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  iPod Gives Nike Shoes a Kick  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Apple's iPod nano will connect to Nike's Nike+ Air Zoom Moire shoes through the wireless Nike+iPod Sport Kit device, according to a joint announcement by the two companies earlier this week. Once connected, the device collects and presents shoe-data, such as pace, expended calories, time and distance. This information is stored and displayed on the iPod, as well as provided audibly through headphones. Much as I loathe Nike, it's refreshing to see the iPod put to practical use rather than be exploited exclusively for its popular appeal. I'm hoping the system will be opened up, but since that's unlikely, I hope it's hacked. I bet we'll hear from some blogging shoes (much as we did from a chatty Xbox 360) by the end of the year.
 
     
 
   
 
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  A Wii In the Eye  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I've just watched video footage of Nintendo's E3 demonstration of its next-gen Wii console, which uses a motion-sensing controller held in the hand like a wand. A tennis game was shown, and an audience member invited to play with Nintendo execs. After observing play for a few minutes, I can only come to one conclusion: The Nintendo Wii is going to result in personal, physical injury. At minimum, the damage will result from repetitive strain injuries caused by waving the controller around. Additionally, I expect players to unintentionally smash their limbs or hands into their living-room furniture, or accidentally punch a fellow gamer in the face. You wait. It's going to happen. Probably to you.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Expert Duet Praises Casual Games  
 
 
Posted 2006-04-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Ever the innovator, Microsoft has followed in PopCap Games' footsteps, and harnessed the power of a "stress expert" to pump the power of casual games.

On March 2, 2006, PopCap's expert Dr. Carl Arinoldo pronounced that "Casual word and puzzle computer games such as 'Bejeweled' can help people exercise and enhance their concentration and focusing skills, and control stress by cognitively 'blocking out' the negative stresses of the day, at least temporarily."

On April 13, 2006, Microsoft's expert Dr. Kathleen Hall pronounced that "Taking 20 minutes or your lunch hour to solve an engaging puzzle or take on a fun vocabulary challenge with any of the hundreds of games on MSN Games is a perfect way to clear your mind of the clutter and stress that can pile up during the day."

Microsoft has launched a campaign to promote casual games on its network, including PopCap's Bejeweled. No wonder there's an echo in here.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Game-Like Interface Shows Soldier Hit-Points  
 
 
Posted 2006-04-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Next month, the U.S. Army will roll out a major test of an electronic health-monitoring system, according to Technology Review contributor Katherine Bourzac. The system reportedly uses a network of sensors to collect biological and positional data from active soldiers, relaying the information to battlefield medics and commanders. In other words, it layers a videogame metaphor atop field operations.

From the Technology Review article: "A medic or commander can also view the information on a battlefield map that shows the location of each soldier and his or her health status: green (okay), yellow (look), red (look now), blue (unknown), or grey (absence of life signs for over five minutes). Or he could zero in on individual soldiers and get information about their vital signs, position, and how much they've slept or had to drink...The core of the sensing system is the chest belt, which reads pulse, respiration, skin temperature, body orientation, and ambulation...Data from an accelerometer in the belt can be used to determine body position...An optional acoustic sensor is designed to pick up vibrations resulting from a ballistic wound..."

Continue reading: Game-Like Interface Shows Soldier Hit-Points
 
     
 
   
 
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  PopCap’s Healthy Games Research Needs Oxygen  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-24 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Only a few months following the announcement of a joint research project by PopCap Games and The Games For Health Project investigating the potential cognitive benefits of game play, the underwhelming summary results are now in. In a press release this week, Ben Sawyer, co-founder and director of the Games for Health Project said: "We have reviewed a large base of literature, and what we've found is that, while still in the early stages of scientific understanding, there is growing consensus that defined cognitive exercise can play a critical role in healthy aging. As part of that role, it seems clear that puzzle games, strategy games, and games which aren't as spatially oriented can play a significant role in that effort." Sawyer added that there is not "absolute consensus" on what types of games or mental exercises are ideal, and that it might be ten years before we find out which mental workouts are the best.

The joint research effort included review of "a wealth of research papers and major media stories covering the state of cognitive exercise," and doesn't seem to have involved any live subjects. Although there's value in compiling the research of others, there's far less value in using "major media stories" as serious pseudo-scientific research, and the absence of actual test subjects is unfortunate. When I originally heard about the research effort, I'd assumed the methods would be more rigorous and relevant.

Continue reading: PopCap’s Healthy Games Research Needs Oxygen
 
     
 
   
 
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  Healing the Brain With Games  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Reuters (via News.com) brings us the story of Ethan Myers, a teenager who was once pronounced brain dead following a car accident, but is now able to function at near-normal levels. His recovery is attributed to CyberLearning's SMART BrainGames system, which involves controlling PlayStation or Xbox games wearing a helmet that monitors brain waves. According to Reuters, "Car racing games work best with the system, which rewards users by telling the controller to allow them to go fast and steer with control, doctors said. When patients' brain waves aren't in 'the zone' the controller makes it harder to accelerate and steer." The system costs $584 USD, and a 6-month supervised recovery program costs between $2,000 and $2,500.

Using games for therapeutic purposes isn't a new idea, nor is using games specifically for beefing up the brain. Casual-game maker PopCap, in conjunction with Games For Health, is currently looking into the cognitive benefits of its games and is expected to present its findings this spring.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Casual Games: Female-Friendly Stress-Relievers?  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
PopCap Games, maker of the insanely-popular Bejeweled and other so-called "casual" games, has released some stats related to its female user base. The company says that out of its 7 million monthly visitors:
  • 72.8% are female
  • 71% are over the age of 35
  • "more than" 43% are married with children

Earlier this year, PopCap announced it was formally studying the cognitive health benefits of digital gaming. Today, the company tried to relate its traffic statistics to the idea of games for health: "Part of the appeal of casual games to women may lie in the potential health benefits these games can provide," PopCap said.

The company supported its speculation with a psychologist's claims that "Casual word and puzzle computer games such as 'Bejeweled' can help people exercise and enhance their concentration and focusing skills, and control stress by cognitively 'blocking out' the negative stresses of the day, at least temporarily." I'm no psychologist, but blocking out stress temporarily doesn't sound so much like controlling stress as merely delaying its inevitable effects. I'll have to ask my father for his professional opinion on this.
 
     
 
   
 
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  History Blast: ParticipACTION  
 
 
Posted 2006-01-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Via MeFi comes a blast from Canada's past: ParticipACTION, as I experienced it in the 1970s, was a state-run program involving mandatory physical exercise in schools. This required students to perform calisthenics while listening to disco and pop music piped through the school public-address system. It was as awful as it sounds, but now that I'm old enough to have school-age kids of my own in this era where children are spending way too much time staring into screens, it might not be a bad idea to bring back. If I had to choose between humiliating, daily exercise and gigantic, wiggly buttocks, I'd pick the exercise.

Update: As it turns out, Konami has reportedly teamed up with the State of West Virginia to incorporate Dance Dance Revolution into health and physical education courses. So maybe video games can be combined with mandatory exercise after all.
 
     
 
   
 
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  China Eases Anti-Addiction Game Policy  
 
 
Posted 2006-01-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Shanghai Daily reports that China's controversial anti-addiction video game policy, introduced last October, will be lifted for adult gamers. The current system, which will reportedly remain in effect for those under 18 years of age, allows only 5 hours of consecutive, unfettered play-time. The new system will reportedly require over 25 million gamers to register their real names and ID card numbers for the purposes of age-verification, and will allow parents to monitor the usage habits of their children. There is no official deployment schedule for the new system.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Games To Make Us Smrter  
 
 
Posted 2006-01-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Casual-games maker PopCap Games and The Games For Health project have melded minds in a joint effort to research the positive effect of digital games on cognitive health. Findings will be presented in a public knowledge-base this spring, summarizing both the research and market development activities associated with the use of digital games for feeding healthy brains.

On the other side of the coin (and the pond), researchers have found that educational games are actually harming childood learning. According to a report published by a Sydney Morning Herald, "research published in the journal Education 3 to 13 has found that pupils who use interactive programs cannot remember stories they have just read because they are distracted by cartoons and sound effects."

Last year, DiGRA's Thom Gillespie introduced the work of Mihai Nadin, who believes computer games can improve the quality of life of senior citizens by providing mental stimulation.

I think we can safely conclude games are good for the mind, except when they aren't.
 
     
 
   
 
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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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