Violence and Video Games Over Time

A large amount can change over 10 years. Take a moment to think about 2002. You’re probably a completely different person than you were then. You’re not the only thing that’s changed. The world around us has changed as well…

According to IMDB’s list of the “Most Popular Video Games Released in 2002“, the most popular video game released that year was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. According to a similar list for 2011, the most popular game is Star Wars: The Old Republic.

This doesn’t quite make the point that our video game preferences have gotten less violent over the years. However, it brings to mind a TEDTalk that I saw recently about television.

The speaker compared the climate of the United States over approximately 50 years to the most popular television shows of these eras. For example, when unemployment was high and the economy was suffering, Zalaznick’s study found the most popular television shows included rich people and lavish things such as Fantasy Island.

I wonder if there is an effect on video game popularity based on the cultural climate in America. Of course, there are franchises such as Mario and Grand Theft Auto that have been popular for many years. But what about games like Call of Duty?

War games have been popular for many years, but are they more popular post-9/11?

Is the popularity of violent video games a function of an anger or angst in American culture today that longs to be expressed? If violent video games were to be limited (more exclusive), should we be worried?

A Constructivist Approach to Learning

I got really excited recently about this class-I was sitting and doing my second poster and I realized that I could apply one of the learning principles that I was discussing being utilized in my game to my own life. I am a study group leader for the Science Learning Center here on campus, and my group members are taking their third exam this week. Normally, I send out practice exams prior to the exam being taken and hold a review session that covers the material that was mentioned in class in a quick “mini review lecture” and then allows students to ask questions about the practice exam. Practice is helpful, as demonstrated by Gee, but I had a new idea while designing my second poster.

The game that I am playing, Final Fantasy Tactics, is frequently a game in which players “roll the game clock.” In order to accomplish this, i.e., playing for over 99 hours and 99 minutes, the players must continue to play beyond the normal storyline. To do so, online forums have arisen that have created SCC (Single Class Challenge), in which all five party members must belong to only one class during the course of the game, and SSCC (Solo Single Class Challenge), in which the player has only one party member who is the same class the entire game. As classes can be modified throughout the game and used to help in specific situations, constructing a new game requires that players take the knowledge that they learned in previous playthroughs and construct it in a new manner. This is the goal of a Constructivist Approach to Learning, to encourage players to make new connections with knowledge that they already have.

To apply this to my study group, I split my group members into groups for each lecture covered on the third exam. I asked each group to create questions based off of the material in lecture, but not just definition questions, but conceptual questions that required problem-solving skills. This required them to take the knowledge they had of the class’ information and the content and structure of practice exam questions and resynthesize them, as in the Constructivist Approach to Learning. They then played a game where each group was a separate team and had to answer other team’s questions. The gameification of review also made it more enjoyable.

Thanks to Edu 222 for making my own teaching techniques more effective (I hope!) and enjoyable!

Video Games are Dangerous!

Rob Hayes from Los Angeles ABC writes a small report on online gaming and the possible effects that profanity, racial epithets, homosexually-oriented epithets are having on children who are playing online games that are at the age of 8, 9, 10, 11 years.  The average age of gamers is 37 years old, internet safety expert Parry Aftab says this inappropriate language in online gaming is rampant, and she’s concerned it’s leading to dangerous cyber bullying. “They may trash talk. They may be calling you names. They may steal their passwords. Or a lot of them may gang up on one online, not because it’s a good strategic win, but to hurt the other person,” said Aftab.

From my personal experiences from playing online in the past 3 months of playing fifa and call of duty I am completely aware of the profane language and incredibly insensitive gamers that exist in the online gaming world.  Although it has never directly affected me, I know that the effects of bullying at an age of 8 or 10 have a very domino affect in that kids think it is okay language to use at school or anywhere.  Though this is a clear problem, there doesn’t seem to be a very good way of patrolling the online airways on playstation or xbox.  It must be a pretty consistent problem for these companies to deal with.

To add to this weeks topic, here is a source saying video games are dangerous!

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/consumer&id=8596874

Draw Something, Draw Anything

According to the New York Times article, “A Game Explodes and Changes Life Overnight at a Struggling Start-Up,” Draw Something is the newest “it” game for smart phones.  Draw something essentially became an overnight sensation and a money maker for the employees of Omgpop, which was recently bought out by a larger company, Zynga, for $180 million.

Draw Something is a social game and is essentially a one-on-one game of virtual Pictionary.  The game gives you three options of words you can draw, differing in difficulty, for your opponent to guess.  As a result, you are rewarded with more coins for picking the most challenging word to draw.  People have been posting real examples of their sketches to Facebook, Twitter, and other blogging sites, which has vastly increased the popularity of the game.

Omgpop was started as a joke, states found Charles Forman.  He had intended the site for sheer entertainment, until he realized people were visiting the site more than expected.  Though, Omgpop would have likely shut down, due to its lack of revenue, if it weren’t for the hit sensation, Draw Something.

Draw Something is a game played at one’s convenience, which seems like a necessary criteria for games these days, as people are always on the move.  There is no time limit on when the player must guess/draw a word, and it allows you to play against your own friends, or random players if your friends do not have the game.  Additionally, there is no winner and no loser and the game never ends, unless chosen to by the players.

Draw Something is encouraging and motivating, which can likely be accredited to its current success.  The first time you play Draw Something, you start out with four basic colors.  However, as you achieve more coins, by correctly guessing and drawing words, you are able to purchase more colors in order to ease your ability to successfully draw your chosen word.  What makes the game even more appealing is that it is free, with ads, or merely $0.99 to get the ad-free version.

Everyone and their mothers are playing Draw Something.  Literally, my mother just found out about this game and is hooked.  When anything technological becomes popular with the older generation, that’s when you know they’re doing something right.  Draw Something is topping the Apple App Store charts, and you should find out why.

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/26/technology/draw-something-changes-the-game-quickly-for-omgpop.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&ref=technology

Workout In The Park

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/business/media/self-magazine-creates-social-game-for-its-annual-workout-in-the-park.html?scp=5&sq=%22words%20with%20friends%22&st=cse

Self magazine hosts an annual event called workout in the park. This is directed towards women to promote health, fitness, beauty, and fashion. The magazine created a social online game to target the same aspects the actual event is promoting. Not only will these areas be addressed but also there will be new interactive elements like avatars, virtual goods, and puzzles. The individuals can customize their own outdoor fitness and activities. The online game will not only be addressing physical health but mental health as well.

Each individual is an avatar. With more activity the avatar will slim up and get a toned body. The benefits of dieting and exercise will be shown through the avatar. The activities can be translated into real life and show the player how beneficial improving ones overall health can be. Also, there will be rewards given to the players for completing certain tasks. They can win prizes from the sponsors. This is a very interesting and innovative idea. Self magazine is creating a virtual world to show the importance of health and fitness while simultaneously allowing the gamer to do the same actions on their own. Laura McEwan the vice president and publisher at self said, “The mechanics of the game are psychologically motivating. Looking at an avatar can impact your real-world behavior. If you don’t come back for a period of time, your avatar loses tone.” The Avatar is mimicking the individual gamer for motivation. They are using an extrinsic system to give rewards to the gamers for their effort and improvements and consequences for lack of working out. Not only is the game extrinsic but it is intrinsic as well; the player has to motivate individually to work out on their own and be healthier.

This kind of game is considered a social game. According to the New York Times article, women tend to be more active in social games. This makes sense since social components tend to be more popular for women. This is why more women play games like Farmville and Words with Friends; they are innately more social. Workout in the park is kind of similar to other games like the Biggest Loser video game or other workout program through Wii. The individual is able to work out, improve their fitness and health through video games. Video games are now not all about a sedentary lifestyle instead they are about keeping active. The video games are keeping up with the times and the increased desire to work out.

Temple Run

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/temple-run/?scp=13&sq=words%20with%20friends&st=cse

In Temple Run, the gamer takes on the role of Guy Dangerous, the adventurous avatar. He explores the ancient temple while the gamer controls his movements to avoid obstacles. Guy can jump, slide, and turn while collecting the coins. A group of monkeys runs after the gamer as they try as quickly as possible to continue the exploration. There isn’t any end goal or finish line per say. The individual player is just trying to beat his or her own score; the competition is very individualized and intrinsic.

Temple Run has become one of the most popular games in the App store. More than thirteen million people are playing at least one time a day according to the New York Times article. This is interesting because when the game first debuted for one dollar, it was not very popular. When the game became free, the popularity increased. The game became the most popular application thus becoming one of the top grossing games. The game can make money now off its popularity by having the individuals buy coins and other items to increase their game play.

In a time where multi-player gaming has become popular such as words with friends, scramble with friends, draw something it is interesting that an individual game is doing so well. Temple Run is fun, I must say. However, I think that multi-player games add a new social aspect to our technological world. I think that our world has become less social and adding games that allow you to play with your friends increases the communications. It is something that two friends can discuss or joke about when one individual wins. Playing with friends gives another facet to the friendship. Temple Run is a game that creates competition with the individual whereas the other multi-player games create competition across friends. Temple Run’s popularity came at an interesting time as it emerged amongst the popularity of multi-player games. It will be exciting to see if the popularity of Temple Run and other individual games will still remain popular with the rapid increase of multi-player games.

Video Games and Learning in NY Times

This past weekend I was on my computer catching up on current news in the New York Times when I found a very relevant article about video games and learning. The article discusses how video games in learning is a new modern idea that many people are having a hard time accepting due to the current perception of video games. Video games are often viewed as a distraction that detours kids from learning and getting their work done. However as our knowledge about these games and how to incorporate learning into them advances that assumption becomes less and less valid. As time goes on video games will become more beneficial to learning than they already are because we will improve them and they will teach children more than now. Video games and games in general engage kids more than just basic methods of learning and there is untapped potential of what we can do with them. One of the teachers interviewed talks about how the kids making their own types of learning games is helpful and a powerful tool that helps kids learn and betters their education. I am in favor of video games as a new way of learning and think the future of education could rely on them.

Gaming Graphics Today

While browsing the day’s current events, I came across an interesting article about video games being considered art.  It’s a unique concept, but the CNN piece (found here), takes a broad overview of the aesthetic nature of games since the 1970s.  It’s remarkable to remember that all these changes have happened just within the past 40 years, while providing exciting possibilities for the future.  With consoles like the Kinect making games increasingly interactive, graphics and the aesthetic appeal of the experience will undoubtedly become even more important to the quality of new games.  The game mentioned in the article is Flower, one whose premise has the player purely interacting with the lush and detailed environments of that particular world.  Something like this would not have been possible even 15 years ago, which is an impressive testament to where the industry has come.  While I haven’t played Flower yet, I was intrigued at the simple but well-hyped plot enough to where I found the trailer here.  The graphics are such that I would play the game if I had a chance, even if I might not instinctively buy it.

Some Thoughts on Gam[bl]ing

Over spring break, I had the chance to go on a week-long cruise.  One of the main attractions to other vacationers was the casino, conveniently located in the center of the ship.  After walking around and observing what was going on, I started thinking about how these games inspired motivation in their players.  Of course, this kind of entertainment can lead to serious gambling problems, but it’s clear gameplay is certainly motivating.  In thinking about Gee’s principles again, the thrills of adrenaline and excitement at playing the slot machines or Craps, or Black Jack serve to instill the Psychosocial Moratorium, what’s almost a false sense of security in this instance.  As discussed in the Perkins lecture, players learn a lot by observing more experienced individuals, such as their behavior depending on a given situation.  Some people on the cruise, such as my friends, went to the casino repeatedly throughout the week.  This serves to raise the number of other players they come into contact with, increasing their exposure to different styles of play.  It was evident to see how utilizing these and many other strategies of game play has made gambling an entire industry.

Can Facebook become the best learning platform?

Recently, I have been wondering what could be the best platform for educational games. I was thinking about gaming systems such as Xbox or Playstation. Gaming systems offer probably the best graphic experience since they are strictly designed for games, yet I don’t think they can simply do everything. However, their biggest advantage is also their biggest disadvantage. To generate this great graphic experience you need to be a developer and have some serious knowledge about programming for these systems; also to satisfy everyone, one needs to master every single gaming system which is on the market. For these reasons, I think, gaming systems are not a good platform because small developers such as students with brilliant ideas have less chance to be successful.

My next thought was about portable devices such as iPhones, iPods, iPads and Smartphones. These devices are great because we can carry them around and use them almost all the time in many of different situations. Furthermore, their situation looks better than in the case of the gaming systems; you don’t need to be a big developer with numbers of programmers and money to release your own game. However, there is still a problem of multiplatform compatibility. The game written for iOS needs to be rewritten for an Android since they use different programming languages.

Then I though about, I think, the best way of distribution, writing games as Facebook applications. Most of the students have Facebook accounts and visit them regularly. This solves the problem of access to certain gaming platforms since one can open Facebook on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other platforms such as Playstation, since it simply does everything, Xbox and many others. It is simpler to develop since the programmer has to write just one code that should work on all of these machines. Finally, the game has a big chance of success since its released on a big market. The only problem is whether or not people will be able to stay focused on playing the game on Facebook, while being on Facebook?

Video Games, Learning and Physical Health

Russell A. Sabella writes about video games and the benefits that come from learning through these interactive tools. Sabella writes, “Games are widely used as educational tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses… Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error. Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions… PLaying games is, thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st century, as some forward thinking forms are already starting to realize.” Sabella continues to explain that there is much evidence to support this statement. I believe that those that use video games in the work place will definitely be at an advantage in comparison to those that do not. The more practice that a person has in their specific profession allows for them to advance more than someone that simply practices during the times that are required.

If an individual practices their work because they want to and not because they have to, this will allow the individual to learn more than they would because they are putting in more hours of practice. The advantages to games is that the player will remember more because they are more engaged, more involved and more motivated to like what they are doing. The article lists many benefits of using video games that include but are not limited to; an introduction to computer technology, practicing following directions, provide practice in problem solving and logic, practice in fine motor and spacial skills, provide occasions for adults and children to play together, an introduction to information technology, many games provide therapeutic applications with patients, and finally games are entertaining.

One of the most recent findings discussed in the article addresses the benefits of video games in the life of surgeons. Studies have shown that surgeons that play video games make less mistakes than those who do not. Sabella writes, “researches found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37% fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27% faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.” I found this research and statistic extremely insightful and significant evidence to show that spending more time while engaged in video games can enhance one’s ability to perform their profession such as being a surgeon in a greater way.

The Shoot Em Up game has shown that those players that have continued to play this game have better visual skills than those that do not play video games. Video games have the ability to strengthen hand-eye coordination because they are motivating, have a purpose and a goal. Research has shown that with little game playing the visual skills can be improved for  just about anyone. Physical health has also been affected in a positive way through video games. Dance Dance Revolution has been a great way to gain exercise without realizing that one is doing so. Often people do not want to exercise because it is boring, not motivating and tiring. By using games to exercise, people do not realize that they are exercising because they are motivated and distracted while playing.

Dance Dance Revolution has been one way to fight child obesity which has attracted the attention of many schools. Dance Dance Revolution has become apart of the fitness program in 756 state schools in West Virginia. The Wii has also served as a solution to childhood obesity because of the exercise that is gained through playing all different sports and dances. Traineo.com is a website that has partnered with Nintendo to deliver similar results to the Wii. I personally have issues getting myself to work out because of how tiring and boring working out can be, however i do enjoy the Wii and other interactive exercise games. The dancing games offered by programs like the Wii are extremely entertaining and fun. It is hard to realize how much exercise you are getting until you are out of breathe by the end of it. I believe that the game design of the Wii is also very attractive which is another reason why exercise and playing a sport seems more fun than in real life.

Sabella also writes about the cognitive and mental knowledge gained from playing video games. Through experience, new generations are more comfortable with visual spatial skills, mental maps and seeing the computer as a tool. Previous generations have issues with these skills because they are not apart of the game generation. An example of what new generations are capable of is being able to picture fold a shape in their mind with out actually doing it. They are extremely used to the 3D world. www.Games2train.com shows how different games are beneficial to all different types of skills. This could definitely be extremely beneficial in the classroom setting because teachers could use these games to strengthen the skills and knowledge of their students. This would definitely help those students that have issues focusing in the classroom and need to be engaged with assistance of interaction or unique game design.

Examples of these games include Pain Distraction Free Dive. This game has been shown to distract children from chronic pain and those undergoing painful operations. COTS history games are extremely beneficial when attempting to learn various facts and information that are normally overwhelming. This game includes all different periods through out history and breaks down facts in an easy and understanding way. Nutrition Feed The Monster is a game that teaches children how to eat properly and in a nutritious way through feeding the monster. Children learn early on healthy eating habits which assist with healthy habits later on in life and promote healthy living. Video games can definitely be used in all different fields to strengthen the lives of students. Students benefit from video games mentally, physically and emotionally. Through the use of video games, many professions such as surgeons can advance their skills and help people in need through the engaging use of games.

The article can be found here: http://www.education.com/reference/article/video-games-learning-physical-health/?page=2

5 Teaching Tips for Professors—From Video Games

Jeffrey Young, the author of “5 Teaching Tips for Professors—From Video Games,” explains how video game usage can be incorporated into education, including college campuses. Young explains that college level school work is difficult and definitely not a joke. However, he further explains that video games can be incorporated to sustain student’s attention. Young describes how students will challenge themselves in a video game and are willing to face difficult tasks within video games, however when it comes to school work, students are opposed to challenges and would rather take the easy way out. In addition, students also learn a lot when using video games that are not necessarily educational because they are so invested in the challenges within the game. This idea can be applied to schooling with the usage of video games and therefore students will learn a lot.

Constance Steinkueler studies students while playing video games. She has made many discoveries as to how video games engage students and how this knowledge can be applied to learning environments. She has also observed that students will use their math skills in order to fight an unstoppable beast within a game. The combination of learning and great game design can work together in order to engage the student, while learning important concepts that are normally taught in a traditional school environment. Much data has been collected on the behavior of characters within games such as monsters and how to implement math into these game settings. Many of these games teach complex problem solving and collaborative learning to students.

The possibilities of games and higher learning have been further researched by many in order to understand the cooperation and engagement behind game design. A lot of the time, students do not realize that they are learning while playing games such as Oregon Trail. These types of games that do not seem like they are educational on the surface are the most appealing to students. Other games that teach geographical information, as well as other important concepts are “Where is Carmen San Diego?”, “Darfur is Dying” and “Global Conflicts: Palestine.” The issue with many games is that they are not fun because they are solely based on the educational aspects and do not focus on the engaging game design aspect. The designer of The Sims is Will Wright. Wright explains that we take subjects too seriously and thats why adding fun to them is scary. Because we take topics too seriously, the games are unattractive. Fun has to be added to the game in order for students to pay attention to it.

There are five main lessons that professors use in order to balance video games and learning. The first lesson is “give frequent and detailed feedback.” Most games display some type of scoring in order to measure how the player is doing within the game. The first lesson is that students need to know how they are doing in order to become more interested in the game. Students need to know how good they are at playing the game and need the initial feedback in order to continue or care about playing in the first place. In classroom settings, students do not always get immediate feedback and that is one of the issues because students become less motivated. Immediate grades on specific assignments are more meaningful than one overall general grade. If a student is good in some areas, but bad in others, their grade could result as just mediocre when really they are excellent in areas that are not being highlighted to paid attention to.

The second lesson that professors use is to “test before going live.” Video games have hundreds of testers before allowing people to play their game. A lot of the time the games are not hard enough or they are too hard and this makes it unattractive to the student playing the game. It is important for the game to have enough challenges, but also important that the player realizes that with practice they are capable of excelling and achieving more through out the game. It is also important to be able to identify the challenges and the rough spots through out the game. If everything is unexpected than the game could seem random or impossible. The surroundings within the game design have to make sense and have a purpose. In the classroom setting, many teachers have tested games on their students and then tried to further solve the issues as to why the students are unable to excel within the game. Then the game design changes to attract and engage the user.

It is also important for professors to relay the message, “why are we learning this.” This is the third important lesson addressing video games within the classroom. If you want to deliver math in a game then you must do it in a way that has purpose and goes along with the story line that is incorporated in the game design. The story of the game is the powerful motive to keep the player engaged. By incorporating the educational principles into the game design, the player will understand the purpose of learning while playing along with the story line. This way the obstacles of the game do not seem like busy work and the student is motivated enough to learn and continue playing the game. If there is a purpose and a goal and the student can answer the question, “why are we learning this?” then they are more likely to learn the most.

The fourth lesson is not to be afraid of fun. A lot of the time professors are afraid to make learning fun because they feel that the students are slacking off and not actually learning the material. However, this assumption that learning is supposed to be dry, tedious and awful does not keep students learning as much as they could be. This assumption is not true and has the opposite affect on students because they are less likely to become engaged. Instead they are turned off by the material being presented. The fifth lesson is that not every subject works as a game. Educational games are difficult to design and if the game is not meant for the subject, then its better to learn in a traditional learning environment. Education games need to be designed well in order for students to have fun while learning just as much, if not more than they would be in a normal classroom setting.

The article can be found here: http://chronicle.com/article/5-Lessons-Professors-Can-Learn/63708/

CSMonitor, the media, and videogames

Hey guys, if you aren’t a regular reader of Christian Science Monitor, you should definitely check it out. It’s a great news magazine that has very little to nothing to do with Science or Christianity, but instead provides (what I believe) to be very objective news. Well, yesterday, they posted up a very long article about the reasons and motivations behind why videogames are so ubiquitous to our culture.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/0318/Video-game-nation-Why-so-many-play

One of the big points that this article talks about is the fact that 25% of American gamers are over the age of 50, and the motivational tools used to push usage of these fun endeavors. Among the explanations they use, the idea of “fiction is life with the dull bits left out”. The author of the article talks about the fantastic aspect of videogames as a large motivating factor. In addition to this, he mentions completion (much like the same way one completes a book) as a source of pride and motivation.

Furthermore, the article addresses some common views about violence and video games, as well as the issues of pirating that often surround these video games. In the end, there were two universal principles that motivated the main player: having a good time.

Throughout the course of our class, we have focused heavily on the detailed explanations behind why gaming is so important for both learning and the classroom. However, this article focuses on a very important aspect of what makes videogames so ubiquitous: the sheer fact that they are very fun and satisfying to play.

I think the lesson to take form this is that “if something is fun, people will do it”. And I also believe this is the lesson that education wants to go toward, that is “being fun”. Though obviously a tough challenge, making learning fun seems like a reasonable goal for educators.

Can you become a manager after playing SimCity or Theme Hospital?

I have always loved to play strategic games. Games like Civilization, SimCity or Theme Hospital, or even soccer manager games were always one of my favorite. There is couple reasons for that, these games always were able to keep me in front of computer for hours because of opportunities they were giving me; they let me become a gubernator, or a manager of a big business. This is something that never happens in the real word in the case of a teenager.  Furthermore, these games are based on multiple Gee principles, such as the “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle, which means that I could take risk, which in real life I would never take. Because of that, I could make risky managing decisions; also you usually don’t get all achievements and honors if you are just one of many managers who always play it safe.

These games seem to have a lot of concepts included from the business world. I think that these games could be used in the introduction to financial courses in college or high school to teach students about basic managing strategies. Also, I think that this way of learning would be more entertaining and involving than learning concepts from a book or getting the New York Times to read about someone else’s successes or failures; why wont you try on your own in virtual world. I remember that my into to finance was pretty much entertaining but the most fun part of the class was playing a virtual stock market game based on the real stock market values. However, since I am not a business major, it is hard to tell me without doing deeper research if my assumptions are correct and if we could really use these games or their modified versions to teach students about the principles of financial investments, and decisions making.

Maybe some business major students would like to say something more about this subject?

Top Gear and GranTurismo4

Today I was sitting on the couch with my roommates and thinking about what I should write about for my blog post, when I started thinking about how much I like the British car TV show, Top Gear. Then I realized that in one of their episodes they did something that would be a great example of how the most advanced game productions developed over the years are still not what the reality is. They decided to race a Honda NSX over the Laguna Secca Circuit in Gran Turismo 4 on Playstation2, and then go to California with the same car to race on the track and compare their results.

The time to beat from GT4 was 1.41. Gran Turismo was always known as one of the most realistic driving games ever created. Tracks and cars in these games look almost exactly the same as in real life. The time between developers releasing new games is about two to three years because they want to make it as accurate as they can. However, Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, had troubles to get even close to the time from the game. His best time from the track was actually over 16seconds slower than time from the game. Just to clarify his driving skills are really, really good. Since they drive a lot of different cars in this show, including actual F1 cars, the presenters have to pass a driving test that allows them to do that, something comparable to F1 drivers’ super licenses. So, the guy with great driving skills was not able to get even close the time from the game. This means that even the biggest productions out there are still not that close to the reality, as we would wish, unfortunately.

Here is the link to youtube video from this recording:

Article About Gee

This article is very interesting. It discusses Jim Gee’s points on Video Games and Learning from a conference that he spoke at. The Ten Truths about Video Games and Learning that are discussed in the article both reference principles that we discussed in class and new concepts that he brings up in his speech. For example, some of the principles that are referenced are the risk-taking principle, achievement principle, ongoing learning principle, motivation, and many more. What I liked about this article is that it applied these principles to teaching and how they could be used in a lesson. For example because the cost of failure is high in schools, students often don’t take risks. However in many video games the cost of risk taking is usually low, making students more motivated to explore all information and try new ways of doing things. This shows us that teachers should try to make classes that have a low cost for risk taking because students would be more likely to learn more. I also thought one of the points about test taking was interesting. Gee basically says the video games test your knowledge better then a actual exam for algebra does. In video games the player has to master a skill each level in order to move to the next one. And each skill that is learned is used in the levels to come. This means by the end of the final level, the player would have mastered all the skills and would be able to remember how to do each one because they have continually used them. This is much better then studying for an exam to show you knowledge on the subject and then forget the information later. With video games the information becomes ingrained in your brain.
The link to the article is below. I really enjoyed it and thought it was interesting. There is also a short video at the end that discusses more of what Gee has to say if anyone is interested.

Achievement Unlocked!

Achievement Unlocked!

Above is a link to a flash game called Achievement Unlocked. This is a game where a user can get achievements for mundane tasks like dying 5 times in a row, , jumping 10 times successfully, and dying as soon as you spawn. In short, you can get achievements for ridiculous things. However, since the point of the game is to acquire all the achievements, this game has potentially interesting factors regarding motivation to play such a “pointless” game.

First of all, there is gap theory in discovering achievements serendipitously and unlocking them. The game has no explicit list of achievements and how to unlock them – you simply must know what to do to unlock it. Not knowing what you need to do to successfully beat the game is one source of motivation for players.

Another source of motivation in Achievement Unlocked is attribution theory, where users have extrinsic motivation of fun sounds and crossing out a whole list of 200+ achievements. These achievements typically don’t require too much ability other than a creative “what-if” mindset where users must think of different kinds of actions to do to unlock achievements. One main problem of this game is that the effort one must put into beating the game is enormous given the small reward of a “finished” screen at the end of the game. It gets difficult to try and unlock new achievements since the number necessary to win seems almost insurmountable after the initial novelty of everything you do is an achievement wears off. If one is persistent, they can succeed in the game. Otherwise, most are resigned to an incomplete game.

The main focus of motivation in this game is goal theory – unlock all the achievements and win. It seems simple, but at the same time is very long and tedious. Achievement unlocked also spawned a couple sources of collaborative exploration since its inception in 2008, allowing many users to pitch in difficult to find achievements to fully complete the game. Although some gamer purists regard these sources as cheating, the popular view validating their actions is that you can only cheat another player, not a computer.

I have not personally beat this flash game, but it does provide interesting insights on what makes users want to play it.

Wrong Category?

I think most of you will agree with me that the popularity of educational video games is very low compared to regular video games. Of course there are many reasons for that. One of them might be the lack of learning principles, or their wrong implementation, like the game on Nintendo DS that was presented on the first day of class that was basically an excel spreadsheet, not an entertaining math related game. However, I am more optimistic and I think that most of the educational games are not as bad and indeed there are many good games. So, if there are many good games then where is the problem, why are these games not so popular?

Well first of all, I think that there are some good educational games that are not called educational games, but might be called strategic games, such as Settlers, that teach you what humans need to do in order to survive, and how to get it. Second of all, I am not able to give a really good example of educational games that I would love to play that are defined as educational games. The reason for that is very simple; I never look at the games in this category. Why would I play a game for educational reasons when I go to school everyday for most of my life? When I go to the game store I am looking for something entertaining that does not have anything related at least in a title with school, because this game should give me a break from school. And this is where I can get to my point. The category of games called educational should be renamed or kept only for developers in order to make these games more popular. I bet that there are many students who will never tell their peers that they play educational games just because they might look like losers in the eyes of their colleagues. In some subcultures it just might not be seen as something positive that you are playing a game from a category that should teach you something, and that’s why people from this subcultures might be avoiding educational games.

These are just my random thoughts after going to AppStore in order to look for some cool games, and realizing that I would never look for them at the section designated for educational games, because how could they be fun?!

Brain Challenge

Brain Challenge is one of the first games I have downloaded on my smartphone. It is defined as a puzzle game stimulating your brain by mental exercises. The whole idea of the game is that after playing it you should be able to use a bigger percentage of your brain than before. However, this is just a description from the game developers, and it is not proved by any studies. Anyways, the game consists of many mini puzzle games that actually are pretty entertaining and addicting. They are divided in to many subcategories such as: memory, logic, math, visual and focus. In each category we can unlock a number of games that we can play at different levels of difficulty.

As it was said in our lecture that these kinds of games do not necessarily help you use more of your brain as opposed to mastering the mini games. In other words, to improve your overall result you have to play a lot to learn how to get higher scores. In many of these subcategories it is just the matter of mastering the system by simply learning the game rules. However, in the math subcategory the player has to improve his math skills and time needed to provide the correct answer. This means that if a player wants to get a higher score overall he has to also do better in math, and he actually has to do his calculations faster and more accurately.

My whole point is that I doubt if games like Brain Challenge can increase your intelligence level or help you use your brain more efficiently in every day life. However, certain mini games that are part of the game can help you improve some of the skills you are using in a every day life such as simple math calculations that we all do but in the era of computers and smartphones, people prefer sometimes to download an application to count the tip at the restaurant, rather than doing the math themselves.

Games and memory

During class, we talked about how BrainAge was shown by a study to help children increase their knowledge in learning. Well as a person who has gone through school, I can say with certainty (now), that elementary and middle school never increased my memory, video games did!

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I used to be a pretty hardcore Neopets player. And the biggest part of Neopets was knowing prices of items and the flow of the market. To give you an idea of how many items there were (and there is more now), check out this site: http://www.neoitems.net/search2.php?Name=A&submit=Go!&Special=&Sort=Name&results=20&Checklist=no&Description=&AndOr=&Category=&Rarity=&IDNum=&SearchType=5

Obviously, there was a common set of items that everybody used, but it was still a huge amount. I never really enjoyed memorizing what I thought was monotonous tasks (French words, provinces, capitols, etc.), but I really liked collectibles like Neopets items, Pokemon cards, and what I believe contributed most to my memory abilities, Magic The Gathering cards.

To give you an idea of how many cards there were approximately 12,000 (each with a name infused with SAT level words, type, effect, picture, and mana cost) cards at the time I played (15,000+ now). And like a bundle of SAT flashcards, I meticulously memorized all of them. And I didn’t memorize them for the sole reason of memorizing the cards, but instead for the reason of gaining knowledge about the game.

I think this is gamefication of a horrible task, and I think that it honestly did help me in the long run. Because to this day, I still hate blunt memorization, but if I want to learn something to expand knowledge on it (like learning about the full view of the MtG multiverse), then memorizing the knowledge because very enjoyable and natural for myself. So hmm, perhaps I should make a medical school knowledge-version of these games….

By the way, prof Fishman, need a new video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x4mCd5xrlo

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