Monday, November 28, 2005

Not Just Child's Play

False chronologies aside, some professors are using off-the-shelf historical video games to engage students.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

The results for the 2005 Interactive Fiction Competition are in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Raph Koster's Destiny of Online Games

Raph Koster, author of the A Theory of Fun textbook we're using in this semester's game design class, just posted a series of presentation slides for a talk he gave at a game development conference called The Destinty of Online Games.

He uses the same "fluffy" approach he uses in his book, but, like the book, it's a good read anyway. You won't pick up any hard data or really usable game design tips, but it's a fun touchstone for thinking about where we're going in the game design discipline.

(Link via BoingBoing.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Roll your own DDR

There's a post on BoingBoing today about a free and open-source alternative to Dance Dance Revolution called StepMania that's brewing:
Two dance pads plus a USB controller are about $30 (shipping included) on eBay and they work great with Stepmania... even on my Mac.
Since we're interested in personal motion games, this might be a great thing to look into. More importantly, since it's open source, we could learn from the code for reading the dance mat input in order to create our own personal motion games.

MOVE - andrew hieronymi

MOVE - andrew hieronymi: "MOVE is an interactive installation divided into six distinct modules, JUMP, AVOID, CHASE, THROW, HIDE and COLLECT.

Each module offers a single-user interaction, based on a verb corresponding to the action the participant is invited to perform.

Each verb corresponds to a common procedure acted out by avatars during videogame play.

Each module offers an interaction with abstracted shapes (circles, rectangles) behaving according to simplified rules of physics (collision, friction).
Each module is color-coded with consistency, where the color red is used for the graphical element that poses the core challenge.

Each module increases difficulty in a similar linear manner."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Video Reviews Objectives - Lab Activity 11/11

During Friday's game lab, we prepared an activity in which the participants would begin work on creating a video game review. One of our objectives with this project was to have the kids provide more in-depth discussion of individual games. Although previous video reviews had been relatively informative, we wanted to push them to give more detail and explanation about what they did or did not like and why. The two participant format seemed to support this effort to a greater degree than previous methods because each individual could elaborate and add in details about the views expressed by the other.

To prepare them for this work, we did the following:
* had them watch a segment from XPlay on G4TV about the new game Nintendogs.
* had them watch short video reviews they had done previously
* had them discuss what was good about and what might be added to both kinds of reviews (things like more overview of the game, screenshots or video of the game being played, and clearer recommendations)
* talked with them about creating storyboards to plan their on-air review (to be completed during the next game lab session). These storyboards will include both a written review scripts and specific images from the game to illustrate and support what they thought of it.
* Barb reminded them that reviews should be both critical (in both the negative and positive sense) and backed up with evidence.

The participants were then paired up and asked to play a new (to them) game for about 45 minutes. As they did this, Tanya and I would periodically watch and listen, encouraging them to think about including some of their comments in their reviews.

After game play, the kids did some brainstorming and then began to outline the things they wanted to discuss in their reviews. Tanya and I again visited with each group to push them for visual specifics from the games which would support their views and comments (e.g. in Lego Star Wars, the group commented that collecting coins didn't seem to be that worthwhile because there were very few things you could buy with them- in taping, I suggested they visit the place where they could spend money to illustrate the lack of items available).

We will return to these storyboards in the next game lab session and begin taping and editing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Therapeutic value of MMORPG's?

I happened to meet up with one of my friends from College yesterday. He's a police officer now, which suits him well because I've always admired both his facility with people and his cool head in an emergency. He's smart, empathetic, and level-headed, all things that you want in a dedicated public defender.

Anyway, he was telling me that his brother, who is also a policeman, was an early responder to a pretty grisly scene in which some of his friends had been ambushed and killed.

My friend said that he couldn't get away to visit his brother, who was understandably troubled and shaken by the experience, but that he did manage to spend some time with him virtually using World of Warcraft as an intermediary. No phone bills, instant contact, and best of all, a removal of the context of the visitation - they could focus on something else when it became too much to talk about. Stepping out of the real world, assuming a totally different persona, and laying the smack down on a couple of ogres apparently provided a much-needed escape from the immediacy and mundane morbidity of what they were talking about.

My stomach sinks thinking about what his brother must have gone through, and I'm glad to see confirmed something that I've always suspected about RPG's, especially MMORPG's - having access to an alternate world can be therapeutic as well as entertaining, because the real world can have crushing levels of boredom, drudgery, loneliness, and pain, and having a temporary but engrossing escape from that can help people deal with those realities by giving them some relief from thinking about whatever is troubling them. Yes, some people can take it too far and assume the virtual world as their real world, but that is a miniscule minority compared to the people that gain real personal value from it. Brother connecting with brother to comfort and heal is a testament to that.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Full body interaction for games

Particularly as we do work with games for obesity prevention, many of us have yearned to really take advantage of full body interface design... game play that makes the player Move to MOVE. DDR comes close... but has just not really been taken advantage of in game design. (There are 8 ways to move in a DDR pad, with combo steps as well... why are they only used to dance? They can be used to hop, skip and jump and would be great for an adventure game... I dunno...).

But, we are getting closer. Thanks to the Ludology Blog for highlighting Andrew Hieronymi's "Move". It's an interesting physical environment demanding physical activity of the user. Not only would this kind of movement be a step forward (ha ha ha) in obesity prevention, the kinesthetic nature would make any game play more absorbing.

I can't wait to see this kind of interaction in game design.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tom Higgins on the Austin Casual Games Conference.

Tom Higgins recently posted a blog entry about his thoughts on the Austin Games Conference. In particular, he talks about the growing interest in the casual games market.
Everyone agreed that the casual games business is a looming opportunity that will only grow in the coming years. Just a few years ago the notion of casual games being an industry itself would likely have been laughed at, especially if one tried to claim that revenue numbers from casual games would soon be approaching levels similar to traditional games (high-end PC or console titles).