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  Canada Has a Game Studies Association?  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
There's so much I don't know about my own country. Today I learned that we in Canada have our very own Game Studies Association. It was formed two years ago, mostly by educators, and just launched a journal called Loading.

Why is it that I'm more aware of American events, individuals and groups than Canadian ones? We have a serious self-esteem and outreach problem in Canada, I think. The last Canadian games conference I found out about (too late to sign up for, I might add) had to ship in Americans as speakers, but I don't think it's because of a lack of domestic talent. It's a lack of awareness of domestic talent, which is really unforgivable in this age of personal home pages and Google.
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  ‘Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge’ Announced  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft announced today that it has partnered with the Games for Change organization in establishing a worldwide "Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge." Launching in August, the competition is intended to increase awareness of socially-conscious games (and the Xbox 360 brand, of course).

College students from more than 100 countries will be eligible to submit their ideas for a game based on the theme of global warming, with three cash prizes available for the best team or individual entries (no word yet on the value of the prizes). The top three entrants will have a chance to present to the Xbox games management team--winning games could be added as a download to the Xbox Live Arcade network. Development of the games will use the XNA Game Studio Express software, which allows entry-level creators to try out Xbox Live development.

How about this for addressing global warming: Instead of holding a competition for themed games, why not reduce the number of Xbox 360 consoles produced, increase backwards compatibility between Xbox and Xbox 360 hardware (reduces material waste), increase the power efficiency of the Xbox 360, reduce packaging used for games, and have the top 3 entrants in the Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge present via videoconferencing rather than fly them in?
 
     
 
   
 
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  Game Sketching with John Buchanan  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
While on a working trip to Tasmania, I had the pleasure of meeting John Buchanan, Director of Carnegie Mellon's ETC in Adelaide, Australia. I participated in Buchanan's demonstration of a "Game Sketch" system he's working on with his students. Game sketching is a method of pre-prototyping the basic interactivity for the purposes of playing with game ideas. Although technology-independent, Buchanan and his students have developed a 3D tool where simple interactive systems and play modes can be toyed with. Using this tool, any simple 3D object can be made into a controllable game piece with rudimentary functionality. The tool is destined to be distributed free, without a license, from what I hear.

As with any kind of sketch, the purpose is to boil a concept down to its essence by removing distractions. The multi-user tool actually relies on live puppeteering and moderation--not unlike tabletop or live-action roleplay. In this way, play situations can be changed on the fly without downtime resulting from having to create new assets or scripts. The demonstration in Tasmania actually involved live performance (I played a ninja!) as a substitute for the tool, which was having trouble with limited network bandwidth. The experience was a bit similar to what I know as "paper prototyping" which often involves sketched elements moderated by a human controller.

I plan to add game sketching--without any kind of computer-based tool--to the game design courses I'm teaching. I already focus on a series of basic interaction design exercises, but I think sketching would be a useful bridge between these and full-fledged game prototypes. It's important for students to understand that good games boil down to good game play, regardless of presentation. Thanks, John, for introducing me to game sketching!
 
     
 
   
 
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  Going Downunder May 14 - 26  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'll be in various parts of Australia between May 14 - 26, lending my mentoring skills to the LAMP residential entitled "Story of the Future." Eight projects have been selected for expansion and development--I'm tentatively assigned to "Thursday's Fictions," a story-centric experience (based on a book and film by the same name) which asks participants to decide what they'd take with them if they had five minutes left to live.

Assuming the jet-lag doesn't strike me dead, I'll be speaking about "The Real, The Virtual and The Mixed" on Thursday, May 17 as part of "Mixed Reality, Branded Entertainment," a day of seminars hosted at the Museum of Sydney between 1 and 4pm.

Between May 20 and 25, I'll be working at the LAMP residential in beautiful Freycinet. I should have internet access during this time, but don't expect to be posting much (if at all) to Clickable Culture.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Cramming on Storyworlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'm doing some early research around the concept of "storyworlds," a term I need some schooling on. I've got my own ideas about what the term means and how it could be applied, based on previous game and cross-media work, but I'm looking for earlier work (or at least higher-profile work) in this area. So far, I've got Hamlet on the Holodeck to re-read, Hypertext 3.0 to hunt for, Storytron to dissect, and a thorough browse through Christy Dena's blog archives to embark upon. Basically I need to cross-reference what I think I know against what others have already put out there so I don't look like an idiot when discussing this stuff in the near future.

If you've got any must-reads in this area, or care to share your own definition of "storyworld," drop some comments on me, thanks.
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Move Over Mathemagicians, Here Comes The Arithmancer!  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Massively-multiplayer mathematics sounds like torture to me, but if juggling numbers is your thing, you might want to check out Hippasus, an upcoming MMORPG from independent Canadian developer Frozen North Productions. In Hippasus, you'll role-play as a budding "arithmancer"--a magician with "power in fundamental mathematical concepts." According to the official game description, "users are encouraged and helped to develop logical/mathematical skills [including their own in-game spells] which allow them to shape their experience as they see fit."

A very interesting concept, even if math puts me to sleep. I'd like to know what kind of player culture emerges from a world which revolves around number-crunching--it looks like the game's audience is in the grade-school or middle-school skill range. I jumped off the math-wagon after high-school trig, personally. Julian Spilane of Frozen North was interviewed earlier this month over at Shacknews. I bet he's a mathelete.
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
  Recent Snippets of Sexism, Racism, Homophobia in Gaming  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A handful of stories related to society and gaming have caught my eye this week, punctuated by an event which occurred in a Storytelling in Games class I taught yesterday. I was showing the students some cutscenes from the recently-released Xbox 360 title Crackdown--one scene described a scantily-clad female villain as "hot" and "dirty." The males in the class chuckled uncomfortably while the sole female student in the class was understandably nonplussed. I pointed out that none of the male characters I'd seen in the game were described in the context of their sexuality. I felt embarrassed not only personally, but for the mainstream games industry, which seems to be slower to evolve socially than society has evolved in its capacity to thoughtfully criticize games--consider this a theme when reviewing the following recent excerpts:

Richard O. Jones, BlackVoiceNews.com: "Psychologists agree that if your race is always the thief or killer, then after a while you start to think that's how you should be, or you think that's how your people are... the games that are being designed unconsciously include the biases, opinions and reflections of their creators. And obviously, whites see Blacks and Latinos as criminals and gradually that's how our children see themselves and behave according."

tiny dancer, GayGamer.net, commenting on Jones' article (quoted above): "It wasn't a questionable article because Jones is wrong, it's questionable because he used only one example (when there are dozens). The recent Crackdown prison-reality-check themed commercials have had me thinking about this issue, because they seem very strongly biased in favor of promoting racial stereotypes."

Continue reading: Recent Snippets of Sexism, Racism, Homophobia in Gaming
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
  Casting Doubt on Video Game Violence Studies  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
GamePolitics.com reports on a meta-research paper that casts doubt on links between violent game play and violent behaviour. The paper, entitled "Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review," may be downloaded from this page (temporarily, at least), and has been accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the Aggression and Violent Behavior journal.

Author Christopher J. Ferguson told GamePolitics.com that his study found that overall, violent games do appear to increase aggressive thoughts, "but do not appear to increase aggressive behavior." The study also found that "better measures of aggression are associated with lower effects," and that studies which indicate a link between violent games and violent behaviour are more likely to get published than studies which do not indicate such a link.

Continue reading: Casting Doubt on Video Game Violence Studies
 
     
 
   
 
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  Canadian Colleges Make ‘Second Life’ Leap  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-16 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Canadian Colleges Make ‘Second Life’ Leap
Loyalist College on Eduisland: Six kiosks and a tower.
At least a few Canadian colleges have established a presence in Second Life over the last few months, most notably Loyalist College (Belleville, Ontario), Mohawk College (Hamilton, Ontario), and Lasalle College (Montreal, Quebec). Loyalist and LaSalle seem to disagree on which school was first to jump on the virtual world bandwagon, with Loyalist proclaiming to be "the first Canadian College to establish a presence in the social-networking simulation universe," last December, and LaSalle announcing almost two months later (after both Loyalist and Mohawk) that it was "the first Canadian school to open a campus in the virtual world of Second Life." I'm currently teaching game design courses at two Toronto-based colleges, neither of which have jumped into Second Life yet, so I thought I'd take a look at what's already been done by other institutions.

Loyalist College's Second Life presence is based on "Eduisland." A report by the college's newspaper The Pioneer indicates that Loyalist will explore how Second Life can be used in education. A visit to the small Eduisland site shows that journalism students might be the college's first to explore the virtual world. Rather than a unified campus, the site acts as a promotional center and portal to a few other areas the college has built around Second Life, such as the Parrott Centre (library), Journalism department, and Student Pavillion. The college's student government offers a "virtual tour" of its real-life campus, but not its virtual-world campus.

Continue reading: Canadian Colleges Make ‘Second Life’ Leap
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  How do You Test a Game Designer?  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The latest issue of Game Developer Magazine contains an article entitled "Test of Design," by Cryptic Studios co-founder Jack Emmert. One of my students asked if the article's brief example test was a good measurement of a game designer. "Not really," I replied. "It's basically just a math problem." Although Cryptic's needs are very specific, I began to wonder if the test I'd administered as part of the student interview was a sufficient response to the question "What is a game designer?"

Veteran game developer Brian "Psychochild" Green provides an agreeable answer to the question, citing communication as a game designer's primary skill, followed by organization, research, and "jack-of-all-trades." Green notes that game designers are almost never "idea people," as the project is usually already conceived of by the time a designer's involved. Fortunately in my case, I usually work with small teams for web-based projects where I've specifically been called in to help develop the high-level concept.

Continue reading: How do You Test a Game Designer?
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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