Moscow Airport Attack like Call of Duty?

Last week a suicide bomber slipped into a crowd waiting for international passengers arriving at Moscow’s newest and busiest airport, setting off a huge blast that killed 35 people and highlighted another weak spot in security for global air travelers.  This attack was one of the most tragic events to happen to Russia in recent history and their president, Putin has vowed revenge when they find out who was behind the attack.  The blast also wounded 180 other people and was aimed at killing foreigners.

The scary part about all of this is that video games put us in these types of situations every day.  Every time we play a first person shooter we are entering into a reality where things like this are normal.  Most gamers know that reality and a video game are completely different but there are surfacing reports that are aimed at blaming video games for this attack.  I find this pretty outrageous, clearly this was a terrorist attack and I highly doubt they were inspired by the likes of Call of Duty.  However, the claims do offer a bit of a debate.  In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players are put into a mission that includes the killing of civilians as an objective.  In the mission “No Russian” the player goes on a terrorist rampage, helping to massacre civilians in a fictitious Moscow airport.

While I don’t personally believe that this is enough to connect the attack that happened at the airport to the game scene that is depicted in Call of Duty it is interesting point out the differences.  Obviously in the game play you are using a gun and not a suicide bomber which I believe is a clear difference.  If the terrorist had planned on emulating the game he would have attacked in ways reminiscent of those used in the game.  The game scene has long been controversial as such a popular game has included an act of terrorism as part of the plot.  However, people should realize that video games are not to blame here.  This was a planned terrorist attack by a terrorist group and the hunt should be on to find the group and bring them to justice.

Video Games can make you smarter

While browsing CNN today at work I came across an article that talked about how video games can make you smarter.  It puts the theory that video games are a lazy, anti-social form of entertainment to the test.  Coincidentally it employs Gee’s book at one point.

The article branches off into 4 categories that try to show that video games can develop skills and make people smarter in the process.  The first category was hands-on experience.  It asserts that video games are actually much more engaging than simply watching tv or a movie.  As we know about the flow now, we know that video games can be very engaging and draw all of our focus.  This is where they credit Gee for his work and tell us that this was Gee’s point exactly in his book.  That memorizing facts will not help you solve problems in life.  Children may be able to pass tests but they often cannot apply the knowledge in the real world.

The second part is job training which I found to be very interesting.  When I had my internship we used online training simulations which I found very helpful.  It never clicked with me that this was a manipulated way to get you more focused on learning information instead of just reading it in a manual.

Probably the most important part of the article for the future of the world is the contextual learning section.  It talks about bringing real life and dangerous situations into the virtual world.  They specifically mention medical training but in the coming years I expect this field to expand greatly.  We could soon see training for dangerous jobs becoming a virtual training.  This could be for jobs such as police, firefighters, etc.  The possibilities are limitless.

The final portion was about teamwork which I found pretty self explanatory.  It just mentions that video games can be social and often require high level skills to understand and high level management to be successful.  Video games like this could be used to test a persons management skills in the future.

Overall I found this article to be very interesting and informative.  It was nice to see an article from an accredited news source that helped validate a lot of the concepts we learned in class.


NASA’s MoonBase Alpha

In this week’s reading from Edge, it talks about a STEM-education-related game being developed for NASA. They also mention that part of the game, MoonBase, is available on Steam. I did a quick search and turns out it is!

I haven’t been able to download it yet (I rarely boot my MacBook Pro into Windows and the game isn’t available for Mac yet) but if you get a chance you should check it out and let us know how it is!

Serious Games-video clips

If any of you were curious about what these games might look like, as I was, I found some clips on youtube of serious games:

While I was looking through the clips I was surprised to see they have serious games for a variety of topics from medical training to marketing skills. I wonder how popular these games are as a form of training. Has anyone ever used a program like this for job training?

A striking metaphor in a book review in the N.Y. Times: Does it bode a mainstreaming of video-game culture?

A line in a book review published in this past Tuesday’s New York Times made me realize how mainstream video-games are gradually becoming, as the reviewer used a pretty arresting gaming metaphor to make a point. (The book in question was: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and it has nothing to do with video games.) Coining the phrase “first-person thinker” by way of analogy with “first-person shooter”, the reviewer wrote:

You climb inside her [the author’s] skull as if this book were a first-person thinker video game: Call of Duty: Memoir Academy. Ms. Rhodes-Pitts makes her meta-processes part of this story.

Ten years ago, such a line in a mainstream book review would have been quite unthinkable, I believe. Perhaps this mainstreaming of video games, as it penetrates even the higher reaches of literary culture (as shown in this line from a book review in such a venerable newspaper as the New York Times), bodes well for the eventual acceptance of the video-game metaphor in mainstream circles, including education policy?

The Takeover of the Online Game

As I sat in lecture today and we talked about motivation and what makes someone keep coming back to a game, I sat puzzled in my seat thinking about the online video game. What makes these so popular?

We all play Candystand, Addictinggames, and Sporcle multiple times a day. What keeps us coming back? why do we play the simple games day in and day out? What makes them addicting?

More Options for Curriculums

I read an article on called What Video Games can Teach Us. James Gee was interviewed and the artcile explained the many pros about children playing video games. One specific example was that video games help with keeping the attention of children who have ADHD at least 9 hours. I thought this was interesting because today we talked about motivation and this seems to have some connection. Children with ADHD have trouble focusing in school as well as certain activities that most people may think are entertaining.  Playing video games brings out a motivation to stay focused and play the game for a longer period of time instead of moving on to the next thing. It would be interesting if they would bring this idea into ways of training children with ADHD to focus on things through motivation. This should very well be experimented as a curriculum with the classroom. Children should play games in the classes room instead of sitting at the desk listening to the teacher’s lesson. Children would be motivated to learn more in school.

It was also interesting to read that playing video games can encourage kids to try new things. For example if a child loves playing a game that has science fiction, they may take more interest into the subject and will decide to read books and join activities involving science fiction. This in hand would help children practice and improve their reading skills.

I raise the issue that schools across the country should be trying new lesson plans that involves playing video games. As humans we are always doing research to find new ways to improve our way of lives through technology. Playing video games in the classroom may enhance the learning curve and increase motivation in children at a early age. We should NOT be content with the current basic curriculum. Experimenting and change is key to improving.

The Frustrations of Free Online Games

Well, I did it again.  I spent over an hour last night playing one game on  I couldn’t even tell you what the name of the game was, and yet I wasted the golden hours of my work-time window on this stupid game. The game involved shooting a squirrel/chipmunk/critter out of a rocket, and as you collected acorns, you gained points that you could put towards upgrades, which would help you launch the critter further, ultimately gaining you more points.

It is apropos that today’s lecture should be about motivation and engagement, because I believe that both aspects play a large part in our learning.  Last night, however, my time spent playing that frustrating online game led me to challenge the concepts that we have discussed in class.  I believe that motivation and engagements are only two tips of the triangle, and that reward, or compensation, must also be considered in order for the concepts we have discussed in class to fully be realized.  In sports, for example, a victory in a game accomplishes all three of the aforementioned concepts because it is a step towards the championship.  In video games, fully thought out and developed games for gaming systems, gamers are often rewarded or compensated for their success with bonus games or material, unlocking new content, or new gameplay options.  Hundreds of other real-world examples, including grades, competitions, and extracurriculars, exist to support this theory.

The point is that we engage in these activities because we know that when we finish them we will be better off than when we first began.  There is a distinct difference in these games than a game like Tetris or Solitaire, which one can play simply for the value of wasting a little time.  A distinct line is drawn between the simple time-wasters and the multi-dimensional games.  The problem that I have experienced is that these free online games fall directly in the middle.  The games are developed and lengthy enough to be motivating, but not engaging enough to produce any feelings of value, ultimately leading to the frustration of free online gaming, which leaves you with the feeling, “That’s it? I played that game for over an hour!  I don’t feel accomplished.  I just wasted a lot of time.”

The Story Behind Oregon Trail

In honor of the previous post about Oregon Trail & Carmen San Diego coming to Facebook, here’s a story about the origin of Oregon Trail.

Rawitsch, a lanky, bespectacled 21-year-old with hair well over his ears, was both a perfectionist and an idealist. He started dressing as historical figures in an attempt to win over his students, appearing in the classroom as explorer Meriwether Lewis.

By now he’d made it through to the western expansion unit, and he had in mind his boldest idea yet.

What he had so far was a board game tracing a path from Independence, Missouri, to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The students would pretend to be pioneer families. Each player would start with a certain amount of money and buy oxen, clothes, and food. Students would advance with the roll of a die, along the way encountering various misfortunes: broken limbs, thieves, disease. In roughly 12 turns, the kids would simulate the 2,000-mile journey that thousands of pioneers made to the West Coast in the 19th century.

He called it “Oregon Trail.”

Read the whole story here.

The “Educational” Games of my Youth Come to Facebook

As if I needed an excuse to be distracted at work, Carmen San Diego and Oregon Trail are coming to Facebook!

What’s interesting to me is that unlike, say, Farmville, Carmen San Diego and Oregon Trail are actually supposed to kind of teach you things. Like, for example, that even if you shoot an entire buffalo you can only carry fifty pounds back with you — even if you have, like ten kids traveling with you. (You know what I’m talking about, Oregon Trail players!)

So what do y’all think about this? Is it just a nostalgia fest for those of us who remember these games? Do these games teach anything? Are they ‘fun’? Anyone? Bueller?

Sure a gaming education sounds good, but where do we go from here?

In my recent trip to the Digital Ops, I was thoroughly intrigued with how certain types of games encouraged different types of behaviors in its players. The Ship was certainly a game that was solely played for individual gain. I found myself fumbling about trying to figure out the keys while being pummeled to death by another player with a mannequin arm. Though it seemed frustrating, I felt a certain determination to continue in the game, attempt to master the controls and most importantly – not give up. Left 4 Dead had interesting team components and was certainly a good model for team-work and leadership. All these characteristics combined made for a seemingly great educational experience in the classroom, that is, until I got overwhelmingly nauseated by the first person shooter perspective.

So far I have agreed with Gee’s principles, the learning theories and that video games possess various characteristics that make them an excellent tool for educating. I think video games allow for a sense of achievement, motivation, exploration and identity. But how can we revamp our education system to include games that every student will feel motivated to play? What games will feel fun for everyone and not just an extra chore? What is THE best game that will provide the best learning environment?

This argument feels as though we are back to square one. In my opinion there are various problems with our school system now such as lack of desire and motivation to learn by some students. How can we be sure video games would fix this problem? Additionally, our educational system is a rigid path of studying the facts and spending great lengths of time listening to lectures in the classroom. Obviously, our system now is not the best way to encourage learning for all students, but what is to say that gaming will? What about those (insane) students that may not enjoy video games? Or in terms of my experience, what if a student is nauseated by the perspective or set up of a game?

As with any problem, there is always a working solution. Video games may not be the one final solution for our educational needs, but it can certainly be of help to supplement what is already in place. We can only work with what we have so far but I think the idea of a correct game “fit” for students is an interesting concept for the future.

As a final point, I believe supplementing education with video games may have greater benefits than previously realized. A gaming education may provide a means for students with learning disabilities to better advance in their schooling. Gaming could have a great future for students with conditions such as blindness or deafness and even those with disabilities. Games may help in advancing critical learning for students of all backgrounds in the near future, we just have to figure out which games best fit the perfect learning picture.

Jeffery Sachs, Video Games and Social Change

Here is an interesting read on Jeffrey Sachs’s (Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University) stance on social change as we evolve to meet the standards of the future.  Sachs was recently at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy to discuss ‘Sustainable Development Politics, Policy and Priorities.”  Here is a link to the original blog post, where a video of his speech can be seen…

Through his discussion of economic convergence, Sachs pointed out concerns over future population and economic growth, specifically way in which current economic models neglect to consider boundary constraints in development. For instance, these models should take into account the available technological capacity to support economic and population growth. Sachs demonstrated through his discussion that not only do we have a very good idea of the environmental thresholds of the planet, (Rockstrom et al, Nature Magazine Sept. 23, 2009 “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity”) but we also have many technologies available to make the appropriate changes to reverse and/or prevent future damage.

This lecture ended with what I felt was just the beginning of another discussion, one which focused on the national sentiment toward climate change and environmental policy. By and large, as cited by Sachs from the Pew Research Center’s survey on climate change, certain societal groups within the United States have moved away from the belief that human activity is a primary cause of global warming and that global warming is a result of natural climate change. This may not be new news, however, it does bring up the point that in order for large social change with implications for poverty alleviation to occur, there must be a certain degree of social/political will involved.

The issue deepens when considered in the context of today’s society or perhaps more importantly, tomorrow’s society. In a recent interview on the NPR program, “On the Media,” program host Brooke Gladstone interviewed Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games, a game design and development studio. Schell said he sees changes in society this way:  “… the twenty-first century is going to be a war on the attention of humanity; where a civilization focuses its attention, that’s what defines what the civilization cares about.” The connection to Sachs’ discussion of environmental change and sustainability is direct: How can we maintain purposeful and productive interest in sustainable development practices within a population, society and world that is growing exponentially and moving from one new activity to another at an increasing pace?

The discussion with Schell during “On the Media” focused on the integration of meaning and purpose into video games. This idea was discussed as an opportunity to engage a specific population with a unique skill set (i.e., gamers) in work solving larger societal issues. The suggestion of Schell and Jane McGonigal, who also is interviewed toward the end of the program, is to engage the millions of gamers who already operate in collaborative environments, in tasks that are relevant to today’s issues, thus potentially translating their behavior/skill sets into real-life contexts. Video gamers represent a large population of individuals who are simulating life experiences while also developing practical skills such as decision making and task management, usually performing these tasks at once. McGonigal goes so far as to list traits of gamers that make them prime candidates for future meaning-infused gaming and an unprecedented human resource for problem solving. These qualities include:

  1. Urgent optimism: Desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope for success
  2. Ability to weave a tight social fabric: Building up trust, spending time with individuals, developing bonds and working toward social cooperation.
  3. Blissful productivity: We are happier working hard than when we are relaxing if we are given the right work.
  4. Epic meaning: Attached to awe-inspiring missions and innovations and working to create information resources that help us to understand our world better.

All of these elements, McGonigal argues, add up to the belief of many gamers that they are individually capable of changing their virtual world (Listen to her TED talk here). The remaining issue is then to transfer this energy from the satisfaction of online gaming communities to real-life issues like Sachs’ description of environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation. McGonigal’s argument, and Schell’s for the most part, both center on the realization that gamers don’t feel the same way about solving problems in real life as they do in game settings. Their objective is to catalyze the problem-solving capacity of this population into new circumstances that are socially relevant.

Motivational Montage


More Motivation…?

How’s your team doing? :-p


(courtesy of:  And no, the Ed 222 Instrucitonal team does not condone the words and actions you will see if you follow this link.  But one of the posters does offer hope to those of us with level 12 paladins…)

Amd… still more (de)motivation.

Show Your Allegiance

Check out these cool videogame wallpapers. Too bad they don’t have one for Gamestar mechanic, huh? 😉

Protecting POTUS with video games

The Secret Service is going to replace “tabletop simulations” with state-of-the art 3D “simulation kiosks” to train agents for how to protect the POTUS (that’s the “President Of The United States,” not a plastic tuber that lets you store its arms and legs in its butt) from threats when out and about on city streets. And those guys are about as close as you get to American Ninjas.

Be a Gamer, Save the World

This article was in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago about the benefits of video games. [Editor’s note – this article is Jane McGonigal in her own words.] Throughout the course so far, Gee and others have argued that the problem solving nature of a good game are beneficial regardless of the actual content of the game. I think this article would agree with that concept; however, the author takes it one step further. She recognizes how videos games are an intrinsic part of modern society, noting that the number of hours world-wide gamers have spent on World of War Craft amounts to 5.93 million years. She then goes on to discuss notable studies that use video games for real life problems such as folding virtual proteins to help cure cancer or Alzheimer’s, or another game that allowed gamers to design and launch their own real world enterprises. She argues that games can be used to solve real life problems through careful design and programming. Already we have seen that games can help us with math, problem solving, flight simulation and several other skills, yet by continuing this trend video games will permeate many other aspects of life. I think that by carefully expanding video game s to more educational concepts, learning can be seen more as fun then actual work. Either way, the adoption of video games for education use will be interesting to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Are games just part of our self-gratification?

I came across this article in this week’s Businessweek:

The article talks about how more and more companies are using “games” on their websites to keep customers coming back.  Though it is not directly related to videogaming, it hits on (though indirectly) a couple of Gee’s princples.  In particular, the Achievement principle.  Just to remind everyone, this key principle is defined as “For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.”

So to bring it back to the article, customers (learners) earn badges, titles, and/or recognition on public leaderboards for things ranging from purchses to comments to feedback.  As quoted from the article:

“The business of engendering online loyalty through gaming techniques is fast becoming as significant as the real-world loyalty industry, which builds rewards programs for airlines, hotels, and credit cards. The difference is that real rewards, like free hotel rooms and airfare, cost businesses real money. Badges and leader boards, excluding fees to consultants like Paharia, cost next to nothing.”

Just another thought that is unrelated to Gee’s 36 principles, is that people are very caught-up in the social image they portray to others, i.e. when facebook alerts all of your friends how many points you scored in farmville, etc.  So maybe social status is perhaps the real motivator here. I guess it is sort of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” debate, but nonetheless here is an excellent quote from the article which sums it up really well:

“We have this tendency to care about what image we portray,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University. In real life, there are mansions and handbags. “In the gaming world,” says Ariely, “there are badges.”

So what do you guys think? Is it the “gaming principles” or “social image portrayal” that lure the customers back to the website?

The Popularity of Angry Birds

For anyone who has not played Angry Birds on an apple product is missing out on possibly the greatest game invented.  If you are someone who is productive with all those extra spare minutes you get, whether that is waiting for an appointment or before class to start and you are able to whip out a few flashcards then I suggest not to continue reading.  Angry Birds may be the best (or worst) thing that has happened to me.  I first saw my brother playing and I thought it was pointless and stupid and could not understand why anyone would dedicate so much time to such a simple game.  However, three weeks later and I am basically as addicted to this game as TMZ is to making awkward nicknames for new couples.  The biggest surprise  about Angry Birds is that the most popular demographic playing this game is men and women in their forties.  Some of the reasons for making this game the most popular app in 2010 is because of its simplicity to complete a level in a quick time period, there is no harm for failing a level, and you can carry it in your pocket and whenever you have two minutes you could be slingshotting birds at pigs.  Thankfully, I only have a few levels left in the game because I am not quite sure the impact it could have on my school, but this game is as addicting as they come and I highly suggest everyone to play it.  Just be careful that it doesn’t take over your life.

Are Video Games Good for Society?

There is an interview with Jane McGonigal on today. For those of you who haven’t heard of Jane, she’s a game designer with an awesome approach to being… well, awesome! She explores this in a well loved TED Talk (posted here for your viewing pleasure), and in a new book that is now available called Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

Video Games And Divorce

First-off, I’d like to freely admit that I can’t stand MMOs. I tried World of Warcraft once with a friend of mine (I had a 10-day trial key) and got so incredibly bored that I stopped playing before my 10 days were up. That being said, I recognize that some people (like the friend I tried it with) get real enjoyment out of video games. I recently came across this story on Kotaku that I thought I’d share with everyone to highlight incorrect stereotypes surrounding video games (especially MMOs).

Playing World of Warcraft helped this now-single mother and her son through a divorce and also helped mother and son understand each other better. This is one of the best uses for video games that I’ve seen in a long time!

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