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Gamemaker takes CES journey

thatgamecompany sees opportunity to capitalize on confab

For a trade show known for devices dependent on entertainment, the Consumer Electronics Show isn’t known for being content-focused — especially for gamemakers, who typically turn to other shows like E3, Comic-Con or the Global Gaming Expo to show off their latest titles.

But Kellee Santiago, president of thatgamecompany, sees an opportunity for content creators to capitalize on CES.

“For me, I’m looking forward to just seeing what is coming up, what is going to be out there as far as new devices and new technology that we are going to want to incorporate into future experiences,” said Santiago.

Santiago co-founded thatgamecompany with creative director Jenova Chen in 2006 after the success of “Cloud,” a game they created while graduate students in the interactive media program at USC’s School for Cinematic Arts. That game generated 120,000 downloads and prompted the pair to create more titles that could provide engaging alternate experiences to the mainstream videogame market.

Titles such as “flOw” and “Flower” have since become downloadable hits for Sony’s PlayStation Network.

Santiago will demo “Journey” at CES, one of four games that will be featured in the Sony pavilion.

In “Journey,” players wake up in a virtual desert and must climb a mountain while uncovering the mysteries of the virtual world, an experience many at CES might identify with after four days of wandering the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It’s not just the content producers scouting innovative touchscreen displays and new audio systems that will benefit from the marketplace of ideas at CES.

The show is also an opportunity for those content creators to inspire the hardware and technology innovators who may not realize the nature and depth of interactivity some gaming companies are striving for.

“It’s not always clear to hardware manufactures or technology manufacturers of the breadth with which games can communicate with players and how unique the experience can be,” said Robin Hunicke, a producer at thatgamecompany. “A lot of people still think platform or possibly a racing game. It’s a really great opportunity for us to show them really artistic and unique content.”

Thatgamecompany’s titles, a blend of experimental gameplay, elegant graphics and a dash of high-minded philosophy, attract audiences from across the gaming spectrum.

At CES, Santiago hopes to reel in consumers that will be receptive to the distinct interactive game play her company offers.

“People have grown up now with interactive technologies that are maturing,” she said. “Our tastes are maturing but not a lot of mainstream videogames have really presented a wider variety of experiences for those maturing tastes.”

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