Donate Used Video Games for a Great Cause!

Do you have used video game cartridges or systems sitting around collecting dust?

My friend Ian is putting on a used video game collection in support of Mikey’s Way Foundation, a Connecticut-based, non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with cancer deal with the fear and boredom of treatment.

Collection Boxes will be located in the Union, the League, and the Athletic Center, until this Saturday, March 26th. All games donated will be recycled, with the money from this recycling going toward the purchase of new electronic games for pediatric cancer patients. Please consider donating, and help spread the word via the Mikey’s Way Used Video Game Collection Facebook event.

Games From My Childhood: Civilization 3

I was recently digging through my desk at home when I came across the badly beaten and scratched but intact case holding Civilization 3, my favorite computer game from when I was younger.  For anyone that hasn’t played Civilization and/or hasn’t read someone’s game poster (shame on you), Civilization begins with you selecting a country (you play as the famous leader of that country–Lincoln, for example, represents the US) and starts with a nearly blank map and a settler.  From here you begin to build an empire, accumulate wealth and culture and wonders, build an army, meet other countries, and eventually destroy those countries.  Each turn advances you further into the future, with the end date at 2050 (Nostradamus?).  As you discover resources and expand your scientific research, you can upgrade your units and even build new ones relative to the time period you’re in.  An example of this is the military units you are allowed; you start with a basic warrior and end producing jet fighters.

Civ 3 was made in 2001, and it shows.  The graphics are extremely dated and simple, and it contains almost none of the modern aspects we now see in video games.  But that didn’t matter to me.  I loved this game because it was brilliant.  I could play for hours and not realize it.  Most of all though, even beyond the pleasure I gained from playing the game, was an affinity for history that I developed because of this game.  In the game as I met characters and discovered their cities, I became curious about the true history of those places and began looking them up on my own.  Without even realizing it, I was playing an educational video game.  And I didn’t care.

Years later, I found that Sid Meier (the game’s producer) is still hard at work, and has now developed Civ 5. Of course, I downloaded it immediately.  The graphics, the gameplay, and the countries are new, but the curious educational aspect is still very strong.  For anyone who has ever wanted to take history into their own hands, to build empires, build armies, wage war and accomplish world domination, this is the game for you.  But if you can find it, and you have a PC that will still run it, find Civ 3 and play it.  I promise you it will be the memory from your childhood you wish you had.

The Angry Birds User Experience

My specialization for the degree I’m pursuing is Human-Computer Interaction. This means that I’m studying user experience and interaction design. Because of this, I found this piece on the user experience of Angry Birds interesting indeed.

Why is it that over 50 million individuals have downloaded this simple game? Many paid a few dollars or more for the advanced version. More compelling is the fact that not only do huge numbers download this game, they play it with such focus that the total number of hours consumed by Angry Birds players world-wide is roughly 200 million minutes a DAY, which translates into 1.2 billion hours a year. To compare, all person-hours spent creating and updating Wikipedia totals about 100 million hours over the entire life span of Wikipedia (Neiman Journalism Lab). I say these Angry Birds are clearly up to something worth looking into. Why is this seemly simple game so massively compelling? Creating truly engaging software experiences is far more complex than one might assume, even in the simplest of computer games. Here is some of the cognitive science behind why Angry Birds is a truly winning user experience.

The article goes on to discuss at length the ins and outs of the user experience of playing Angry Birds. Now if only someone could tell me why the pigs stockpile ham (it’s so disturbing).

Good vs. Bad “Gamification”

A few weeks ago in class, I introduced you to the idea of “gamification” and “game mechanics.” As with anything, there’s a good and a bad way to approach this idea. Here’s an excellent little blog post that digs into the topic, and explains why “true” game designers hate the gamification trend so much (they really are just hating on the “bad” gamification).

The End of an Era

I had no idea that this was today (actually, now it’s yesterday). Yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the release of the Game Boy Advance in Japan. Why is this such a big deal? It basically marked the end of the Game Boy era. Nintendo would release two more Game Boy systems (the Advance SP, incorporating a smaller frame for smaller hands and a backlit screen and then the Game Boy Micro) but the Advance was the last big handheld system before the DS’s release.!5784259/ten-years-ago-today-the-last-game-boy-was-born/gallery

I remember buying my ticket that guaranteed me a GBA on launch day in the US, and then going to Wal-Mart that morning to pick it up and get my first game (Castlevania: Circle of the Moon) and being so incredibly excited in the weeks leading up to launch. I thought I’d share that bit of nostalgia with you all.