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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Designers: master one game, or else

In a new Gamasutra feature, Gameloft’s Christian Philippe Guay suggests some simple ideas for getting better at making fun games — by breaking them down into component elements.
“We have to be aware of what has been done before, as it is important to not repeat past mistakes,” writes Guay.

To design fun games, he writes, “I would suggest to any designer to take one game and spend enough time to master it. There are things that can only be properly understood once they’re truly experienced.”

“In reality, the more we master an experience, the more others become alike, because everything in this universe is based on the same principles. We realize that the same mechanics are used, but in a different context. By doing this, it becomes easier to create interesting gameplay mechanics or learn how to fix them.”

There is one important consideration, though, Guay does suggest.

“I tend to think that to study the greatest games of all time would help us to better understand how to make better games. However, those games are often so engaging that we might not see how to make greater things, because when we play them, we aren’t thinking critically about how they’re constructed; we’re experiencing them as players.”

The antidote?

“However, if we play the worst games, then everything frustrating will jump in our faces. Then we will see what needs to be improved, and that forces us to be creative and find how to fix those problems.”

The full feature, in which Guay breaks down fun into seven different layers to offer his take on the essential elements of game design, is live now on Gamasutra.

[link]

“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

$$$ > 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/

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.

World of Warcraft, Call of Duty accused of violating virtual worlds patent

This is too shock not to share. According to Tom Curtis, a company named Worlds Inc. claims that World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty franchise has violated one of its patents that covers a “system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space”. This is not the first case that the company filed a similar lawsuit agains City of Heroes.

CEO of the World Inc. states “While we are pleased to see that the gaming industry and its rapidly growing customer base have enthusiastically embraced our patented technologies, we deserve fair compensation for their use.”

I thought this is too ridiculous. We had a lecture in SecondLife. Talking about virtual world, I’m sure the company deserves certain profit, but this is too funny to determine who owns virtual world. Any thought?

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 Violence Skits

I really enjoyed how the class participated in the violence skits. Everyone was very creative and I felt that there was competition between every group. I really liked how one of the groups had everyone acting and playing a part so no one was just standing around doing nothing. I loved my group and how we had to incorporate Professor Fisherman as  the speaker. It was hilarious how one of my group members quoted and said similar things that he would really say during class. I hope we could do another skit again or next year they continue to get better.

-Aquashia Anderson

Go team Operation Unthinkable

Check out this article I wrote…

…on a game called The Path, for a completely different but more official blog, The Analytical Couch Potato. Give ’em a like on facebook while you’re at it, if you enjoy the articles.

http://www.theanalyticalcouchpotato.com/2012/03/path-and-use-of-fairy-tales-to.html

US Government turns to gamers?

So many of you might have encountered DARPA ( Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in a dozen or so video games– they always seem to be some pseudo faceless yet certainly evil organization that operates with very few rules. Needless to say, I found it very amusing to read this article about how DARPA is hiring the best game designers and even crowdsourcing gamers to help them with new projects.
Combine this with Jane McGonigal’s assertion in her book “Reality is Broken” (Seriously a great read) that the graduates of Quest to Learn will probably be among the most creative minds of their time– and basically you’ve got a reason to play video games: They foster creative thinking and might actually help you find a job.

I would love for this to be a reality, but I’ll definitely watch to see how it plays out before I put my grad school plans in the trash and play x-box full time

Link:

http://kotaku.com/5898342/us-government-turns-to-gamers-for-new-military-and-scientific-solutions

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.

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.

Competition, Gamification and the “Danger” of Being on Top

In attempting to gamify certain aspects of education, there’s inherently an aspect of competition involved, whether it is “against yourself” or against others. This can be both an excellent motivator, whilst also being a slippery slope that, in extreme cases, could encourage learned helplessness or create divisions within a group of individuals that were previously united. In terms of gamifying aspects of education, GOOD gamification should not result in learned helplessness– because then it has truly failed to provide any benefit right?
However, it could be argued that in a competition where groups are pitted against each other the idea that “your team can never win” can develop like a cancer, simultaneously forming in groups and out groups– “the us and them” of the winning and losing teams. This is usually the time when some writer will quote the tale of David and Goliath, or an entrepreneur will talk about how they made millions out of nothing– basically, people start telling stories about when the underdog actually wins against the odds.
I started thinking about this– about WHY the underdog wins in certain times and not in others (for it the underdog always won, they wouldn’t be an underdog)– and group morale seems to be a significant component in the success of the underdog. I’m not saying that it’s ONLY group morale, sometimes people just get lucky. Often times it’s due to an innovative unconventional strategy– doing something so unexpected or unpredictable that the opposition doesn’t REALLY know what to do or how to respond.
In the article below, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the underdogs and the outsider– and uses the David and Goliath Metaphor to boot.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

BUT, you can have the best specialists in a field and the most innovative strategies that still don’t succeed to that high level of achievement– wining the house, topping the leader board, hitting the jackpot.  If Ender’s Game is anything to go by, you can see that group morale and the support and encouragements of one’s team or “jeesh” can play a huge factor. Ender was certainly a great leader, not without faults, yet he knew how to build this aspect of group morale. To build a team.
Soldiers in the Army whose commanders are identified as the most effective leaders not only produce the most efficient results, but the soldiers under their command are also the happiest, the most likely to feel a true “sense of brotherhood” as well as a higher degree of perseverance when attempting to achieve goals.

So what does this have to do with competition, games and education? Well it seems almost too simple:

Good team/group morale + competition = perseverance +  achievement + positive psychological outcomes.

Fostering “good group morale” within a classroom could be a key driver in academic success– promoting students to work together, teach each other and learn from each other– while potentially mitigating the danger of some of the negative psychological pitfalls of adolescence via the creation of a group of people you can rely on. Definitely a more difficult objective to achieve with a group of adolescents rather than a group of military personnel.

On a side note, what happens to group morale when there is no challenge perceived? When you’re on top and there’s no enemy in sight?
Research indicates that group morale is at its highest/best/most effective when challenge is perceived, because a group will rally together to thwart the dangerous outcome.

Then the underdog comes in with a unbalancing strategy and claims the lead in the last 10 seconds of the game. Perhaps that is why the idea of being the underdog is not always a bad thing– technically you’re always being challenged, so your group morale is always high and your group is always (theoretically) on point.
Therein lies the danger of the top dog.

When Mario met GLaDOS

I love fan-created games, and this one looks fantastic. Someone built a fully playable version of Super Mario Bros. crossed with Portal. It’s called Mari0, and not only can you download and play it, but it also includes a multiplayer mode and tools to edit your own levels.

My only complaint is that this is making the rounds on gaming blogs on the day we come off of break. I have too much work to do to play it!

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.

Free online game website

Hello everyone… I just wanted to let others know there is a website called   http://www.physicsgames.com/ that allows you to play some free online games when you are bored. I found it rather addicting and challenging especially with Super Stacker 2. And trust, you guys do not need to sign up to play the games. All you have to do is just click and play instantly. Well that is all… Enjoy!

MLB 12 The Show

http://www.operationsports.com/features/1435/mlb-12-the-show-fact-sheet/

For anyone interested in baseball and video games, this is a link to a preview for MLB 12 The Show. It is rated the best baseball game and sometimes the best sports game year in and year out. I was searching for information about the game, and one thing I found was a video tour type thing of the Miami Marlins new ballpark. We recently talked about attention to detail in graphics in class, and this is a very good example. This game nails every little detail about every stadium (except that any advertisements are changed to be promoting fictional companies.) Also, I feel like some sports games fail to demonstrate as clearly the elements of motivation and learning that we talk about in class, but this one does a good job. It has a mode where you create a player that starts out in the minor leagues, but works his way up as you distribute his “training points” and work to meet goals your manager sets for you over about a three week period. Below I will post the link to the Miami Marlins video.

http://www.gametrailers.com/video/exclusive-marlins-mlb-12-the/726502

Recommendation Engines and the Death of Adventure

We spoke about this today in lecture for a little while– how tailoring our interests automatically is potentially limiting us. So here’s a quick link to a blog post I read some time ago that talks about this topic. I know the author, so perhaps I’m biased, but I think he hits the proverbial nail on the head.

http://brettwelch.com/2011/01/13/recommendation-engines-and-the-death-of-adventure/

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