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  Study: Young People See Technology As Means to End  
Posted 2007-07-24 by Tony Walsh
MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft released summary findings today from surveys of 18,000 tech-savvy young people across the globe indicating that technology itself isn't as important as the activities technology facilitates: Namely communication, social networking, self-expression, and entertainment.

The surveys also found:
  • Marketers are as influential and important as friends.
  • Digital communications and social networking compliment, rather than compete with TV.
  • Technology enhances, rather than replaces in-person interaction.
  • Japanese young people generally don't have their own computers until college-age, but do use mobile phones.
  • Chinese young people look to the internet to connect with others, since they have no siblings.
  • Young people of Italy, Brazil and Australia use mobiles to meet up, socialize, and take pictures.
  • Danes "can't live without" mobiles or TV. The Dutch "can't live without" email.
It's worth reiterating that the surveys were conducted with "tech embracing" kids and young people, therefore conclusions like "Young people are now constantly connected," or "There is a powerful link between TV and the Internet," uttered by MTV Network's Fahey Rush are forgone, in my opinion. How would the survey have been different if the other side of the digital divide had been polled?
  How Much Do Any Of Us Know About Game Design?  
Posted 2007-07-23 by Tony Walsh
An ongoing series of articles about the youth-oriented Gamestar Mechanic educational initiative gives us an in-depth look at the project, its participants, goals, and ongoing results. Last week, Betty Hayes discussed ways to assess kids' conceptions of game design, based on their interaction with the Gamestar Mechanic system. I've paraphrased (and slightly interpreted) the key insights:
  • Kids lack a game design vocabulary and are unable to criticize games articulately. Learning is demonstrated when specific game elements (and presumably systems) are identified and understood.
  • Kids don't use sensible design methodologies. Learning is demonstrated when kids understand the factors which comprise reasonable game play.
  • Complex game and design systems can be overwhelming (solution: smooth out the learning curve). Learning is indicated when kids deliberately choose appropriate building blocks from a large inventory.
  • Kids suffer from lack of experience and preconceptions based on certain types of game play. "Playing a lot of games is as important as making them." (Amen!). Learning is demonstrated when kids push the envelope of their experience

Continue reading: How Much Do Any Of Us Know About Game Design?
  links for 2007-07-23  
Posted 2007-07-23 by Tony Walsh
  ‘GameStar Mechanic,’ The Game-Making Game  
Posted 2007-07-16 by Tony Walsh
GameStar Mechanic is a game designed to teach game design skills within a steampunk-inspired game world. Aimed at young people, the project is a collaboration between Gamelab (New York) and the Games, Learning, and Society Group (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Project leads include James Paul Gee (author, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy), as well as Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (authors, Rules of Play).

Gee and Salen have kicked off a discussion about GameStar Mechanic on the MacArthur Foundation-supported Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog. Gee says that he wants children to see games "as a unique form of communication, like language or music," and considers game design "a core way of thinking about the world..." Salen provides a two-part FAQ [1,2] for the project, which in my opinion adds up to an affirmation of the importance of game design in today's world.

I hope there's a third part to the FAQ explaining how I can get my hands on GameStar Mechanic once its launched. I have a feeling its relevance extends beyond a youth audience.
  links for 2007-07-16  
Posted 2007-07-16 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]  
Posted 2007-07-13 by Tony Walsh
‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]
Users of brand-friendly microworld The Music Lounge have started their own lifestyle magazines featuring in-world gossip, personalities and fashions. One of the first, dubbed The Lounge Issue, by user 'Softcoppertone,' seems to have made it to issue #2, but wasn't available online at the time of writing. The Lounge Issue's second issue contained an article on cybersex which caused a bit of controversy due to the teenage demographic of the Lounge. Meanwhile, all 24 pages of Lounge Vogue's first edition published by 'limy' are available online, featuring music, fashion, bootlegged real-world brands, and snapshots of Lounge culture.

I think the emergence of an in-world press (even lifestyle rather than hard journalism) marks the maturity of a virtual world. While the production values of these Lounge magazines are amateurish, it's obvious substantial effort went into Lounge Vogue, apparently the only such magazine covering the Lounge currently available online. Chatter on the Lounge message boards indicates other users hope to kickstart their own magazines. Personally I'm hoping for deeper cultural substance--it's a pity The Lounge Issue and its cybersex article are no longer available. [update: it's up now, and issue 2 contains some great inside scoops!]
  links for 2007-07-12  
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Toontown’ to Aim Ads at Kids  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Mediaweek reports that Disney's cutesy, award-winning Toontown is moving from a subscription- to ad-supported model by the fall. Toontown users are considered too young to handle unfiltered text chats, so how could it possibly be appropriate to advertise to this young audience? I hope part of Disney's plan is to continue to offer subscriptions to those parents who can afford to keep Toontown ad-free for their kids.
  ‘Dungeon Runners’: First Impressions  
Posted 2007-06-21 by Tony Walsh
‘Dungeon Runners’: First Impressions
Dungeon Runners is a new, free MMORPG from NCSoft. All that's required to play is a free "PlayNC" account and modestly-sized download for the game client. Players are encouraged to pay $4.99 USD monthly to make use of the game's premium items and other bonuses--low-rent lurkers such as myself are relegated to less-than-epic gear.

The game treads territory already well-trodden by earlier titles such as Dungeon Siege, World of Warcraft, and the Diablo series. Play is easy. As in, no instructions required if you've ever played any of the aforementioned games. Dungeon Runners reminds me of a BBS-era text adventure game in scope, lacking the complexity and story of larger-scale titles in favor of the simple explore/kill/loot/improve character trope. Unsurprisingly, the player-base seems on the young side (if not physical, then mental age). I'd recommend Dungeon Runners for any kid aged 10 and up--it's definitely easier and cheaper to play than Warcraft.

Continue reading: ‘Dungeon Runners’: First Impressions
  ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour  
Posted 2007-06-18 by Tony Walsh
The American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health has issued a report entitled "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games" which taps into 22 years of scientific literature drawn from the PubMed database. The report contains no new findings, but does provide a handy summary of previous investigation into the impact of video games on health.

The Council on Science and Public Health report refers only to the "potential" benefits and detrimental effects of games, referring to studies which showed an "association" between gaming and negative behavior. This seems a more sensible stance than the one taken by Dr. Peter Jaffe, a University of Western Ontario professor, who contended earlier this year that the effects of entertainment violence (including video games) on children "are measurable and long lasting." My question "Does Violent Media Cause Violence, Or Doesn't It?" still stands--the report indicates "more research" is needed to connect video game content with negative behavior.

Continue reading: ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour
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