SIDS: Phil Holt of EA Tiburon

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Holt discussed some principles of his company’s success, including tracking and adopting user feedback when feasible; reducing barriers to entry for new users while maintaining the complexity valued by experienced users (e.g., Madden players can take an assessment test at the beginning of the game, which will then adapt to their skill level); and innovate ways for users to customize their experience (like an photo upload feature that allows players to graft their own faces onto in-game players).

One of the big ah-ha moments came when Holt showed a video of an ESPN sportscaster interacting with EA’s virtual football players during a broadcast. (I imagine this works a bit like the weatherman who interacts with the green-screen map.) Outside the game world—and seemingly inside the TV studio—the animated players were being used to model real life game variables like a particular player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Personally, a real world application of this idea I would love to see is soldier experience being modeled on the evening news.

Megan Voeller is Creative Loafing’s visual art critic. She teaches at the University of Tampa and The Art Institute of Tampa, edits the weekly online newsletter of CreativeTampaBay and blogs at

Shown: Madden 09 screenshot

It’s lunchtime on the third and last day of the Sarasota International Design Summit, and some conferees are playing video games (literally). We’ve just listened to Phil Holt, general manager of EA Tiburon, offer insights into some of his company’s recent successes and where gaming as an industry is headed in the future.

A few things seem certain: gaming is headed toward being an increasingly important global industry (already at $37.5 billion worldwide per year), even with the economic challenges ahead; gaming is increasingly taking place on a variety of platforms including online, on gaming systems like Wii, on iPhones, on cell phones, within social networking sites, etc.; the audience for gaming is growing beyond hardcore fans to include demographics like children, seniors and women of all ages.

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