Thursday, June 30, 2005

Interesting article on web-based games

I came across this article about testing games and evaluating users in third grade class rooms.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Interesting Article

I came across an article written by a doctor when he was a medical student. His interactions and connections to teenage patients through gaming and how he created a foundation based on children and gaming networks in hospitals. Digital Healing

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wired News: Now That's Exertainment!

Very short article on a school district thinking of using DDR and Eye Toy.

Wired News: Now That's Exertainment!:

"The classes would see elementary-school children getting their daily workout through popular video games like Konami Digital Entertainment's Dance Dance Revolution and Sony's EyeToy: Play that include active, physical elements."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

PacMan turns 25

In a nice little tribute article, CNN reviews a bit of the history of Pac Man. It makes me feel old... but reminds me of why Pac Man was so powerful... truly a quintessential video game. Even now... I still love it and see kids that enjoy it...proof that good gaming is good gaming (sometimes independent of character, graphics, complexity, narrative, etc.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Casual gaming: the New Hardcore

The Guardian Unlimited has a nice blog entry on Casual gaming: the new hardcore which talks a bit about a recent flamewar between casual gamers and hardcore gamers, and some of the insights this generated. The main point is that somehow, casual gamers find casual games on the internet, even though there are no publications and media emphasis on them like there are for the commercial titles that you see on shelves at your local game store. Does this mean that casual gamers are just as motivated to play? Would responding to the online casual gaming audience generate more traffic for a small developer than trying to develop a boxed game?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Catch! Touch! Yoshi!

I just stumbled upon this description of Nintendo's new DS game Yoshi's Touch and Go or, as it is known in Japan, Catch! Touch! Yoshi!. It sounds like it has some interesting game mechanics, such as using a stylus to draw things into the environment and a microphone to blow things out of it:
...The first half will involve Baby Mario vertically falling from the sky, and the latter will be a horizontal ride on Yoshi's back across familiar but repetitive scenery...the player has little to no actual control over the main characters: in the first half, your stylus will draw clouds, push coins and circle enemies in cute little bubbles, and upon Yoshi's back you'll be drawing climbable mountains and shooting eggs. Tapping Yoshi will make him do him trademark jump and hover, and blowing on the screen (via the mic) will dissipate the clouds, but it's in the manipulation of his surroundings that the game makes its mark. Practically everything can be moved, trapped and pushed: enemies trapped in your circles can be thrown around the screen...

What can educators learn from each other?

In my last post, I proposed a few things educational game designers can learn from professional game designers and called for attention to development of games (in addition to academic discourse on the role or results of educational games).

There is a lot of great discussion going now in the academic communities regarding games. When it comes to developing games, there are still few reports on 'lessons learned'. The truth is... educators are developing games... and we're succeeding and failing in different aspects among the way.

Here's what I'm hoping to learn and share regarding game development.
  • What is the best way to assess learning from games?
  • What is the best way to collect data on game evaluation by players? We're experimenting with blogging by game players, video diaries, creating movies of game play with narration by the player, and others.
  • How do we successfully use game players as game designers? We're developing a team of game play consultants (ages 12-14)... how do we balance using 'seasoned' consultants (those who know the vocabulary and have worked with us before) with using 'fresh' faces (those who have not been corrupted by being analytical of games)?
  • How do we integrate our learning goals with those imposed by standardized testing?
  • What roles do we use in development? What do our design teams look like?
  • How do we fund our efforts?
  • How do we document our process, preventing mistakes in future projects?

  • What can educators learn from professional developers?

    A few weeks ago, I visited Henry Jenkins and Brett Camper from MIT's Education Arcade this week. In addition to other projects, they are working on "Revolution", a game about the Americna Revolution built on the Neverwinter Nights game engine.

    It was encouraging to hear that the issues they deal with are the same ones we have been dealing with in our development over the past years. We still are all asking the same questions. It reminds me of how new our field is, and how important it is for us, as game developers, to communicate with each other... more on that in another post.

    As educators, our emphasis is on learning, rather than production. As a result, I think there are important lessons we can learn from professional developers. They include:
  • How do we manage the production environment? How do we track versions, process workflow from artists to programmers and debug our work?
  • How do we integrate what we know about game play with our designs? How do we educate our development team (which -- in a university setting may include content specialists with no knowledge of game play design) on what makes a game fun, or how we use incentives and challenge to sustain game play?
  • How do we document the design process, preventing future mistakes?
  • What are the roles of everyone involved in a design team? In our lab, we all participate in design... what prescribed roles are needed to improve quality control and keep the team on track?
  • What does a design document look like and how is it used?

    As we pursue academic questions regarding the role of games in education, I think it is important to also encourage dialog (read: conference presentations and publications) on development by educators.

  • Game Design Consultants

    Plans are underway for our Game Design Summer School this summer. The Game Design Summer School includes:

    • 10 kids, ages 12-14. 5 girls and 5 boys who will serve as Game Design Consultants
    • Monday-Thursday, 2-5pm for 3 weeks

    Participants will:

    • Get to know each others and their teachers: we’ll work to create an environment where kids feel comfortable to share ideas and brainstorm openly
    • Play games: consultants will play educational and non-educational games, Internet and game-box, even analog games
    • Build skills in evaluation and review: consultants will develop vocabulary regarding game play, develop skills in discussing and evaluating games.
    • Share their findings with others: in reviewing games and participating in game design, consultants will develop ability to share their reviews, ideas and suggestions through presentations, writing and other tools.
    • Document their views and learning: using a variety of assessment, such as video diaries, focus groups, interviews, presentations and written tools, consultants will document their views on existing games, ideas on games in progress, and their progress in learning skills.
    • Consult on games in progress: consultants will participate in some design sessions on two games in progress.

    We are using this 3-week session as a prototype for future programs. Expected outcomes from session:

    • Guidelines for developing after school program in the fall. How important are snacks? How long does it take for the students to become familiar with speaking in front of each other? What kind of discipline problems can we expect? What kinds of activities are best for building skill in evaluating games? How long should we meet at a time. What is the optimum number of participants? What roles do the teachers play? How should the room be set up? What equipment is essential?
    • Develop protocol for formative evaluation. We do a lot of formative evaluation, but rarely with a consistent group of kids. If we were to do formative evaluation for an outside games development team, what processes should be put into place? How can we prepare data for client?
    • Develop process for summative evaluation. How do we structure evaluation of games for kids? What do written forms look like? How are data compiled? What form is best for what kinds of data: video, written, interview?

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Ten interesting ideas in videogame construction

    The Guardian Unlimited's games blog recently ran a feature on ten interesting ideas in videogame construction. The ideas aren't new, but they are mostly ideas that have only recently been attempted / possible.

    Many of the ideas would lend themselves particularly well to Learning Games, such as the idea of emotional gaming for something other than sex (perhaps to provide empathy training for young children or corporate executives) and personalization that has an effect on the learning landscape (imagine a game set during the civil war that plays differently depending on the skin color, clothing, and sex you choose for your avatar).

    Unity Game Engine

    Another game engine that appears to be releasing today is Unity, the long-awaited game development environment that was used to create GooBall.

    Power Game Factory

    Sawblade Software has just released Power Game Factory, a user-friendly tool for making Mac-based sidescroller games. Tools like this would be a fun thing to make available to students in the Game Lab to get them thinking about gameplay elements from a designer's perspective.

    Personally, I think exposing kids to game design is an important educational experience that the Game Lab could provide. Designing games brings in concepts of logic, set theory, physics, and other areas of mathematics, as well as being fertile ground for artistic expression. With the emergence of creative aspects of gameplay, such as the moviemaking tool in Sims 2, understanding creative play might be a key concept to creating successful games in the near future, especially if one is targeting nontraditional game audiences.

    Article on Gaming

    Here is an interesting article on gaming:

    Video-game industry mulls over the future beyond shoot-'em-ups

    Many observers agree that the online game community represents the most important social and cultural components of electronic software's future. "Online games have the potential to transform entertainment into a global-community exercise, breaking down borders, cultural and language barriers, and even political prejudices," says ESA's Lowenstein. "I doubt any other form of entertainment holds out that promise," he says. "We have only scratched the surface of what [interactive entertainment] can be."

    Measurement Techniques for Game Designers

    An interesting article over at Gamasutra talks about Measurement Techniques for Game Designers. In it, the author makes the case for gathering empirical data on successful games for comparison to your own games under development, and suggests some ways to make it meaningful and not too onerous.

    For instance, he suggests measuring the amount of screen real estate your avatar uses in a game. Rather than measuring and computing area and screen percentage, he just plays a series of games, and draws on the monitor with a Chinagraph pencil to record the onscreen extents of the avatar. Then, playing the in-development game on the same monitor provides instant feedback on the relative sizes of the on-screen avatars. A clever, quick, and compelling experiment!