Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Measuring Learning in Games

Sande Chen and David Michael do a nice job of highlighting the issues related to assessment in the Gamasutra feature, Proof of Learning. They discuss challenges inherent in learning assessment. Calling on Jim Brazells, thoughts,

"That isn't to say that game designers already know everything there is to know about testing and other pedagogical methods. Nor are we saying that traditional testing methods have no place in a game environment. Instead, both game designers and educational professionals need to work together in developing serious games as a new teaching tool"

While I applaud game developers and academics working together in evaluation, I also encourage academics working as game developers. This is why we've placed so much emphasis on assessment in our own Learning Games Initiative, developing the Learning Games Lab as a place specifically for the types of assessment that can lead to effective educational game development and assessment.
It is exciting to see assessment, something many of us feel is the greatest challenge in learning games, come to the forefront of discussion. It is such a large field, we all stand to benefit from open discussion and sharing of findings and strategies. Kudos to Gamasutra and the authors for addressing it and calling for additional information.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Experimental Gameplay Project - Entertainment Technology Center, CMU

The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon is running an Experimental Gameplay Project wherein four grad students try to put out one game a week each during the course of a semester. Each week, a theme is announced, and the four students try to come up with a simple, fun game around that theme. Their games have to be made in less than seven days, and all art, sound, and programming is done by that student alone. All the games are archived for inspection, so if you're stumped for innovative gameplay elements, this might be a good place to look.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Petals Around the Rose

Here's an interesting game of pattern-seeking that was presented on Slashdot earlier. It's called Petals Around the Rose, which prompts you to roll five dice and predict how many "Petals around the Rose" there are.

Anecdotal history apparently credits Bill Gates as having solved the riddle of the game back in the very early days of his career. After all his buddies had all figured it out, he was the sole person left baffled by the game. Rather than discerning the pattern, he only solved it by memorizing many sequences of dice, a brute-force, hamfisted method of cheating against the spirit of the game (something that would come to characterize his business practices in the future).

Maybe you can do better than Bill Gates - can you discern the pattern without resorting to memorization?

(Via BoingBoing.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Refereences Used for Gender & Games Presentation

Linda Schultz
AXED 590
Presentation 9/21/05


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. Mc-Graw Hill: New York.

Miller, L. M., Schweingruber, H., & Brandenburg, C. L. (2001). Middle school students’ technology practices and preferences: Re-examining gender differences, Rice University, Houston, TX.

Scharrer, E. (2004). Virtual violence: Gender and aggression in video game advertisements, Department of Communications, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Heeter, C., Chu, K. C., Egidio, R., Mishra, P. & Graves-Wolf, L. (2004) Do girls prefer games designed by girls? Michigan State University

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why we do what we do

If you ever needed convincing that we need to be developing educational games here at NMSU, especially regionally and culturally sensitive ones, all you need to do is look at the recent Morgan Quitno education ratings that ranks New Mexico as the nation's dumbest state. Nevada and Arizona were numbers 49 and 48, so the traditional audience for our southwest regional educational games appears to be the one most in need of free quality educational software.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Say "Adios" to The Games Journal

All good things must come to an end. I'm sad to report the untimely demise of The Games Journal. I only stumbled upon it at the tail end of it's five-year run, but I enjoyed what I had read, and was considering submitting content myself. I hate to see something that was so obviously a labor of love go belly-up, but it just reinforces the need for good game critique and commentary through our Games Lab project.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kids play *less* games?

Gamasutra is reporting on the Piper Jaffray report that more teens use PlayStation2 than any other platform (though they expect the X box to dominate the market in the coming years, and that teens think they play less games.

In addition, in an interesting insight into teen trends, 65 percent of student households own Sony's PlayStation 2, 50 percent own Microsoft's Xbox and just 26 percent own Nintendo's GameCube. GameStop was recognized in the survey as the leading retailer for pre-owned video games with 60 percent market share, and 29 percent market share for new video game purchases.

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, the survey also revealed that, in the sample of North American teenagers that Piper Jaffray surveyed, 75 percent of teens say that their interest in video games is declining, and 78 percent indicated they spent less time playing in 2005.

Of course, as an academic, I wonder if teens interest in video games really is declining, or if their *perception* is that their interest is declining. They can say they are less interested, but still rank it as a top pass time.

Steve Ince on Interaction Density

Steve Ince, an adventure game development veteran who worked on the venerable games Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky, has written an article on what he sees as the problem with modern video game design: the lack of Interaction Density.

Interaction Density is his term for measuring how much the player has an opportunity to do.

If we look back to the early 1990s, much of the size of a game was limited by the fact that they were published on floppy discs. This meant that every location or level in a game was made to work hard for its keep. For an adventure game, each of the labs, bars, shops, alleys, etc was filled with items to collect, characters to talk with and background objects to examine. Gaining access to a new location was always such fun in itself because the player would spend time simply interacting with the environment and everything within it. When this exploratory interaction was combined with the actual gameplay of working through the developing story, it meant there was always plenty the player could find to do at any given moment. Even when the player became stuck on a puzzle, they generally knew that the solution would be fairly close by because there were only a handful of locations you were likely able to visit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Women Gamers

The best and most informative site I found was

The second site is a conference site it may disappear in the future, however, it had many reference links regarding women and girls gaming Women in Games this year's conference has come and gone. Take a look at the links there may be something of interest. I posted some below.

Computer Clubs for Girls
Game Girl Advance
Thumb Bandits

The Esoteric Beat: Audio Games, Virtusphere, Mindplay

Gamasutra's headlines caught my eye today. I haven't tried an audio only game before. I don't think "Name that Tune" is in the same category : ) Here is an excerpt, visit the site for a live link to the audio only games.

This week's column looks at audio games, hamster-ball interfaces and digital relationships.

- First off this week we take a quick look at acoustic games. These audio-only titles have been around for a while, and make up the eclectic mix of adventure games like those found over on These games rely purely on sound output to deliver information to players, making them ideal for people with sight problems to experience the immediacy of interacting with digital entertainment. For something free and action based, why not check out German art-game collective a.Game's Sonic Invaders, which is an attempt to make a shoot 'em up based purely on sound input. If nothing else, these games should provide food for thought for those people interested in the use of sound in mainstream Western games. There's a lot that can be done with the senses other than sight, but are we doing it?

The Esoteric Beat: Audio Games, Virtusphere, Mindplay