Friday, September 30, 2005

Games Help Kids Pay Attention

Here's an interesting article about a scientific study evaluating the use of a computer game to help 4-6 year-old-children focus their attention: Computer games help train kids to pay attention

Although the article says that the study is inconclusive (what scientific study isn't?), initial indications seem to be that the game did help the children pay better attention and ignore distractions.

The game involved is described as follows:

For five days, the youngsters progressed from a game that moved a cat in and out of grass to more complex tasks, such as choosing the largest number amid deliberate distractions.

Blast off to the Planet Power!

Gee I was trying to teach kids the food pyramid with a low tech card game! My humble efforts have been totally eclipsed by the mighty United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Check out the “My Pyramid Blast Off” interactive game available free from the USDA. It is designed to inform 6-11 year olds about the government’s new guide to eating right called the food pyramid for kids. The game premise is that players must load a rocket ship with the right combination of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, whole grains, etc., to serve as fuel for the ship. If the ship is loaded with too much fuel or the wrong mix of fuel, it will be unable to blast off to Planet Power. It will be interesting to find out how effective this approach turns out to be. I am trying to imagine a 6 year old demanding broccoli for his or her rocket ship!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Games and Federal & State Agencies

Do you work for an organization or agency that's just a bit hesitant to use games in training? If so, you might benefit from the following URL put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
Titled "Public Involvement Techniques For Transportation Decision-Making", this page lists several valid reasons why games-based training makes good sense. Real-life examples in transportation, mediation and business back up major points.
This is a clear, easy read and might just help you "sell" your educational game idea to a reluctant employer.

Csikszentmihalyi is Coming to Town!

The Learning Annex is offering Finding Flow with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the evening of November 15. You'll be reading about his flow theory in a few weeks, so this is extremely relevant. Thanks to 670 alum Jolie Kennedy for letting us know.

Don't Click It is an interesting site put together to demonstrate a website whose interface requires no clicking. I'm not sure I exactly get why (it seems to be more of an experiment of curiosity than an attempt to solve a serious problem), but it is a very elegant site with a fascinating interface and some interesting content.

There are a few games on the site to help you get used to a clickless interface. I'm wondering how computer-based game design would change without the click.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Shadows Over Camelot

Someone in class asked whether a game always had to have a winner. Coincidentally, today I ran across this review of a cooperative game, Shadows Over Camelot, written by the always witty defective yeti. Players compete agains the game itself. Either they all win or they all lose. Check it out!

Taking Fun Seriously

You can tell that people are taking something seriously when they start holding conferences in Washington, D.C., and charging hundreds of dollars to attend.

There is an upcoming conference there on October 31 and November 1 called the Serious Games Summit. Early birds can attend for $595 plus travel expenses. They have quite a lineup of speakers.

It's interesting to note the various tracks that you can go to. One of the tracks is Learning and Instructional Theory, which they highlight as follows:
At the heart of any serious game is a combination of exciting new ideas about learning and well-defined existing instructional methodologies. This track illustrates how the worlds of cognitive science, instructional design, and game development can work in unison to build better learning environments, applications, and methods. It also analyzes the inherent learning in games and the many metagame aspects to learning that inhabit the field.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Virtual Soldiering

This is a link to an article from Computer Edge magazine titled “Virtual Soldiering: Training, Recruiting, and Entertainment.” The article describes that the U.S. Army has created a free downloadable game called “America’s Army,” that has nearly 6 million registered players. The game takes players through boot camp, and then on to Ranger and Airborne training.

The game is described as being realistic in terms of weapons, tactics, rules of engagement, laws of war, lifesaving, and Army values.

This quote from the article got me thinking. “While war is violent, America’s Army provides entertainment and information without resorting to graphic violence and gore.” If the Army, who is in the business of war, can provide a war game without graphic violence, why don’t game designers for consumers follow the Army's lead?

After reading this article, my mind rapidly shifted to thinking about the possibilities of how many resources, in terms of dollars and lives, could be saved and repurposed if those who are compelled to engage in war could do so virtually through a game, rather than physically.

Can Bad be Good and The Free Multiplayer Online Games

Regarding Everything Bad is Good for You, I think the author is correct. I think my son's education has been greatly enhanced by the computer games and simulations that he has been exposed to since being a young child. A much richer educational experience than I had growing up, for sure.

My son and I visited a few of the games this weekend on the The Free Multiplayer Online Games site. The first one I looked at reminded me of the global use of some of these games. Air Attack, a flight simulator game, was only in the Korean language and we had to download a data file to convert it to English. This game included a forum for participant communication. Apparently many games have these forums for getting feedback about the quality, strategies, etc. of the games. As most of you probably know, simulations have become an extremely important and necessary instructional tools for learning skills whereby making mistakes can cause injury, death, and other catastrophes.

Get Tiffany was another game I looked at. Its the one about the four "dudes" trying to pick up a hot "chick" named Tiffany. This game uses Shockwave and you can make certain selections about how the guys look (hair color, eye color, clothing, shoes, etc) but they all had the same angry face! Maybe they could never get the girl! The mojo point cards were clever. This game only offered two choices for installation, AOL and Linux. Not sure why.

We played around with Sims2 as well. That is a pretty interesting game. I like the way you can create your environment and select moods, attitudes, etc.

We also looked at one of the recent Mario Brothers games. My son has been playing this game for years, so they must be doing a good job enhancing the game and creating more challenging levels to keep the kids interested over such a long time period.

We talked a little about Role Playing Games (RPG's) and tried to load the TerraWorld Online but we weren't successful.

With constantly advancing technology, there seems no end to the opportunities for online learning through games.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Can Bad Be Good?

When people of my generation see kids glued to the tube or attached like an umbilical cord to their Sony PS2s, we assume that IQs are dropping and neurons are stopping.

Not so, argues Steven Johnson in Everything Bad Is Good for You. Here's a quote from the dust jacket:
A video game will never be a book--nor should it aspire to be--and in fact, video games from Tetris to the Sims to Grand Theft Auto have been shown to raise IQ scores and develop cognitive abilities that can't be learned from books.

Here's a quote from p. 117-118:
The rise of the Internet has challenged our minds in three fundamental and related ways: by virtue of being participatory, by forcing users to learn new interfaces, and by creating new channels for social interaction.

This is an interesting book and an easy read.

Need help from my son

I am asking (making!) my son (who is an avid gamer) go through some of these online games with me this weekend. I am pretty game deficient and need help navigating. I'll report back after I try a few. I did look at Professor Fizwizzle. Really cute but I still didn't know what to do. It looks a lot like the Mario Brothers games.

College majors in game design

Here's an interesting article on how more colleges and universities are offering minors and even majors in computer games: More colleges offering game theory courses, from the MSNBC web site.

Courses have titles such as Animation 1 and Cognition and Gaming.

The article compares the computer gaming world of today to the rock world of yesterday. Yesterday everyone wanted to be a rock star. Today everyone wants to be a game developer.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Logic Puzzle Learning Fun

Some of the best fun I've ever had learning a subject was with the books of Raymond Smullyan. He uses puzzles to make learning logic fun. He starts with puzzles about knights that always tell the truth and knaves that always lie and then leads you to puzzles with combinatory logic and even to puzzles that give you an idea of what Godel's incompleteness theorem is all about.

To give you an idea of the fun this can be, one of his books has the title,
What is the Name of This Book?

Here's an example puzzle. There are two rooms, each with one door. The doors are labeled:
  1. In this room there is a lady, and in the other room there is a tiger.
  2. In one of these rooms there is a lady, and in one of these rooms there is a tiger.
If one sign is true, and the other false, which door should you pick (assuming you want the lady and not the tiger)?

I'll let you ponder that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Good Experience Games

Seeing Bernie's post reminded me about a site I came across this last summer that features online games (mostly Flash-based) that center around a good user experience.

Good Experience Games - it has an RSS feed, too.

I think you'll find some inspiration there as you work on your projects this semester. Have fun - I'm sure you'll get as much out of it as I did.

Robin Martin (Class of '04)

Free Multiplayer Online Games

The course hasn't really heated up yet, so you probably have lots of spare time on your hands. The Free Multiplayer Online Games site might provide an excellent way to blot up those pesky extra minutes in your day. And because they're multiplayer games, you can drag your friends and family down the road of non-productivity along with you.

Check it out and let the rest of us know which ones are good.

Interesting Online Board Game Site

Hello all,

I just came across this site which is a repository of all things related to board games. The URL is


KartOO site

Thanks Paul.

This KartOO site is pretty incredible. I did a search on Dressage and got this map of sites from all over the world. Its amazing how they link the various categories together. The little genie that pops up is cute.


Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.

I was introduced to blogging when I joined the EdGames blog two years ago. It remains on my blogger dashboard along with 3 other blogs I've started. Even though my class ended two years ago, I still enjoy reading the EdGames posts for the class.

I enjoy it so much that I'm copying the same format for a SAGE blog that I call the SagePage.

Good luck and enjoy 670,
Karl Richter

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Visual Search Engine

The discussion yesterday on branches in the path, and choices and decisions as they relate to board game content and structures got me thinking about a meta search engine called KartOO that uses a visual display interface. Search queries are sent to a set of search engines; gathered results are compiled and represented by KartOO as a series of interactive maps.

The visual map display shows several different results represented as page icons. By highlighting or moving your mouse over one of the page icons, the different relationships between the various search results will be shown. In addition to the visual map display, there is always a hierarchical outline displayed that is interactive with the map display.

As I tend to be a highly visual person, I find this type of display useful. This is especially so when I am not familiar with how some content or information new to me relates to content with which I am more familiar. Possibly this search tool might be useful for identifying the content structure relationships in terms of branches and obstacles for reality based board games. Examples might be how to fill out a tax form, or how to remodel a home.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New to Blogging sites but gotta share the sunset!

This post is related to the class only because I was leaving the building after today's class to find the sky populated with clouds and the nicest red-hued sunset I've seen in a while. Bursting upward, over the tops of the nearby buildings, the rays of the setting sun brightly tinted the closest clouds. As I prepared to cross the street, being the cautious person I am, I looked to the right and found a rainbow arching over the parking structure. The rainbow also sported the red hues to their fullest extent, overshadowing the others still there but unable to match the exuberance of the reds. WOW.

Monday, September 12, 2005

We're Baaaaaaack!

The EdGames blog goes dormant from December to September in between class offerings. But now it's yawning, stretching, scratching the crud out of its eyes and getting ready to be a useful source of information sharing for this class and others.

It's good to be back.