Appearing in today’s edition of The Atlantic: “It was just supposed to be a quick trip to Beijing, a touristy group thing to take in the sights. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.There wasn’t supposed to be a lost manuscript; the travelers weren’t supposed to turn on each other. The only good, if any, to be found in this godforsaken quest, this unholy mission, was that by the end of it, they would all know how to speak Mandarin.
“This intricate Maltese Falcon-like story will unfold each day, over the course of semester, as a multiplayer game at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute in New York. It is being designed as a language-learning exercise by Lee Sheldon, an associate professor in the college’s Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences Program. “Using games and storytelling to teach—it’s not that radical of a concept,” says Sheldon. “It makes them more interested in what’s going on.”
“Sheldon is a pioneer in gamification, a new movement that essentially takes all the things that make video games engaging and applies them to classroom learning. Sheldon started developing the theory eight years ago. Since then, gamification now comes in all shapes and sizes and is used across educational levels, for kindergarteners through adult learners. Its practitioners range from individual teachers experimenting with game-like elements in their classrooms to entire schools that have integrated the games into their curricula.
“The goal is to change the student’s mindset to a mastery orientation—to promote motivation, engagement, active learning—and to cultivate 21st century skills like collaboration, problem solving, creativity and systems thinking,” says Joey Lee, a research assistant professor of Technology and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. “Learning looks very different today, so we need to move away from the Industrial Revolution one-size-fits-all model that still plagues much of education.” Continue reading “Multiplayer games as the future of learning”
First it was Doodle Jump. Then Dots. And now — will it never end? — Flappy Bird.
So many of the games that we download on our smartphones are a waste of time, but we can’t seem to stop playing them. My current high score on the late, lamented Flappy Bird is three. After weeks of tap-tap-tapping to keep that stupid little bird flying.
Three.Why do we keep falling for these things?
The answer to that question just might be found in, of all places, a medical laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers there are trying to figure out what makes games addictive — and how we might use video games to make our minds stronger, faster and healthier.
Using neuroimaging techniques, researchers are peering into gamers’ heads, hoping that the data they collect will help them make video games that change as you play, getting easier or harder, depending on your performance. The idea is to keep people at the addiction point. You know, that infuriating flap-flap-flap zone.
From there, they say, the possibilities seem limitless. One day, we might develop games to treat depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Or games that rewire our brains to improve memory and cognitive function. The list could go on and on. Continue reading “The case for game addiction”
If you’re on the faculty job market, or will be soon, you may find yourself explaining the real possibility of failure to well-meaning family and friends.
And an attitude of Hunger Games triumphalism isn’t going to he helpful, as The Chronicle of Higher Education explains in an article entitled “The Odds Are Never in Your Favor.” by Atlas Odinshoot:
“Doctoral students are usually type-A overachievers, and so your loved ones have faith that you’ll come out OK because, well, you always have.
“But the academic job market is a process that necessitates failure. Your application materials will end up in the slush pile at dozens of departments, regardless of how well suited you are for the position or how carefully you tailor your materials. Outstanding candidates can easily fail to find a position. And that’s why, when I can’t quite convey that grim reality, I tell my family and friends that if they want to know what the job market is like for Ph.D.’s, they should read (or watch) The Hunger Games.
“Whether you see yourself on the job market as Katniss Everdeen (plucky heroine), Peeta Mellark (sensitive but somewhat clueless), or Cato (ruthless killing machine), only you can say.
The odds are never in your favor. I recently asked a successful job candidate—hired as an assistant professor at a very good college—what he viewed as a good application-response rate. That is, how many interviews should you get in relation to the number of applications you submit? He said, calmly, “Talking with other graduate students, I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of one in 20 to one in 30.”
Since their birth as a science-fair curiosity at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the late 1950s, video games have moved inexorably towards higher and more central cultural ground, much like film did in the first half of the 20th century.
Games were confined at first to the lowbrow carnival of the arcade, but they soon spread to the middlebrow sphere of the living room, overran this private space, and burst out and upwards into the public spheres of art and academia. With prestigious universities like NYU and USC now offering graduate-level programs in game design, and major museums like MoMA, MAD, and SF MoMA beginning to acquire games and curate game exhibitions, preserving the early history of the medium appears more important than ever. But what exactly does it mean to preserve a digital game?
The answer is surprisingly simple: It means, first and foremost, preserving a record of how it was played and what it meant to its player community. Ensuring continued access to a playable version of the game through maintenance of the original hardware or emulation is less important—if it matters at all.
That, at least, was the provocative argument Henry Lowood made at Pressing Restart, which recently brought preservationists, teachers, academics, and curators together at the NYU Poly MAGNET center for a day of “community discussions on video game preservation.” Lowood is no contrarian whippersnapper; as a curator at the Stanford Libraries, he has been professionally involved in game preservation efforts for well over a decade. Continue reading “History and video games”
Playing certain types of video games can boost a person’s flexible thinking skills, according to a new study.
The findings could lead to new treatments for people with brain injuries or conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the researchers suggest, as reported today in WebMD.
“Previous research has demonstrated that action video games . . . can speed up decision making, but the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes,” said Dr. Brian Glass, of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.
“For the study, researchers looked at 72 women who typically played video games for less than two hours a week. The study authors couldn’t find any male gamers who spent so little time playing video games. Two-thirds of the participants played either basic or more complex versions of a real-time strategy game called “StarCraft,” a fast-paced game where players have to create and organize armies to battle an enemy. One-third of the participants played a life simulation game called “The Sims,” which does not rely on using memory or tactical skills.
“The volunteers played the games for 40 hours over six to eight weeks and underwent tests of their “cognitive flexibility.” This refers to a person’s ability to adapt and switch between tasks, and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems, the British researchers explained. Continue reading “Video games help the brain”
Brendon Ayanbadejo is correct: “Gay” does not equal “feminine.” More to the point, as the Super Bowl-winning linebacker recently told Meet the Press, “gay” does not automatically equal anything at all.
As Huffington Post puts it: “People think that gayness has something to do with femininity, when really we just need to erase that stereotype from our minds, because LGBT people come in all different types and shapes and forms,” Ayanbadejo said shortly after Jason Collins became the NBA’s first out gay player.
“Way to go, Ayanbadejo. Double high-five, in fact. We already know he is awesome, but such continued challenging of these norms and stereotypes will not only promote LGBT rights and acceptance but stands to help prevent violence against women.
“Without diminishing current victories for LGBT rights, we also need to connect them with women’s rights and the increasing number of men stepping forward as leaders and partners in ending all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence.
“For far too long, popular culture and stereotypes have associated “gayness” with femininity. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the traits traditionally associated with “femininity.” The problem is this: Boys and men are taught to be “men,” and certainly to be good athletes, by not being “feminine.”Don’t cry like a girl. Don’t throw like a girl. Don’t be a bitch. In this way, boys and men learn that femininity is inferior. Femininity is a threat. Femininity is the enemy. Continue reading “Sports figures help stop gendered violence”
Games-for-Change has reported on a new game that simulates the experience of autism: “I had barely made it to the center of Auti-Sim’s world—a playground filled with children—before ripping off my headphones and pushing away from the computer.
“Not because it was a bad game. Just the opposite. Because it’s so effective in its aim to simulate the unbearable sensory overload that is associated with some cases of autism.
“Auti-Sim, an experimental prototype designed to simulate what it’s like to have autism as a child, inundates players with increasingly intense, indistinguishable sounds as the game’s visuals continue to blur.
“It was created by a three-person team at the Hacking Health Vancouver 2013 game jam. Taylan Kadayifcioglu, pitched the original idea at the 48-hour event, and handled programming and game design. Matt Marshall designed the playground level and the project logo. Krista Howarth, an early childhood educator specializing in working with kids with autism, advised Kadayifcioglu and Marshall on autism. Continue reading “Virtual autism with Auti-Sim”
The world of video games has a long history of damsels in distress. It’s the go-to framework for endless heroic adventures where fabulous male heroes journey to save [insert female captured by villain here].
One of the earliest of these is the classic tale of a plucky, mustachioed plumber on a vertical, girder-climbing quest to save his lady Pauline from the barrel-throwing primate Donkey Kong, reports NPR today. ” It was the game that would set the stage for a long series of Mario adventures where his princess would continue to be captured and wind up “in another castle.” Continue reading “Revising video games to empower girls”
Verbal abuse is a pandemic in the online gaming community.And while it affects all sorts of gamers, there’s a select brand of vitriol reserved for women who venture into voice chat. For an interesting article on this phenomenon, see themarysue.com, excerpted as follows: ” This is an oft-discussed issue, and we still don’t have a good understanding of the root causes, or of what we can do to alleviate it. But some recent academic research provides a interesting (and sobering) look at how persistent the problem is. Continue reading “Gender bias in online games”
MOMA in New York as always saved a spot for design, and by extension, popular culture.Video games, as their name suggests, combine the ancient human practice of formal play with moving pictures, a younger form, reports today’s New York times. “But the unsatisfying name we are saddled with for this medium — itself approaching middle age, if you date its history to the first home console in 1972 and apply the rule that middle age begins when you are older than every current Major League Baseball player — doesn’t capture the essence of video games.
“The defining feature of video games is interaction, the three-way conversation among designer, machine and player. “Applied Design,” a new installation at the Museum of Modern Art — and an important one because it is the first time the museum has displayed the 14 video games it acquired in November — attempts to isolate this relationship. The games on view, from Pac-Man toCanabalt, are naked, without their packaging or other nostalgic trappings. There are no arcade cabinets on view, no outmoded consoles or computers to gawk at.
“Instead, each game is austerely contained on a screen set against a gray wall, with a joystick or other controller resting on a spare platform beneath it. The installation is “an experiment to isolate the experience of the interaction itself,” said Paola Antonelli, the senior curator of the museum’s department of architecture and design, comparing her decontextualized approach with Philip Johnson’s in his 1934 “Machine Art” exhibition at MoMA, which set things like propeller blades against white museum walls.
“This philosophy is markedly different from the one that motivated the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Spacewar!” show, which closed Sunday. That exhibition, which presented a more focused argument, refused to separate the interactive experience of playing a game from the object it first appeared in. An iPad game would be played on an iPad, and Space Invaders and its ilk were on view, and playable, in their original stand-up cabinets.
Games-for-Change facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.
Unlike the commercial gaming industry, Games-for-Change aims to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good. What follows is an item on what they’ve been up to recently
“At GameTheNews.net we have been working on creating news-games for the past three months. We’ve covered a wide range of topics from solar power to the US election. However it was Endgame:Syria that got people talking and reopened the questions about games and reality Continue reading “Endgame/Syria: The game”
In the five years through 2012, revenue for the Online Game industry in China increased at an annualized rate of 34.4% to $9.3 billion, says PRWeb. “The number of online game players in China has been growing 34.7% per year over the period, and about 59.5% of internet users in China are also online game players.
“Although the first online game was designed by a domestic studio, the Chinese online game market was dominated by foreign games in the early years of the industry’s development. Domestic firms only took a leading share of the market in 2006, says IBISWorld. Over the past five years, Chinese-made online games have been increasingly well accepted by the global market, with exports growing faster than total revenue.
“In 2012, the top four players in the Online Game industry in China – Tencent, Netease, Shanda Games and Perfect World – made 61.4% of total industry revenue, which indicates a medium level of concentration. The few large-scale companies that are able to raise enough funds develop high-quality games and buy operation licenses from other companies. However, the majority of enterprises in this industry are small game studios developing lower-quality games.
“As the Online Game industry matures and comes under more regulations, competition will become more intense and profitability is expected to fall somewhat, says IBISWorld. Game companies will invest more into research and development to design better and fancier games. In particular, firms will focus on further penetrating the 15-to-34 age group, offering more social, mobile and browser games to cater to this market.”
This is terrible news for video game makers – but they brought it on themselves. Apparently, Electronic Arts and other developers of some of the most violent shooter games employ a form of product placement in which the “real” guns depicted can be found through links to gun manufacturers from within the games themselves.
“Among the video game giant’s marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons,” reports a front-page story in the Christmas Day edition of the New York Times Continue reading “Top games link to gun makers”
The developer behind Mobbles, a popular free game app for children, temporarily pulled the product from the Apple App store and Google Play store on Tuesday after learning that it was the subject of a complaint to federal authorities by children’s advocates.
“Have you ever done something uncomfortable in the name of perceived beauty?” This is the provocative question asked by a new computer game aimed at exploring conceptions of body image and gender norms. Games for Change discusses “Gone from an Age: A Fitting” in the following excerpt from an article entitled “’Fitting’ Game to Explore Body Image.”
“At one point in your life, you may have tried chemically altering your hair, tried on a pair of pants that were way too tight, or focused more on fashion over function. All for the goal of achieving a specific look.
“Many of us partake in these practices to achieve a standard of beauty in modern society. Too often, we do so without considering why, the social costs if we don’t, or what physical and mental harm these activities are causing every day. Some would argue that beauty is purely for the benefit of those who are gazing upon it, disregarding the discomfort of the ones who have to achieve it.
“To give others this distinct understanding, game designers Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman teamed up to create “Gone From an Age: A Fitting“, a motion controlled game that asks players to contort and perform for an audience, in what Kuhlman calls “a cross between a game of Twister and Vogue magazine.”
Currently, Dittami and Kuhlman are working hard on tweaking the game with a design team, local dancers, and fashion designers to get the game ready for “Off The Beaten Path“, a traveling art exhibition that aims create a dialogue about violence against women through various forms of art. To fully participate in a powerful way, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.”
The free online game Quandary yesterday received high honors at the biannual “Meaningful Play” conference, devoted to socially responsible gaming. As Meaningful Play describes it’s mission: “Whether designed to entertain or to achieve more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, physical and mental health, and behavior.” A transdisciplinary event, Meaningful Play 2012 brought scholars and industry professionals together to understand and improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways.
Forget about The Hunger Games. The latest craze sweeping the nation is Debate Drinking Games. Blame it on peer pressure, political anxiety, or simply the desire to party, but a new phenomenon has appeared in the current election cycle. Every time Obama says “millionaire” or Romney mentions “private sector,” you toss back a shot. And if you start to lose track after a few rounds, just keep your eyes on Twitter, which has become an necessity in the drinking game phenomenon. Blame the new fad on apathy or political anxiety, but the new excuse for binge drinking has taken off like a rocket on college campuses, where health experts have already proclaimed an alarming increase in alcohol consumption in recent years. Continue reading “Let the debate drinking games begin”
By some reports in the financial sector, the meteoric ascent of computer games in the 2000s has officially ended, with sales of titles like Diablo and World of Warcraft dropping 28% in the past two years. The New York Times recently ran a story comparing gaming today to the dot-com phenomenon of the 1990s, as it now “ has found itself teetering at the edge of a financial cliff.” But closer examination of the situation reveals that while big-name console games have indeed sold less, the number of people playing games on smart-phones and tablet computers continues to surge by as much as 35% in 2012 alone. Excerpted and linked below are two stories on this topic. Continue reading “Has the gaming bubble burst?”