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Posts in category 'Virtual world'

3 August 2006

Future-making serious games

Serious games blog
Eliane Alhadeff has published a blog about “future-making” serious games, i.e. games “that challenge us to play at building a better future”.

Although the blog needs quite some design work still – it took me some effort for instance to turn off the music (go to the July 14 post and hit the pause button) and the bloated sidebar suffers from featuritis – I have to say that the texts are cleverly written, the image selection is well-done, and above all I think it is very valuable for all of us to have somebody finally starting to create an overview of what is going on in this field.

Playful learning is definitely an area that will see major growth, and allow for innovative experience design of relevance for many different parts of society, both private and public. Hence the report we published a while back.

I can only encourage Eliane to pursue this path and try to take on a leadership role in the exploration of this field. Her blog has the potential to become a portal on the topic. To start with, she should do some more work on the categories, so that somebody interested in say games and the elderly, or games and the arts, or games and civil society can quickly find some interesting links.

23 July 2006

Saving the world, one video game at a time [New York Times]

Madrid game
Video games have long entertained users by immersing them in fantasy worlds full of dragons or spaceships. But Peacemaker, a video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is part of a new generation: games that immerse people in the real world, full of real-time political crises. And the games’ designers aren’t just selling a voyeuristic thrill. Games, they argue, can be more than just mindless fun, they can be a medium for change.

Games are uniquely good at teaching people how complex systems work. Video games also possess a persuasive element that is missing from books or movies: They let the player become a different person (at least for an hour or two), and see the world from a new perspective.

Featured games:

  • Peacemaker (a video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)
  • Food Force (a UN released game that helps people understand the difficulties of dispensing aid to war zones)
  • A Force More Powerful (a game to teach the methods of influencing or changing the political environment using nonviolent methods)
  • Darfur is Dying (a narrative based simulation about surviving in a Darfur refugee camp)
  • September 12 (a simple game to explore some aspects of the war on terror
  • Madrid (a newsgame about the 3/11 terrorist attacks in Spain)

Read full story (permanent link)

19 July 2006

Business Week special report on tech toys

Miuchiz
Working for Clams in Whyville
In a world where kids are spending a significant portion of their lives online, Whyville has pioneered mixing entertainment and education. The virtual world, founded in 1999 by CalTech biology professor James Bower, uses a wide variety of games to teach kids how to manage their money, hone their math and science skills, and even learn how to eat better. It’s a kid’s version of the popular Second Life cyberworld. A growing group of sponsors, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Getty, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Toyota, have created areas within the world where kids can play games to learn about ions or the undersea world, and even customize and arrange financing for a new Toyota Scion. This combination of fun and learning is exerting an undeniable appeal: Over the past year, the service has grown 41% and now has 1.7 million members.

Tech Toys for Today’s Kids
Today toy companies face fierce competition for kids’ attention, not just from traditional industry players, but from video game, consumer electronics, and computer companies. Forget about Santa’s elves banging out wooden soldiers at the North Pole. These days toymakers have to act more like Apple’s Steve Jobs—constantly reinventing their products in sleek labS in Silicon Valley.

Re-inventing HotWheels
After a six-year interlude at toymakers Jakks Pacific and then Best Pals, designer Gary Swisher returned to Mattel in 2005 as vice-president of wheels design. There he oversees the HotWheels, Matchbox, and Tyco lines—the top three in the vehicles category. But a lot has changed since Swisher’s G-Force days. For one thing, today’s kids have grown up with technology. As Swisher says, “it’s just a given for them.” The toy industry has responded by giving classic brands a high-tech twist and introducing all new products that blur the line between toy and tech gadget. Recently, Swisher spoke with BusinessWeek.com’s Jessie Scanlon about the challenge of stewarding an old-school brand like HotWheels in our tech-driven age, the emerging technologies that will affect the toy industry, and Mattel’s Web strategy.

The Tussle Over High-Tech Toys (slideshow)
For a glimpse of [the high tech toys[ you’ll see on toy retail shelves well in advance of the crucial year-end shopping season.

Toys for Tot Testers
At Fisher-Price Play Lab, in the heart of the company’s headquarters, on the outskirts of Buffalo, N.Y., local children get first crack at the toys Fisher-Price will eventually sell throughout the world. And while it may be fun and games for the kids, the testing that goes on here plays a serious, critical role in the development of the products that helped Fisher-Price, acquired by Mattel in 1993, rake in $2.02 billion in sales last year.

More Than Child’s Play
Go behind the scenes at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where students design the physical and interactive aspects of toys.

Super Design Powers, Activate!
A childhood dream of becoming a superhero fuels the [Mattel sponsored] development at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program of an interactive toy that encourages girls’ imaginations.

25 June 2006

Experiencing digitally resurrected cultural heritage sites

EPOCH's digital reconstruction of part of the ancient city of Sagalassos
Most of us find it rather hard to picture ancient times when viewing old bones and stone fragments in dusty museum display cabinets. Now archaeological artefacts can come alive with the help of EPOCH, a European research project that uses augmented reality, computer game and 3D-image technology to resurrect cultural heritage sites, according to IST Results, the online magazine of the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies (IST) research initiative.

“From an archaeological point of view, it now becomes possible to reconstruct large sites at low cost. Previously, 3D modelling has all too often focused on a limited number of landmark buildings, without the context of sites surrounding them. Producing entire city models was just too expensive, so we got a Parthenon without Athens, and a Colosseum without Rome. Thanks to EPOCH this no longer needs to be the case,” explains the University of Leuven’s Prof Luc Van Gool.

Computer-generated humans – avatars, will act as multilingual guides in this computer-generated world, explaining about the visited site. With the help of interactive storytelling, visitors will be able to personalise the story according to their interests and the time available for the visit, explains Franco Niccolucci, EPOCH Director for Training and Dissemination at Florence University.

To further enhance the user experience the project has developed a cost-efficient prototype that uses widespread techniques known as ‘rapid prototyping’ and 3D scanning.

Read full story

11 June 2006

Hooked on the virtual world [International Herald Tribune]

South Korean gamers
“An estimated one million South Korean gamers suffer symptoms of serious addiction, experts say. These people are so obsessed with online gaming that they neglect eating and bathing, skip school or quit jobs, playing the games for hours or days at a stretch – and in several cases a year, until they drop dead.”

“‘If other countries have drug and alcohol problems, we have online gaming addiction,’ said Kim Hyun Soo, a psychiatrist in Seoul whose clinic receives one new serious gaming addict a day.”

Read full story

The problem outlined in the article is in fact not at all confined to South Korea. In another article the Herald Tribune covers the global nature of game addiction and writes about new treatment centres for obsessive gamers opening in the United States, the Netherlands, France and China.

Read full story

1 June 2006

Experience things before they exist [The Economist]

Carl Bass
As the new chief executive of Autodesk, a software company that pioneered the market for computer-aided design, or CAD, 24 years ago, Carl Bass feels that his role is also to ensure that customers will “get what they don’t know to ask for, [...] the ability ‘to experience’ a thing before it is built.

Before bending actual metal for a new Boeing aircraft, for instance, its designers ought to be able to feel what it will be like to sit in as a passenger, to fly it as a pilot, and to fix it as ground crew. Architects should be able to enter a building that exists only in their imagination and their software in order to see how light falls into it at noon in January and dusk in June. They should also be able to simulate the experience of people trying to get out of a building in a hurry if, God forbid, someone were to fly an aeroplane into it; to feel how it shakes in an earthquake, and so on.

If all this sounds like the visions of “virtual reality” long touted by science fiction and Hollywood, that is unfortunate but unavoidable. Ordinary people are already having the sort of experiences that Mr Bass describes, through the medium of online games such as “Second Life”, which lets its visitors create anything they can imagine: with a few clicks, they can build houses, islands and spacecraft, and walk through or fly over the things created by other players.

To be useful to real-world engineers, however, Mr Bass thinks that virtual reality should stimulate as many of the five senses as possible. In software today, says Mr Bass, “we’re at a pretty crude approximation of sight only.” Within a decade or so, he thinks, Autodesk should be able to model touch and hearing as well, although smell and taste will be harder. Designers, architects and engineers, by the sound of it, might soon be wearing wired gloves and full-body touch-suits.

Read full story

20 May 2006

User-generated future for gaming [BBC]

User-generated games
“Gamers today, instead of being thrown into a universe created by teams of designers, can grow their own world, inhabited by any shape of creature they can imagine,” writes Tayfun King in a BBC News story that accompanies the Click Online TV programme.

In the article he quotes David Fleck from Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, who says that “the future of software development is user-created content.”

“First and foremost,” Fleck continues, “it allows them to exploit their creative energies and display all the wonderful things that they’re good at doing, whether it’s manufacturing clothing or architecture.”

“In some cases the creations are so fantastic that we even label them as being vanity creations, where they’ve put all their energies into something that really represents who they are.”

Read full story

22 March 2006

What’s wrong with serious games? [CNET News]

Serious games
Serious games usually have a message promoting education, science, health care or even the military. They’re meant to educate people by simulating real-world events and are often created with the best of intentions.

Problem is, education, science and health care aren’t exactly the stuff of exciting entertainment, let alone video games. While the military provides plenty of fodder for gamers, cosmologists like Carl Sagan or famous physicians like Jonas Salk aren’t exactly the stuff of the multiverse. So what to do about it?

Read full story

5 August 2005

The social impact of gaming [The Economist]

Gaming
Is it a new medium on a par with film and music, a valuable educational tool, a form of harmless fun or a digital menace that turns children into violent zombies? Video gaming is all these things, depending on whom you ask. [...]

Amid all the arguments [...], three important factors are generally overlooked: that attitudes to gaming are marked by a generational divide; that there is no convincing evidence that games make people violent; and that games have great potential in education.

Read full story