Sunday, March 21, 2010

Got game?

A few days ago boingboing posted a link to games designer Jane McGonigal's TED talk on how spending more time playing video games will help make the world a better place. McGonigal's talk (more on the TED page here) was illustrated by some of Phillip Toledano's Gamers series of photographs.

Several more of Toledano's Gamers pics were used to illustrate an interesting article in today's Observer magazine. In "More Than A Game" writer Tom Bissell reflects on the amount of time he spent playing GTA IV when he should have been writing. As the standfirst puts it:

Tom Bissell was an acclaimed, prize-winning youg writer. Then he started playing the video game Grand Theft Auto. For three years he has been: sleep-deprived, cocaine-addicted, and barely able to write a word. Any regrets? Absolutely none"

As well as affecting his writing, excessive game-play (and nose-play) also affected his reading. As Bissell observes, "Writing and reading allow one consciousness to find and take shelter in another." He goes on to remark "the most consistently pleasurable pursuit in my life is playing video games. Unfortunately, the least useful and financially solvent pursuit is also playing video games".

(NB: Toledano's photos aren't used in the online version of the article.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Doing it alone versus doing it with others

Naomi Alderman has endured the travails of watching commercial television to observe that Nintendo is pushing the "social" aspects of gaming by employing the nation's most loved gurning northern lads to pretend to play with a Wii whilst a southern pair of Balls pretend to play with a DS. Alderman remarks that while playing with or against someone else is seen as an inherently "good" thing, she prefers to play by herself.

The original post is here:

Interestingly, in a revised version of the piece, posted a few days later, guilt and the "Protestant work ethic" seem to have excised Alderman's inclination to extol the joys of solo-gaming. The revised version is here:

Also cut from the reworked piece is a link to an interesting article on game mechanics by Jason Rohrer: "Testing the Limits of Single Player". Rohrer discusses game mechanics and tries to devise a single-player game that offers depth without relying on AI or randomness. While he thinks it can't be done, he comes up with something called i45hg which, although "reasonably interesting" for a few turns, doesn't feel like a real game.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Flash educational game competition

Cambridge ESOL is offering a 32" television and PS3 as first prize in their competition to design an educational game in Flash for 10-12 year-olds who are learning English as a second language. Sony PSP consoles are offered as runner-up prizes.

Ian Cook, of Cambridge ESOL says:

"Creative approaches to education are so important when teaching children new skills. We’re looking for simple, fun games that will motivate children to learn and practise their English – a skill that will be of use to them their entire lives".

Competition judges include Gareth Hughes, Senior Designer at Sony Computer Entertainment's Cambridge Studio, Steve Harris of Anglia Ruskin University and Bafta-nominated games designer Dan Mayers of UCS.

The competition is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students at UK universities. The closing date is 20th May 2010.

Further details are available here; here are the rules and the entry form is here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm Free!

There's nothing like a freebie. Here's some free stuff:

Need to convert a file from one format to another?

Free online conversion services

The online graphics and audio suite, Aviary, is now free: it includes applications for editing graphics, creating vector graphics, adding special effects, resizing and cropping, creating colour swatches, and an audio editor

SVG-edit is a free online SVG editor.


Israeli novelist Assaf Gavron was one of the guests on this morning's Midweek. As well as pounding plastic keys as a wordsmith, Gavron has also turned his talents to games design and has created Peacemaker, which would be, one supposes, the opposite of a shoot 'em up.

Players take the role of either the Palestinian President or the Prime Minister of Israel and the object of the game is to sort out the mess.

Considering the juxtaposition of this with the previous post, a "new experience" could be had from this by plunging the region into chaos and watching the bullets and stones fly. No, wait ...

Subervting the Game

There's a nice post on the Guardian Games Blog about "getting new experiences out of old games" which is a circumlocutory way of saying subverting the game. The link in the Guardian blog post to a Rollercoaster Tycoon crash video no longer leads to the video as it's been taken off the site, but there are plenty to be found on the popular video sharing sites.

Alice and Kev

Other new ways to play old games include trying to get by in The Sims 3 without a house and a job, as related in the Alice and Kev blog by Robin Burkinshaw, and lugging a gnome around in Half Life 2, as descibed by Tom Francis here in order to launch him into space to get the Gnome Achievement.

The Half Life 2 Gnome