A fresh look at learning and games

“The researchers in HP’s Bristol, England, office came up with a location-aware game that allows visitors to the Tower of London to help virtual prisoners escape.”

What fun!!! I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I find myself in tourist situations, there’s just so much that I want to absorb and learn, yet walking around just observing and listening to guides and reading becomes tiresome after a few hours! But what if I truely could experience these places and their history? The Mercury News Interactive reports:

“The game, developed by the Mediascapes research team at HP Labs and staff at the Tower of London, uses HP iPAQ handheld devices and location sensors including GPS. Digital files containing voices, images, music and clues are placed in specific locations using the HP Labs Mediascape authoring toolkit.
As players move into a location in the Tower and its grounds, the appropriate digital file is triggered on their iPAQ devices. This allows players to meet historical prisoners in the Tower, such as Guy Fawkes and Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s wives. Even the Tower’s Yeomen Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, become part of the game as players try to help historical figures escape.”

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Wright speaks again!

Will Wright (omg I’ve become a groupie haven’t I?) spoke at BAFTA on “The Future of Games” and David Hayward was generous enough to blog his great notes (bless him!). Inspiring, as expected! “They teach systemic thinking. Players learn to analyse and play systems of rules. They can also teach us to navigate the future. They could teach kids to think long term instead of short term.” Wooo haaa!!! But you know…sometimes I’m worried that we’re all just a bit too optimistic.

Maretind (working title)

Nina Svane-Mikkelsen is a Ph.D. fellow (umh…I still get confused by university titles, so…) at my department (Information Science and Media Studies) and is working on a project entitled: Affinity and Battlefield. New media and museum communication – Communication design under imperative of database. Artistic intervention as a narrative grip.
They’re working on a computer game which is for the time being called, Maretind.

“A short description of the overall goal.
The goal is to develop a digital game that integrate knowledge regarding the MAR-ECO research project and key issues and findings of this maritime research in order to reach, engage and inspire children on the subject through game play.

The research project represent a vast collection of data to the inspiration of the game plot. As one of the maritime researchers put it: ”Our data collection have ranged from oceanographic and acoustics, to various studies on organisms that range in size from microscopic plankton to large whales. Dephts ranged from the surface to 3000 meters and extended from the cold-water environment south of Iceland to the tropic environment north of the Azores.” (mar-eco cruise journal 1. july, http://www.mar-eco.no/)

Good games combine a number of complex elements such as situations, where decisions must be made, challenging goals and a satifying feedback. Without these basic elements a game will easily become boring. The result must be that the way the gamers interact with the game, the game process, is parallel with what the game is about. (almost-quotes from “Learning to play to learn” by Nick Fortugno and Eric Zimmerman, Learning Lab Newsletter)”

I’m so pleased that this is going on at my department! And oh what fun it would be to be a part of it!!! Anyways….they’re still at the starting line and I just wanted to wish them good luck! I just love the combo of museum, art, information communication and learning through gameplay!!

Public Diplomacy Through Games

The University of Southern California has come up with the novel idea of hosting a competition to create a game promoting public diplomacy. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the results for months now!

“The USC Center on Public Diplomacy is looking for people to showcase their talent with a bit of world class game-making. The challenge to the game mod community, and current and aspiring game designers is as follows: design a prototype or modify a game incorporating the fundamental characteristics of public diplomacy”

The finalists’ presenations are now available and the winner is to be announced today.

Looking at these, I was searching for something creative and fun. As much as I adore and admire simulations such as Peacemaker – I was hoping something less ‘obvious’ would make the finalist list as well. I’ve often thought that the trick to learning in computer games is to hide the ‘message’ behind humor and absurdity. For a game to be truely successful in teaching something like the promotion of diplomacy, I feel it has to lure those who just want to go and have a great gaming time as well. I know of very few who play to learn something and having played my fair share of dreary simulation games for the jobs from my past (I’ll have to tell you about those some day! ) they usually don’t work (at least I can’t remember what I was supposed to learn).

I truely love the idea behind Hydro Hijinks, it actually made me think about Myst and the game of consequence.

The others are brilliant as well! Ambitious but lovely! I would however, love to see more fun and absurdity!

Anyways it’s a great initiative and a big ‘yay!’ to Second Life for making them all possible!

Math and Games

So…I never hear about the really cool things going on at this university until it’s too late! I’m sitting here drinking my morning coffee and I drop by mortenjohs’ blog, Globular Game Log Online. From what I can gather the guy’s Bergenese and currently living in Lyon, France which makes this even more frustrating!

He informs me that there’s a seminar today at 14.15 at Høyteknologisenteret with the title “On combinatorial precursors of Sudoku”; This talk, a sequel to that by Randi Moe in January will attempt to place Sudoku in the historical setting of combinatorial research, sparked as it so often has been by recreational puzzles and games that turn out to have more serious applications.

Now…fair enough! It does sound a bit too advanced for my little mind but I was intrigued when the description of the seminar led me to “All kinds of mathematical games are a good thing” which apparently there’s some dispute about.

But alas! I can’t go! I found out too late and my schedule today can’t be shifted last minute! I’m not too upset, as I’m sure the lingo would be completely greek to me! But I thought maybe I’d pass the information along if someone reading this would be interested!