Teenage attention span too short for Facebook

5 07 2010

An online gaming site has done a survey which reports that the main reason for teens leaving Facebook and other social networking sites is that it is not interesting enough for them. Obviously they need more ways to poke, bite, stab, tag, chat, and farm their friends.

While “It’s boring” ranked first amongst ‘lapsed facebook users’ (45%), not far behind was unsurprisingly “too many notifications” (27%), too hard to keep up with activity (21%), and too many ads (20%). Also coming up was the presence of parents and *shudder* other adults on Facebook. They do realise that it is meant for older people, right? (But not parents though, that is weird).

The gaming site obviously asked about social network gaming, and the economics related to it. I’m pretty happy that about two thirds of kids realise spending cash on virtual currency, clothes and power ups is a waste of money – but perhaps disheartened at the number of parents who have given children a special allowance to waste on virtual pitchforks and carrot seed. These parents should be really encouraging children to be online for at least tangible, if no less frivolous objects, such as crap on eBay, retail games (such as Steam or an MMORPG), or digital downlaodable content off iTunes. That would be the responsible thing, for sure.





Game: I wanna play forever

30 06 2010
Kids hard at learning.Image: sean dreilinger (Creative Commons)

Play-based learning is used in the Early Years to provide children with an intuitive learning environment suited to activities that little kids do best – playing around with stuff.

This tends to be phased out around the end of year 3, as we move into constructive activities and even, ‘oh noes’, direct instruction. This is something one the children I look after lamented now he is in a year 3/4 class at his new school, “We never play anymore”. Boo hoo, little Johnny, boo hoo. You don’t think I don’t not want to not play games too, yeah?

With gaming returning to an acceptable past time for adults – just listen to Kevin Butler¹ at this year’s E3 – shouldn’t this be reflected in our schools and curriculum? Many of the kids I taught respond to questions like “What’s your hobby?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” with some form of console or another. Many child care centres, and even libraries, these days have consoles available for visitors to use. And if you want to get into economics, I’m sure you can go and find your own figures on just how much this industry is worth.

Games in the classroom do present some problems, mostly to do with moral panic. Firstly just about “games” in general – with some of the students I’ve worked with not allowed to complete teacher-set homework on Mathletics at home because carers won’t let them². Others more serious and understandable moral panics about inadequate classification, excess violence, and depictions of sexual and criminal activities. The ethics and other social issues surround video gaming culture and industry is probably enough to design a unit (or three) all on your own – but what I am interested at the moment is what recreational video games are out there that could provide the stimulus material for an entire trans-disciplinary unit on there own.

As this Dueling Analogs strip illustrates games today are becoming more and more complex – not only in gameplay and graphics – but in background stories, character development, dialogue, and even the style or genre of storytelling themselves (also known as interactive fiction). These components should make it easier to take a single game and safely stretch it into multiple learning areas.

Below the fold are just some ideas:

Read the rest of this entry »





Inevitable becomes more inevitable

30 05 2010

Last year I got into something called Paranoia.

It is a dystopia-themed sci-fi RPG in which players are not allowed to know the rules (except maybe that one, maybe, oh dear, I’ve probably said too much…) as they try to the bidding of the omnipresent planet-ruling AI, Friend Computer (which mostly involves killing commies, mutants and traitors, which the players invariably are at least guilty of three of those crimes).

You can get a digital dose of Paranoia through Java via the Paranoia-Live community.

Through that network I’ve come into knowledge of a similarly themed boardgame on the precipice of release – Inevitable.

Inevitable is a satirical board game set in a slapstick dystopian future. Every play is designed to provide 2-6 players with hours of quality entertainment, danger, violence, betrayal, mayhem, and laughs. It contains a robust amount of high explosives and dead things. It was designed by people who think Orwell’s 1984 is a comedy and the Necronomicon is a romance.

If you are willing to fork out $75 in the next 48 hours you can get yourself a special print copy of the game, and your name in the credits. The game includes references to The Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Church of the Sub Genius, Kali the Destroyer and more – and that’s just the play money.





Don’t worry nurse, its a *healing* sword

30 05 2010

I’m all up for learning in gaming, and even for gaming in learning (more on that story later), so the story of Healing Blade intrigues me. It even has a trailer.

A company called Nerdcore Learning has released what looks like a Magic: The Gathering Style Trading Card Game (TGC) that is supposed to help medical students remember what antibiotics they should be using for particular infections. It also mixes things up with cards for antibiotic resistance, as well as broad-spectrum antibiotics. I’m am quaking at the sight of Bacillus athrancis and his hordes of sparkly butterflies.

Yes. Your future doctor will have learned how to cure your ails by playing a medical-themed version of Yugi-Oh. Oh, dear, what?*

I wonder if they will release an OVA, or at least a web-comic.

If your interested in medical card games for younger demographics, there’s always Zygote Games’ Parasites Unleashed.

*Actually I’m far more worried about the med student likening his practice of medicine to Mass Effect





Surely a ball of string is cheaper

27 05 2010

I’ve seen some videos circling about the place of children using the iPad but this is just silly.

Actually, you know what I would like to see: those talking/language proficient non-human apes getting a spin on this device. That might actually be some productive. (Not the only one who thought about this apparently).





Drama, drama, drama

17 05 2010

Some classroom dramas I can do without. But classroom drama is another thing entirely.

I’ve been slowly trying out a few theatre-games I’ve found on this website. Some with after-school care and some in the classroom.

I’m finding theatre games can be tricky with younger kids. For one, even the most attention-seeking children can become shy when put on the spot, and secondly, they often have trouble expressing more complex ideas.

I really enjoy the Name Game #2 – very useful in learning students names. I also tried Emotion Party, The Park Bench and You (the last is a little crazy).

I think next I might like to have a go with Open Scenes, which could solve the problem of not being able to come up with dialogue.





Free Science! No ulterior motive necessary!

16 05 2010

Ulterior motive may be included anyway.

Valve has released steam for mac (squeee!), and for the next couple of weeks is offering award-winner Portal for free download to everyone*. Enjoy some portal fun and the eternal promise of cake!

Okay. I managed to finish it in under 3 hours gameplay (at least that’s what Steam is telling me), but Portal is an awesome game, and I’ll put that down to me having already played the last quarter of the game (which is plenty crazy when you haven’t gone through the original training levels).

And that was my Saturday.

*Which may or may not have something to do with Portal 2 being imminent.