encounter based on the dilation of each other’s pupils and the pulses under our skin. Opinions and choices will be made through instantly accessible shared data. Want to make a key purchase, for example? Analyze the salesperson’s biometric response to your questions, and scan satellite imagery to see how much bargaining power you have based on how long the product has remained on the shelf.
Magic Leap, Microsoft’s Hololens and much anticipated but never confirmed moves into the wearable space by Apple give us mainstream hardware for AR. We also have next generation AR-enabled spectacles and contact lenses on the near horizon, or perhaps we will just jump straight to implants and nerve-driven control systems. If that sounds ridiculous and farfetched to you consider how the inventors of past innovations in spectacles could not have anticipated our use of laser corrected vision or human-computer interfaces used in experimental therapy today. If we think the oblong devices we carry in our pockets are the end of screen interface technology then we have learned nothing about the power and pace of technology to change and be adopted. Technologists have the free reign to debate the ethics of data driven modification where politicians and bioethicists do not. The question is not if these technologies will change our experience of reality, but how quickly.
Many animals already sense things we can’t and on spectrums not available to humans. Think of that when you put on an AR headset and find yourself motioning to the invisible. Your own visual experience can be completely unseen by the people around you, whilst remaining entirely real to you. What you see and your understanding of it will soon be different from the person next to you, and we will no longer have a common experience of our shared environment. When AR arrives in its fuller and more integrated state, the challenge for our technologically tiered society will be how we stay in sync with one another.
The innovative game designer and game producer Zi Li has spent years studying various forms of media and entertainment. Originally from Guangdong, China, the experienced creator has demonstrated a proficiency of filmmaking and animation in addition to her expertise in the world of gaming.
With four years of game designing under her belt and two years of game producing, Li is known for her work with companies such as Firefly Games Inc., Floor 84 Game Studio, and Ericsson Communications Company. As a designer, producer and artist, Li has contributed to top, award winning games of various genres, including “Dissonance,” “Leviathan,” “Dungeon Crash,” “Epic Knights,” “Paralect,” and “MiraLab.”
As a game designer, Li’s role is similar to that of a film director’s, where as a game producer is in charge of overseeing the development of a video game, acting as a liaison between everyone involved with the project.
At an early age, Li developed a passion for science and art. “Unlike a lot of game developers, I didn’t fall in love with games first,” Li stated. “I spent more than six years studying paintings. I always thought I could become a part-time artist. Later, I dabbled in animation, however, neither satisfied my needs of expressing my engineering mindset. Eventually, I understood that in the gaming industry, science intersects art. For me, games are a media that allow both areas to collapse together.”
Li first got her start in the industry as a graduate game design student at the University of Southern California (USC). Through her extensive work on various independent projects, Li was able to gradually figure out her strengths, ultimately learning what it takes to become an effective inventor aside from the expected creative and technical aspects. “One of my main strengths is execution,” said Li. “As a game designer and programmer, I can execute myself very well. As a game producer, I can push other people to execute ideas well and understand every aspect of the game.”
Steve Cha, producer and fellow Collaborator on “Dissonance,” raved about Li’s talents. “Zi is not only about coming up with ideas, but also completing them with efficient ways. Dissonance is a game with relatively new gameplay and needed time to implement. Since everything in the game has two shadows, the team needed to make a system that casted two shadows for one object. Some talked about recalculating the vertices and some suggested using black 3D objects to make the shadows. Zi came up with the idea of using two cameras and casting images from these cameras to the walls. Her ideas efficiently solved the issue without slowing down the computing process. Zi can always find efficient ways to solve problems and keep everything running forward simultaneously.”
There are several required characteristics a game designer must have in order to be successful in their career. Every game has a target audience, and as a designer, it is his or her job to be aware of said audience. “Game designers communicate with the players through their games. A game designer should love his or her players and aim to work their design around their audience in order to provide a complete gaming experience,” said Li.
When it comes to her games in particular, Li works hard to engage these qualities that will ensure audience fulfillment as well as personal success in her own designing approach. Commenting on the matter, Li said, “I love being able to see into other people’s minds through their work, and I try to provide my players with a glimpse into my own through mine. My passion is communicating with people through the game as a form of art rather than just being passionate about making a game with no meanings.”
As a designer, it is Li’s responsibility to apply design and aesthetics to a game for its players to enjoy. More often than not, this type of work expresses the theme of the game. “For example,” Li explained, “I came up with the mechanics that translate the idea of psychological concept related to dualism in “Dissonance.” The two shadows involved in the came are casted from different lighting and visualize the abstract concept of dualism. One shadow represents logic and actions, while the other represents intuition and feelings. This approach I’ve created is unique and has never been done before. The game communicates the psychological concept through gameplay and people can see the idea even if they don’t speak the language – one of the main reasons why I believe “Dissonance” gets recognition from so many countries.”
“Dissonance,” an award winning, video game developed by Team Dissonance, is a puzzle-adventure game. After six months of development, what started out as Li’s personal thesis project, expanded to a team of over ten people. The developers transmitted the psychological concept about dualism into the core mechanics of the game to make it more than just a puzzle.
Since it’s initiation, “Dissonance” has received awards such as Most Innovative Game in Indie Prize and Experimental Game Finalist in Out of Index Festival, as well as appreciation from several different countries and organizations.
“I draw inspiration from all sorts of things,” Li answered, when asked from where she draws her ideas. “I often find myself motivated by other media, biology, psychology, and life experiences.” “Orbanism,” a game Li created with her friend Anisha, is inspired by the biology concept of mutualism and interspecific competition. Regarding how the game works, Li said, “It’s a two player game in which players are competing against one another and working as a team to overcome obstacles.”
Similarly, Li’s game called “Greek to Me,” is a game in which each player hears multiple different languages and has to distinguish which is English in order to reach their goal. “The game shows how hard it is for a foreigner to achieve things in a strange country,” said Li, detailing its purpose.
Li’s years of experience in designing and producing video games have allowed her to explore various diverse genres, ultimately rounding out her impressive framework of success. Her projects range from the puzzle genre to games that fall into the category of RPGs, ultimately proving a type of versatility that not every game designer carries.
“Through working on various projects, I can easily understand different aspects of a game and, overall, the image of each project. Though they all vary from one another, every step of the process teaches me new skills and perspectives of game development. These experiences contribute to me becoming a better designer who can be creative and resourceful. Thanks to my past experiences, I have learned how to be a better leader and am very confident approach to game designing and producing,” said Li.
“Dungeon Crash” and “Epic Knights” are two of Li’s mainstream mobile RPG games. With over 1 million download, “Dungeon Crash” was featured at both Android and Apple Stores, and was rated as a top-grossing Android game. With 50,000 downloads from over 100 countries, Li’s “Epic Knights” was rated the same.
Observing Li’s leadership abilities, Annie Chan, associate producer of “Dungeon Crash,” affirmed, “The developers of all games always want to put every fun element into their game, which not only slows down the development, but often creates a lot of bugs. Zi quickly spots this tendency and puts a stop to it. She directs the team to focus on improving the current version of the game and providing users with a user-friendly experience. Since Zi has stepped in and corrected the direction of “Dungeon Crash,” the overall performance of the game as well as its player reviews has gone up.”
Aside from Li’s sought after designing and producing abilities, her work as an art director has also reached a massive number of audience members. As the art director of “Leviathan,” Li is accountable for the overall look and feel of the Leviathan-world, as ensures the quality and style of the world as it is built.
The game itself is a bold and daring mix of virtual reality, augmented reality, cinema, and the novel based on the celebrated steampunk series by Scott Westerfield.
For her role, Li was required to conduct research in order to offer various ideas for the creation of an assortment of creatures for the game. “Zi came up with creatures that carried the story plot and were consistent with the rest of the world,” explained the creative director of “Leviathan,” Sunil Kalwani. “In the ship of “Leviathan,” the main characters need a communication tool. Zi designed Messenger Lizard, which is similar to a mobile phone, which offers an incredible user experience. Messenger Lizard’s skin color can change based on the emotion of the person on the other side. In this way, users can see the visualized emotion of the messages and choose if they would like access to whatever type of emotion or person. Zi’s creativity brings vivid life and a friendly, visualized experience to the Leviathan-world.”
“Leviathan” won the award for New Frontier Project at the Sundance Film Festival and has been featured on The Creators Project, a joint celebrity blog of art and technology by VICE, as well as at the internationally renowned Consumer Electronics Show.
In an industry that is still dominated by males, Li takes pride in being a successful, Asian female game designer. “Every time I’ve attended a game festival, I’ve noticed that the majority of the developers are male,” Li recalled. “As an Asian, female game designer and producer, I realize that my background is definitely different from most of the game developers I know.”
As a child, Li was fascinated with the Asian culture, art pieces that speak universal languages, and struggled with being both logical and sentimental. Now, she’s discovered her voice in the industry, and doesn’t hesitate to own her perspectives, thoughts or feelings. “I like to express my progressive, Feminist views through my work. I am proud to be a woman working in a field that used to be entirely dominated by men. I hope I can bring more of my unique viewpoints to the table and push the game industry to be more progressive with my knowledge and skills,” said Li.
Continuing that thought, Li added, “Contrary to popular belief and stigmatism, games aren’t always products used to simulate violent actions in the virtual world. Games can be used for educational, medical or experimental purposes. For me, I would like people to have fun and also find satisfaction within the spiritual communication through the gameplay when they play my games. That is what I aim to achieve.”
Despite her flawless beauty, Gisele Góes is actually the one behind the scenes, or rather screens, computer screens that is. Gisele is an incredibly motivated tech writer and content producer. As one of the lead producers and managers of content for the successful websites TechTudo.com, Globo.com and Socialbakers.com Gisele works tirelessly to bring the online community the most relevant and up-to-date news in the tech industry. She is also one of the creative individuals behind Blogo, an award-winning blogging app for Mac OSX.
Not only is she a talented tech-savvy writer, but Gisele has also begun extending her work as a tech producer into the world of film. To find out more about Gisele’s work in the tech industry, and how she managed to take her skills as a producer from one industry to another, read our interview below!
TTNN: What did you go to school for?
GG: Bachelors in Social Communication, Emphasis in Advertising & Marketing
TTNN: What do you do for TechTudo?
GG: Write articles covering real-time industry news, digital culture, social media, product reviews, ratings (software, hardware), how-to’s, tutorials, featured downloads. Also monitor new sources for topic proposals and make sure to follow the tight deadlines (timing is everything). Without competent and good qualified writers, TechTudo wouldn’t have good and updated content.
TTNN: Why do people use TechTudo/What is the website all about?
GG: TechTudo is the biggest tech website in Brazil and it’s part of Globo (largest media group in Latin America). TechTudo is separated by sessions: News, Articles, Special Articles (interviews, etc), Tutorials & Downloads.
The website covers all news about technology and digital culture making this kind of content accessible to general audience (more than 10 million unique visitors).
TTNN: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
GG: Actually I’ve wanted to be a photographer but writing started to become a good hobby when I created my first blog (Keep Calm and Blog On). After following my work with my blog the staff from TechTudo invited me to write for them and then everything made sense. I found out I could use my passion about photography to pick up cool images or even write about the subject and have fun writing at the same time!
TTNN: What genre or category does your writing fall into?
GG: I love writing about everything but I like online focused content and approaching subjects like new products/services, games, tech culture, pop culture and entertainment. Even though I enjoy long articles I really love the challenge of trying to be straight but giving the right details to touch the audience. This is actually what prompted me to start working on an ebook about how technology is changing our writing habits.
TTNN: Why have you chosen to work and write in this field specifically?
GG: I’ve always been into tech. When I was little I used to spend a lot of time in the computer, my grandparents would call me out for that and tell my parents “this girl spends too much time on the computer”. I love having access to new information but more than that, I love sharing it with people from all over the world. And that wouldn’t be possible without technology. I’ve lived in 10 different cities in 2 different countries, so I’m fascinated about communication and how it changes from culture to culture. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love talking to all kinds of people from different places about something that I love and exploring good content everyday that deserves to be shared with the world.
TTNN: How did you begin working in app development?
GG: I worked in a Globo.com’s affiliate company that developed apps and tech products. After getting expertise in the process behind the development I started writing for TechTudo about tech related news and studying more about startups and getting more into the field.
I was one of the 18 young talents selected for a summer program in Silicon Valley in 2013 called Startup Dream Team and had workshops about all the steps a startup or entrepreneur needs to follow to start a new business / app / service / product.
TTNN: What is your area of expertise in app development?
GG: Communication, Written production (UX interface), Copyhacking and growth. Everything that involves promoting, increasing the online performance and connecting with an audience and press.
TTNN: What is the Blogo App all about?
GG: Blogo is a desktop blogging app for Macs. It simplifies the blogging workflow by getting rid of everything that is not necessary. All the features were carefully thought, selected and designed to make blogging easier and faster. It’s the easiest way to manage multiple blogs and publish content.
TTNN: How did you come up with the idea for Blogo?
GG: Blogo was not my idea. In fact, Blogo was created in 2008 and gained a lot of attention, described by Mashable as a “bad ass blog editor,” but its development halted after a Mac OS update. Five years later, the original creator (Ivan) gathered with two new partners and got the project back on track. Ivan and I were friends already and he knew I was coming back from Silicon Valley and thought I was the perfect fit to give Blogo a “human touch” and take charge of their communication.
TTNN: As a producer for Socialbakers, what specifically do you do?
GG: Produce and coordinate all the content distribution in Brazil. Pitch Socialbakers to Brazilian media, look for media opportunities and come up with ideas for country specific content, arrange special articles and interviews that increases Socialbakers’ brand performance in Brazilian territory in order to attract more attention from possible clients and public in general.
After reaching an incredible level of success as a writer and producer in the tech industry, Gisele Góes began extending her skills beyond the tech world. Drawing on her unparalleled ability to raise funds and publicity for projects she believes in, Gisele began applying her talents to the film industry. In addition to being an irreplaceable force in the creation of content and the overall management of TechTudo.com, Globo.com, and Socialbakers.com, she is also currently working as a producer for the films “The Umbrella”, “Crystal Crypt” and “Susannah’s Lesson.”
TTNN: How did you transition from working as a producer in the tech world to producing films?
GG: I’ve always wanted to work with film– that was one of my options while I was in college but I ended up focusing on technology. Today I believe that is possible to work with both. Technology is completely changing the film industry because it empowers the community and independent moviemakers to easily spread the word, and get the support and funding needed to make a project happen.
TTNN: What skills from your background as a tech producer do you use as a producer of films? What are the similarities?
GG: Writing and content distribution mainly; but also my expertise interacting and approaching the community and that’s because independent movies use a lot of crowdfunding to help raise enough money to produce their films.
For a crowdfunding campaign to succeed, it is crucial to understand how to promote the right content to a community in order to generate spontaneous communication, etc. Just like in technology, you have to understand your target and make sure you’re delivering the right content, on the right channel with the perfect approach.
TTNN: What are your strengths as a film producer?
GG: As I said before, technology is changing the film industry completely. Movies like Crystal Crypt had so much support from the community and that has everything to do with their success. I believe that my knowledge with online tools to promote content and experience with content distribution, writing and PR is really useful to help in the movie’s production, as well as when it comes time to pitch them to the media in the best way.
TTNN: What do you like about producing films?
GG: I’ve always loved movies. I can’t spend a week without watching at least one movie, and it’s amazing being able to be a part of something like that. There’s a lot behind a movie and it combines everything I love– photography, music, writing. It’s fascinating to see all these amazing factors being worked out together and turned into a “piece of art”.
TTNN: What are your favorite kinds of films to produce?
GG: Independent ones. Mostly because they have a big influence from the online community and they’re directly related with technology. As far as genres go, I like Sci-fi (which is the case of Crystal Crypt) but I don’t have a specific genre that I prefer. I think it’s all about quality.
TTNN: How did you get involved with the upcoming films The Umbrella, Crystal Crypt and Susannah’s Lesson?
GG: Shahab Zargari, the director of the film Crystal Crypt, knew me from my work here in Brazil as a writer and he thought I could add a different approach to these projects, that is how it began. He wanted someone with a different perspective that could add a lot and seek different approaches to promote and produce something unique.
TTNN: What do you hope to achieve over the course of your career as a writer and producer?
GG: Of course I want to get involved with awesome projects, but I also want to be able to promote and create great communities around these projects to guarantee their success. Technology keeps empowering us and today funding or raising money is just a matter of getting the right people involved and working together to make great ideas happen.
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