Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

Productive Games: The Game Mechanics Presentation

View more presentations from Kevin Lim.

As promised at Singtel Accelerate, the game mechanics slides I presented today are now on Slideshare.net. It’s also downloadable as PDF :)

I met a lot of interesting folks there, from academics to developers, and the general sentiment I’m getting is: “At long last!”.

While game mechanics isn’t new or groundbreaking (think Jesse Schell or Seth Priebatsch), what I did offer was an easy way to understand this as a concept, as well as a simple framework for participants to start running their own addictive little systems.

As a sidenote, many were intrigued by the idea that museums could be about much more than they first realized!

TertiaryTech Conference 2010: Singapore student startups are pretty solid!

 

TertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMU

Last Saturday morning, I was invited by Wayne Soh of The Digital Movement to speak about game mechanics at their new conference series, TertiaryTech.

As you can tell, this conference was geared at students interested in breaking into the startup industry. I must say that from what I saw, I was very impressed. The ideas and design that went into the interactive applications pitched by student groups at this conference was pretty top notch. I’ve got a bunch of TertiaryTech photos and video interviews to share as seen below…

TertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUTertiaryTech Conference 2010 @ SMUEdu-geeks at TertiaryTech 2010: @spoonrabbit @mhisham @danieltsou @shenheng @melvinkee @audreytan #ttcGuess what! You can watch TertiaryTech Conference 2010 live right now at http://live.tech65.org (thx @danieltsou)Personally excited about Pigeonhole.sg. Student developed Conference Q&A system via smartphones! #TTC10

Here’s the game mechanics talk I presented meant to inspire and intrigue student developers into building “addictive” qualities into their apps (to sustain an active user base). From the feedback I’ve received, lots of folks were intrigued after hearing what I had to share, and I’m particularly glad how they have come to realize how Facebook derives free labor through the exploitation of such game mechanics (yes, pure psychological hooks!). Big thanks to Daniel Tsou of Tech65.org fame, for helping with the HD camera work shot using my NEX-5. I’m just going to re-use the wonderful abstracts from the TertiaryTech web site.

 

TertiaryTech 2010: How to add fun to traditional labor (Game Mechanics)

Traditional mass media has typically portrayed video games in a negative light for generating social undesirable or unproductive behavior. However, by harnessing the addictive elements of video games and embedding these game mechanics into traditional labor, can we make work fun?

These forces, or what we refer to as game dynamics or mechanics, are what influence us into subconsciously performing actions or completing certain tasks. As usage and engagement becomes the focus of many technology services today, there is a demand and need to infuse game mechanics in these products.

Kevin has been experimenting with the concept of productive games in the classroom environment, by using Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics as a means of steering user motivations. He has also been invited to present his research papers and also to speak at numerous corporate and academic conferences. Be sure not to miss him by registering for the Tertiary Tech Conference today!

Additional video resources:
Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on top of the World
Jesse Schell: When Games Invade Real Life

 

TertiaryTech 2010: Pigeonhole – Beautiful Conference Q&A system

Title of Project: Pigeonhole Live
Team Lead: Hew Joon Yeng, Lyon Lim Yu Tian
Academic Institution: National University of Singapore

Pigeonhole Live is a simple conference tool for speakers to engage their audience in a live setting using their smartphones, laptops and even iPad! Pigeonhole Live allows the audience to ask and vote for their burning questions on their web device in real-time. Good news for the audience: No more waiting for the McNanny at the microphone during the precious 10-minute QnA sessions! By looking at the highest voted questions, the speakers can now address the audience crowd more accurately.

Now everyone gets to take part in the post-keynote QnA at the conferences, without running to the microphones. Yes, even if you are a little shy.

 

TertiaryTech 2010: Su Yuen demos learning through AR for Kids

Team Lead: Chin Su Yuen
Team Members: Chen Lingwei, Tan Reiwen Alex, Ee Wai Lay, Liu Peng
Institution: NUS School of Computing
Category: Games, Augmented Reality

Virtual Sandbox is an educational game for 4-6 year olds that aim to create a creative and interactive environment to learn English vocabulary. The goal of the game is to build your city and populate it with people. Children use physical cards that are similar to flash cards to place and construct buildings in their city and populate these buildings with characters of the right job/occupation.

For example, to populate a school, children must place a “Teacher” character in the school before they can see an animation of the teacher teaching students in the building.

By using physical cards as a form of interaction, we merge the benefits of tangible objects which children are accustomed to with the interactivity of the virtual environment – morphing the flash cards into a less mundane and more fun method for learning English vocabulary.

 

TertiaryTech 2010: MARGE – Mobile Augmented Reality Game Engine

Team Lead: Jian Gu, Henry Been-Lirn Duh
Institution: MiMe Lab, Interactive Digital Media Institute, National University of Singapore
Category: Augmented Reality

MARGE is a game engine for mobile augmented reality (AR) environment based on iPhone, Android and Symbian OS. It includes integrated support for optimal graphics performance, networking, resource management, sound and music. Mobile developer can learn how to develop high quality 3D interactive mobile AR game using our proposed developmental tool. Several highlight features of MARGE: MARGE supports OpenGL ES 2.0, 3D graphics library which runs on the embedded chipset on different phones; Networking support is an essential feature for a Mobile AR game. MARGE supports multiplayer interacting each other in mobile AR environment using TCP/IP or blue-tooth.

In Summary
These student developer groups were impressive to say the least. It truly shows the potential Singapore has in this burgeoning interactive software industry and I’m all for supporting our local startups. I’ve only managed to interview a few groups here, so do check out the many more who presented at TertiaryTech 2010.

Speaking on ‘Productive Games’ at TertiaryTech, 18th Sept @ SMU

How To Add Fun To Traditional Labour @ Tertiary Tech Conference 2010

Game mechanics is quite the rage across disciplines and industries. Since 2009, I’ve delivered variations of my talk at SOLsummit 2009 (Syracuse, NY), Barcamp Buffalo, ICA 2010 conference, WebSG meetup, IGDA Pecha Kucha Night III, and soon, SingTel Accelerate conference.

This Saturday at TertiaryTech I’ll be helping interested students understand the basic psychological hooks that make games addictive, and consequently how we could apply these rules to make traditional labor fun.

TertiaryTech tickets are $15 for students, but I have three tickets to give away for the first three passionate students who drop me their contact details in the comments. The organizers tell me that another way to score free tickets is to contribute to their IdeaBoard. They just want a good reason to give tickets away!

If you’re interested, I speak from 11.00am-11.30am at Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, SMU School of Accountancy. Here’s the abstract below…

How To Add Fun To Traditional Labour

In our daily lives, we do our shopping at the usual stores, buy a meal at our favourite fast food chain or visit our usual watering holes. We are rewarded by being loyal customers and we know when and how to get things at a cheaper price. Turning our attention online to social networking services like Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll see the number of friends you have implicitly considered as a scoreboard, while the profile completion progress meter would look like feedback in the leveling process, all of which are game mechanics that tease our psychological urges. Casual games hosted on these platforms like Farmville and Mafia Wars are making us go back and play them every 30 minutes or so.

These forces, or what we refer to as game dynamics or mechanics, are what influence us into subconsciously performing actions or completing certain tasks. As usage and engagement becomes the focus of many technology services today, there is a demand and need to infuse game mechanics in these products.

Find out from Kevin Lim, our local friendly social cyborg and tech blogger at Theory is the Reason, on how to harness the addictive elements of video games and embed these game mechanics into a traditional system or product to make it fun and to encourage prolonged and frequent use.

Kevin has been experimenting with the concept of productive games in the classroom environment, by using Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics as a means of steering user motivations. He has also been invited to present his research papers and also to speak at numerous corporate and academic conferences. Be sure not to miss him by registering for the Tertiary Tech Conference today!

Additional video resources

Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on top of the World

Jesse Schell: When Games Invade Real Life

For details, head to http://tertiarytech.com

UPDATE: Tertiarytech Conference access for students now FREE! Professionals pay a token sum of $25. Do it for the kids ;)

theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia?

Download theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia? (.mp4 / 52mb), or watch this on Youtube, Facebook and Blip.tv. Subscribe to theorycast on iTunes.

At the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference in MIT, I asked academics Xiaochang Li, Sheila Seles and William Uricchio of the Convergence Culture Consortium on their definitions of transmedia.

As defined by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture (2006 // see book and video), transmedia storytelling is published across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a viewer/user/player’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, it attempts to create “entrypoints” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world. Jenkins also compares highlights sticky media vs. spreadable media, where we once stuck viewers into specific media, now we’re now encouraging the content to be perpetuated across media and users.

MIT Press Bookstore FOE4 selection
MIT Press Bookstore selection @ #FOE4

Why is transmedia a big deal now?
I expect that the first point is technology, where we see the proliferation of networked media forms, such as video games, the Internet, and mobile platforms. The second point is cultural, such as the Web 2.0 movement, where the participatory design, distributive ease and integrative form of digital media lends itself well to stories flowing across media platforms.

Inspired from Lucian’s analogy of greek mythology, one of the obvious questions on transmedia lies in its distinctiveness. If stories have been reiterated across media (even tablets and statues) since the early B.C., isn’t that already a form of transmedia? If so, how is it different from cross-media or intertextual forms of productions?

From our video interview, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, Prof. Urrichio, describes transmedia as a new “lens” for us to make sense of experiences, both present and past (thus history is ever exciting). The concept clearly existed long ago, but only now are we gathering more precise vocabulary and practice for it. Perhaps it’s like seeing new colors for the first time.

An instance of transmedia in the everyday is Wikipedia, where users are co-creating and co-sustaining the continuity of the online encyclopedia, as well as reproducing the content in print and through development of mobile applications. Prof. Urrichio argues that the magic of transmedia practices, like Wikipedia, lies in its algorithm. In any transmedia practice, it is the algorithm (I offered rule-making) which defines the social outcomes of the story. If a transmedia story were an organism, it seems to me that the algorithm is much like its DNA. Open user participation on a transmedia story means that we can’t really predict how users (or fans) would re-shape the storyline, but with its algorithm in place, we can expect how it would eventually look like.

Futures of Entertainment 4
FOE4 session 3: Transmedia for Social Change (video). The Harry Potter Alliance is ingenius!

Transmedia inevitably offer a canvas for free-play, which leads us into the idea of games, specifically alternative reality games (or ARGs). To explain, Cayden Mak shared with me a neat paper by Henrik Örnebring entitled Alternate reality gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias (2007). In it, Örnebring describes Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as a form of internet-based mystery game in which participants are immersed in a fictional world and engage in collective problem-solving.

What makes this paper particularly interesting, is that it takes into account the potential exploitative aspect of transmedia (and ARG) practices. While part of fan culture, the paper problematizes the fact that many ARGs are actually marketing tools.

An ARG I’ve personally observed was called ILoveBees.com, in which a seemingly innocuous web site gets hijacked by an A.I., offering clues throughout the site. As documented by ARG researcher, Christy Dena, “I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004) was a radio drama delivered through fragmented sound files that were released one-by-one to the players as they answered over 1,400 payphone, in over 50 states, in eight countries. Once a call was answered and a challenge was successfully completed, an ‘axon’ (sound file) was unlocked for the players online.” Thing is, I Love Bees was essentially a marketing campaign for the Halo 2 game.

While not explicitly a game, we do see online services such as Facebook come under fire when their terms of agreement seizes the copyright of media shared by its users. On the other hand, Wikipedia threads the line carefully as it remains non-profit and posts no ads. This awareness of potential online exploitation brought about the recent conference called The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009).

I vote @mikemonello for Best Laptop Lid Theme evar  #foe4
@mikemonello, best known for producing The Blair Witch Project, has awesome laptop stickers from Vinylville

FOE4 Conference Aftermath
If you’re wondering how the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference went, let’s just say there’s way too much for me to write about. Thankfully @rachelclarke liveblogged all the sessions, so just scoot over to her blog and search under “FOE”. Here’s my favorite session which she documented, FOE: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play. Also, videos from the FOE4 sessions are out on MIT TechTV. I video captured some of the sessions and tweeted them from my iPhone OWLE rig, but they’re not as professional.

Update 1: This theorycast video is now featured on ConvergenceCulture.org (thanks Sheila!) and the MIT Comparative Media Studies web site (thanks Andrew!).

Update 2: I have to point you to the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference videos. If you have time, they are a treasure throve of real-life case studies and experiences. A must-watch is the keynote session by Henry Jenkins entitled “Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Five Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment”. Session 3 “Transmedia for Social Change” is relevant to folks like me. Very inspirational session, esp the Harry Potter Alliance project (mindblowing!). Session 4 “The ROI of ROFL” is where Grant McCracken, author of Chief Culture Officer, lead the panel on the disconnect between “corporation and culture”. I’ve yet to blog about my interview with him. Watch them all 8 sessions here, or download all 8 videos to iTunes, then sync to your iPod to watch.

Unlocking the wife achievement (comic)

Unlocking the wife achievement

This twitter comic was brought to you by @schoebdoo and @k3v2.

theorycast.50 :: Jesper Juul and The Casual Revolution [video game theory]


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In this 50th episode of theorycast, I caught up with Jesper Juul, a video game theorist at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. He just spoke at the University at Buffalo as part of the Visual Studies Speakers Series. In this videocast, I chat with him to learn more about video game as media, theory, as well as its pragmatic applications.

As a ludologist, Jasper published Half-Real (MIT Press, Dec 2005), which Eric Zimmerman reviewed as how it “tackles key issues in games, from rules and structure to aesthetics and fiction to the complexities of player experience”.

Jesper recently announced that he will be releasing a new book entitled “The Casual Revolution” in Summer 2009. It’ll be all about the recently popularity of casual games, which Jesper defines through our interview as “easy and quick to play, easy and quick to produce”.

If First Person Shooters (FPS) and Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games are considered complex gaming because of their high learning curves, largely free online games such as Zuma and Desktop Tower Defense would be considered casual gaming.

While video games have always been diverse as cultural media, casual games show us that simple games that cost less can be as satisfying as high-end Hollywood-equivalent games such as Gears of War 2.

This makes me wonder if casual games, especially the ones that we download on our iPhones or play on our web browsers, are like the long tail of video gaming, where small markets are enough to sustain unique niches. I could be wrong since casual game can be played in more places by more people, due to their relative accessibility in terms of vicinity, time and cost.

I’d love it if someone knows of any statistics comparing the adoption of casual games (tons here) versus high-end video games. For all we know, the numbers might be fairly similar.

CIT 2008 // Day One // Video: Thoughts of the day…

GRID: How I drove like an a$$ and still got third…

Truth be told I drive a P.O.S. Dodge Neon that’s good enough to take me from home to campus, and back in one piece. That’s why like most poor souls, my idea of an expensive tuned ride exists only in the virtual world.

As seen above, I’m driving a Concept Mustang GT in the streets of San Francisco.

It’s the first time I’m trying out Race Driver: GRID, a glorious new visceral racing game for the Xbox 360. Check out the heart-thumping replay video, where the soundtrack and composition almost gives you the vibes equal to that of the Fast and the Furious (2001). This game also features realistic collision damage which persists through your race.

A truly unique feature gives you the ability to reverse time from a deadly crash (like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), allowing you to admire the crash in extreme slow-motion, so you can revert to a point where you could safely take off again.

I’m usually not a fan of racing games (other than the Burnout series), but this is one adrenaline-filled racer I might get after all!

If you can’t get enough, there are more GRID racing videos on Youtube, and a ton of review media on TeamXbox.

Why porn video games don’t work: The Uncanny Valley

I always get a kick when mainstream media (read: television shows) try their hand at talking theory. This time, Fleshbot (NSFW) pulls through with this golden nugget:

As readers of this site know all too well, there have been many, many, many attempts to meld interactive video games with hardcore porn, and despite the occasional interesting result it’s been pretty much a total failure. Why is this such an impossible task?

Writer Dashiell Bennett points out the above 30 Rock clip which tries to explain why porn video games don’t work using the Uncanny Valley theory. It’s funny, and quite succinct. If you’d like to know more, here’s a comprehensive video lecture by Karl F. MacDorman from the Indiana University School of Informatics.

BTW Trey, actually there is a “video game” that lets you get weird with each other for gold and points. It’s not realistic enough to face the problem of the uncanny valley, but it’s good enough for most.

GTA IV + Euphoria engine = Mimicking Life on Screen

In honor of tonight’s release of Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto IV, here’s something that when executed right, would fit right into the Uncanny Valley.

Mimicking life on screen, particularly in terms of human body physics, has always been tough. While most video games (especially First Person Shooters) have typically relied on ragdoll physics, characters just don’t behave in a realistic fashion. i.e. they just crumple.

As a technical feature of GTA IV, what NaturalMotion’s “Euphoria” Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS) does is to essentially add biomechanics and self-preservation AI into the mix, thus you’d end up with different results when putting bodies through similar physical situations, e.g. characters try to balance when hit. The above video does a great job explaining this.

The Euphoria engine reminds me of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog walking robot, especially when it gets kicked and how it tries to balance itself. Speaking of which, have you ever seen the beta version of the Big Dog? *chuckles*