Computer Science? How About Video Game Development

10 years ago, would the thought of majoring in video game development ever have crossed your mind? Most likely not because majoring in it wasn’t even an option. Today though more and more colleges are offering it as a major. An article in the LA Times described one students struggles with converting over to a video game development major. 21 year old Dhruv Thukrals was on a mission to convince his parents that video game development was a viable and lucrative career option. It was an uphill battle and I completely understand, if I were to tell my parents I was going to major in video game development they would ask me if it was April already.

Game development is an interdisciplinary art. No one person can do it all themselves. It takes artists, programmers, musicians, story tellers etc. The interest in video game development within colleges was sparked when the game industry began to match movie box office sales.

The industry is still young. What are your thoughts? Do you think video game development is a viable major at schools?

link to full article: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/20/business/fi-gamesschools20

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Play for College

A new type of gaming has emerged and its charter company is Grantoo.com. The basis is that student users can play trivia games against other students in a tournament style competition for a chance to win tuition money for their school. Today (April 8th), Grantoo will be hosting an online trivia tournament with students from over 40 universities. The first place prize is $2,000 in grants into their school account. Grantoo states that prizes will range from $50 to as high as $10,000 or even more. The company will require winners to donate 10% of their winnings to charity to promote giving.

Brands will like it because they can be associated with good causes, and students can have fun playing engaging poker, trivia, or Scrabble-like games” – CEO of Grantoo

They will be creating iPhone and Android versions in the Fall. They are also both a non and for profit company.

I’m not sure how this will workout to be honest since. Will it flop? What are your thoughts?

link to grantoo: http://grantoo.org

$$$ > Innovation

A recent interview with the CEO of East Side Games, Jason Bailey, recently came out. His stance is that innovation is overrated and that the game developers that that don’t think so are delusional. The interview started with a discussion about his studio’s latest game and how it is a clone of several other games. Bailey said there was no controversy but it was the reality of the business.

As CEO, founder, and core shareholder, it was my money out of my pocket that built this in the first place, [and] I want to minimize risk. I look at core, compelling game components, and compulsion loops and say, ‘This works! I love this. I’d like to take this to a new level. I love Jetpack Joyride, I love Triple Town. How can I make them a little bit better?

Hm. At first it may sound controversial. It did for me. Copying the game mechanics of a game and creating a new one labeled as your own? As I thought about it however it made sense. These game studios are taking things that work and making them better. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “don’t reinvent the wheel.”

We’re not curing cancer, here! We’re making things a little bit better, we’re taking inspiration from a lot of great, creative people, and we’re building teams.” Here, Bailey grows almost indignant, and what comes next is telling. “I’m trying to build a business here, that generates revenue, that gives out paychecks, and pays people’s medical bills.

link to full interview: http://www.pocketnext.com/interviews/rebel-with-a-cause/

Curls for Cash

I love working out. Fitness is a passion of mine. However for some people the chances of going to the gym as often as they would like is around zero. Gyms are packed to the walls every January with hopes of fitting into those high school jeans. They clear our by February and March. Everybody knows that they should be doing it. They know it’s good for you. They know the plethora of health benefits associated with it. They want to change how they look but they still don’t do what they know they should do. Hm. Let’s take a moment and brain storm to figure out some ways we could get them off their couch and into the gym. At home work out videos? Meh. Some cool new way of working out with a cool name like the Ab Blaster 9000? eh. What about something that get’s them moving without them putting in any effort? Hawaii Chair?!? How about instead of charging people once for a workout product, we charge them every time they miss a workout and spread the wealth with everyone that does make their workout? In comes Gym-Pact.com.

Curls for cash or curls for girls?

The basic concept is that users will commit their money for a week of workouts. If they miss their scheduled workout then they will lose the amount of money they committed for a workout. The commitment ranges from $10 to $50 per workout. When users miss workouts their money is collected and then spread among the users that did do their scheduled workout. Boom. Double incentive to hit your workouts and get off of your couch.

Workouts are tracked through their phones (currently only supported through iPhones though). The users location is tracked through their iPhone’s GPS and if they are located by a fitness facility then they are considered to be completing their workout.

iPhone screen

Hey Let’s Sail to Those Half Naked Women!

This concept of signing future binding contracts isn’t new however. In Greek mythology, our good friend Ulysses signed his own “gym-pact.” Ulysses had a problem. He wanted to listen to the Sirens (dangerous creatures disguised as seductresses). These sirens were bad girls though. They would lure ships in with their singing and inevitably lead sailors to their horrible death because the sirens were surrounded by water with jagged rocks beneath that sank ships.

I'm going to give you until the count of three to turn this boat around.

Solution? Ulysses had his men tie him to the ships mast and then had them put beeswax into their ears so that they couldn’t hear the Sirens seducing songs. Bam. Future contract that allowed him to commit to his desired future action. This was then coined the “Ulysses pact.”

A Ulysses pact or Ulysses contract is a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future.

Same concept, different goals. We as humans are bad with the future, especially our future selves. For some reason we think our future self is way more productive and disciplined than our current selves. So what do we do? We put the responsibility of doing laundry, cleaning our rooms, starting our assignments and going to the gym on our future selves because they are way more suited to handling these responsibilities. The result? A list of our favorite phrases: someday, tomorrow, next week, I’m tired and I just ate so I should just go tomorrow, etc

I would probably cramp up at the gym since I just ate. I'll just sit and digest.

The Pain isn’t Enough

The pain of not going to the gym isn’t enough to actually get you to work out. There is no immediate pain when we choose to not do something like working out. It’s easy, we just pull out the tomorrow card and drop a couple justifications and off we go to watch re runs of our favorite criminal forensics television series while gorging our face with tasty goodies. We can fix this by bringing the pain in the form of cold hard cash out of your bank account. Yeah. You’re going to feel the pain now. It’s either going to be in the form of your muscles working out or your wallet working out.

Want to watch me for the fifth time instead of busting your ass? It's going to cost you more than that pint of Ben and Jerry's

Pros

  • Binding our future selves to our intended actions? Check.
  • Making it hurt when we don’t workout? Check.
  • Incentives? Check.

Flaws

  • Possibly able to game the system?
I’ve thought about how users could possibly game the system by going to a place near the gym and checking in. The average gain stated on the website is $4.50 each week. Hardly enough for someone to take the time and game the system. People do however do crazy things for money. These people however are not the kinds of people that this game is looking for though. I’m not sure as to how this flaw could be fixed however (require you to take a picture of you showing off the gun show at the gym?)

Closing

This app provides negative and positive incentives that will most definitely help users reach their workout goals because it’s always going to take some will power on our behalf to do something (that is unless robots exercise our bodies for us without us needing to do anything). I think it will definitely help the right users reach their workout goals. One suggestion however. If there was someway of making the user physically hand over the money they lose then this game would be much more effective. Studies have shown that paying for something with cash hurts way more than swiping the shiny plastic (what hurts more? handing over $60 for that pair of pants you didn’t need or swiping the ole plastic?).  So maybe instead of withdrawing money online, they make you hand over cold hard cash for your missed workouts. Bring the pain!!!

Yeah. I build these puppies with Gym Pact!

Why Are They Called Social Games?

I grew up playing video games. They were a large part of my life. Although I have grown apart from them, I’ve noticed something. A trend of games dubbed “social games.” These games include Farmville and Mafia Wars. To be honest, I have never extensively played these games but I have observed others playing them. What I see is people playing a game by themselves and inviting everyone on their friend list to play. You don’t “really” interact with them. You ask them to do this and that for you like water your plants or what not. This was way different than the games I played that weren’t called “social games.” These games included Halo, Counter-Strike and Diablo (the online parts of the games). In these games I was constantly interacting with other players. I could chat with them through our mics or through text. It didn’t matter though, there was a constant stream of interactions occurring. I didn’t build my virtual Mafia by myself while inviting others to join.

When I think of someone playing these so called “social games,” all I see is a person sitting at their computer water plants by themselves in silence. Compare that to a healthy game of Halo on x-box live and you’ll know what I mean. In games like Halo users have to work as a team and communicate to play the game. Sure there are the high pitched screams of a prepubescent 13 year old’s but it’s still much more social than watering your virtual plants by yourself. Games like Halo, Counter-Strike, Diablo wasn’t only confined to playing at home by yourself. Users congregated and had LAN parties. You could go to a friends house and spend hours playing these games. Could you have a Farmville Lan party?

hey bro can you come water my stalks of corn?

In conclusion. I don’t think these so called “social games” are very social. Just because they are on a social network that invites all of your friends to play does not mean that they are social. The definition of social is “seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly;sociable; gregarious.” Asking your friends list to come water your plants isn’t social, it’s building a large user base so they can pump more ads in front of your eyeballs.

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