Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Real Lives

Educational Simulations has a product called Real Lives 2004 that gives you the opportunity to learn how people really live in other countries.

The designers state that the simulation challenges your life skills as you make difficult, high-stakes choices that lead to your success, or failure. Experience life as a:

• Peasant farmer in Bangladesh
• Factory worker in Brazil
• Policeman in Nigeria
• Lawyer in the United States
• Computer operator in Poland

or any of thousands more ...

Through statistically accurate events, Real Lives brings to life different cultures, political systems, economic opportunities, personal decisions, health issues, family issues, schooling, jobs, religions, geography, war, peace, and more. As your students make decisions for their characters and experience the consequences of those decisions they will learn about the world and gain an increased appreciation of their own culture and the cultures of other peoples.

The simulation is part of package that also includes carefully chosen Internet links, suggested classroom activities, and projects for secondary social sciences curriculum.

Features include:

Character Designer: Choose the country and city or town of your character's birth, anywhere in the world! Control whether you will be born a boy or a girl, in a village or in the big city. Fine tune your character's potential for physical, intellectual, musical, or artistic prowess. Pick your character's name from among thousands of names.

Adopt children: If your character is unable to have children of her own, you can adopt.

Updated statistics: Keep current with the latest country statistics.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Simteacher is also a virtual reality game centered around teacher simulation, much like the Virtual School mentioned in a previous post. However, both are very different.

Virtual School is more cartoonish and fun looking, whereas Simteacher uses real photographs. To set up a classroom, you go through various profiles of both teachers and students; then "hiring" the teachers and "adopting" the students. This is really as far as I got in the simulation. When I first set up the classroom, it was a little confusing. It appeared as if I was setting up a college course, requesting course and schedule numbers, etc. However, when I perused the available students, they seemed to be the right age level.

The way it is set up makes it appear as if you are using real people. The simulation isn't quite in the movement, but the scenarious.

Teaching Simulations

After working on our egame project, Carolina contributed links to two teaching simulations that are available online. One of these games is called Virtual School. This is a simulation for teachers, and there are several avenues that you can walk down in order to experience life as an educator. You are first greeted by the school secretary, who will give you a tour....or you can chose to explore on your own.

You can choose various aspects of being an educator, such as background and day-to-day events. This is the area that I tried out. The other areas include: curriculum development, raising student achievement, leading the staff, building capacity and capability in learning and teaching, and inclusive practice.

I start off in a small office and need to sort through my mail. Just as in my real teacher's box, my virtual box also contains the usual junk: soliticitation, memos regarding over zealous copying, schedules, etc.

I spent some time walking around the corridors, inspecting classrooms, and visiting the teacher's lounge. In my office, I also clicked on a few scenarios. I had 3 choices in how I would address the scenarios.

Although I did not give the game quite enough time, it intrigued me enough to possibly return for more explanation.

Second Life

Wikipedia has a great description of Second Life for those of you like me who have struggled with explaining the enormity of it to others.

Japanese game of Sudoku

Lately, I've come across lots of books and articles on the Japanese game of Sudoku. Knowing nothing about it I did a little searching on the web. According to the Wikipedia:

"Sudoku, sometimes spelled Su Doku, is a logic-based placement puzzle, also known as Number Place in the United States. The aim of the canonical puzzle is to enter a numerical digit from 1 through 9 in each cell of a 9×9 grid made up of 3×3 subgrids (called "regions"), starting with various digits given in some cells (the "givens"). Each row, column, and region must contain only one instance of each numeral. Completing the puzzle requires patience and logical ability. Its grid layout is reminiscent of other newspaper puzzles like crosswords and chess problems. Although first published in 1979, Sudoku initially caught on in Japan in 1986 and attained international popularity in 2005."

There's a comprehensive site devoted to this game at: , where you can play online. On the right side of the main page there's a link for the Daily Sudoku game. A prize of a Soduku puzzle book is awarded for solutions to the daily puzzle. It's interesting to see that people from every corner of the world submit entries.

These are not easy puzzles to solve. I tried one, and it certainly got my ganglia twitching.

Six Criteria of an Educational Simulation

Check out Clark Aldrich's article on criteria for educational simulations. He lists content criteria - linear, systems and cyclical, and delivery criteria - simulation, game and pedagogy. He contends that only through all six criteria can we get results that impact our learners.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

2nd Life - Up and Running

Ok, I am not a gamer....or at least since I had children. I used to go to arcades in Junior High, and then played Nintendo for many hours. Then I had triplets, and that was the end of the gaming.

I did manage to get 2nd Life to work on my Laptop, but haven't had much time to fool any more with it.

I do like the capabilities of making myself look the way I want to (to some degree). I still haven't figured out how to pick things up and move them around.

buildin' and scriptin'

I've begun a mockup in SL of my game. Here are a couple pics. It's taking longer than I thought it would to get this far, but it's also been fun.

So far there are about 25 prims. Probably will need to add another 15 or so to get everything displayed that I envision. I've messed around with scripts to get the text on there, and also just to begin to understand things like how to accept donations and how to get the basic text to display which hovers above the object.

I have a pretty good idea of many of the essentials of this stuff now ... but it will be a pretty good learning curve to continue onward. If you're interested in resources, two big ones on scripting are the Linden Scripting Language Guide (a 129 page PDF) and the LSL Wiki. I've also been saving tips and example scripts that look especially useful - see my ongoing list in delicious. Finally, here is a cool video (26 MB) on building in SL.

Math Games

I really like the games that are offered on the Math Playground website. My students often struggle with word problems and these games help them work through the problems. If a student gets the problem wrong it gives them the reason why and offers a learn more button that reviews important vocabulary in the word problem. It also offers math fact practice for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

One of my favorites

One educational website that I like to use for students is Fun Brain.
It has many games for students and resources for parents and teachers. Many of my students enjoy the Mad Libs and math games. There are also books avaliable for students to read.

Games--Not just for youngsters anymore

Nintendo has expanded its market in Japan beyond the young gamer crowd. The game "Training for Adults: Work your Brain," which promises to help older adults ward off dementia by exercising their brains, is selling like hotcakes. According to a review on the Japanese title translates as ‘Whip your brain into shape under the supervision of Professor Ryuta Kawashima of Tohoku University's Advanced Science and Technology Joint Research Center.'

The game fits a very specific niche, falling somewhere between gaming and regular software. The interface is designed to be usable by those with little computer experience, using touch screen and voice commands rather than traditional game buttons. The game is primarily quiz-based, and players are rewarded for prompt and correct answers by achieving a 'young brain' designation.

It sounds like a very interesting idea. I wonder if it'll be as much of a hit when it finally reaches the US market.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

USC course: Designing Online Multiplayer Environments

Here's the course site for USC's CTIN 482: Designing Online Multiplayer Environments. They are using Second Life for their work. The course site itself is based around a blog, much like ours. At first glance I didn't see the depth of resources here that I thought I might, but it's probably worth further poking around. Looks like they are also using Salen and Zimmerman's Rules of Play.

Two Music Education Games

While busily searching for percussion instrument links for the Rhythm of Life Drum Circle eGame, I discovered two computer-based music games, designed to teach young children about music. The first is called Play It It By Ear, from a company in France called Happy Note. This game teaches a learner to recognize any music notes they hear by ear. It is billed as fun and way to say “good bye to boring old musical dictation.” Apparently, one hears a note, then clicks on the highlighted written note representation. I would wonder how long it would take to become proficient at this.

The second game is a music appreciation game called Alice in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from Music Games International. This CD ROM based game with the cool title is aimed at 5 to 10 year olds, and offers an engaging story and dozens of educational games, puzzles and riddles that stay firmly focused on learning about music. An interactive Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments; Vivaldi’s narrated Biography and an extensive Listening Room, where kids can enjoy the complete recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, are also included on the CD-ROM. This sure sounds like a major improvement over the scratchy and off speed phonograph records I remember hearing when I was in elementary school.

Game Theory Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Thought this was interesting as I came across it. According to this website:

10 October 2005
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 2005, jointly to
Robert J. AumannCenter for Rationality, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and
Thomas C. SchellingDepartment of Economics and School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA,

"for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis".

Conflict and cooperation through the lens of game theory

Why do some groups of individuals, organizations and countries succeed in promoting cooperation while others suffer from conflict? The work of Robert Aumann and Thomas Schelling has established game theory – or interactive decision theory – as the dominant approach to this age-old question.

Wells Fargo's virtual island

I have heard it all, or at least for now. According to this website, Wells Fargo has built a virtual island to teach people about financial literacy. Well, the dates for the place were from Labor day to mid November. I guess we missed it, I tried to find it in SL... maybe someone else can find it, but the article is still a good read for what they are going to do with SL.


My favorite quote about Second Life Yet

Again, my obsession with second life has yielded upon another accidental find. A quote from this website:

"And, strikingly, Rosedale says, about 38 percent of Second Life's subscribers are women, more than double the average for online games. Women also play longer, accounting for about 50 percent of the time spent online in the world."

(Philip Rosedale is the CEO of Linden Lab, the San Francisco company he founded in 1999. It launched Second Life in 2003.)

Well, in my experience in second life, I can see how addicting that second life is for women. First of all, shopping is a must. I will not tell you my running total for lindens, but it is big. I found one store, bought outfits, found a better store, bought more outfits... skin, hair, building the perfect avitar. I couldnt stop there, I had to built my dream house, and furnish it. I even made a friend on sl whose rl includes interior design. I was given great advise of the do's and don'ts of making a room appear larger or smaller. And now that I have conquered that, it is relationships that I am building. It is the clubs that I am visitiing, the most popular being "Bad Girls".. anyone need a landmark?

This is a game that goes beyond computer gaming of knowing how to manipulate the joystick, and war games... this is relationship building... I can totally see why women are sucked in. I see women as holding great power in sl, afterall, we all look better than most of the men anyway..

Last quote from the article: "The social aspects of the world are, in fact, among its most powerful. Relationships in Second Life develop with remarkable speed. "If your feelings are real in real life, then they're real there, too," Dibbell says. "That's hard for people who've never spent time in these places to really grasp. It doesn't work to say, 'Oh, someone's bothering you; turn off the computer,' because people have a real emotional investment in it."

This article is great and I really encourage a full read.


Party at Angelica's

I have the following people registered in the 670 students group:

Each one of these people have been sent an landmark to my home. I also sent a message to everyone in the group, inviting you to a get together at my house on Monday at 8:30. I hope that all who have made lives in sl can make it. If you have not logged on and joined the group. Just do a search for 670 under groups, then click join. We can send everyone in the group messages when we log on. It is a great way to communicate, kind of like us all having walkie talkies, to find out what we all have been up to.

Using Second Life for Educational Games... not such a new idea

I accidently came across this blog about second life. (Isn't that how we always surf the net?) This article was posted on May 10, 2004. However, it is different from what we are doing. It is about using second life to complete projects for real life college education. For example, working with architecture, and my favorite was on building a theater stage and working with lighting angles. These are great applications of this game. So, there is more to do in second life than clubbing and visiting the mature areas. Although, I think that we all figured that out already. Be sure to check out all three parts.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:


Uneducational Gaming

This website became of great interest to me. Peggy and I are creating a game on peer mediation: how to solve conflicts. This is a great skill in life. Its a course on relationships, which everyone knows students should leave high school wtih. Anyway, as I was looking for websites on the topic, I came across this one.

It talked about a game that is in the works called Bully. This game is by the same makers as Grand Theft Auto. This is a great picture that the game site,, includes:

How much better can it get. Realistic avitars, battling it out over the school. Kids are not really like this... That is why a game like Bully is great. Just like it is a rarety that kids participate in grand theft auto. Does it happen? Yes, but the game is intriguing because it is a GAME.

The bluring lines of reality and non-reality get people really upset.

Now, Peggy and I want to take this realism, attractiveness of a game and bring it to something good. Wish us Luck.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Games for the Vision Impaired

Most of us take our vision for granted, and we tend to spend many hours viewing computer screens working on various projects, surfing the internet, and playing games.

Most computer based games, such as Second Life, rely on a rich variety of colorful visual images for the player to interact with, which is very unlike the dark or blank screen on the left, representative of what the sightless person sees.This made it seem logical to me that computer games would not be playable by those that are visually impaired or blind. Happily, this is not the case, as there are quite a few computer-based games developed and available for the blind.

Games for the visually impaired are based on sound, and make extensive use of audio voice commands and sound effects. Many different types of audio games are available. Blind-gamers offers Hearts and three varieties of Solitaire. The Blind Eye is a game where the users navigate 3D-soundscapes on a ordinary PC, and helps break down some of the social barriers between the blind and the seeing. The Audio Network offers games of chance, puzzles, music quizzes, and various trivia games.

Soundsupportnet offers Drive, which is a car racing game completely based on sound. The object of the game is to test the maximum speed of a newly developed vehicle by driving as fast as possible while being accompanied by co-pilot Bob and his obstinate comments. Audio Formula One, is a very realistic racing game based on the teams, drivers, and actual tracks of the 2002 Formula One racing season. An in-car co-driver helps guide the player and “3D sound” which supports full 5.1 Surround Sound systems is used on all cars.

Speaking strictly for myself, I have no desire to drive or ride in a car at maximum speeds with anyone, even if they have 20/20 vision!

interesting article about 2L for teens

Here is an interesting article about 2L for teens.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Advertising to appear in games

Well, it may become more annoying to play online games shortly. An article in the UT is saying that advertisers are getting permission from game companies to insert ads into the games themselves. For example, in the game SWITCH Wakeboarding, players will soon see bright yellow Sprint Nextel ads interspersed on ramps as they buzz around on their boards. So not only will you have to deal with the pop-up ads while your game is loading..they will be around for your playing time as well!!

I ran across an article that might be helpful for our upcoming "research" project. The authors use the example of a game called Ultima Online, which appears very similar to Second Life. I haven't read through the entire article but it is teeming with research on games. You can find it here.

Guilt-free Candy bars!

Although I know that at least this week one is supposed to focus their attention on turkey and pumpkin pie, for some people this won’t do. Thanks to countless vending machines, well stocked 7-11’s, and the fact that Halloween was only recently, many are thinking instead of candy bars. Of course, if you eat too many of them you will attain largeness, and many people have completely given up these confections.

If you have given them up, but every now and then feel the urge to indulge, here is a guilt-free non- caloric alternative that might satisfy some, and let’s you test your knowledge at the same time. Knowledge of candy bars, that is.
Name that Candybar features 12 cross section photographs of popular candy bars which you first try to identify, then click on a photo to reveal the name. This is from the Thinking Fountain, which is a part of the Science Museum of Min
nesota. I think this format could be used for teaching or reviewing many things, such as food groups, the bones of the body, chemistry symbols, even math equations.

By the way, that is a a BabyRuth bar on the upper left, and a 3Musketeer bar on the right.

It was almost Payday as Rolo and Almond Joy headed for the Kit Kat club. Meanwhile at the ballpark, Baby Ruth Snickered, hoping that Hershey the pitcher would be Butterfingered as he took the Mound(s)….. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!

Monday, November 21, 2005

interesting article about 2L scripting

Here is an interesting article regarding a change in the 2L scripting language from "Linden Scripting Language" to an open source development platform called Mono.

NetLogo User Community Models

While doing research for simulation ideas within my eGame project, I was pointed toward the NetLogo Web site. I immediately got drawn in, and spent much more time on the site than I had intended, running through the models submitted by the NetLogo user community.

There is a whole series of models, created by Ed Hazzard, which deal with adaptation and evolution within a flock of sheep. I spent some time playing with the Fussy Females model, in which you can set a parameter that makes females fussy and not willing to breed with blue mutations. Then you can sit back and watch what happens to the flock over time. I won't give up the ending--you'll have to find out for yourself.

Models within the Community Models vary quite a bit, from a model of slime mold behavior, to a model of the drug economy. There is also a model to help solve Sudokupuzzles.

I highly recommend checking it out. But leave yourself plenty of time.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

To Bee or Not to Bee???

Hi, Everyone! Are we having fun yet?? Absolutely!
As I was preparing the post you see below, I dug a little deeper to find out who is making this stuff and why. Turns out it is from projects in the DEMO labs (Dynamical and Evolutionary Machine Organization), which are a collaboration of the department of computer science at Brandeis University near Boston, MA and various sponsors, including the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

There is some fascinating stuff on the research they are doing into games theory and educational technology, including a Paradigm for One-on-One Learning
WISH I had the time to read every word...but I did read quite a bit and urge you to take a's well worth your time.

Anyway, here's the original post: Enjoy!

Here is a site I just ran across through a link from the monthly newsletter "On the Tapis" from Tapped In. There are five different online educational games for kids to play: (Three are up; the other two are in process.) Home Page:

Turns out that SpellBEE is part of a huge research project by DEMO.

SpellBEE -
In SpellBee, your goal is to gain as many points as you can in seven rounds of a spelling activity. You can gain points in two different ways. First, when asked to spell a word, you will gain points if you spell it correctly. Second, you will be asked to choose a word for the other player to spell. You will also be able to gain points for this. The number of points will be based on which word you choose, and whether the other player spells that word correctly or not.

PatternBEE -
PatternBEE is a beeweb game where players create Patterns for each other out of unique geometric shapes. Once the players build their Patterns, they are sent across the Internet to each other to solve. Patternbee builds skills in the area of geometry, problem-solving, pattern recognition, spatial relationships, mental rotation, and constraint satisfaction. But it is also a lot of fun.

MoneyBEE -

MoneyBEE is an educational multiplayer environment where two players create "Money Problems" for each other to solve. A money problem (e.g. I'm thinking of 4 coins which sum up 30 cents) is a pre-algebra skill, involving number sense, arithmetic, problem solving and mental visualization.

Once you each create a problem, they are sent across the Internet to be solved.

In a BeeWeb game your goal is to gain as many points as you can in several rounds of game play. You can gain points in two different ways. First, when asked to solve a problem, you will gain points if you solve it correctly. Second, when you create a challenge for your partner, you will gets points based on how hard it is and whether they can solve it in time.

GeograBEE -
COMING SOON! is a fun and fast website which lets students create geography quiz questions for each other. In the process, you can't help but learn your states and capitals!

Not up yet, but soon will be...

CalcuBEE -
COMING SOON! is a fun website where students use a virtual calculator to create a wide range of Cryptarithmetic problems for each other. Not only does this game challenge in arithmetic, but also logic, memory, and visual attention.

Not up yet, but soon will be...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Life of Burnig Life?

I am really not sure if art is imitating Second Life, or if Second Life is imitating art.

The somewhat surreal counter culture Burning Man gathering that occurs annually in the Black Rock dessert in Nevada has migrated to Second Life as Burning Life. Held annually since 2003, this event is hosted by the Lindens.The picture on the left is of the burning man effigy from 2003.

This event takes place over the Labor Day weekend, and residents have three days to create their projects. On the last day, the culmination of the event occurs when the Burning Man is burned, and then everyone goes home. Apparently many residents plan much of their second lives around the Labor Day weekend and this chance to create for no other purpose than the joy of creating, and sharing it with others.

Its Baseball Time

For those of you who need baseball "year round", you can have it with a new multiplayer online simulation game by Sims Dynasty.

Players can signup now by visiting this site. More than 3,000 players already control teams, but there is always room for more in this multiplayer online baseball simulation. Players take on the role of a baseball manager and train their team in the hope it will become the greatest in the league and ultimately create a dynasty over many seasons.

Sim Dynasty's Single Season Leagues are 100% free to try, no strings attached. Players who want to continue the fun can continue by joining the highly competitive multi-season leagues. Multi-season dues are $10.95 per season or $54.50 annually. Players interested in joining and starting their very own baseball dynasty should visit this site to learn more.

Only $10.95 a season to play after your free trial!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

real estate in 2L is hot, hot, hot!

Hey everyone,

Here is an email I received earlier today which I just wanted to pass on.

Dear Ivan Ganache:

Hello! I'm Lauren Linden. I'd like to invite you to take part in a bold experiment in virtual living. As a participant, you’ll get a free home in a new Second Life community for the cost of a Premium Account, as little as $6.00/month.

Choose from 6 classic home styles, including a spacious ranch house and a stylish 1950's modern house, each with yards out back for BBQs, each on a comfy 512 square meters situated in a beautiful new neighborhood lined with trees and sidewalks. Just upgrade to a Premium Account and within 24 hours, you'll receive the DEED to your new home.

These houses are in VERY limited supply, and the special offer expires in 7 days.*

Claim your piece of the Second Life dream.

This is the first time Linden Lab has offered free land and a free house to residents.

As a Second Life land owner, you'll receive:

* L$1,000 bonus upon purchase
* L$500 week spending allowance
* Exclusive Premium Account offers and promotions

Own your first Second Life home today!

*Offer expires Wednesday, November 23rd at 11:59 PM PST or while supplies last
Second Life Surrealty Lauren Linden

Driver Detective

Hi all,
I came across this driver detective application which I have found to be quite useful in making sure my system has all of the latest versions of all different sorts of drivers.

The upside is that this is a comprehensive tool which allows you to almost instantly pinpoint the problem and download the fix. The downside is there is a one time fee of $29.99. Here is the link:

eSchool News online - 'Virtual cafeteria' teaches good eating habits

To improve student health and enhance parent understanding, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District (ISD) in Carrollton, Texas, has put $95,000 into developing a program to give parents, students, and other community stakeholders a new way to learn about the foods offered in its schools: a virtual cafeteria.

Hey, somebody here should be able to get a piece of that $95K pie next time. The nutrition game folks + Second Life = $$$$ ?

See article in eSchoolNews online (free registration required).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Second In The News Has a short article and video hightlighting Second Life.Thursday, October 27, 2005 was the original report date, but the article was on the technology section Nov. 15, 2005.

There are also other interesting video game stories.,2933,173728,00.html

Are Computer Games Rebooting Our Minds?

Check out this commentary on computer games. "The debate over the effects of digital games is running hot in academic circles and beyond at the moment. A recent Maclean's cover headline blared: "How computers make our kids stupid". Meanwhile Steven Johnson, author of a new book called Everything Bad Is Good for You, argues that games and other interactive media sharpen our brains."

Snow Crash & 2L

I ran across an interesting reference to the way Second Life got started. Although I have not been able to verify this information completely, maybe it is of interest to you as well.

Apparently, there is a book that was written about 13 years ago called, “Snow Crash,” in which the main character spends time in a metaverse, or an alternate reality. For a summary of the book, visit It is not the type of book I generally select, so I’m not surprised I haven’t heard of it, even if it was on the best-seller list at the time. It is interesting to think that something like Second Life got started in reference to a book.

There was mention of similar games in the same genre that came about as a result of Snow Crash: There, Second Life, The Palace, Uru, and Active Worlds, which is based entirely on Snow Crash (info from wikipedia).

There is a student at Elon University, where they explore Second Life in some of their classes, that hosts some interesting info about Second Life and other similar games.

Second Life - Psychological Implications

As I've been logging into Second Life (when time permits, which isn't often), I can see more and more applications for a tool such as this. Beyond just the "fun" associated with gaming, 2L provides what I feel is even more important, which is a way to connect with other people on a psychological level (both good and bad). When I initially stepped into the game, I felt really vulnerable, even though it was a virtual world with virtual people. For some reason, the physical 3-dness of the game creates a place where even though you are virtual, you also feel real.

There is an interesting article on that talks about the uses various people or groups have made of the 2L realm, from entrepreunerial practice to helping abused kids integrate socially (for more:,2101,67142,00.html). In fact, as I was reading each blog that classmates wrote about 2L, the same information that Jennifer shared about the reaction to her virtual body was something I found interesting as well. Is it true, even in games, that we react more readily to people who are beautiful/handsome and physically fit? If so, does it give people who aren't as fit a sense of what it would be like to be one of those people? The other thing the author of the article mentioned was the group that has Cerebral Palsy and uses this environment to do things they normally wouldn't be able to. Really a cool concept. I think the possibilities of this particular type of game are only just at the surface right now.

"Third" Life

I am still having many problems with Second Life. I somehow got off of Orientation Island, but still hadn't practiced some of the basics. I still don't know how to lift objects. The directions are for a PC, but I have only been able to get Second Life to work in our classroom. I sent an instant message basically calling for help, and was directed to Dore, another location off of Orientation Island where I could practice some movements. I STILL don't know how to lift objects though, the beach ball was still not where it was supposed to be.

I did management to take a snapshot.

I don't consider myself a "gamer," though in junior high I could be found at the local arcades by SDSU (now long gone) every weekend. I used to play Nintendo as well. Since having children, and discovering web development and Photoshop, I do not play very often.

However, I have always loved things that I could customize for myself. I love Build-a-Bear so that I can customize my own stuffed animal, I would like to order My Twinn dolls for my daughters because you can customize them, I like to do my own graphics for my webpages (rather than download existing graphics) maybe it is a good thing I can't get Second Life to work at home. I would probably be on it all the time!

Maybe I will try my laptop....its newer than my desktop....hmmmm.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Second Life Snapshots

This short Blog contains snapshots from one of my last SL adventure.

In my last adventure, I was curious about how many of the things featured in Second Life actually worked. For example, I found that I could actually buy a jet airplane and fly it. In addition, I could make a withdrawal from the ATM. Instead, I saved my money, found a free public vehicle and flew it. It was also nice to see that elevators, windmills and the sort operate properly.

Enjoy the Snaps!

This is Me, Myself and I in my secondlife.

This is an floating aircraft company.

The elevators actually work

I was able to take this vessel on a midnight cruise.

A Better Way To Fly.....

On my way to the airport, there was a gentle breeze operating the windmills.

On my next journey, I will see if I am able to pet the dinosaurs.


Hello All

For those interested, the following URL contains reviews of other virtual worlds plus a selection of research papers.

Second Life Distance Collaboration

As a distance student, I've learned innovative ways to collaborate and communicate with other EdTechies. I learned to work around time zone differences when I partnered with teachers in Thailand and Bangledesh to create a webquest. I know how to create community solely through email contact. I'm comfortable with three-way calling in planning and executing various class projects and assignments.
But, until last week... I've never had the chance to actually "sit down" and chat with an on-campus student. Marguerite Benmergui (aka Peggy) was kind enough to sit at my campfire and chat about our projects and share thoughts and perspectives about our Second Life adventures. Having this exchange actually within the simulation environment only added to the experience.
In addition, I've had many opportunities to discuss educational applications within SL. Pictured with me is kk Mechanique, an Instructional Technologist at an East Coast university, charged with moving faculty towards new e-learning opportunities. This photo was taken at Response, the Homeland Security sim previously mentioned in this blog (October 2005). Not pictured is one of the original developers, who was graciously telling us about the current state of the sim. This type of experience has been typical for me. Most EdTec folks are eager to share ideas within the game and are enthusiastic in discussing pros/cons of various educational applications. It's been an unexpected bonus for me to listen in as various faculty from academic institutions in the United States and Europe discuss formative ideas in learning within a simulation environment.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Second Life Goes On...

Hi, Fellow Second Lifers!
Went to find the infamous "Tringo" and found a place to play, but no players and couldn't get it to work. Has anyone else tried that yet? Played a "Greedy, Greedy Dice Table" instead (again all alone) and finally figured out how to work it. Some things are definitely more intuitive than others...

Also have hooked up with Mari Asturias (aka Cathy) a couple of times to see the progress of the land she bought and has used to make an incredible place. It is so relaxing... I am ready to move in! Here is a picture of us chatting by the campfire she has going there. She had the idea so you will know we are busily collaborating!

I also went to church, but the sermon was a little on the dry side. No wonder there was no one else there...

I have been wandering around in the same clothes for days, so it was time for a change...phew! Changing appearance is the only place where my computer gets a little glitchy with this program. Anyway, here is my new casual outfit: I just wish that were my new house and fountain...but alas, I just trespassed yet again on private property for a gratuitous photo shoot.

One of my favorite things to do in Second Life is fly. I like to fly and then land like a bird on the top of very high places. In this photo, I am on a platform near the top of a very tall tower. I stayed there for quite a long time enjoying the 360-degree view and the beautiful sunset. It surprises me how one can get caught up in the exploration and just ignore the real world (not a good thing for an edtec student with three classes...)

So...back to my first life...


Friday, November 11, 2005

Video Games for Learning????

Two recent events in Washington D.C. highlighted video gaming as a medium of instruction: One important point made by a presenter was that when presenting this idea to a school administrator, be sure not to say the word "game"; this is sure to shut them down to anything said after that.

God forbid learning should have any fun to it...

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Summit on Video Gaming and McKinley High School's "Be the Game" video-gaming summit were meant to demonstrate the pedagogical value of gaming technology, often viewed with skepticism by generations of educators who did not grow up in the digital age. The FAS event focused on the theory behind using video games in the school curriculum, and the McKinley High School summit looked at how to use gaming curricula to engage students and improve their performance.

Gaming theory

At the FAS summit, experts ranging from cognitive scientists for the military to entertainment game producers from Hollywood participated in a range of panels that addressed topics such as research and development (R&D) and innovation.

Experts in pedagogy and game design began the conference by discussing specific attributes of video games that lend themselves to learning applications and went on to examine areas of knowledge and skill development to which game features could be applied.

"The decision environments provided in gaming are great training for all sorts of high-performance teams," said Jan Cannon-Bowers, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida and formerly senior scientist for training systems for the U.S. Navy. "Though gaming provides a good medium for instruction, good instruction must transcend the game."

She went on to give some examples of how research has demonstrated the difficulty of transferring skills learned from gaming for use in other media.

Gaming works, she said, in known domains in familiar formats. That's also how knowledge is built--proceeding from the known to the unknown. The problem, she said, is transferring that knowledge from the game to the real-life scenario, whether it is academics, war, or the corporate office.

"Transfer is a skill," she said. "The goals of a game are diverse. The skills that you are going to leave the game with have to be well-defined."

Cannon-Bowers also noted the importance of a strong narrative to engage the user.

"The decision-making experience will be most engaging if it takes place in a world with a strong, familiar, authentic story," she said. "All those cop shows are successful because they have strong stories that are driven by familiar formulas."

Michael Zyda, director of the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering's GamePipe Laboratory, spoke on the R&D panel about his lab's research into educational gaming.

"We're seeking to provide all K-12 students with math and science games" to help them compete in the international marketplace, where the number of American engineering graduates is in sharp decline compared with their counterparts in India and China.

"We're developing games that read the human emotional state to determine if the student is learning," Zyda said. "We want to develop immersive games--games that are immersive on the level of story, art, and software. We want to make certain those games are infused with pedagogical value."

There's a lot more to this fascinating article. Check it out at
(free registration required)

References listed after article:

Federation of American Scientists

McKinley Technology High School

Oddworld Inc.

GamePipe Laboratory

Scholastic Inc.

Electronic Arts Inc.

Alias Ltd.

Vicon Peak Ltd.

Will Interactive Inc.

Breakaway Games Ltd.

Feraxis Ltd.


Don't Worry - Be Happy

Here's a little something that might give inspiration to anyone looking for games to teach musical ideas. Remember Bobby McFerrin?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Geography Games in the News

A quicky post:

MSNBC has interesting article on geography games.

Stuck in My First Life

I'm enjoying reading your posts on Second Life and living vicariously through you. I'm still stuck in my first life due to technical issues. If anyone has sucessfully overcome video card issues and is willing to share, please let me know.


I picked up the local paper while visiting my family and noticed an article on this game that combines Bernie's favorite (Snood) with another recent craze (Soduku). Check it out at Sorry Mac users, this one's for Windows folks only!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

104 Free Training Game Ideas

The name “Thiagi” was brought up by Bernie during class last Monday. Thiagi is actually the last name of the man shown on the left. Dr. Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan is the “Resident Mad Scientist” at The Thiagi Group, an organization with the mission of helping people improve their performance effectively and enjoyably.

Among other things, Thiagi has published 40 books, 120 games and simulations, and more than 200 articles. He wrote the definitive chapters on simulations and games for ISPI's Handbook of Human Performance Technology, ASTD's Training & Development Handbook, and the American Management Association's Human Resources Management and Development Handbook.

For those of you (like me!) still sorting out ideas for the e-game project, here is a link to 104 free training game ideas, courtesy of Thiagi. Possibly this may be of help to some of you.

Second Life Teams

I am interested in joining a Second Life Team.
If you need or could use another team member please let me know.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Simulated Chemistry

Wandering around in Second Life has gotten me thinking about learning through and with simulations, which is something I have not yet experienced. I am tarting to think that with enough funding that most anything can be simulated.

I happened to come across an interesting simulation called the Virtual ChemLab. Chemistry topic areas include organic, inorganic, quantum, gases, titrations, and calorimetry.

Chemists in training are free to make the choices and decisions through simulation that they would confront in an actual qualitative experiment and, in turn, experience the resulting consequences.

This media rich simulation uses over 2,500 actual
pictures to show the results of reactions and over 220 videos to show the different flame tests. This was created by BYU, and is commercially available through Prentice Hall.

Second Life Start

I have been touring for about a week. Unfortunately, I am tied to my MAC mini because of the video requirements that my laptops and other systems not meeting.

I do have a question: How do we join the "670posse" group. Do we have to be invited or am I missing something??????

Must Educational Games be Fun?

In a brief article in the online Chronicle of Higher Ed, an interesting session of the recent Serious Games Summit was recounted ...

Mark Prensky:
argued that instructional designers often do more harm then good when they work on educational games. 'Whenever you add an instructional designer to a team, they suck the fun out,' he said. And he argued that if players of educational games don't enjoy the experience, they won't be engaged in the activity, and therefore will not learn much.

Jan Cannon-Bowers:
said that she does not care whether a would-be pilot who uses a flight simulator has fun or not -- she only cares whether he learns the necessary skills. And she said there's a better chance that games will be educational if an instructional designer is involved.

So why are we instructional designers thought of as fun-suckers?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Off to a not-so-good start

I have been so eager to enter my second life. Unfortunately, it seems like I will have to wait a while. Second life is telling me that I must update my driver for my NVIDIA GeForce 2 graphics card. This explains why I crash when I try to launch the program. Unfortunately, my PC was a recent gift from my boyfriend, and in order to download the proper driver, I need to answer several questions about my system I don't know the answers to, and then disable certain system features for the download (which I don't know how to do) (I'm an ardent MAC user, but since its demise, I'm trying to become accustomed to my PC). Updating this driver will have to wait until he is available...and it doesn't look good for today. I'm so disappointed.

I wondered as I wandered...

what is the meaning of 2nd life?

I strolled here and there as a novice, learning to levitate beach balls and to thumb my nose at gravity.

I listened and observed. I heard risque talk and gibberish. 13? BLG? R2D2? Everyone was tall and handsome or pretty and curvaceous, some with skimpy outfits. I almost wished I was young again. Or maybe I was young again.

I wandered some more, ending up by some beautiful buildings, even a chapel, but no one else in sight.

After I finished, I had a light headache--literally. I didn't take to this world at first.
Was it Malone and Lepped who noted that no single motivation works for everyone?

Uploading Second Life Snapshots

After reading several blog posts about Second Life residents having difficulties with images, I thought I might offer some tips.

Snapshots taken in Second Life are saved as a bitmapped file (.bmp), which are very large and not welcome in In the case of this sailboat picture, the original is 2.08 megabytes.

Here is how I have been able to get images from Second Life into the EdGames blog.

First, I take a snapshot and save it to my desktop. Next, I import the picture into an image editor (I use Photoshop out of habit, but other image editors are fine), and do any editing, such as cropping or resizing. Finally, I convert it to a JPEG (.jpg) file, which is compatible with the EdGames blog. If you are using Photoshop converting is easy, as all you need to do is choose “Save for Web” from the file menu, then select the lowest resolution that looks ok. Of course, higher resolution equals bigger file sizes. The file size of the .jpg sailboat picture is only 38.5 kilobytes, which is a substantial reduction from the original file size.

After the snapshot is converted to a .jpg, I click the picture icon in blogger, and choose medium for the picture size. Then I browse for the .jpg file on my desktop, and click upload. That has worked for me.

I used to work in a boatyard on Shelter Island when I was in high school, which probably helps explain why I am standing on this sailboat at least for this picture in Second Life.

Kathleen's Second Life Experience

Considering I am not a "gamer", I didn't have as many problems as some of you. I signed on and got into the game successfully. However, sometimes when I click on the program icon the game starts, and sometimes it asks me if I want to install the game again instead of just opening it. When Bernie mentioned in class that we didn't have to be human, I thought it would be cool to be a feline so I named myself Cat. However, I haven't been able to figure out how to change from being a human. I haven't pursued it that much because, like some of the other women's responses..the girls look pretty good!!

I started off asking my son to do it with me..since he plays a lot of games. He ran me through Orientation Island before I had a chance to change anything! But I was able to right click on my avatar later and at least make my legs taller, lighten my eye color and change the color of my top (yes..this part is very fun!!) I loved Rebecca's statement about the wusses of the world and she brings up great points to ponder about motivation. I personally don't find it that interesting to interact in a virtual world..I guess I get enough interaction in the world I wake up to every morning. Maybe there is just something about personalities..that some people find it intriguing and others don't. I will probably focus my attention on using simulations for learning "real world" skills and lessons.

Still, it is a pretty world and its nice to fly around. I switched to the "mouse" look but didn't like it as much as the original view. My guess is that if I got more comfortable and adept at playing the game, my confidence would go up and I would enjoy it more. However, if I need to learn something, I will be more motivated that if I'm just playing a game for fun.

Here I am as Cat Ganache! Well, maybe not..I keep getting an error message saying that it can't upload my picture.

Adventure (barely) begins

I downloaded Second Life and had to install and update a driver. I went into the virtual world as Tegwen Tardis and found that it was very frustrated to move around. I am not sure that my computer is handling this very well. Is the landscape supposed to have details? After looking at some other member's snapshots, I see that the land is very detailed and that the characters are wearing clothes.

In my second life the world is stark and bare....and most of the time, so am I! I entered the world with no clothes, walked for a little ways, clothes appeared suddenly. I traveled a little further, and then my clothes disappeared. I was instructed to try picking up a beach ball and placing it on a table, but could not find a beach ball...let alone manipulate my character to move to the right angle. Is there a way to go back to the beginning, because now I feel lost.

I had a lot of trouble moving around....either moving to far or too little. I also was not used to waiting for the computer to react to my movements, would hit the arrow keys too quickly, and then would fine myself drowning in water that I never saw coming!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Exploring Second Life

Well after updating my version of OS X, I was able to enter into the Second Life. I still think things don't look right or my computer is too slow. I took some snapshots, but every time I try to upload them it gives me an error message.
In the game I was having difficulty landing. I figured out how to fly and now I can't stop. It seems like the reaction of my computer is too slow. While I was wondering around I figured out how to use the map to transport myself. Then I noticed one time that I transported myself that I came out looking different. My hair was cut shorter and my pants got tighter. Anyone know why?
Also while clicking the right and left buttons on the mouse I managed to pay someone $1.00. I really don't know what I paid for, but I'm sure he doesn't mind.
I'm sure that I have a lot more to learn about the game so I'll have to spend some more time on it later.

Interesting Experience

I entered the world of Second Life as Miranda Davison. I like the image they gave me because they gave me a cute outfit, nice jeans and a purple shirt! That was all I liked at first. It was frustrating because I was having difficulties moving around the Orientation Island. I would either move too much to the left or too much to the right. I finally got down the finesse of the keys and was able to move successfully to the end. I then was teleported to the mainland.

Here I explored flying. I like doing that. It seems easier to move around. The people I encountered here were different looking. They didn't have clothes on. In fact, they looked like statues. When I was walking throught this land, I was able to walk through walls and some of the hills. That was interesting. I'm not sure why it did that.

I also explored through some of the features of the game. I browsed through the profiles of the other people playing the game. It was fun to read those. I also searched for various things using the "find" option. I then continued to play the game and walk through the world, but then my computer froze, and I could not get the game to resume. I was unable to continue my journey through the world. I tried closing Second Life and restarting it, but I was unsuccessful. I decided to give it a rest and try it later tonight or tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll have more luck. I was just getting the hang of things, and I still want to chat with people so I can learn more about the game.

I tried uploading 3 images I made while being in Second Life, but I could not get it to work. Can anyone help me on this? Thanks!

The Love of a Second Life

Greetings to all. Well, my adventures on Second Life have been interesting. I started out looking like this:

Well then I went exploring. I met this really nice guy who was willing to show me around. He gave me some clothes. Upon trying them on, I realized that none of them looked that great on my body. Imagine that, I wouldn't wear them on that body in the real world either. So, then the migration of Angelica emerged into this:

The lesson in which I have learned... Even though I tried to impose my real self into my second life, it was easier, for me as a woman, a heavy one at that, to leave that part of my real life behind. Also, as a heavy woman, no one talked to me. Before I shed to the smallness that you see above you, I tried this out:

That is when all of a sudden I made friends, and that is where I got all of the free stuff. I have tons of outfits for men and women if anyone is interested. I couldn't believe how friendly people were in the world.

Lessons Learned: Since this is a virtual world, where people can see you, appearances do matter, at least for women. Although, I have yet to see many men that are bald unless they are muscle men. So, the same stereo types seem to be passing through.

I talked to a few people about the game that I was going to be making. I did not run into anyone directly that could help. Although, I did meet a mentor who was from San Diego. His name was Doug. He has been in Second Life for over a year and said that he would be willing to give a guest lecture.

So, with this post, I have included pictures and lessons learned. I hope you too are enjoying life and I am looking forward to finding you all online soon.

Angelica Hamsun


I'm afraid I've already been turned off by my Second Life experience. For some reason my computer (a fairly new iMac with the latest greatest OS on it) does not work and play well with Second LIfe.

Sounds like a technical support issue, right? I guess it is. But...

The bigger thing is that my motivation to play the game is flat. Instead of looking forward to going there, as I did when I first learned about Second Life, I now dread the thought. I'm sure I can probably go through the effort to troubleshoot the issue, or I could learn to live with the the difficulties of movement and staring at the 'beach ball' as my computer locks up for a while. But now it's not fun anymore. It's work.

I know what you're saying about now: "Wussbag!!!!!" Maybe I am one. But when designing games, you have to consider the wusses of the world. It takes a lot of motivation to overcome the hurdle of having things not work the way they're supposed to. Is the game valuable enough to the player to be willing to work first in order to play? Or are you designing for an audience that likes that kind of challenge? And does the game need to be bleeding edge, or will another, simpler design work?

So my experience with Second Life has made me think more of motivation than anything else. I don't know if I'll end up being able to use Second Life. I wish I could. It looks fun. But not THAT fun.

Ganache...Ivan Ganache

When I first downloaded and launched Second Life on my PC running Windows XP Home Edition, I got a message indicating that I needed to update the drivers for the Intel Extreme Graphics Card. Doing this made a huge difference and has prevented Second Life from crashing (thus far). For anyone else who gets a similar message, here is the link for the drivers: Intel Extreme Graphics Drivers Update

Once I got that squared away, I found myself walking and flying around Orientation Island. You'll notice that I am taller than normal and am wearing a red shirt and blue jeans.

At the top of the page on the left side, there are two photos: one of me talking with a guy from the UK who is also a Second Life newbie and another photo of me flying.

Second Life is truly amazing; I'm eager to find out more about this incredible new world.

Problem with Second Life & Mac

Their support even works on Sunday. They replied and said my computer needs a new life before I can use Second Life. It requires a minimum of 10.3.8. I have 10.2.8. Guess I'll have to upgrade afterall.

Is the Digital World Flat?

Although it was demonstrated many years ago that the real world is not flat, there are there are those that think the virtual world is flat, most notably up north at USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies. A five year $100 million dollar grant from the Dept. of Defense has funded the FlatWorld project, which is an immersive virtual reality environment designed to help train soldiers. When digital flats, or large-rear projection screens, are used along with physical props, FlatWorld becomes a “mixed reality” environment where users interact with both the physical and virtual worlds seamlessly.

Users can walk and run freely among simulated rooms, buildings, and streets. It differs from other immersive simulations because large-scale digital displays combined with full-size equipment and objects (e.g., tables, window frames, doors), and amazingly enough, it is modular and transportable.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, most people (including the party in power) have come to the conclusion that the federal response to the recent hurricanes was lacking and in need of improvement. This makes me think that a really good use for an powerful immersive simulation environment like FlatWorld would be to train emergency responders.

Through this sort of environment, train derailments, plane crashes, fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. could be simulated. If the technology was adaptive and used some sort of conditional branching, perhaps it could show responders in training the results of their actions, in an “if/then” manner. So if a responder reacts this way then X will occur, if the responder reacts differently then A, Y, or Z might occur. I would think disaster training simulations once developed in a system like FlatWorld could provide a healthy ROI for the government as the system is portable, allowing it to be used most anywhere. Most of all, a disaster training simulation if developed, could improve the federal response to disasters and save lives.

A stuttering start to a Second Life

I got an account and logged in during the 3d animation class I teach on Thursday to show my students another outlet for their 3D skills. I just briefly entered with the intention of going home and exploring over the weekend when I had more time. However that wasn't to be. Despite repeated (over 1o) attempts I couldn't get Second Life to open on my home mac. I downloaded everything, visited everywhere I could find beginner info, even set up a new account, but to no avail. I finally sent an email to support but have no answer yet since it's the weekend.

In any case, the brief time I explored during class was interesting and a bit frustrating. Getting around was kinda intuitive, but difficult at first. My students demanded I enter as a woman and wear the sexiest costume possible, so I obliged. They were disappointed with the nude version. This would lead me to believe most of the cute women running around in Second Life are actually guys. Can't trust any digital selves nowadays. When I did enter some cute guy tried to lead me around, but never said anything.

My students were very interested in how they could use their 3d and Photoshop skills to create outfits and objects and sell them. They guessed the real money was provided through eBay in a similar way people sell things for Everquest. Is that true?

I told them the story of an ex-student who was running what some called an "Everquest Sweatshop" in Tijuana. It was a digital maquiladora where low paid Mexican employees were playing Everquest 24/7 to get credits to buy levels, objects and weapons for players who didn't want to put the sweat equity into playing Everquest themselves. It's a strange, strange new world we live in, eh?

In any case my goal is to harness these things for the sake of education. Instead of forcing students to learn to love things like math and science, I want to use the things they love to teach them math, science and literacy. The only problem, their educational antenae are pretty sensitive. They tend to reject out of hand anything that isn't pure fun or violent as a kid game. How do we get past this anti-education defense?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bellow's Tale and the Origins of Linden

I was hoping in my second life as Pablo Bellow to avoid any hint of technical problems that I have sometimes besieged me in my first life. Much to my chagrin, so far this has not been the case. I can really see the learning potential in and for a simulation like Second Life, but that is assuming that one is able to have an active second life. Although I am sure that my experience is atypical, I feel compelled to describe some of the hurdles that I have encountered while trying to develop my second life.

First, when I attempted to register as a Second Life resident, I was thrown out of the process several times because my e-mail address has a hyphen in it. This prompted several phone calls to the Lindens, who were very helpful. They sent me several e-mails that I was to reply to that would “fix” the problem. All to no avail. This prompted additional calls to the Lindens, who said that my e-mail address was invalid, and couldn’t be real, to which I responded “Then how is that I am receiving your e-mails?” At this point, Michael Linden registered me manually, over the telephone. This finally worked and I was in. Out of curiosity, I asked Michael if the company was in Linden, N.J., and thus the origin of the company’s name. He replied no to both queries. Michael told me that the company is in San Francisco, and named after the Linden alley near their former location, which was down by the City Hall on Van Ness.

Second, after I downloaded and installed Second Life, the program would lock up, giving me an error message that my Intel motherboard’s AGP system software would not support Second Life. I was then asked if I wanted to go to Intel’s download site for an upgrade. I click ok, and found a whole page of AGP, etc. downloads to choose from. I had to read my computer manual to figure out what chipset my motherboard uses, which narrowed my choice to three downloads. Unfortunately, I had to try all three of them to see which one would work. Of course, this meant downloading, installing, rebooting, and then trying Second Life to see if it would accept it three times. Finally, the third time was the charm and I thought I was ok.

Next, I actually began my Second Life
as Pablo Bellow, and found that with my dial up connection, it is difficult and somewhat frustrating to be an active resident. Here’s why, Although I found that the A and D keys work fine (I can spin in circles with total abandon), the W and S keys do not work well, thus severely impacting my avatar’s mobility. There is an approximate 60—120 second delay between tapping a key and any action, although often no action occurs at all. At other times the avatar moves on it’s own, with out any keyboard input. The avatar frequently freezes, and the only solution I have found is to close the program and open it again.

Needless to say it took me an absolutely ridiculous amount of time to get off orientation island, but I finally did. Oddly, now that I am on the mainland I have been unable to do anything other than spin around, and I remain stuck in a welcome area for an area called Morris, that I have absolutely no idea how I got to. Even after rebooting multiple times, my avatar remains frozen. Oh well, at least I have made it to the mainland. Also, for some reason Second Life logs me out every ten-fifteen minutes or so. I can readily see that with out a fairly modern computer (such as a fast P4/G4/G5 with a fast video card and lots of RAM) and a broadband connection that it can be a real challenge for a user to partake fully in a media rich simulation experience like Second Life.

Games, Violence ... and Peace !

Games (especially video games are labeled as violent), but the words “games” and “violence” can work together in interesting ways. See this positive example:
The Peace Games organization teaches conflict resolution skills that children can apply and believe in. Peace Games pairs college volunteers with elementary and junior high classrooms, where the volunteers teach one hour weekly lessons on conflict resolution. Though many volunteers do not have the firsthand experience with violence that the children do, they work to combat conflict through discussion, games, and projects. “

See more about this program at . The games seem to be live cooperative games, not video games. But still is interesting how through games teach about ‘peacemaking’ skills (communication, cooperation, conflict resolution and engagement).

How to Join Posse 670??

Apparently, we need an invitation to join the group, "Posse 670". I went there, but was not able to join. Did we get an invitation in our email? If so, I didn't get it.

My name is Scholten ... Silke Scholten ...

Even though I thought the opposite, I enjoyed a lot the experience of be in the virtual world. In general (with a small amount of frustration and thanks to the Jim tip), I found the way to change my appearance. I chose look quite regular ... as you can see in the picture at the left.
I liked all the features. Some were really girly, change the make up, nail polish color, etc. You can add or remove even freckles and wrinkles !
I also liked choose your body features (so finally I can have the body I want without dieting and exercising :-) ... The programmers did a great job !

I could fly pretty easily, but took me a while discover how to land gently. Most of the time, I just crashed !! (thanks God I do not have osteoporosis). Finally I learnt that 'pressing AND holding PageDown' I can land as gentle as a feather. I also drowned myself several times.
I took this picture when I was flying with my original white jacket. Beautiful view at the sunset.
Other feature that took me a while to get, was how to see my own face. It is done with the camera angle. (>View > Camera Controls ... in the circle of the left, you can control be at the eye level of your own character).

And once I mastered the camara angle, I took this nice picture of myself with the moon.
Peggy & me were exploring the virtual word at the same time. We met virtually and we showed tricks to each other.
The sandbox was really cool, even though I am quite bad when building things is required (ey ! I did not choose be an architect, or engineer in real life either ;-P ... ) I kept playing around, building some cubes, and other shapes, like cilinders, learning how to move objects, etc.

My First Shot at a Second Life

I have entered Second Life and experienced the joys and frustrations that await therein. Here is a pic of me flying over the welcome pavilion in my not-so-chic outfit that it took two computer crashes (and my computer is new and supposedly pretty powerful) to create. I like that I can be skinny in my Second Life. It's a big plus to not be plus. Anyway, Mercedes and I experienced the initiation to this new world together -- she on one computer and I on the other, but in the same room. She was definitely the quicker starter, so I got a lot of pointers that would have taken me more time to work my way through if she hadn't been there. Here is a snap of the two of us in the sandbox region, which is a training ground for creating things -- a training I flunked, I am afraid. I created a cylinder, but couldn't figure out what to do to make it actually BE something. I will try again soon, but I feel ok about this first entry into the fray.

Jim's post inspired me to dig deeper and go further. I know we are supposed to think of some sort of educational game that could be realized in this virtual world. Now that I have a little (very little, but other homework calls) knowledge about the concept itself and the means of movement, communication and creation, I will move away to let an idea incubate of what I could do.

If you want to put me on your list of friends, I am Marguerite Benmergui.

I am wondering what the name is of the group that we are supposed to join.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Second Life

After spending a couple hours with Second Life, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Like it would take a long time to truly become acclimated and have a sense for what the heck is really going on. I also feel intense admiration for whomever created this thing. What an incredible use of the web.

Three observations thus far in my Second Life as Cesar Bertone.

1. What an incredible ability to customize one's appearance. I'm guessing something similar to this system is what modern-day sketch artists use. (By the way, Bernie, right click on your character anytime, and click "Appearance" to alter yourself.)

2. It didn't take long to find the games area but I didn't have much luck. Did anyone figure out how to play "Prim Attack"? I couldn't find instructions anywhere, and messing around with it didn't get me far. Didn't try Mah Jongg since I don't know how to play, and no luck with the ducks and fishes game - maybe because my DSL isn't fast enough to support the streaming video.

3. Then I found the Education Center in Second Life. Whoa. People are really thinking about how to use this stuff. There's a wiki with links to SO MUCH material that looks interesting. How can I possibly find the time to really get all this?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Games factory ... the secret ? Templates

I visited the website of QUIA and I found that they have a section to create activities, which are based in simple games (i.e. hangman). The website ( do several things, from administration, to create quizes.
(In fact I remember have taken some quizz in the early courses of Edtec made in QUIA in 540 or 541).

What I liked about the activities section, is that the template to create activities (games) are simple to use, seems technologically robust (i.e. display a flash version and a html version, based in the same content).

Their possibilities to create games are: flashcards, matching, concentration (memory), word search, battleship, challenge board, columns, close exercises, hangman, jumbled words, ordered list, patterns, picture perfect, pop-ups, rags to riches (a quiz-show style trivia game), and scavenger hunt.

The templates are very flexible with the use of languages (Activities in 30 languages, from Spanish, French, and German to Japanese, Hebrew, and Latin ) and signs that cannot be create with the keyboard (i.e. square root sign)

They already have a big “library” of games that can be customized, and even you can customizes your own past creations. The cool thing is .... if you choose to, the site creates automatically a copy to edit and customize.

The advanced option includes for instance choose the Number of questions per game (NQ) that you want to use based on your pool of created questions.

I created an activity with the template of hangman and is well though. For me was a good model of templates to facilitate the easy creation of games. Kudos to QUIA ! :-)

You can have a free 30-day trial. I encourage you to explore the site.

Free Gaming Magazine Available Online

For any of you with an interest in electronic gaming, a free new online magazine called Portable Gaming and Entertainment has just been introduced by Enoble Media Group. If you want to subscribe, click on new user in the upper left corner of the screen, and create an account.

According to Enoble General Manager Andrew Eisenberg, this magazine will be only offered digitally because “we didn’t think a print magazine could do justice to the video game market. Print works, but gaming is digital; it’s all about moving.” I guess time will tell if this digital publication is moving in the right direction.

Beta Testing

My husband and I enjoy online games, also known as MMO's. We had the opportunity to beta test a new game that was launched to a limited audience last Friday night and to the public on Nov. 1st. I was not able to post regarding the testing prior to the launch because of the non-disclosure agreements all beta testers must agree to.

The game we tested is called City of Villains (CoV). It is the counter-part to City of Heroes (CoH), launched about a year and a half ago. CoH allows you to play a superhero character and CoV allows you to play a super villain. A big change with the release of the CoV game is the addition of player vs player capability for both games. One of the main draws to both games is the ability to customize the look of your characters. In the pictures above you can see one character, Renegade Army, dressed as a mercenary, and another with a robotic body. When CoH was first launched many players spent hours creating different characters, exploring all the various options, before spending any time in the actual game.

I found the experience interesting (this is not my first beta test experience). I first started as a beta tester after the product had been in the testing phase for a few months already. Many of the features of the game were disabled. There were two goals that we were given:

1. provide feadback as new features were enabled.
2. all logon at the same time to test the load capability of the game.

Addressing the second first, we managed to crash the game frequently. At times movement within the game was like moving through quicksand as the server struggled to keep up. The game developers were sneaky about getting us to all log on at the same time. The game was only available for two hours each day, so we all dutifully dropped everything at 4:00pm to logon each day (or as soon as we got home).

Providing feedback was important to help the developers perform their final tweaking and adjustments. Many of the beta testers only complained about what they didn't like. Then when the programmers would make a change, more people would complain about the change saying that they liked it the old way. As beta testers we were constantly reminded that we needed to provide complete feedback, what we liked, what we didn't like, what worked well and what was broken. They were also interested in game balance. They monitored what type of characters players chose to play and added or modified abilities to better balance the character types.

Just a month before the game launch we (us testers) were concerned that the game would not be ready. A huge amount of changes adn additions were implemented in the last two weeks before launch. It makes me wonder how many programmers went without sleep that last week.

Games & Nobel Prizes

The Nobel prize official website have a section with small games and simulations, based on Prize-winning achievements (

The games are simple, I like the design. The instructions are - in general clear -, I only have some comments about the navigation buttons in some of them.
I like the concept too ... make the "... work of the Nobel Prize winners" accessible to the general audience.

You can find games in any of the categories of Nobel prizes (physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economics). You can play just the game, or have access to a brief explanation. If you choose do not read, the feedbacks from the game will give you clues anyways about the right way to do it.

Here are some examples about what to expect:

Category: Medicine
Blood Typing In this game you have to blood type each patient and give them a blood transfusion.

The Immune System Defender Game is intended to learn how to defeat a bacterial infection by using a range of different immune cells.

Category: Physics
The Transistor One of the games allow you to learn about how a transistor functions and what it is made up of.

Category: Peace
The Prisoners of War Game As commander of a prisoners of war camp, are you a "humanitarian champion" or a "sadistic swine?"

And my favorite game, is the Pavlov's Dog (

Enjoy !

Motivations and Unintended Outcomes

When my son was about 11, my boyfriend introduced him to the relatively new game of Sim City. My boyfriend was very into the game, and spent a great deal of time setting up and maintaining his city. My son, however, always followed the same pattern: every city he set up was soon destroyed by fire, tornado, or mechanical monsters. This frustrated my boyfriend to no end. He saw it as a failure on the part of my son to master the game. He was wrong.

My son was perfectly capable of playing the game correctly. He just didn't want to. Watching the city be destroyed was far more intrinsically motivating to him than maintaining a city.

The creators of the game had seen destruction of your city as a bad thing: an event to be avoided and contained with skillful maintenance and reaction. The excitement of watching the city burn had not at that time been considered as a motivating factor in the game. Ten years later, I notice that this motivation is addressed front and center on the Sim City Overview page on the EA Games Web site.

When designing games, it's important to think about motivations that could come into play, other than the ones the designer intends. Imagine the designer of the 'perfect' educational driving game realizing only after the game was finished that teenagers were playing the game by running lights and hitting pedestrians on purpose. Points, schmoints.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Games within Games

Yesterday, talking with one of my ‘class after Bernie’s class’ teammates about our next assignment, he came up with something I would like to explore.
[Note: My teammate recognizes himself as an Everquest and ‘game-geek’ type of person.]

When I shared with him that we need to do a game within a bigger game (Role Player Game), he commented me that in the game F A B L E (playable in Xbox) they have something similar [ :-( I thought that we will be original .. well at least our, will be an educational game ... not just any game].

He mentioned, that at some point in the game, the characters have to go to a kind of tavern and play cards (poker), and in other place the have to flip a coin to make it get into a can (small town fair type of game).

I searched Internet, but I did not find it. Does someone have access to the game [Fable] or to any kid (son, nephew, neighbor…) who play it, to confirm or not the comment?

So, My Friend, The Chain-Smoking Black Fox, Said...

So, there I was, after a hard day of flying and making wooden cubes, minding my own business, standing by my usual nighttime park bench with my good friend - who just happens to be a resident starving artist. You know the type .. chain-smoking, bleached hair, camo vest. Looks good on the little black fox he is. Anyway, as we're talking, some jock had the audacity to bonk me on the head and then just stand there. Just what I get for standing smack dab in the middle of the Victoria Waterfalls telehub. It's one of my favorite places. You can visit me there in Second Life. I'll give you a tour. Just look up Mari Asturias :-)