Saturday, September 30, 2006

Current Events Games

This free article from The Wall Street Journal Online discusses free web games based on current political or news events. Some are spoofs, but others are meant to educate people about current events.

Friday, September 29, 2006

surprising game topics

I was wondering to myself when I saw my sister reading my neice a religious childrens book if that was actually a popular fad. I was so surprised to see when I looked up spiritual and religious board games that there is NO shortage of them, and in every kind of topic. For instance, check out these new age ones, they crack me up:
-Nelly Aragon

East joining West in video-game world with a new infusion of Japanese flavor

A piggyback to Marci's comments I found this article on the SD Union-Tribune site talking about Japan's influence on American pop culture. It refers to kids who grew up playing "Final Fantasy" and "Pokemon" have paved the way for more games with a greater Japanese influence. One game in particular "Okami" uses the ink-and-watercolor art of old Japan. I saw the trailer and it reminded me of Speed Racer cartoons I watched as a kid before there was video games. The writer rates three games with Okami receiving 4 out of 4 stars. "Rule of Rose" and "Cooking Mama" didn't rate very high. It would be interesting to know if the games actually taught something about Japanese culture as a by product of playing them or do gamers only focus on the goal of winning.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Donald Clark Plan B

Donald Clark Plan B

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cooking Mama

Cooking Mama is an educational Nintendo game created by Majesco. I read some posts at the Serious Games Initiative website about this much anticipated game and its mini cultural controversy. It is evident that the game has an international audience; however, there is skepticism surrounding how popular this game will become in the United States because the recipes are supposedly Japanese. It is interesting, somewhat obvious, and important to recognize how culture can affect the outcome of a game.

Without actually playing the game, it’s hard to know what recipes are really included in the game. The Majesco website indicates that players can “create 76 different, real world dishes from fried eggs to cabbage meat rolls.” While cabbage meat rolls may not be the most American dish, one would think that with the freedom to mix and match 76 different dishes, players would be able to create American meals. The game sounds very appealing especially because of its real world-like features, such as cooling the food down by blowing into the Nintendo microphone.

Here is the Serious Games Initiative website:

Also, check out the Majesco website to read more about the unique features the game offers and watch a video of the game in action:

Daily mind stretches

Over the summer, a friend turned me onto these little ditties. Pattern recognition puzzles.
daily set games
I found them challenging and fun. Easy to get into flow with and easy to get out and onto to something like work. After getting the hang of it, I noticed my brain shifting and going into some other mode. Much of the time it's engaged with language-based activities or activities that have some language component. Here it's purely visually-based patterns. I haven't tried out any of the others and I've since abandoned this one too. Not much of a puzzler...

2006 Toronto Independant Games Conference

This is a summary of a presentation given at the 2006 Toronto Independent Games Conference (August 31-September 2). It is an interesting list of ten points which independent educational game developers should consider when marketing and planning a game directed at a K-12 client.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Games to Improve the Internet

I read an article about Luis von Ahn, a Computer Science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who just won a MacArthur Fellowship.

Dr. von Ahn is credited with inventing a new field in computer science known as "human computation," which uses novel techniques, including games, to harness computational abilities of humans to solve large-scale problems computers cannot yet solve.

His games include the ESP Game licensed by Google, and his new game is Phetch. The outcomes of these games are used to produce phrases to label images and to describe them for visually impaired Internet surfers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Games Tackle Disaster Training

I thought this was interesting.,1282,69580,00.html The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding a series of computer games to help prepare health workers and other first responders facing bioterror attacks, nuclear accidents and pandemics. A multiplayer prototype is being developed to train teams of health specialists to work together. They are also looking at natural disasters thanks to the results of Katrina. Maybe the next head of FEMA will have to pass a simulation before they get the job, at least they have some experience.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Game Mechanics

Just came across a very nice list of Game Mechanics on the Board Game Designers Forum. What's a game mechanic, you may well ask? It's an element of game structure that describes, for example, how cards are drawn, or how the abilities of pieces differ from each other.

The referenced page is part of a wiki, and so not all pages are complete. It's a great resource, though, when you're at the early creative phase of developing a board game. It provides a pool of ideas that probably go beyond what's already in your head.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cooperative vs. competitive games

While browsing through the internet on games, I found this great article on cooperative games. The idea is that too many games depend on aggression and competition dividing the world into winner and losers, and yet we know that with the information explosion of the last decades, collaboration and cooperation become necessary in our working and learning environment. We can argue that competition is also healthy and just as necessary as cooperation, but the question that is important for gaming design is whether playing a cooperative game is as much fun as playing a cooperative game. I ask those of you who are experienced game players to give me some insights into your experiences and reactions to playing both types of games. After reading this article, I decided to experience it for myself and purchased the game called “LOST”, which I hope turns out to be an example of a cooperative game. I will report on my experience with this game in a future comment. Here is the link to the article about cooperative games.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bookstores to sell the XBOX?

Microsoft has been brewing up the XNA for a bit. It's a free software download that allows users to create their own video games, specifically for the XBOX 360. Some universities will be using it to teach game design classes (according to Microsoft).

Game software typically uses rarely-used or completely customized platforms that cost obnoxious amounts of $$. This translates to needing a few million bucks just to get a rough draft of your idea. Now, Microsoft is giving the platform away. The development software will be free, but sharing your newest first person shooter with others and/or your xbox will cost $99 anually.

I've downloaded "Game Studio Express" and plan to try it out this semester. Maybe I'll make a few million dollars on the side with our class project.... Maybe I'll spend 4 sleepless days and night to wind up with a red dot that chases a blue dot on a grey background.

Games industry is failing women

I recently posted about this BBC article.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Can a Game Make You Rich?

I hope so. Today's mail brought word about Motley Fool Caps, a game that gets smarter about stocks as more people play it.

How does it work? You get yourself a free account and pick a stock. Predict what direction the stock's price is going and when. Your prediction is stored away and evaluated on an ongoing basis. The system shows players a summary of everyone's predictions, and each player is rated based on how prescient they are. As time goes on, players whose predictions are more accurate get higher ratings and their predictions are weighted more heavily.

So... over time, the system will show you the consensus of the best stock pickers, thus pointing the way for you to invest better.

It will be interesting to watch this. Will it turn into a vehicle for the bandwagon effect where lemmings run even faster towards the cliff? What complex behavior will emerge from this fairly simple game?

I'm getting an account. See you in Tahiti.

Games as Mind-Warpers

Get ready for a fresh round of debate about violence in video games. News is out today that the sociopath in Montreal who shot 20 people listed an online game about Columbine as his favorite.

Who knew there was such a game? What kind of heartless dope would take the time to design such a thing? Politicians are going to use this as an opportunity to grandstand and offer more legislation restricting violent media, nibbling away yet again at First Amendment rights. Passing laws is easy. Changing the culture is the real challenge.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Second Life in the News

I came across this article the other day about Second Life. Normally I would have never looked twice but after discussing Second Life in our first class session it definitely caught my eye!

The New Monopoly

I found this article "Would You Like Fries With That Monopoly Game?" and I thought it was very interesting since the idea of curb appeal had been brought up in class as another factor to consider. Basically, it's an article about the new Monopoly Here and Now Edition. They have replaced some of the old tokens with newer, more modern (and some name-brand) objects, such as a Starbucks Coffee mug and McDonald's french fries. They have also replaced the railroads with airports and some of the other properties will be replaced with cities such as Las Vegas. Finally, the other major change is that you will get $2 million for passing go instead of $200. It also says in the article, that unlike other special edition versions of Monopoly (Simpsons, Star Wars), this is supposed to be mainstream and not a limited edition. I don't know that I have a problem with this as much as a thought/question. Monopoly is one of the most popular games in the US. It has had such an impact that the phrase, "Do not pass go, do not collect $200." is part of our everyday language (or at least I've used it). So, is this version of the game too commercial and contemporary and will that cause it to lose some appeal? A lot of people play games to kind of "escape" for a few hours from their everyday life. Will the modernization of such a classic game cause that to be more difficult because we will be using a Prius instead of a vintage race car and a Labradoodle instead of a Scottish terrier or will this newer version appeal more to the younger generations of game players and make the game even more popular?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's not the game, it's the experience of playing the game!

I wish I read David Warlick's blog entry on Games in Classrooms? or Classrooms in Games? before class yesterday. He comments that younger teachers grew up with video games as part of their culture, so their comfort level with games is leading to greater integration of games in the classroom. Warlick's concern is that games might get placed in the classroom for the sake of having games in the classroom. He believes

"... that the key to using games in our classrooms is not the game, but the experiences of playing the game that make it so compelling. If we can identify and understand those experiences, which are probably pretty fundamental, and then integrate those experiences into our learning environments, then we may hit on something profound in terms of preparing children for their future."

"Saving the world, one video game at a time"

I ran across this article from the New York Times which provides some great examples and links to socially responsible and educational video games. While the article doesn’t go into detail about instructional design theories it does provide an interesting perspective on creating games that elicit decisions about complex political situations.

Article about Massive Multiplayer Online Games

ComputerEdge's current issue (Sept 8, 2006) shows the article "Internet Gameplay of MMORPGS and Multiverses" in its cover. I read the article and found it interesting to get a perspective of how video games are developing (i dont know much about this topic).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Do Games Enhance Sociability?

Now that the semester has started and a new round of EDTEC 670 is underway, it's time to rev up this blog again. What better place to start than this Reuter's article summarizing a recently published study. The key quote:

"'By providing spaces for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function as one form of a new 'third space' for informal sociability,' Steinkuehler and Williams write.

While such sociability won't offer 'deep emotional support,' they add, it has the benefit of exposing players to a wide range of viewpoints and a more diverse social environment."

The researchers based their findings on a two year study of players of Asheron's Call. Without having read the original article yet, I have to wonder about the extent to which the social talk among players had anything to do with the world outside the game. If one becomes a social maven in a simulated world, to what extent do the skills developed generalize to face-to-face interactions?