Gaming Round Up

As part of my on-going interest in video games, here is another round up. Besides some top picks, this one covers social issues, game design, academic research, some funny stuff, games and more games, learning and education through gaming, and a surprise mix-up ending.

I know, I know, this is way too long, but I guess this might be my own obsessive ritual. But if you really do want more, you can check out my last video game round-up, which had a brain/psychology flavor and linked to my own stuff here on the Neuroanth blog.

Top of the List

Brain Crecente, Three Developers Explain LittleBigPlanet Level Design to a 7-Year-Old
If you want the basic basic about how to make a great game, this is the place to start. Plus, how cool for this kid!
Designers have more insight into human nature than most anthropologists and neuroscientists (after all, they rely on people to get what they are doing…). And when trying to explain that to a kid, they get like your favorite uncle after a few beers crossed with Yoda. Some wisdom here… and a few exploding barrels.

Andy Chalk, LittleBigPlanet Delayed over Religious Controversy
The highly anticipated Sony game is delayed because a featured song contains Arabic words taken from the Qur’an. Some Muslims consider it sacrilegious to mix popular music and holy text; the initial discussion started on Arabic gaming sites.
For more on the song “Tapha Niang” by Toumani Diabaté, a Grammy-award winning musician from Mali, see this article. You can also listen to the song here.
Toumani Diabate defends the use of the Qur’an in his music, calling it both normal and a way to inspire people towards Islam. Even more reactions here by players, Sony and others interested parties. Finally, the American Islam Forum for Democracy objects to the censorship.

Jeremy Adam Smith, Playing the Blame Game: Video Games Pros and Cons
A balanced piece on how video games affect adolescents based on the research of Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner

Social Issues

Michael Abbott, Games to Help
Several examples of games that aim to make a difference – money to cancer, social awareness, and more

Jay Alabaster, Japan’s Online Social Scene Isn’t So Social
“Welcome to Japan’s online social scene, where you’re unlikely to meet anyone you don’t know already.”

Kate Schneider, Video Games Social, Not Violent, Study Finds
Teenagers socialize through video games – not just sitting in a basement blowing things up alone

Newser, Online Gamers Leaner Than Your Average Couch Potato
Watching TV is the big potato; gamers just have more mental health problems. At least among EverQuest players. For more on this study, see here and here.

Simon Carless, How Turning Players Into Data Processors Is Changing The Game
A post, complete with excerpt, about the new book Changing Game, which examines “how web-based games such as The ESP Game and can be used to get humans to process important data sets — for free!”

Game Politics, Who Owns Your Little Big Planet Creations? (Hint: probably not you)
LittleBigPlanet is all about user-generated content and the sharing of creative levels (here’s a cute marriage proposal one!). Now Sony changes its terms of use, indicating its ability to take your work and sell it themselves.

Kathyrn Grim, Get Real! Virtual Campaign Draws Followers
Obama and McCain supporters campaign in Second Life

Erin Hoffman, We the Gamers
A Gamers’ Bill of Rights is under discussion! For more, see Gamasutra.

Wagner James Au, Confirmed: Obama Is Campaigning on Xbox 360!
In-game billboards with Obama on them!

Earnest Cavalli, ‘Cultural Sensitivities’ Bar Fallout 3 from India
Mutant cows and offending names lead to the ban

The Game Anthropologist, Mega Man 9 and the Bridging of Cultures
A period piece and the bridging of generations – a new phenomena for video games

The Brainy Gamer, No More Game Shame
One gamer rejects game shame. Why can’t we just embrace play-for-play’s sake? For more, see The Problem with Play

Game Design

Tom Magrino, BlizzCon 2008: Staying True to Diablo
Blizzard’s game design philosophy for Diablo 3 – visceral yet stylistic, with replayability and randomness

Randolph Ramsey, TGS 2008: Turbine’s Crowley on Socializing MMOs
“Crowley believes MMOs need to evolve further to include the social networking elements of sites such as Facebook and MySpace to cater for the demands of their audience.”

David Houghton, Why Games Fail at Storytelling
Can gameplay and narrative mix? Not much, says this critic, as he looks at cutscenes and more

Ernest Adams, The Designer’s Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!
Nine things not to do when designing your game

Brian Ashcraft, Phil Harrison Talks Development Mistakes
The biggest? Accelerating development and pushing a product to market without taking care of every step along the way

Tom Endo, From the Barrel of a Gun
The mythos of guns in games – and the two-dimensional failures therein

Yahoo News, New Video Game Literally a Mind Game
Neurosky translates willpower into game action. At least that’s the premise of the new headset Mindset from Neurosky.

Clive Thompson, Halo 3: How Microsoft Labs Invented a New Science of Play
Studying the fun of gaming in the lab! And using the results to perfect game design.

The Academic Side

Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins, Chess for Girls? Feminism and Computer Games
Chapter in the book From Barbie to Mortal Combat

Kiri Miller, Grove Street Grimm: Grand Theft Auto and Digital Folklore
The latest article from Kiri. “I discuss Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as a story collection, a frame for performance, a virtual museum of vernacular culture, and a widely circulated pop culture artifact whose double-voiced aesthetic has given rise to diverse interpretive communities.”
For more on Kiri Miller, check out her Brown University webpage. She also is starting research on Guitar Hero, including a blog!

DigiPlay Initiative: Understanding Digital Games
A scholarly initiative featuring the “largest database of academic and research articles on game freely available on the web” and its own original papers

Jo Bryce and Jason Rutter, An Introduction to Understanding Digital Games
Pdf of a chapter that surveys academic gaming research

Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailenson, The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Behavior
Pdf of research on digital self-representation – avatars make us who we are. For more on Nick Yee and his research on online games and immersive virtual reality, check out his website.

The Brainy Gamer, The GTA Bookshelf
Academic works and musing about Grand Theft Auto

Patricia Greenfield and colleagues, The Impact of Computer Use on Children’s and Adolescents’ Development
Pdf of a 2001 article. For more, check out the UCLA Children Digital Media Center

Funny Stuff (you need that after the academic stuff…)

Mike Fahey, Stan Bush Wants “The Touch” In Guitar Hero, Rock Band
THE missing song from recent music games – the theme song “The Touch” to the 1980s cartoon The Transformers. Includes a great video of the song performed by Stan Bush himself, complete with cartoon clips. Very funny.

Owen Good, Invade Stormwind? You and What Arm– oh, That One
Just go check out the picture. The extreme of geekdom (and a lot of cash). This guy can play 36 World of Warcraft players at once. His one-man wreaking crew. For more, see here.

Game Politics, Joe the Plumber vs. Joe Six Pack
Funny video as these two election-year creations duke it out Mortal Kombat style

Games Games Games

New Mirror’s Edge Trailer
Some of you know I think parkour/free running is pretty cool. Now it’s in a great-looking game. This clip even includes the running legend Sebastien Foucan, who appeared in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.

Glenn Chapman, Family-friendly Wii Out to Win Battle-loving Gamers
Hard core games for the Wii? Just check out Mad World and The Conduit

Chris Ward, The Most OCD Video Games: Q-Bert, LEGO Batman, Mercenaries 2, and More
1980s video games and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Do recent games match up? Is it OCD or just ritual?

The Brainy Gamer, Fallout 180
Michael Abbott makes his students play the two original Fallout games. They struggled at first and then they got it. Conversion process, anyone? And now they are rabid against Fallout 3 too! (Hey, I loved Oblivion!)

Game Informer, PlayStation 2: The Games That Defined a Generation
The 25 games or series that represent the best of the last console generation

Education, Learning and More

Winnie Hu, Video Game Helps Math Students Vanquish an Archfiend: Algebra
NY Times on The Dimension M game. Here’s one student: “I used to hate math, but I’ve started to like it. I actually understand it more.”

Associated Press, Microsoft Backs Using Video Games as Teaching Tools
The Games for Learning Institute, a new university-industry consortium for education through gaming. These are the people behind the Dimension M game, featured just above.

Roger Shank, Grandparent Games
The educator connects with his grandchildren through gaming (and learning). Here is his GranparentGames website.

Simon Harvey, Computer and Video Games Are Good for Us!!
Church and charity leaders draw that conclusion at a panel discussion in London

Pam Willenz, Playing Video Games Offers Learning across Life Span, Say Studies
Report on an American Psychological Association convention panel – plenty of research leads here if you want to show video games are good for you

Owen Good, More Wiisearch: Helping Stroke Patients
Wii is useful for monitoring progress in physiotherapy. And I just thought the high score mattered…

Yahoo Tech, Allstate Testing Whether Games Can Improve Driving
The insurance company wants drivers over 50 to play their video games!

Motoko Rich, The Future of Reading: Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers
Novels meet games, and the promise therein, over at the NY Times. Check out PJ Haarsma’s game The Rings of Orbis.
I don’t know how much to buy into this, after all I’ve seen my boys alternate between intense gaming and intense reading. But I did have a student who told me about getting into writing through World of Warcraft – about sharing and creating ideas and scenarios between friends online. That has made me think different about the possibilities since then…

Bad Mixing of Interests

So, some of you know that my main research interest in substance use and abuse. So I couldn’t quite resist these really BAD mixings of gaming and the world of use.

Mike Fahey, The Ultimate Drunk Driving Home Arcade Experience
Dream Arcades creates a drunk driving arcade game, complete with beer: “a custom built driving arcade cabinet featuring a 120 inch HD projection screen, a 5.1 audio system, a home theater PC complete with 12 classic racing games, a PlayStation 3 compatible steering wheel, and of course, dual beer taps, front and rear”

Anna Caldwell, Three Charged Over Ecstasy Hidden in Mailed PlayStation
Australian police take down three drug smugglers – the funny thing, the ecstasy was going to “Surfers Paradise”. I didn’t make that up, check the photo!

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