Grounds of future play

21 09 2010

Two weekends ago I went to an education resources expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre – mainly as a bid to get freebs. I arrived a little late but still managed to catch some of a seminar, a few free posters, petted a snake and a lizard, and entered in as many lucky draws as possible (and possibly signing my boss up for swades of spam – sorry…).

Two things caught my eye in particular. And I’ll share one now – The SmartUs Digital Playground (their Finnish website).

The whole set up is very futuristic. Kids are issued with RFID smart cards that can be recognised by readers scattered throughout the playground. They login at the main portal and are assigned a task (run from point A to B via C three times, or something more complex) and the computer records their time. This time is recorded on an international online network where kids from different schools, or even different countries, can compare each others times and records.

Additional tasks and learning can also be integrated by assigning different nodes answers to a multi-choice quiz. This also comes into play by the presence of a dancepad hooked up to the main video monitor of the playground as well. This can be used for quizzes, fitness, dancing or simon-type games.

In Finland, it even became the basis of a family/children’s gameshow which involved celebrities and national atheletes, called FunTzu. Again, these TV scores were uploaded online, so schoolkids could challenge their idols. Unfortunately I can’t find any videos of the TV show – but after some searching I have found a news item of Asia’s first SmartUs playground in Hong Kong which shows how it works.

Tapping into children’s natural competitive behaviour, and then combining it with social media and massively multiplayer gaming Lappset have really hit the mark (or market). The only real downsides to it I can see are the initial outlay costs (which you can guess would be quite high) and also the pitfall of having ‘standardised cookie cutter playgrounds’ that don’t have their own individual community flavour. There also might be other hudles here in Australia given EQ’s stance on students and social networks.

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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 »





Move your body

3 06 2009

The future is now!

Check out this awesome video of Microsoft showcasing the Natal at this week’s E3 press conference.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 





Collectible card game without the cards

22 01 2009

What, you don’t want to buy piles of expensive junk that takes up loads of space and only serves use in an imaginary fantasy world of questionable ethics?

PoxNora certainly wins points from me for attempting a “green” concept of hobby gaming.

You still spend money. But only if you want to. They have free sample-style play, which can certainly keep you amused and not at a significant disadvantage to premium players. No subscriptions either. When you do decide to cash in for some premium cards (“runes”) you don’t actually get anything corporeal.

Some people might be disappointed at that, but I think its refreshing. I just want to play games without a fuss. I don’t want a horde of plastic or cardboard I have to worry about storing during non-game time. Read the rest of this entry »





Rejected MegaMan Villains

30 12 2008
コートハンガー アタック

コートハンガー アタック

There is a complete poster of 33 rejects.

This is the creation of Steve Napierski in his gaming webcomic Dueling Analogs.





Next Gaming in Evolution – part 2

6 09 2008

First two parter on It’s Alive!!

For some background on our topic: Science in the new Spore Computer game visit: Spore Official Site, Carl Zimmer: Gaming Evolves, Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge and/or the first part of this post.

I’m going to be rather brash and provide some constructive criticism on a game that I haven’t played yet, and isn’t even released in Australia yet…

The user-driven nature of Spore is going to be very hard to remove in a gaming market. A game isn’t a game if a user isn’t able to meddle with it. Even Sim-Earth, which allowed you to tweak planetary climate conditions, still allows some lee-way towards IDiots. Hell, IDiots even use computer evolution simulations by proper evolutionary biologists as *proof* of ID. So I’m not going to suggest too many improvements on that aspect, aside from perhaps a version that allows attributes to be generated in a more random fashion than spending points in a shop. I don’t think this would float in the market though, modern gamers are very much used to be able to get what they want.

To combat the games “one dimensional march”, perhaps mods or sequels that introduce “end-game” style content for the pre-intelligence mini-games in the greater Spore game.

For the beast-stage game, the user could try and make their creature survive in wake of another creature holotype achieving sentience. I think this could have a capacity to have some environmental messages in there. The user would be charged in ensuring their species does not go extinct. This could be achieved in several ways:

  • the high road – adaptation – adjusting to threats such as hunting (build up defense like – venoms, quills, mimicry of predators), habitat destruction (adapt to extreme habitats or adjust to city life), and pollution (avoid eating plastic bags, drinking polluted streams) – standard time-based victory
  • the middle road – domestication – either by becoming tasty, cute or just generally useful enough that the sentients will actively try not to wipe you out. Be careful though, the balance between being domesticated and being hunted to extinction may be very tricky to reach. Case study: The Aurochs.
  • the low road – nature fighting back – why let yourself be hunted to death, having sentience doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be top of the food chain – I think this would prove a popular victory path – standard winning by ensuring the other guys (in this case the human equivalents) are wiped out

For the tadpole-stage game. I was intrigued by the NYTimes comment amount the small sea-critter being eaten by leviathans out in the depths, forcing it to go onto land. Why not allow your creature to become the leviathan. Again conservation could be brought in by drawing from the fate of whales, sharks and other ocean dwellers.

The ocean depths being analogous to space in terms of a Final Frontier would really open up opportunities for some very exotic environment and alternative creature animations.

Further discussion below the fold… Read the rest of this entry »