Computer intelligence in videogames becoming too real???

In my dynasty mode on NCAA I came across an interesting idea…are the games becoming too real and too intelligent? I would say that as of now we are becoming dangerously close to that answer being yes. I came across this conclusion while recruiting players in my Dynasty mode to convince them to come to the University of Miami. This would seem like it would be a simple enough task right?  but it in fact is not. Players from states as far away as Michigan are extremely against coming to Miami unless they are willing to overlook proximity to home in order to play for a title contender. Other players who really want to go to a rival school of Miami like Florida State would not come to Miami no matter how many recruiting pitches or promises I make to them. This absolutely amazed me at first, it made me think, wow! how is this game able to do all of this and still seem like a videogame as opposed to some sort of virtual workshop or demonstration. It has always intrigued me to think about the evolution of videogames and even more specifically, football games. I remember the days when a player barely had a choice on the plays they run let alone the players they recruited, their strength of schedule, or let alone their actual gameplay. So it is through playing in my NCAA dynasty mode that I have realized that videogames have truly taken a momentous leap towards closing the gap between videogames and real life. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen but one this is for sure, it is certainly happening…

Banning Violent Video Games in Mexico

There is growing research on the effects of videogames on children, especially in regards to violence.  Many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes and promote killing, criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law, foul language, and obscenities.  Many studies of children who are exposed to violence have shown that they become immune to the gravity of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior.  In addition, studies have revealed that the more realistic and repeated exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children.

Spending large amounts of time playing violent games can create problems such as poor social skills, lower grades, less reading, exercising less and obesity, aggressive thoughts and behaviors, and less time with family, school work, and other hobbies.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, legislators have just asked federal authorities to ban the video game “Call of Juarez: The Cartel.”  This video game is based on drug cartel shootouts in Ciudad Juarez and has angered local officials who are busy fighting “all-too-real violence.”

Do you think banning violent games will help children’s growing aggressiveness?

Here is the full article about the game in Mexico:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/americas/21mexico.html?scp=9&sq=video%20games&st=cse

Video Games and Stealth Assessment Technology

As many of us experienced during our childhoods, young kids are reluctant to do their schoolwork after school.  However, kids are more than happy to spend hours on end playing video games at night.  According to Valerie J. Shute, a Florida State University researcher, the solution to this issue is not to take games away from kids.  Rather it would be more effective to provide a more enjoyable learning experience by creating video games with educational content and assessment tools.  In addition, it would be positive to incorporate these games into the school curriculum.

The concept known as ‘stealth assessment’ tries to disguise educational content in a way that kids won’t even realize that they’re being assessed while playing the game.  Furthermore, stealth-assessment technologies have many advantages over conventional teaching methods.  Shute said, “Based on a student’s responses to various situations that come up during the course of playing a video game, the game itself can be programmed to assess where that student might be especially strong or weak in core competencies.”  She then suggested that educational games could adapt its content to the needs of the student, providing more or less information depending on one’s progress in the game.  This stealth-assessment technology will not only be able to measure a student’s current level of knowledge, but can determine areas for improvement, and guide the student towards improvement by providing feedback, and perhaps making easier problems.

I think that this idea of stealth assessment could provide great results for students.  I know that when I was a kid I would definitely have been more engaged within a video game context, rather than learning in the classroom or doing written homework after school.  I would be curious to hear about what other students think about this stealth assessment technology.  Do you think it can work?  Or, are these research findings not substantial?  I for one think that this is a positive for the education systems.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110215102850.htm

Does the Scientific Method Work?

Now that we’ve attended the lecture on research, allow me to inject the proper note of existential uncertainty and despair.

Here’s an article from the New Yorker about something called the Decline Effect. In the decline effect, dramatic results that are rigorously proven tend to shrink over time if the study is replicated. Is it researcher bias? Publisher bias? Or does the universe like to play jokes?

Real life video game learning… for boyfriends?

An app called My Virtual Girlfriend for iPhone, iPod, and iPad. It’s a The Sims-like game, with a twist. You make your own girlfriend… traits, looks, everything!

I came across this game and was pretty excited. Finally! A game that teaches guys the basics of relationships… maybe? I haven’t played the game or talked to anybody who has played it, but it sure is interesting.

I guess you can level up by being a good boyfriend. But if you’re a bad, terrible boyfriend, then she may break up with you! The site explains it in more depth. Any brave men willing to take on the challenge? I think I may get it… just to see how the women react in the game to different actions in comparison with myself.

My favorite feature of the game is this, “Test your man-skills! Earn Acheivements by completing various tasks and unravel the mystery known as woman.”

But an interesting thing to think about… will the game actually improve the quality of boyfriends? I have gone through a few “bad” boyfriends… but how close will this game get to the habits that they had? And how will the reactions from the “girlfriend” differ from my own?

Here is the site for the game:  http://www.myvirtualgirlfriendgame.com/

DimensionU Educational Video Games

http://dmnnewswire.digitalmedianet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=1371271

I found this article related to the discussion topic this week. It was mentioned that  because of DemensionU serious game play is becoming more regularly used in the classroom. Students are immersed into math and problem solving during the game play and it has become very successful. It was interesting that the article also mentioned that research has proven that serious educational game play has academic gains!

Civ IV wins a Grammy?

…by association at least.

I have been playing Civilization IV for my game this semester. Usually I skip the Intros to games for time’s sake, but I find myself sitting through Civ IV’s entire Intro because I really like the music. Apparently others agree with me because the theme song “Baba Yetu” won a Grammy this year.

Are there any other video game theme songs that you think deserve a Grammy?

A call for 1 or 2 more group members for group project!

Myself and Scott are currently looking for an additional group member or pair.  We had the idea of making a chemistry type based game that had some elements of the classic Pokemon series.  You would collect elements by discovering them in places where they would normally be found (ie you might have to venture into a mine shaft to find gold, it isn’t just random) throughout the game play and try to “evolve” them to be stronger by combining them in a chemically stable fashion.  For instance you find 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom and you can take it to the “Mad Scientist” and he will combine them for you, giving you a more powerful fighter.  There may also be some isotopes and radiation mixed in with the game to make it more interesting.  The game would obviously cater to an older crowd, probably late middle school to high school.  If you know anybody that is still looking for a group or are interested in joining our group please email me at mgromo@umich.edu.

“Gamifying” Grades in Class

Unless you are totally not paying attention, you are aware that we are using a “game-based” grading system in EDUC 222. As I mentioned in the first class meeting, I was inspired to try this out by reading a blog post about a class taught by Lee Sheldon on MMORPGs in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University that uses a similar system. There have been a spate of blog posts about this kind of grading system recently, and I thought you might appreciate some “behind-the-scenes” considerations. As always, your feedback and input on our grading system is welcomed!

How to ‘Gamify’ your class Website” by Anastasia Salter in the Chronicle of Higher Education (this is basically the newspaper of higher education.

Gamifying Homework” by Jason Jones, also in the Chronicle.

And an interesting “post-mortem” on the IU class… do you agree with the students’ feedback on the grading system in that course? What would you change about the grading system in our course?

 

Up next from The Education Arcade

What are Scot Osterweil and our friends at MIT’s Education Arcade going to do next? Vanished: The MIT/Smithsonian Science Mystery! This is going to be a semi-synchronous multiplayer mystery that begins on April 4th. Students work on environmental science mysteries, assisted by real scientists at the Smithsonian. Here’s a USA Today piece on the game.

What do the numbers on the Vanished web site mean? What is the counter counting down to?

Anybody in 222 want to play?

Call of Duty vs. Halo vs. Atlantic Cod

The fish always wins. See the unassailable logic for yourself in this hilarious video from the nation’s premier ninja. Bonus: Notice who the question is from? (Note: you have to watch a short ad before the video.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

For The Win

I’ve mentioned Cory Doctorow a few times before, but if you are playing World of Warcraft of any of massively multiplayer online role-playing game, you must read Cory’s second ‘teen’ novel, For The Win. Don’t be fooled by the ‘teen’ label, this is a great novel, with complex characters, a fast-moving plot, and a deep exploration of the world behind MMORPGs, the people who play them, and the hidden (and not-so-hidden) economies that they rely upon and create. This is essentially a story of the struggle between have-nots and don’t-cares, and the corporate powers who try to manipulate both for greater profit. And of course, as with all of Cory’s books, you can find them in fine bookstores as well as online in a variety of digital formats which you may download and read for free on Kindles, iPads, or whatever floats your boat.

Jeopardy’s Watson Applied to video games

http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/22/2673912/can-a-super-smart-computer-teach.html

This article is about the pretty interesting idea of taking the technology that Watson used on jeopardy and giving it to video game AI’s. As one of the people interviewed points out, AI is no longer about learning only, it is also about interpreting data and everything we see. The internet is such a great resource that to deny it as a learning tool is a losing battle. Instead, we should use the internet as a navi, much like in a video game, and use it to assist and help learning, not look at it as an impedance.

Limbo

Although I don’t get as much time to play video games as I like, I do spend a good amount of time following various blogs via RSS. One of my favorite blogs is The Fox is Black, which is primarily a design-style blog. I originally found it while looking for some new wallpaper. The Fox is Black produces the “Desktop Wallpaper Project.” Here are some interesting ones that the blog has produced/commissioned: http://thefoxisblack.com/category/the-desktop-wallpaper-project/

One of the blog’s recent posts is about the line between art and video games. Here it is: http://thefoxisblack.com/2011/02/17/limbo/ . The post brings up some interesting points:

“Video games can be art and art can be video games, but rarely are either regarded as such. You don’t play a video game, enamored by its beauty. And, if you do, you are probably losing the gameplay. Video games are rarely written up in Artforum and art is rarely written up in IGN. The two worlds do not collide and do not seem to have a reason to, beyond the limits of the tangential video art world.”

“No one actually knows what limbo or purgatory or “the in-between” is like at all. But, if it is actually like this, then I guess we have a beautiful, puzzle filled, black/white/gray pre-heaven to look forward to.”

From the preview, the game looks like it allows the players to explore and figure out what to do by themselves. Has anyone had a chance to play this game?  How do you think video games can tread the line between art and gaming?

Grand Theft Childhood

I know we haven’t covered violence in video games yet, but I stumbled across this article and found it to be very interesting.  The site takes from a book called “Grand Theft Childhood:  The Surprising Truth about Video Games”.  The site goes over different facts and myths about violence in video games.  One of the most interesting facts that I found is that violence in youth and video game popularity have been moving in opposite directions.  In 1993, the United States faced a record high for violent juvenile crime.  Growing up I was always limited to the amount of video games I could play during the weekends.  I do not even want to fathom what my punishment would have been if I played during the week.  But the book title “Grand Theft Childhood”, I think this book perfectly fits my childhood.  I had to buy the fact that green vegetables were good for me, that I had to go to church every Sunday, and always had to hug my mother and show affection in public.  It’s funny that when you are young, you don’t really ask the question why to often and you tend to accept whatever ideals your parents place in front of you.  When more research comes out in the future about how violent video games aren’t directly related to violence, I wonder if the rating system for video games will be drastically changed.  Like I said before I know we haven’t covered violence in video games yet in this course, but finding these articles over the internet really make me excited to learn more about the subject.  Anyways if you haven’t seen this article yet I suggest you check it out.  Let’s just say I have already had counter arguments with friends and parents alike.  So it is some fun information to learn about.

http://www.grandtheftchildhood.com/GTC/Myths.html

Things that ruin COD

In a game that is supposed to be realistic, the last two installments in the COD series have been pretty disappointing. Both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops are very enjoyable games but there are so many issues within the games that games like Halo have become much more realistic than the COD series.  Let’s start with Modern Warfare 2; Everyone remember pain killers? Pain killers made you take significantly reduced damage, enough to allow you to survive predator missiles, 3 sniper shots to the head (the third one would kill you), multiple other explosions as well as a knife (which is supposed to be a one hit kill). I don’t care what kind of drugs you’re on, nothing should be able to make you survive a missile or a sniper shot to the head.

Following up with the knife, everyone remember commando?  A player with commando on could lunge about 15-20 feet, during which, he could not be damaged. And why is a knife a one hit kill anywhere on the body when a sniper rifle is not? This also begs the question of why the best weapon in a FPS is a knife. Whoever said ‘never bring a knife to a gunfight’ obviously never play COD6/MOD2.  If you look up the stats for a Barrett .50 Cal you will see that it has an effective range of over a mile, yet no map is a mile long in any direction (yes there are ways to measure this.), so in essence every shot should be a one hit kill but it rarely is unless you have stopping power and FMJ on. Black Ops attempts to remedy this situation brought up by the players by putting in weaker sniper rifles such as the L96A1 and the PSG1 which are less than half as powerful as the previous Barrett .50 cal and intervention used in MOD 2

Most notoriously was the Model 1887 shotguns, these shotguns had tested to have more range than sniper rifles. Of course this was patched some time ago but that was the case for the first 4-6 months that a shotgun had more range than a sniper rifle. These shotguns were so outrageous that the use of them were strictly banned in any GB tournaments or competitions.In essence then these shotguns have over a mile of effective range?

Finally the most important thing that makes COD extremely flawed is the hosting system. Every COD player knows that it is based off of a hosting system rather than a third party host. Ever see the game say migrating host? This is because the former host has left the game. What is wrong with the hosting system? The person who is host has something gamers call ‘hosting powers’. Since the game is based off of the host’s connection, only the host can see what is happening in real time while everyone else has about a 1-2 second delay. You may not think that is a lot but it is extremely noticeable when you are playing the game. The host of the game has a gigantic advantage in the fact that he will see people and he will not appear on the opponent’s screen until the difference in latency has resolved resulting in it appearing as if you get ‘one shotted’ which happens quite often, closer look at the kill cams will reveal that he had actually been shooting you for some time prior to you dying. Other symptoms of this will be that you fire at them but on the kill cam your shots don’t show up, you knife them but nothing happens, and the like.  It is relatively easy to find out who host is, all you have to do is look at the connection bars and host will always be full connection, while everyone else’s connection tend to fluctuate. The same problems with hosting are found in various other games such as the Gears of War series but Bungie aka Halo uses a third party hosting system where every player is connected to a third party server so that there is no hosting system. Why doesn’t every game do that instead of using a hosting system? Mainly because of money, it costs a lot more money to use a third party hosting system than it does for just a hosting system.

It rather depresses me that games, especially ones that are extremely reputable, cut corners to make more money. I think all the FPS games out there need to take a page out of Bungie’s book and start shelling out for higher quality games. The point of this post is not to rant and rave about a game but rather it is to inform. I know many people play the COD series and love it to death, some disregard the problems, some don’t know that these things even existed, and some call for change. I love the COD series myself, Ive attended various tournaments for them around the country and even in Canada, I play every weekend with my friends. A game is just a game and I will live with what comes out but I can always hope for bigger and better things for the future. Who knows, maybe someone who reads this has some in with Treyarch or Infinity Ward and can suggest some changes, or maybe I myself will someday create a game that will blow everyone away.

Happy Zelda-versary!

Believe it or not, it has been 25 years since the release of the original The Legend of Zelda. Those of you who are playing Zelda games are taking part in a franchise that’s likely older than you are.

Here’s a tribute to the game over at Wired.

Interesting Idea for a Video Game

I’m sure a few of you have stumbled on this before. Not necessarily the most complex game but its theme is based on the famous American classic. Just another example of how things taught in school can be fun provided that they are put in the right context.

click here to play the game:  http://greatgatsbygame.com/

When games become our reality

wouldn’t it be fun to live life as your favorite video game character? This a really fun youtube video that kind of hits on what it is to play through Mario. Enjoy!

Ripped From the Headlines

The article/video I have posted was taken from “The Today Show” this morning.  It is about a boy in Texas who cannot physically attend school because of a weakened immune system, so he instead attends as an avatar. This is a cool video, but also an indicator of where education and technology are heading in the future.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/41641984/ns/today-today_health/

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