The Future is…Soon?

A recent article I read from the Huffington Post ponders the incredible advances in computer technology that have occurred in the last half-century.  When it comes to games, our interactions with them requires a “significant intelligence of at least the artificial variety” when it comes to multi-player real-time immersive games.  Intuitively this makes a lot of sense, but it was interesting and a little unsettling to hear of these intelligences becoming more advanced to the point where now “computers can always win” at certain games like chess, checkers, or bridge.  Given the tremendous advances in both media and technology within the past fifty years, it’s very possible “future intelligent systems will then design even more powerful technology, resulting in a dizzying advance that we can only dimly foresee.”  The world of gaming has a symbiotic relationship with the world of science, which makes for an exhilaratingly uncertain century ahead.

Gaming Down Under

We’ve talked a lot in the past semester about how games have been adapted for use in the United States, but companies and developers in other countries are also finding ways to incorporate them into the education system.  In Australia, video games are being used for helping teach students physics at one local high school near Sydney.  Popular games like Angry Birds, Sonic Racing, and Formula 1 are all utilized more than educational ones, which aren’t as engaging.  This is a far cry from where the school (Merrylands High) was four years ago, when non-students rioted on the property.  There was not much context to that detail, but I assume that the repercussions of that instance did a lot to dampen student enthusiasm about their education.  Perhaps these games also provide ways to learn in a style that helps them stay involved in active learning, reducing the risk of delinquency or dropping out.  Overall, it’s an interesting to hear about what’s being done in this field outside America.

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.

Kine(c)tic Energy

Over the weekend my friends and I were at an apartment playing games on the Kinect for the Xbox 360, a relatively new kind of gaming technology where a sensor on top of the television screen tracks and captures an individual’s actual motions without the use of a controller or other secondary device.   This allows one or two players to participate in games by involving their entire bodies, not just fingers or hands.  The tutorials for the activities were simple enough where players could instantly learn and play adequately well in a very short time frame.

The games we amused ourselves with had various functions.  All involved a certain degree of hand/body limb-eye coordination as you would participate in activities like plugging leaks in an underwater fish tank, popping bubbles in outer space, or hitting moving targets in a bowling alley-type setting.   The most intense and involved game was an obstacle course where the player needed to actually move in jumping, ducking, and sidestepping the barriers along the track to catch points with their hands, arms, or legs.   After about three or four rounds, I found myself at a physical level of exhaustion that normally would only otherwise happen at the CCRB.

None of these games were explicitly sports related, involving other interactive ways of competition while still motivating even reserved players like me to jump around and move unusually in order to attain as high a score as possible, and the corresponding medal.  Even while needing to take a break from playing, I found myself wanting to try again and beat that level’s previous score.  This caused some interesting processing about motivation, as I was also planning out material to use in my poster presentation.  First, I observed the Kinect games were valuable in the sense of attainment value.  As previous mentioned, the desire to increase my score (or beat a certain friend’s score) motivated me to try again at various points throughout the night.  In terms of intrinsic value, there’s great enjoyment in playing these kinds of interactive games, and watching others play as well.  Instrumentally, there isn’t as much that’s easily applicable, but it’s possible that consumers can purchase games like these for personal goals such as bettering their health or providing entertainment for guests or visitors.  Given the amount of enjoyment the Kinect gave my friends and I, the future potential of this gaming device is incredibly high.