Puzzle Shooters? (spoilerish alert)

Jump to the bottom to see the pretty videos, if you’re like me and have no patience…

I just wanted to point out some new games that have come out in the last two weeks that defy standard catergorization, by being creative and putting new twists onto an old game:  the FPS.  You see, I’m not really taken in by the “novelty” of being more real.  COD?  How is Black Ops REALLY that different from the first COD?  How are the newest sports games REALLY different from past ones?  How are the newest fighting games REALLY different from the old ones?  More real, more complex.  (Though I have to say that I found the insanity of the combat and storyline in COD:BO, to be rather… unrealistic, and the people I know who spent time in the Army agree.  I mean, really?  One or two people versus a hundred – or more?  I don’t think so. Special ops only works in real life when they don’t know you’re there!)  Anyways, one way that “new” game types are created is by combining genres.  In this case, FPS and puzzles, as in the two games below. 

In case you haven’t been inundated with the ads yet (I’m sure most computer gamers already know about this, at least) Portal 2 came out yesterday.  Portal 1 was what I have best seen summarized as a “glorified tech demo” in which the developers played with the idea of having a gun that can create a portal you can walk through on (almost) any surface, to (almost) any other surface.  It’s a FPS, but only in that you have a gun that shoots something – but not people, just portals.  In fact, in the entire game, you character is the ONLY human you see the entire time and then almost only through the portals (see about 1:25 in this vid where the character is literally chasing themself through some portals.  Worse than a dog chasing its tail!).  It’s really a puzzle game, in which the goal is to get through multi-dimensional mazes.  The premise is that you are a “test subject” in an Aperture Labs facility, and you learn more and more sophisticated ways of using the portals (and learning about 3D thinking, momentum, velocity, frames of reference, gravitational acceleration, etc.).  You then use this new knowledge and your convenient portal generating gun to escape from GLaDOS, the evil supercomputer AI that is trying kill… ahem… I mean test you.  Spoiler alert:  You DO escape (assuming you win) and leave GLaDOS in a sorry state.  (Destroyed?)

Nope.  Not destroyed.  Portal 2 brings us back to the lab, where we find ourselves as test subject AI robots, that can now work cooperatively to pass the tests… and then what?  I don’t know.  It’s also cool because there is a cooperative mode, where two people have to work together to get to the end.  Finally, there are challenges, for time, fewest steps taken, etc.  Motivation to earn them all, I would say.

Sanctum is the newest and most interesting Tower Defense game I have ever seen.  Again, the developers add the 3D FPS aspect to the game, and learn by trying the puzzles over and over again.  This game has a fair amount of “just in time” info provided, and again, in a first for tower defense, I believe, there is a cooperative mode.  There is also an “infinite” mode in which you try to last as long as possible against wave after wave of alien destruction, which of course is tied to the leaderboards… motivation, anyone?

Both games meet more of Gee’s principles than you can shake a stick at, opportunities for Flow, ways of “cheating” (or is it?), problem solving, identity issues, motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), reflection, and enough other “educational” aspects that you could make a career of studying them… or at least until the next big thing comes out…

Social Gaming




Social gaming is being hardwired into our daily lives. We can think of social gaming firstly as casual games that do not require a significant effort in learning, have simple rules but are also entertaining, they are boredom killers. Where did these games come from? I remember that during my middle school years, there was a booming number of websites which catalogued casual small games made primarily in flash. On top of these single player games, there were multiplayer games which engaged people to play against random web surfers. This might sound extremely familiar because multiplayer is another term for social gaming.

Facebook was probably the first engine that solidified all kinds of social networks and effectively crushed MySpace, which at the time had developed into a rather messy interface. With a solid social engine, the notion of social gaming exploded. Suddenly, people who previously had no game interest were playing with their own friends. It became a way to communicate, cooperate and solidify friendship, at least virtually, or among extroverts. (Facebook is primarily an extrovert social gaming

And then there are those who try to pour something virtual, such as social gaming, into the real world. 4Food ingeniously applies gaming strategies into its business model, in this context, gaming is not limited to entertainment anymore, and there are both monetary and social rewards. Furthermore, the Japanese ibuttlefly app is even more ingenious, it applies real world adventure (exploring the city in search for butterflies), encounters (stumbling upon people in search of same butterflies or hunting in groups) and economic benefits (discounts determined by captured butterflies).

Why Facebook is the Ultimate Computer Game

Think about it.

You create a Facebook account.  Then what?  You begin to accumulate friends, build a profile, and design what you believe is the closest equilibrium between the real you and the virtually desirable you.  Ostensibly, you are engaging in an activity, like any fundamental online game, that can be scored and measured using universal standards.  Obviously people will play the game differently; some will choose to gain the most friends, be tagged in the most pictures, or join the most groups.  Some people will design their profile hoping to attract “friends of value”, or people who possess certain desirable qualities that make the user feel as if they’ve “won” because these desirable people want to be one’s friend.  Updates and interface changes in past years has changed or evolved most of these aspects on Facebook, but there was once a time when your number of friends and amount of wall posts was public information.  Other social networking sites can be measured using the same or similar standards.  On twitter your profile has been boiled down to a picture, a brief bio, and basic stats which include how many people you’re following, how many are following you, and how many times you’ve tweeted.  And so the game begins.  The whole concept behind Twitter is that people will follow or unfollow you based on what you say. Yes, people tweet because they have something on their mind, but the basic function of Twitter suggests that to an extent, the user will carefully consider what they say because it could benefit or hurt their quest to gain followers.  Additionally, one’s “expertise” or “level” can be determined based on a simple algorithm using Twitter’s provided stats about the user.  In order for all of this to actually work, to sustain its competitive game-like nature, these sites thrive on the basic concept of human’s desiring affirmation from others.  We seek approval from others, shaping our own identities based on the responses of family and friends to our actions.  This is not a new concept; in fact it is a very, very old concept, however in recent years programmers and innovators have found a way to take one of our most basic and essential human aspects and digitize it.  It is truly remarkable how such a basic human truth has remanifested itself in a form applicable to the modern technology and trends of our generation.  With the understanding that harvesting this fundamental human truth can lead to great success, I believe that future social trends, no matter how technologically advanced they may be, will essentially boil down to what is known as “the human factor”.

Tag! You’re it!

Having trouble keeping that New Year’s resolution to run every day? How about making your daily workout into a competitive game with friends? Nike and others have been messing around (productively, in my opinion) with adding game mechanics to people’s workout routines, now with a social twist.

(first spotted on The Unofficial Apple Weblog)