Nov 102015

I posted up the slides to my talk at SGC earlier; now the conference has released video of the session.

This talk was a joint keynote for both the Sweden Game Conference, which was a typical industry conference, and the smaller VS-Games conference for serious games academics. So I tried to straddle the line by doing a talk that would be helpful both to indies and interesting to game studies folks.

Questions start right around the 49:00 mark, and in particular there’s a bit of a rant on my part about the value for interdisciplinary learning for people who are going to creatively lead projects. After that answer, Rami Ismail (who was there, of course, he is everywhere) asked if I could list the five most important or relevant books for covering the various fields that I had described in the talk. I couldn’t… so I listed more like 30.


Sep 192015

Slide15I had a great time in Sweden, despite the fact that there did not seem to be a canonical way to pronounce the city was in (Skövde — sort of hghuheffdduh-ish, but depending where I was in the country, it was also hgheffduh, hghuffda, and a few others).

The talk I gave, put together after some rather late nights with boardgames and beer (well, hard cider in my case), was called “Teaching to Fish.” It had to work as a joint keynote for both the Sweden Game Conference, which was a typical industry conference, and the smaller VS-Games conference for serious games academics.

I ended up doing a bit on game grammar, but focusing more on the fact that given the breadth of the field, it is important that practitioners know what sort of thing they are making, and use the right tools for the job. And that they take their field seriously, study the relevant literature from both games and the countless other disciplines that interact with and impinge upon games.

A lot of the audience was students; I was told afterwards multiple times over that I might have scared half of them right out of the course of study. I was asked two questions at the end, and one of them was “so, since learning all that is impossible, what then?” more or less, to which I answered “it’s not impossible, I did it.” That was followed by a question from Rami Ismail basically designed to force me to prove it, asking me to list of some relevant books; so I gave title and author recommendations for each of the fields in the slides — more like twenty than the requested five. :)

Besides Rami, I also got see old friend Lee Sheldon and Mike Sellers, and make many new ones. I learned a lot about the Nordic LARP scene, which is utterly fascinating. Tommy Palm (formerly King, now doing VR) and Ben Cousins and David Goldfarb (now at new studio The Outsiders) were kind enough to host me for meals on the last day as I attempted to sightsee Stockholm on foot. Twelve miles, one blister, and I had managed to walk most of the core of the city in the rain, visiting museums, tourist traps, and sites from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Slides for the talk are here. It was filmed, and I imagine that at some point I may get a link to that to share it with you. For now, you will have to make do with a parable about fish with a couple of bad puns. Well, one REALLY bad pun, a few middling ones, and one fairly decent one.

Jun 142011

Sebastian Deterding has posted another spectacular presentation on gamification, but really on much more: the reasons why to make games, a great deconstruction of how they function from a social point of view, a lot of insights on game design in general… all in all, really wonderful.

May 262010

Researchers measured and tracked the participants’ brain waves via electroencephalography (EEG) — one group played the games, and a control group didn’t. The study found that subjects who played casual games for 30 minute periods showed an 87 percent improvement in cognitive response time and a 215 percent increase in executive functioning. This makes it, according to ECU, about as effective as other medical treatments for cognition.

via Gamasutra – News – Study: Casual Gaming Helps Cognition.

This comes on the heels of a BBC study challenging brain games’ efficacy. This new study was oriented around Popcap games like Bejeweled rather than custom-made brain games, though.

May 192010

Apps for Healthy Kids is partnering with the IGDA for game jams this weekend in 8 major US cities. The idea is that game devs, artists, and yes, local kids too, will work together to make game prototypes for the Apps for Healthy Kids competition — basically, the theme of the jams is “Health Games Challenge.” Here’s the scoop, with locations and all:

WHAT: Series of 48-hour game jams (Health Games Challenge) bringing together game developers, graphic artists, and local youth to pool talent and creativity while developing nutrition-related games and tools

WHO: Hosted by IGDA and USDA; sponsored by the Games for Health Project in conjunction with the Health Games Research national program; funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio

WHEN: May 21-23, 2010

WHERE: Details for each jam location are provided below:

  • Boston, MA: Microsoft New England Research and Development, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. Meals will be provided, but computers will not (so bring your own if possible). Boston announcement is here, if interested visit their registration page. For questions, contact the Boston organizer: Darius Kazemi (
  • Seattle, WA: Art Institute of Seattle, 2501 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA – Room 102 (enter at the main entrance on Alaskan Way, other entrances may be locked). Runs Friday 4pm-midnight, Saturday 9am-midnight, Sunday 9am-4pm. Be aware there is only street parking and paid garages in the area, so plan accordingly. Seattle organizer: Rusel DeMaria (
  • Orlando, FL: ZeeGee Games, 1 Purlieu Place, Winter Park FL. Runs Friday 6pm-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. If interested, visit their Facebook page for more info and to RSVP. Orlando organizer: Dustin Clingman (
  • San Francisco, CA: Google campus, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA, Building 46. San Francisco organizer: Mark DeLoura (
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, 700 Technology Drive. Runs Saturday 10am through Sunday 10am (overnight), with an additional Physical Game Jam from Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event page to sign up. Pittsburgh organizer: Jia Ji (
  • Troy, NY: Troy Boys and Girls Club, 1700 Seventh Ave, Troy NY. Runs Friday 6pm-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event website for more info. New York organizer: Ian Stead (
  • Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, Fairfax Campus, Art and Design Building RM 1018. Fairfax organizers: Joel Gonzalez ( and Scott Martin (
  • Athens, GA: Mowerks Learning, 130 Ware Street, Unit A. Athens organizer: Jordan Lynn (

This is a fantastic project overall, so I hope some great games come out it!

Game talkGames for Health 2010

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Apr 152010

The Games for Health conference has announced its keynotes!

Day 1: Wednesday May 26
THE MIND-BODY EXPERIENCE OF SONY MOVE: Relationships between Gaming, Play, Exercise, and More!
Dr. Richard Marks
Senior Researcher Sony US R&D group

Dr. Marks also known as the “father of the EyeToy” will discuss the relationship between gaming, play and exercise, referencing his work in the development of Sony’s new motion controller system, PlayStation Move, as well as his previous work with Sony’s EyeToy, PlayStation Eye and other interfaces.

Day 2: Thursday May 27
Chaim Gingold
Chaim Gingold, a longtime independent game developer and original designer of Spore’s creature creator will discuss how existing game genres map onto the human brain and body and how design decisions affect who will be attracted to the game and how they will play.

You can register here; and here is the nearly full schedule.

There are a couple of events happening the day before too, a Mobile Serious Games event and a Games Accessibility Day.

Game talkCollateral damage: Apple yanks Scratch

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Apr 152010

MIT’s Scratch is a tool developed at the MIT Media Lab to allow young people to learn the basics of computing and programming.

That means it’s also a development environment wherein you can run interpreted code.

Which means that it can’t be on the iPad or the iPod Touch or iPhone. So Apple has yanked it from the App Store.

As the Computing Education blog points out, these restrictions are ending up by saying that you literally cannot create procedural content on these devices.

Discussion on the Scratch forums suggests that it’s because Apple wants to focus on consuming media using these devices, not producing media.  Want to be truly computing literate, where you write as well as read?  There’s no app for that.

“Apple removes Scratch from iPad/iPhone/iTouch”

Game talkSoccer ball that is a generator

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Feb 172010

Brilliant, simple idea. Kick a soccer ball around, have it capture some of the energy, then give a plug so you can get the energy back out. Then give it away in Africa.

The ball uses inductive coil technology–similar to flashlights that power up when shaken. Each 15 minutes of play with the ball generates enough power to light up an LED lamp for 3 hours, so a soccer game could easily provide light for a day.

In most African countries, 95 percent of the population is living off-grid with no access to electricity. With sOccket, people in developing nations will no longer need to walk 3 hours simply to charge their cell phones. The power will—quite literally—be in their hands. The sOccket ball can be used to light an LED lamp, or charge a cellphone or battery.

Jessica Lin is a Changemaker | Changemakers.

(Via Jane McGonigal @avantgame)

Game talkA proofreading sim

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Feb 122010

I’d like a proofreading sim, please, that all my students could play…

— Andy Havens, in this thread on Terra Nova

Proofreading sim: slurp a text file, pop words on screen scrolling by, put randomized typos in them, require the user to buzz in when the word is spelled wrong. Sounds like a game to me! Bad spellers need not apply!

When I was a practicing journeyman letterpress printer (both my wife and I did this in college) we learned the way to proofread under those “no takeback” sorts of circumstances: read each word in isolation, one at a time, in a group, with a pause between each word, sometimes spelling out the whole word as you went.



Attention, a-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n.




…which is of course a big part of the challenge of proofing text, because that’s not how we read — we read words holistically, not by piecing them together out of letters.

In any case, it would be interesting to see if making a game like this would make someone into a more accurate proofreader.