An Open Letter From Gary Riccio, PhD
Authored by special guest and former SOF Studios Operating Partner, Dr. Gary Riccio
My use of “brothers” includes both men and women. I will let the audience interpret for themselves what the meaning of “arms” is.
SOF Studios and the Division IGR
What is the relationship between these two organizations, their respective brands, and their respective presence on social media? It seems that this is a question on the minds of many people not associated with SOF Studios or the Division IGR, whether fans or competitors. The simple answer is that Justin Bastian (AKA, Mr. Blue) is founder and co-owner of SOF Studios while he also is a long-time leader in the Division IGR. Formally, that is the essential association. Informally, the Division IGR is a major proponent of SOF Studios in its fan base.
Many members of the Division IGR have an emotional bond with the mission of SOF Studios to bring “a new level of expertise, authenticity, and realism to the video game industry… to showcase the benefits of merging real life combat experience with creative game development,” and “to re-establish the link between gaming companies and their communities by listening and hearing their concerns as we move through the development process” (see About Us at www.sofstudios.com). Many donated to the Kickstarter campaign for SOF Studios’ first game, H-Hour: World's Elite™, and some even donated significant amounts of time to developing the infrastructure of SOF Studios. The fact that the Division IGR is the only gamer community based on a Constitution and Bill of Rights leads to a natural affinity with any studio that seeks a deeper personal and community experience through “in extremis” game play.
As an independent organization, SOF Studios does not speak for the Division IGR nor does the Division IGR speak for SOF Studios. Justin can speak for both, and that can be a source of confusion. This can create further confusion when other members of the Division IGR legitimately express their interest and freedom to speak about SOF Studios or any other game studio. This has all the dangers of sibling relationships, dangers that nobody would want to avoid by keeping siblings from speaking about each, even when such a privileged position and the caring from which it derives reveals a lack of agreement. In my experience as a mediator and integrator (and person from a large family), this applies as much to sibling organizations as it does to a nuclear family unit.
Insofar as SOF Studios is about authenticity and realism with respect to the “Profession of Arms,” it is useful to draw from my experience with sibling support organizations in this profession. There are many support services in the military. I will focus on a central triad of organizations that respectively: (a) develop and acquire everything from food, clothing and shelter to vehicles, weapons and electronics; (b) develop and deliver training and education, identify needs and develop doctrine; and (c) provide scientific and technical expertise ranging from psychology and medicine to physics and engineering. These sibling organizations play important roles and often stray from each other because of the intensity of focus that is required to do their jobs.
To an outsider or a relatively unsophisticated insider, it may seem that these organizations are working at cross purposes and even that people from the different organizations don’t like or respect one another. To be sure, one can find evidence of that just as in the most unified organizations. There also can be opportunity costs from the lack of time and money to coordinate on key issues when urgency of solutions is at a premium. Yet these organizations are brothers in arms that, implicitly or explicitly, reflect and honor the incomparable camaraderie of those they support. This is what I see in the relationship between SOF Studios and the Division IGR, and I believe it is more than an analogy.
H-Hour and Prosocial Gameplay
“H-Hour: World's Elite™ is a tactical, team-based, military shooter… a core multiplayer experience… [with] comprehensive community-building/clan management tools… [because] only by cooperating with your team can you hope to achieve victory… [and] allow you to play with players at your skill level but teach and encourage you how to play tactically.” (see Game Overview at www.sofstudios.com)
H-Hour is being designed and developed by David Sears, a game designer whose work we respect and, in my opinion, a deep thinker among game designers, together with Tom, a co-founder and co-owner of SOF Studios, one of the most accomplished doers from the U.S. military and someone with whom I have had the privilege to work in support of Soldiers and the Global War on Terror. I am confident that the world of video games has not seen the like of what they will produce, and it is my hope that it will raise the level of expectations of all gamers.
H-Hour sets the table, so to speak, just as combat developers outfit and equip Soldiers for particular situations and as tacticians plan a mission that Soldiers can execute adaptively, preferably with confidence, initiative and accountability. For me, H-Hour corresponds to one element of the triad in support of the military, the acquisitions sector, the combat developers.
H-Hour doesn't require or expect prosocial gameplay any more than it requires or expects antisocial gameplay. It merely requires collective gameplay. I will leave it to the imagination and eventually the experience of the audience to assess whether prosocial or antisocial gameplay will lead to more success and a more enjoyable experience.
Prosocial gameplay is my personal interest. That means I am pursuing ways to define and measure what prosocial gameplay is and even to promote it through any game or studio that is up to the task. That is the bias I admit enthusiastically. I have reason to believe from my work and that of other scientists that prosocial gameplay can have some of the life changing positive psychological effects that prosocial interactions have in real life. The body of evidence about this is growing rapidly now that people are finally considering positive effects of games including first-person shooter games (see http://j.mp/1H2QAvt). This work corresponds to a second element of the triad, the S&T (science and technology) sector that supports capabilities development.
While I am promoting prosocial behavior and translating its intangible outcomes into something concrete and verifiable, I am not the one who creates prosocial behavior. I cannot take credit for that with gamers any more than I can take credit for that in the military. Enter my most valued colleagues who have an impact on the world I honor and support to whatever extent I can. These are trainers and instructors such as those in the military. And, for the gamer community, they are people like the leaders in the Division IGR. Most notably, they include my dear friend Justin Bastian from whom I have had the privilege to learn and the honor to support.
The Division IGR thus corresponds to a third element of the triad in support of the military, the training and doctrine sector. The rankings in the Division IGR reflect the acumen and accomplishments of people who observe, guide, model, and nurture gamers to engage in prosocial behavior and experience social media in a way that many people do not understand is possible. Just like Drill Sergeants in Basic Training, they engage with others during actions of tactical team-based military shooters (e.g., gameplay), they engage with them in preparation for action and in after-action reviews (e.g., in game rooms), and they engage them in social situations that have nothing to do with the team-based military actions.
My personal vision is for collaboration with leaders in the Division IGR to promote and develop community play (i.e., gamer community organization and engagement) that complements the gameplay of multiplayer games. My hope is that, together, we ultimately can reach a level of community virtuosity among gamers on par with the virtuosity in the transcendent games designed for “in extremis” fun and the servant leadership exemplified by my colleagues in the military.
How do all three elements of the triad come together in a gaming universe? It is simple really. The outcomes of social gameplay will be as significant and far-reaching as the richness of scenarios and settings in the game. While most video games don’t require prosocial gameplay, if designed for “in extremis” social experiences, they would have the potential to produce the most influential prosocial gameplay as well as the associated community play that can change lives. By implication, game design also can foster the most troubling antisocial gameplay. In essence, such transcendent games are a multiplier of meaning and, existentially, meaning is in the gameplay and community engagement. Thus, I believe the association between inspired game studios and communities like the Division IGR is a moral imperative. It isn't necessary for nominal or monetary success of each initiative separately but it is seductive to imagine…
Gary Riccio, Ph.D.
Senior NASA R&D Leader, Fortune 500 CEO peer coach
Co-Founder, Socent Studios
Gary Riccio, Ph.D. and our founder, Mr. Blue, first met in November 2011 during the early startup stages of SOF Studios. Over the next 18 months, Gary worked closely with Blue, pro bono, to help him accelerate SOF Studios.
We would like to take a moment to acknowledge those in The Division IGR and our Brothers in Arms who have and continue to support the SOCOM gaming community wherever and whenever possible.
THE DIVISION IGR
Justin Bastian (AKA, Mr. Blue), is co-founder of both The Division IGR and SOF Studios. In 2011 and after playing the SOCOM 4 private beta (writing on the wall), Mr. Blue dedicated himself to his vision of creating a game development studio to produce a SOCOM spiritual successor to save the SOCOM gaming community. Raising venture capital, producing both a record setting Kickstarter campaign and the fastest voted-up STEAM Greenlight campaign at the time, Mr. Blue lead daily startup production, recruited organized gaming communities (Brothers in Arms below), special operations veterans such as Tom, and the original Creative Director of the SOCOM games franchise David Sears to his mission at SOF Studios.
Dan Moenkhaus (AKA, Mr.Dande) was an original SOF Studios startup team member. Dan would invest hundreds of man-hours, pro bono, to develop SOF Studios website from concept, assist Mr. Blue in the development of venture due diligence, develop the H-Hour gaming community, directed a record setting 90-day Kickstarter campaign, and managed all campaign logistics.
Brady Rozens (AKA, Mr. Cobalt) was SOF Studios IT Consultant and Systems Engineer. Mr. Cobalt would invest hundreds of man-hours, pro bono, creating SOF Studios Perforce game development server, managing all SOF Studios front-end and back-end servers, facilitating critical troubleshooting support, and spearheading the SOF Studios international marketing initiative noted below. Saving H-Hour from total oblivion, Brady also once recovered the game prototype from accidental Dev. deletion.
Matthew Mondero (AKA, Mr. Silver) is a "Sergeant Major" Kickstarter backer and life-long SOCOM community member. Mr. Silver would invest hundreds of man-hours, pro bono, into H-Hour community support, developing H-Hour-based relations with other gaming communities, and marketing H-Hour.
Troy Mills (AKA, Mr. Mystic) is a Kickstarter backer and life-long SOCOM community member. Mr. Mystic's submission to SOF Studios map naming contest was selected by David Sears and "SISMIS" became the title of H-Hour's first map. Mr. Mystic is also an "H-Hour Alpha Team" playtester and would invest hundred of hours, pro bono, into H-Hour community support.
Daniel Christensen (AKA, Mr. Grey) is an "H-Hour Alpha Team" playtester and life-long SOCOM community member. Mr. Grey would invest hundreds of man-hours, pro bono, into H-Hour community support and forum moderation.
OUR BROTHERS IN ARMS
TheRealSOCOM.com: Founded in 2008, TheRealSOCOM.com was created by a passionate SOCOMer committed to keeping the community connected and communicating. Five years forward and our friends at TRS have developed their .com into the world's largest SOCOM fansite. From epic articles, to decade-old forum personalities, to "Friday Night Fights," to leading a SOCOM 2 remake initiative straight to the top of the Playstation community polls, TRS is a pioneer from the SOCOM community.
SUKMYTURBAN: Publishing his first video in 2009, SUKMYTURBAN quickly emerged as the SOCOM community's go-to YouTube personality. With a fist full of passion, SUKMYTURBAN set out to confront the slow demise of the SOCOM series, to challenge publishers and developers, and to echo the plight of the SOCOM community. SUKMYTURBAN would go on to generate over 3.2 million views and counting, more than thirteen thousand subscribers, and countless debates throughout the community. SUKMYTURBAN is a pioneer from the SOCOM community.
Urgent Fury: Founded in 2003, Urgent Fury was created by two SOCOMers and 10 clans to honor the competitive credo, "Win with Honor, Lose with Dignity." Over a decade later, our friends at UrgentFury have developed a long-standing, scenario based tournament community responsible for producing "Commander Claymore Fury" and years of battle memories. UrgentFury is a pioneer from the SOCOM community.
Sea Snipers: Established in October 2002, Sea Snipers was originally founded as a SOCOM clan. Shortly thereafter, the Sea Snipers seized an opportunity to create tactical tools for SOCOMers. There wasn't a competitive SOCOM clan alive who had not seen a SeaSnipers generated map. Today, our friends at Sea Snipers are one of the games industry's most professional clans. Having authored and illustrated 9 official strategy guides with Brady Games and Piggyback Interactive, the Sea Snipers are a pioneer from the SOCOM community.
HappyThumbsGaming: Founded in 2011, HTG was created by two SOCOMers who joined forces to make error free, HD walk through videos that would help other players unlock the full experience of their games. Over one thousand videos later and the HTG community is booming. Our friends at HappyThumbsGaming are pioneers from the SOCOM community.
FraggedNation: Founded in 2002, FraggedNation was created by a SOCOMer looking to socialize and compete with like-minded players. Twelve years forward and our friends at FraggedNation are industry leaders who facilitate a community where the gamers voice is heard. No matter who they are, where the play, or what they want to accomplish. Today, FraggedNation is one of the largest tournament communities in gaming and a pioneer from the SOCOM community.
A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
Supported by Mr. Blue and led by Division IGR members, Mr. Cobalt and Mr. Emerald, the below links reflect the Division IGR's international marketing outcomes for SOF Studios Kickstarter campaign, "H-Hour: World's Elite."
POST KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN COVERAGE PRODUCED
30-DAY KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN COVERAGE PRODUCED