Gaming and Google Glasses [Warning: Mild Violence]

This has got to be the coolest post I’ve made so far. The video above imagines gaming combined with the power of the Google Glasses. If you don’t know what those are, check them out here. When I first saw Google Glasses, I didn’t think about how they could work for video games. But the potential for augmented reality and gameplay is amazing, as evidenced in the above video. We are talking about an entirely new level of realism in gaming. Who knows what could be at stake? Sure- there’s a few issues to tackle…It might be strange to see a bunch of kids running around an abandoned building complex shooting fake guns and what not. But hey- at least it takes the idea of physical game play to new heights. Google Glasses could easily be the cure to childhood obesity (among other things)! This takes the idea of Wii Fitness to an entirely different level. This technology is probably way off in the future, but good to know companies like Google are thinking about it.

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“College Students Find ‘Serious’ Video Games Educational, Fun”

Chicago Tribute came out with an interesting piece yesterday that works towards negotiating a lot of claims/debates that we have gone over in class about the learning potential of video games. It talks about students from different colleges across the country using video games in a lot of diverse ways for educational means. Further, the piece gets into certain issues that we touched on like where to draw the line on what is a game and what is just merely an educational exercise. Worth a read:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-201204101127usnewsusnwr201204090409collegegamesapr10,0,5225573.story

Have Videogames and Hollywood Become the Same?

To explicate the title, it’s obvious that videogames and Hollywood are two different industries. There are clear differences between both mediums of entertainment. Nonetheless, we have seen in recent years many games deliver stories in unbelievably cinematic ways, on par with Hollywood quality story telling (think Alan Wake, Heavy Rain, or the Uncharted Series). With so many awesome characters and worlds, IGN published an interesting editorial wondering why we have not seen any crossover projects between games. They liken this idea to Who Framed Roger Rabit where we see cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny (Disney and WB working together?!). This was mostly due to Steven Spielberg’s negotiating skills. Is there even a Steven Spielberg in the video game industry? I know many non-gamers might see this as a worthless whim but to any gamer who appreciates the different personalities in the video game world and would be curious to see what happened when these world’s and narratives cross over.

Check out the site here: http://games.ign.com/articles/122/1222375p1.html

Online Gaming Illegal for Sex Offenders

The state of NY just recently agreed to put a plan into action that necessitates registered sex offenders to provide their “online identities” to the proper authorities in order to place a ban on their online gaming usernames. In other words, a sex offender is no longer allowed to play any games on Xbox Live or PSN, mostly for fear that the online communication component will enable them to prey on potential victims. This decision is pretty interesting, especially when you consider some of the inherent issues with sex offender laws in certain states. ESA, a trade association for major video game makers seems to support the decision, saying that they welcome any sort of movement to make online game play safer. You can’t really argue with that logic. As video games become more and more advanced in the future (i.e. Kinnect’s webcam and other communication features), we are sure to see more of these kinds of decisions/debates.

SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/nyregion/video-game-systems-close-sex-offenders-online-accounts.html

Video Game April Fools Roundup

Any video game fan should check out this G4TV’s roundup of April Fools pranks from around the video game industry. For some reason, April Fools is always a big deal for video game makers and some of the tricks are elaborate albeit pretty unbelievable. This video was arguably the most well done prank that does a good job of making fun of  some of the inherent problems with XBox Kinnect and controlling a game while taking up a large physical play space.

“The Art of Video Games”

If you are in D.C., you might want to check out the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum’s “The Art of Video Games” exhibit. To quote the Smithsonian, “The Art of Video Games is one of the first exhibitions to explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.” I really like the idea of something like this. For people my age, it allows for a better understanding of the progression of gaming overtime, especially considering we were only alive for the backend of the 40 year evolution. For those that are older, it allows for a cool, nostalgic experience and perhaps a reintroduction to modern day gaming today. A lot of reviewers enjoy the exhibit but have qualms with certain elements that are missing. For instance, the exclusion of infamous game designer Rockstar or the lack of mention about gaming on the mobile scale. If you want to make your own assessment, the exhibit runs until September before it travels to ten different cities.

Sesame Street, Kinect, and Edutainment

Here’s a brief report on Sesame Street for Kinect as seen on Engadget:

Kinect — it’s the Xbox 360 peripheral that just keeps on giving, now with more edutainment. Yes, that collision of worlds typically yields cringe- and boredom-inducing interactive experiences. Not so with this marriage of MS’ motion-controlling sensor and the fine folks behind TV mainstays like Sesame Street, National Geographic and Disney. (Source)

I thought this looked very interesting. Xbox is not usually geared towards very young children, but the more I considered it, the potential for pre-schooler age development is vast with the Kinect and properly implemented game design. Sesame Street has been honored time and time again for its achievements in education for kids. A cross over with the video game industry with their already time-tested content is pretty cool. Here’s what a spokesperson from the Sesame Street people said about the game:

“This partnership is an opportunity to combine the interactive platform of Kinect with Sesame Workshop’s 42 years of innovative and research-based approaches to educational content,” Rosemarie Truglio, PhD, vice president Education and Research at Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “This new media experience allows for meaningful learning—leveraging kids’ gross motor abilities by creating exciting, gesture-based movements that allow them to connect with our characters and content.” (Source)

I think the biggest fear that you have with something like this is making sure that this “edutainment” draws a line between simple (and boring) gamification. It seems that most reports indicate optimism for the creation of games that will keep kids active, working on motor skills while getting that quality Sesame Street content delivered through a unique medium (introducing kids to things like “fundamentals of reading”). Microsoft is planning on partnering with other groups like National Geographic to do similar work. The biggest thing to watch out for in the future is if these games start to lose quality and just become a cash show for a new demographic.

IGN’s ‘The 25 Greatest Breakthroughs in Video Game History’

IGN posted this cool article a couple of weeks ago. It does a good job  of showcasing some important developments in the gaming world, some of which have been touched on in class. Its cool to see all of these things in one article, as it really makes you realize just how far the technology has come and what kind of influence it can or can’t have provided the complexity, scope, etc. Link here.

Tax on Violent Video Games

The internet has recently been buzzing with talk of a tax on violent video games. William Fourkiller (yes, his that’s his real last name), a rep for Oklahoma has proposed that any game with a teen or above rating by the ESRB get a 1 percent tax placed upon them with the reasoning that  “Violent video games contribute to some of our societal problems like obesity and bullying.” While this claim has been something that has been debated for the past couple of decades, many studies have indicated that violent or mature video games do not do such a thing. Further, the Teen rating really casts a large shadow over what games would be taxed. Sure, a 1 percent tax isn’t a lot, but what do bills like this say about the video game industry? With Obama and company trying to put out great educational video games with high production value (post on this here), I don’t really see how this bill would work in tandem with such a proposal. Can we not make an educational video game made for a more mature audience or even a teen audience?

William Fourkiller

SOURCE: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2012/02/oklahoma-lawmakers-propose-tax-on-violent-games.ars?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss

The Perfect Difficulty Level

Today’s lecture got me thinking about the dynamics of difficulty in gaming juxtaposed with how this helps or hinders the learning process through games. This also relates to how we treat difficulty levels in the classroom. I first thought of some recent PS3 games called Demon Souls and Dark Souls. These game’s have been touted as some of the hardest games ever released to modern gaming consoles. There’s not even a pause button enabled for the user.  If you are in the middle of fighting a boss and have to go to the bathroom or deal with some other distraction, forget about it. Reviewers and players around the web have often applauded this strategy of game making. Getting past even the weakest of enemies feels like a major accomplishment. However, there is also a large group of players who are frustrated with this approach. This reviewer really liked the game, but couldn’t actually finish it on time for the review deadline. Nonetheless, he reccomended it for those who like a “stiff challenege”. He noted that the whole point of the game is that “You’re supposed to get up, dust yourself off, learn why you died there, and then come back in a soul form, doing your best not to die there again.” Thus, the game really moves forward with that idea your parents have always been trying to drill into your head: if you try hard enough, you will succeed. Its clear that people are very polorized in their opinions on whether or not this works (see here and here). If the player becomes too frustrated because their endeavors are seemingly never paying off, is the learning component rendered null? This more or less feels a lot like how the education system works today. If you fail your test, you have to look it over, find on what you did wrong, and figure out how to do better on the next one. But if a class or a game is too much for someone be it because their skill or knowledge level is too low, then this system more or less collapses.

Dark Souls Trailer [Warning: a bit creepy]

Cue the idea of “Dynamic game difficulty balancing also known as dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) or dynamic game balancing (DGB)…the process of automatically changing parameters, scenarios, and behaviors in a video game in real-time, based on the player’s ability, in order to avoid them becoming bored (if the game is too easy) or frustrated (if it is too hard).” [Source: Wikipedia]. This is used in certain games nowadays and enables the “just right” level of difficulty that was touched on in class. It made me think of Madden with the “My Skill” mode that alters the difficulty of the game based on how you have been playing and fairing against the game’s competition. I haven’t played the newest iteration of the game, but I remember the system being slightly flawed (one instance I would get badly beaten by the game and the next I would easily win with this cycle endlessly repeating). Is this the better way for games to function? Does one method foster the learning component more? And could an approach like this latter one work as a substitute for the current education system?  These are some tough questions to work out but are interesting to consider going forward, especially as technology enables these techniques further and as our understanding of such processes develop.

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