A History of Video Games

Did you know that the very first video games were made using¬†oscilloscopes? ¬†Well, they were! That’s how games like PONG started out. Here’s a video that shows a brief history of games, from the oscilloscopes up to the PS3 and Xb0x 360!


I’m a little disappointed that the video didn’t show a more Xbox-exclusive game (they show Rock Band instead of an exclusive title like Halo: Reach or Fable 2, whereas they use God of War 3 on the PS3 and Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube, both of which are exclusives), but the evolution is pretty neat.

Also, fun aside that you may not be able to tell in the video, Mario of Super Mario fame was actually first featured in the original Donkey Kong arcade game!

A New and Improved Classroom

I just recently read an interesting article that discussed the effect that video games has had on students interest in certain topics. The article, “Let the Games Begin: Entertainment meets Education” written by Jenn Shreve, begins with an anecdote of a western civilization class in which many of the students had to repeat due to prior failure. This new class, however, students were coming in “armed with strategies to topple colonial dictators” and “kids who didn’t know Pompeii from Plymouth Rock were suddenly mapping out the borders of the early Roman Empire.” The teacher notes that the reason for this newfound interest and success is directly due to Sid Meier’s Civilization III, a best-seller in the computer game industry.

The article then dives into what we have already spoke about in class, that there are not many, if any at all, truly successful video games that can be used to direct a class. There are software programs available, but a majority of those programs are unsuccessful and are very costly.

How to approach this problem?

One way researchers decided to approach this issue was not to develop games for students to use in the classroom, but instead have those students design the games themselves. One might see this as an extreme tactic, saying “how can you ever expect a student to design their own game unless they have background in that field.” Interestingly enough, this method was used on a fourth grade math class. The students were provided with some basic design software, and were told to develop a program that would help solve fractions. What the students didn’t realize was that an underlying motive of this method was that multiple skills were being developed. Those students were not only learning about fractions, they were also developing their computer skills.

River City

This article continues on to talk about something called River City. What River City is is a “Multi-User Virtual Environment for Learning Scientific Inquiry and 21st Century Skills.” In other words, River City is a simulation, with a video game feel, that incorporates information from many prominent scientific resources.

Quite simply, River City is a town that has been plagued by illness. The way the simulation works is students are broken into teams and are sent to explore, interact, and create hypotheses as to why the illness has occurred. Each time the simulation is run, it is followed by a teacher led discussion and therefore students can analyze what they experienced in a more formal setting. Eventually, at the conclusion of the simulation, the groups will present their hypotheses to the class, of which there are multiple correct answers (similar to Scot Osterweil’s reward for effort).

In conclusion, this article emphasizes the necessity for video games in the classroom, but not as a complete substitution. Like River City, video games that are educational should supplement traditional teaching methods. An important aspect of these games, as we’ve discussed before is used to close the article:

“And if everyone has a little fun along the way, better yet.”




Motion Games: The Future of Video Games???

As someone that has been playing video games from a very young age, I have seen the NHL games of Sega Genesis all the way up to the Madden games of the Wii. However, this new movement in the video game world is something that I find very troubling.

When the Wii first came out, it was a revolutionary idea. People could actually move around and play video games while their character on the screen would mimic their every physical move. This was the coolest thing for me: I could play baseball or bowl by actually imitating the motion.

Sadly, as I enter Best Buy or Target now a days, I have seen (as I am sure many of you have) that Xbox, PS3, and other future gaming systems have picked up on this motion idea.

I would like to pose 2 questions:

1) Does this influx of motion on gaming systems spell the end for something like the Wii? Personally, I think the Wii will remain a leader in the motion-gaming world because it has a more family-friendly focus than the other systems. However, the violent games do tend to tell so more so Nintendo may need to up the ante.

2) Is this the future of video games? Are we about to be freed of the joystick and circle, triangle, and square buttons and ushered into the world of the nunchuck? Furthermore, could things like a Mii and other types of Avatar just replace human interaction altogether (think the movie Surrogates). I feel that bowling alleys, parks, or any other form of entertainment could take a hit the same way Blockbuster and Hollywood Video did with the Netflix explosion because why go play outside when you could play the game in front of a TV?
Please comment back because I would like to hear some feedback on this as I know there are many schools of thought on this issue. See everyone tomorrow!

Tired of the same old planet? Give it a makeover!

From the good folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (don’t bother them when The Big Bang Theory is on) comes this: The Extreme Planet Makeover!

Is it a game? Not really, more of a simulation. But interesting nonetheless.

(Found at Boing Boing, this blogger’s favorite blog)

More on play

If you enjoyed Scot Osterweil’s discussion of play from today’s class, here’s something else to check out:

Stuart Brown founded the National Institute for Play, and he’s the author of the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (which is on sale for less than $7 on Amazon right now!).