Girlfriends of Gamers

Recently I was shown a very hilarious YouTube video thanks to my boyfriend titled Sh** Gamers Say to Their Girlfriends. (

This video piqued my curiosity as to what pops up on a Google search of ‘being a girlfriend of a gamer’. To my surprise a good amount of interesting pages and videos popped up. I came across two wikiHow pages one being How to Get Your Girlfriend to Play Video Games and How to Juggle a Girlfriend and Video Gaming: 5 Steps.

When reading the first of the two sites, I found the approach of this website to relate more so to the motivational aspect of learning for both the male and female in these scenarios. One key motivational feature I noticed was an extrinsic motivator that the boyfriend would give to his girlfriend. The “make a trade” point is practically convincing the boyfriend that to get her to play video games with you, you can just trade off by giving her a “reward” for playing with you. Honestly, it’s a good idea because it gives the girlfriend motivation to play games with her boyfriend as well as allowing her more time to spend with the boyfriend altogether. It’s a win-win for the girlfriend and the boyfriend, boyfriend plays games, girlfriend gets rewards. Technically both receive rewards.

Another key point that is raised is to have fun when playing with your girlfriend. Girls don’t want to be yelled at when playing with you, especially since they know they aren’t an expert at this game. Thus, making it fun and engaging for the both of you makes it an overall better experience and a good bonding time for everyone involved.

The next wikiHow article takes a different approach. It contains two points focusing on things your girlfriend could be doing while you’re playing video games. Pointing out things that may “distract” your girlfriend while playing a video game. Although these ideas could work, i.e. getting her to develop a new hobby or read/knit while you’re playing games, in my opinion a better approach is to involve your girlfriend rather than excluding her from a hobby that you enjoy so much.

Both of these articles are very interesting and are attached at the bottom. Next time you’re with your girlfriend or boyfriend, include them in your gaming experience and I promise it will be fun.

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…

Cheating.. a good thing?

With the topic of cheating at the forefront of this week’s discussion, I happened to find a very intriguing article on the matter.  Associate Professor, Mia Consalvo at Ohio University has done research on the topic of cheating an has provided her own views of the benefits of cheating in the following article.  It is a very interesting read and it stresses that cheating in video games, such as searching for cheat codes and such exemplifies how a gamer wants to ‘learn’ more and discover or unlock more rewards that the game has to offer.  Also, being stuck on a level, or on a math problem in the real world does not further the knowledge and learning for a person.  Also, many times teachers tell students to do work by themselves and do not get help from others, well in video games it is acceptable to help others to complete levels and further themselves in the game.  Why not bring this mentality to the classroom as it would make the classroom environment from enjoyable and unified.  Below is the link to this article and I believe it is a very interesting read that is relevant to our week’s discussions.

Ever wonder how some of your favorite classic video games got developed?

If so, check this article out:

It’s a great example of how the structure and design of a game can affect its playability and entertainment value. Can you believe it? Super Mario 2 was almost a vertically scrolling type game. Thankfully, this prototype failed miserably and we ended up with the version we all know and love. I also thought that this was a refreshing thing to hear about Nintendo:

“The rapid-prototype development process on display here informs Nintendo’s design philosophy to this day. The company doesn’t begin development with characters and worlds: It starts by making sure that game boasts a fun and compelling game mechanic. If it’s not perfect, Nintendo has no qualms about throwing it out.”

This seems to be somewhat of a “lost art” today, with hundreds of repetitive first-person-shooters, sports game sequels, and GTA knock-offs on the shelves. The industry seems to be much less concerned with making  games that are truly great (forget perfect), and more concerned with making games that people will buy. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the nature of capitalism, however it would be nice to see a return to the “let’s make a perfect game” style of design and development. What do you guys think?

Are studies related to video games and violence biased?

In class we have talked about many different opinions surrounding the issue of do video games correlate to violent behaviors in children and young kids.  The attached article talks about another issue that relates to this dilemma.  The articles discusses whether these conducted studies exhibit a degree of bias.  Patrick Kierkegaard has been a large contributor to opinions on this issue and he has given reason to make people believe that these studies that show video games and violence are correlated are unreliable.  He continues to state that since the early 1990’s statistics show that even though video game use has skyrocketed over the years, the incidence of violent crimes has decreased.  If you would like to read a bit more on this issue, below is the link that will send you to this article.

Unspoken rules of video games

Video games seem like something to play casually and to relax and enjoy yourself but this is actually not as it appears to be. Much like any relaxing activity such as bowling, golf and fishing; it gets turned into a competitive event. Video games are much the same thing. Pro-circut events like MLG have come out that has made competitive gaming a sport. Major games such as Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty are featured and pros from all around the world come to compete at these events.

In the video game world a schism was created, a rift that divides gamers and casual players. Gamers expect people to abide by the unspoken rules of video games. These unspoken rules keep people from using cheap weapons and tactics which would otherwise make the game unbearable if all were to use them. Specifically tactics such as camping and the use of high damage weapons such as rocket launchers and the type. Friends of mine that attend MLG events yearly would rather die (in game of course) than to knife someone in COD unless they were out of bullets.

Have you ever been playing a game like Call of Duty when everything is going fine for the first couple of games with a group that you are currently with. No one is using shotguns, RPGs or anything of the short. All of a sudden one guy comes in and all he uses is a shotgun; the next thing you know everyone is running around knifing people, using noob tubes, camping in corners and the whole game goes into a downward spiral. Explosions are going off everywhere, glitches are being exploited and no one lives for more than a few seconds. It’s just an overall very unpleasant experience and it just takes one guy breaking the unspoken rule to turn the game upside down. The problem with this unspoken rule is that it really only applies to higher caliber players that are more or less competitive. The people who are causal players and just there to have fun could care less about these rules. This usually leads to the all too well known trash talking about how someone is a noob and so on and things become heated.

Hopefully since online console gaming is a pretty knew phenomenon there will be some control for this in the future. Maybe individual lobbies can be created with more strict rules for competitive gamers as well as a lobby for casual gamers where everything goes. I see that there are already certain rules being put into place for certain games where certain weapons are not allowed to be used in certain lobbies, people are not allowed to enter other lobbies if their aim assist is on and so on. Hopefully more of this will become prevalent and each gamer can find a lobby that fits their satisfaction.

Mario Kart: Evaluating the Phenomenon

So I read one of the blogs posted earlier this week regarding videogame playing in dorms and it really got me thinking about my own experiences. Speaking as someone who has lived in the dorms all 4 years of his collegiate career I have seen videogames do everything from create a friendship between two people who one would think would never be able to relate on anything to damn near destroy friendships that have endured years of issues. I have played many different games in the dorms, everything from Fifa to Halo to Wii sports but I must say that the most transcendent game I have encountered would undeniably have to be Mario Kart. Now granted with the recent advances in technology, Mario Kart is available on many different consoles but I’m old school. Mario Kart on N64 is the best version ever made. It never fails, every time someone moves in with Mario Kart on N64 handy, people from all over the dorm gravitate toward their room to take part in the inevitable madness. This is something that has always made me smile because it is absolutely intriguing to see how my residents and res-hallers all over the country can play 20 games on an XBox or PS3 but own an Nintendo 64 for one reason, Mario Kart. Granted N64 has made some other valuable contributions that have stood the test of time as well such as 007 Golden Eye and Super Smash Bros. I have never seen a game as revolutionary and boundary crossing as Good Ol’ Mario Kart. I know that I am not the only person who can relate to this and if you are so unfortunate to be one of the unlucky few who cannot, invest in Mario Kart, a N64, and a few controllers and watch the magic unfold!

smartphones vs. videogames

The president of Nintendo told video game developers that smartphones were driving a trend toward lower quality and economically unsustainable video games.  The surfacing of low-cost video games for smartphones has led to a major shift in the way that many people experience video games.  In addition, the popularity of casual smartphone games like Angry Birds is particularly threatening to companies like Nintendo.  Video game console makers have looked to distinguish themselves by creating devices that do things that phones cannot.  Nintendo’s biggest response has been the 3DS, a portable 3D gaming device that does not require glasses.  What do you think of the experience of gaming on lower quality games on phones as compared to video game consoles?

The Angry Birds User Experience

My specialization for the degree I’m pursuing is Human-Computer Interaction. This means that I’m studying user experience and interaction design. Because of this, I found this piece on the user experience of Angry Birds interesting indeed.

Why is it that over 50 million individuals have downloaded this simple game? Many paid a few dollars or more for the advanced version. More compelling is the fact that not only do huge numbers download this game, they play it with such focus that the total number of hours consumed by Angry Birds players world-wide is roughly 200 million minutes a DAY, which translates into 1.2 billion hours a year. To compare, all person-hours spent creating and updating Wikipedia totals about 100 million hours over the entire life span of Wikipedia (Neiman Journalism Lab). I say these Angry Birds are clearly up to something worth looking into. Why is this seemly simple game so massively compelling? Creating truly engaging software experiences is far more complex than one might assume, even in the simplest of computer games. Here is some of the cognitive science behind why Angry Birds is a truly winning user experience.

The article goes on to discuss at length the ins and outs of the user experience of playing Angry Birds. Now if only someone could tell me why the pigs stockpile ham (it’s so disturbing).

More Games and Military

I recently came across an article about video games helping veterans control their combat dreams. Note that these soldiers aren’t diagnosed with PTSD. The article says that the “higher-gaming” group, veterans who played “hardcore” games (Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, etc.) and played more often, often felt more in-control of their dreams, that they were less intense, and that they could fight back. Their lower gamer category (people who played less often and tended to play more casual games) often felt more helpless than their higher-gaming counterparts.

It’s an interesting article about how games can be applied for something other than entertainment (not necessarily learning, but definitely an important application) and I hope you all take the chance to at least skim over it.

Video Games Help Kids Learn

I read a recent article called Do video games help kids learn? Yes, and no . A survey/study was conducting where they gave video game systems to a number of families and then another few that did not receive one. They found that the kids who had the game system scored better on math and science test. I don’t find this surprising because games require players to have strategy and problem solving. The brain is constantly and quickly making decisions. Players are actively using their brains! To support this I noticed a large number of genius computer programmers play video games. So playing games help kids succeed!

The kind of video game movie that works

Two recent posts to this blog have talked about video games and movies. One asked why movies based on video games are always bad. Another talked about plans for an Inception game and expressed skepticism about whether it would work as a game. Both movies that adapt video games and especially video games that are based on movies have their problems, at least where quality is concerned (though I would argue that there are examples of both that work–I’ll get to those at the end of this post). Another kind of video game movie that works better is those that aren’t adaptations but feature games as an important part of the story being told.

I’ve been planning to post about video games and movies for a while, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I keep coming back to movies like Tron or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as being the best approach to video game movies. These movies are about games (or in the case of Scott Pilgrim, informed by games), but they’re not based on games. When I first decided to post about movies and video games, I asked some friends about their favorites. I also did a search to see what the Internet would bring me. My own choices, my friends’, and this column at the Escapist all pretty much agreed that in addition to Tron and Scott Pilgrim, you can’t talk about video game movies of this type without talking about The Wizard, WarGames, The Last Starfighter, and eXistenZ. I’m going to talk about Tron, WarGames, eXistenZ and Scott Pilgrim in this post, because those are the ones I have watched a million times know best (after the cut. Long post is long. Also, if you’re the TL;DR type, skip to the end for the part about a class poll). Feel free to leave comments about the others.


movie to video games

since there’s been so much about games and movies, here’s a backwards motion from movies to games. i don’t think this will work as well– the game transitioning into movie media because thriller movies like Inception have a reason why they are in the thriller category. The thrill is lost but now anyone can go and explore the dream world.

realistic videogames vs. videogames in reality

This music video will rock your “what if” world.  Bonus points if you know the game.  Double bonus if you actually played… (no, bonus points do count towards your grades.)

Banning Violent Video Games in Mexico

There is growing research on the effects of videogames on children, especially in regards to violence.  Many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes and promote killing, criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law, foul language, and obscenities.  Many studies of children who are exposed to violence have shown that they become immune to the gravity of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior.  In addition, studies have revealed that the more realistic and repeated exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children.

Spending large amounts of time playing violent games can create problems such as poor social skills, lower grades, less reading, exercising less and obesity, aggressive thoughts and behaviors, and less time with family, school work, and other hobbies.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, legislators have just asked federal authorities to ban the video game “Call of Juarez: The Cartel.”  This video game is based on drug cartel shootouts in Ciudad Juarez and has angered local officials who are busy fighting “all-too-real violence.”

Do you think banning violent games will help children’s growing aggressiveness?

Here is the full article about the game in Mexico:

Video Games and Stealth Assessment Technology

As many of us experienced during our childhoods, young kids are reluctant to do their schoolwork after school.  However, kids are more than happy to spend hours on end playing video games at night.  According to Valerie J. Shute, a Florida State University researcher, the solution to this issue is not to take games away from kids.  Rather it would be more effective to provide a more enjoyable learning experience by creating video games with educational content and assessment tools.  In addition, it would be positive to incorporate these games into the school curriculum.

The concept known as ‘stealth assessment’ tries to disguise educational content in a way that kids won’t even realize that they’re being assessed while playing the game.  Furthermore, stealth-assessment technologies have many advantages over conventional teaching methods.  Shute said, “Based on a student’s responses to various situations that come up during the course of playing a video game, the game itself can be programmed to assess where that student might be especially strong or weak in core competencies.”  She then suggested that educational games could adapt its content to the needs of the student, providing more or less information depending on one’s progress in the game.  This stealth-assessment technology will not only be able to measure a student’s current level of knowledge, but can determine areas for improvement, and guide the student towards improvement by providing feedback, and perhaps making easier problems.

I think that this idea of stealth assessment could provide great results for students.  I know that when I was a kid I would definitely have been more engaged within a video game context, rather than learning in the classroom or doing written homework after school.  I would be curious to hear about what other students think about this stealth assessment technology.  Do you think it can work?  Or, are these research findings not substantial?  I for one think that this is a positive for the education systems.

Video Games as Art

Do you consider video games to be art? Despite what Roger Ebert says, the Smithsonian seems to think they are!

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will run an exhibit called The Art of Video Games starting in March of next year. They’re currently accepting votes (you can vote here) for the games that will be featured to illustrate the 40-year evolution of the medium, including some that are being played in this class right now!

Do you consider video games to be an art form?

Games about Games

We’ve been thinking about what makes a good game design in our Gamestar Mechanic competition. In light of that, I’ve discovered this list of metagames. Some are just abusive like Desert Bus, where you have to drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas for eight hours. Some are minimalistic like Don’t Shoot the Puppy, which is a game of inaction where you try to follow the instruction in the title. My favorite is The Onion‘s parody of violent video games, Close Range–a first person shooter where all of your enemies appear right in front of you. While most of them are amusing, they all challenge some element of game mechanics or design.

Video Games can make you smarter

While browsing CNN today at work I came across an article that talked about how video games can make you smarter.  It puts the theory that video games are a lazy, anti-social form of entertainment to the test.  Coincidentally it employs Gee’s book at one point.

The article branches off into 4 categories that try to show that video games can develop skills and make people smarter in the process.  The first category was hands-on experience.  It asserts that video games are actually much more engaging than simply watching tv or a movie.  As we know about the flow now, we know that video games can be very engaging and draw all of our focus.  This is where they credit Gee for his work and tell us that this was Gee’s point exactly in his book.  That memorizing facts will not help you solve problems in life.  Children may be able to pass tests but they often cannot apply the knowledge in the real world.

The second part is job training which I found to be very interesting.  When I had my internship we used online training simulations which I found very helpful.  It never clicked with me that this was a manipulated way to get you more focused on learning information instead of just reading it in a manual.

Probably the most important part of the article for the future of the world is the contextual learning section.  It talks about bringing real life and dangerous situations into the virtual world.  They specifically mention medical training but in the coming years I expect this field to expand greatly.  We could soon see training for dangerous jobs becoming a virtual training.  This could be for jobs such as police, firefighters, etc.  The possibilities are limitless.

The final portion was about teamwork which I found pretty self explanatory.  It just mentions that video games can be social and often require high level skills to understand and high level management to be successful.  Video games like this could be used to test a persons management skills in the future.

Overall I found this article to be very interesting and informative.  It was nice to see an article from an accredited news source that helped validate a lot of the concepts we learned in class.


The Story Behind Oregon Trail

In honor of the previous post about Oregon Trail & Carmen San Diego coming to Facebook, here’s a story about the origin of Oregon Trail.

Rawitsch, a lanky, bespectacled 21-year-old with hair well over his ears, was both a perfectionist and an idealist. He started dressing as historical figures in an attempt to win over his students, appearing in the classroom as explorer Meriwether Lewis.

By now he’d made it through to the western expansion unit, and he had in mind his boldest idea yet.

What he had so far was a board game tracing a path from Independence, Missouri, to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The students would pretend to be pioneer families. Each player would start with a certain amount of money and buy oxen, clothes, and food. Students would advance with the roll of a die, along the way encountering various misfortunes: broken limbs, thieves, disease. In roughly 12 turns, the kids would simulate the 2,000-mile journey that thousands of pioneers made to the West Coast in the 19th century.

He called it “Oregon Trail.”

Read the whole story here.

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