Game talkReadingGame Addiction review on RPS

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Aug 042009

Niels Clark dropped by in the comment thread on the WoW addiction therapy guild to mention that Jim Rossignol has a detailed review of his new book Game Addiction: The Experience and the Effects.

What this means is that Game Addiction is damning of “grind” heavy games. At times, it seems like Clark is betraying his “not anti-games” by painting a deliberately bleak pictures of traditional MMOs. He’s quick to nod towards the complexity of these clever multiplayer constructs, and the positive side-effects of social gaming, but I couldn’t help feeling that grind-based games are beginning to become their own worst enemies when subjected to this kind of scrutiny. It seems like an impossible task to come away with a truly positive picture of their game model, and the way we gamers behave when playing them. They are not games that encourage balance in our lives.

via Rock, Paper, Shotgun: “Don’t push me because I’m close to the…” » Book: Game Addiction.

The discussion thread, needless to say, gets kind of contentious. Sounds worth picking up though!

Jun 232009

Earlier today I noticed that Theory of Fun was listed as “frequently bought with” Understanding Comics on Amazon. And also with Challenges for Game Designers, by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. I thought it was neat, I tweeted it, the end. Then I get replies piling in saying that it is because of Game Design Concepts, a cool thing that Ian is doing this summer: a free class in game design, conducted over the web by blog.

This blog is a course in game design (specifically, non-digital systems design).

  • Tuition: none. This class is open to all.
  • Prerequisites: none. It is my intention to make this course accessible to all levels of experience, while providing useful additional resources for those who are advanced.
  • Schedule: Monday 6/29/2009 through Sunday 9/6/2009. Posts will be made twice per week. You can read them at your own pace. The course lasts ten weeks.
  • Audience: anyone with an interest in game design. This includes students who are interested in game design; faculty who teach courses in game design and would like to compare course material; game developers with an interest in design or a desire to see an example of what students are being taught these days; or relatives of game designers who are curious about what these people do all day.

Course Description:

This course provides students with a theoretical and conceptual understanding of the field of game design, along with practical exposure to the process of creating a game. Topics covered include iteration, rapid prototyping, mechanics, dynamics, flow theory, the nature of fun, game balance, and user interface design. Primary focus is on non-digital games.

I am guessing this may be of interest to some who read this blog. 🙂 Not sure how I missed it before!

Game talkState of Play reports

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Jun 212009

I didn’t liveblog, but others did!

Tim Burke at Easily Distracted has a series of liveblog posts.

TerraNova has a thread.

Virtual Learning Worlds has a bunch of posts too:

Hakawi Tech also has several posts:

I think that I will try to write up some of the specific things I was trying to get across in the keynote as a blog post at some point, because the vaious blogs and notes all seem somewhat partial in one way or another… are backchannels damaging liveblogging? In any case, here’s the backchannels, which may not make too much sense without the original actual content being commented on!

  • gsssop « Today’s Meet is the web-based backchannel for the conference, including the rather fascinating (and to my mind, somewhat jarring) responses to the panel I was on.

Game talkYet more EQ2 data

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Feb 162009

I have referenced the EQ2 data dump to Dmitri Williams & team before, something that I helped kick off way back when and which has been supported by SOE in an ongoing fashion. Now there’s an article at Ars Technica which describes yet more findings, apparently from a session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jaideep Srivastava is a computer scientist doing work on machine learning and data mining—in the past, he has studied shopping cart abandonment at, a virtual event without a real-world parallel. He spent a little time talking about the challenges of working with the Everquest II dataset, which on its own doesn’t lend itself to processing by common algorithms. For some studies, he has imported the data into a specialized database, one with a large and complex structure. Regardless of format, many one-pass, exhaustive algorithms simply choke on a dataset this large, which is forcing his group to use some incremental analysis methods or to work with subsets of the data.

They got the first data dump around when I left SOE, so that should give you an idea of how big the dataset is, that it took this long to analyze!

Some bullet points:

  • “Gender turned out to be a negative influence on interactions: even after their low numbers were taken into account, female players avoided interacting with each other.”
  • “Time zones had some influence; players in the same time zone were 1.25 times more likely to partner than players even one time zone apart.”
  • “players within 10 kilometers of each other were five times more likely to interact. Contractor concluded that, for the typical player, the game simply offered a way of continuing their real-world social interactions in a virtual setting.”
  • “The average age of players turned out to be 31.”
  • “their body mass index was better than the US average and, although they were slightly more depressed than average, they were also less anxious.”
  • “a small subset of the population—about five percent—who used the game for serious role playing and, according to Williams, “They are psychologically much worse off than the regular players.” They belong to marginalized groups, like ethnic and religious minorities and non-heterosexuals, and tended to use the game as a coping mechanism.”
  • “Older women turned out to be some of the most committed players but significantly under-reported the amount of time they spent in the game by three hours per week (men under-reported as well, but only by one hour).”

Game talkEU says games good for kids

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Feb 122009

A report from the European parliament concluded yesterday that computer games are good for children and teach them essential life skills.

via Video games are good for children – EU report | Technology | The Guardian.

Saw it via a Tweet from Steven Johnson this morning. I asked him, “Do you think our books were read as part of the debate?” Or those of Jim Gee, Marc Prensky, etc… The article does say experts in games were brought in from numerous countries, so maybe.

There is discussion of the issue of stimulating violence, but the conclusion was that legislation was not warranted.

More interesting in terms of online, which is poorly regulated right now, was the notion of a mandatory way for users to report online games to PEGI:

The growing market for online games needed to be better controlled, the MEPs said, and online games should include a red button on the screen which children or parents could click to disable the game.

Manders said the button could also be linked to the administrators of the Pan-European Game Information age rating system, so that when a game player presses it, PEGI is informed and can investigate potentially disturbing games that are available through the internet.

Jan 282009

It’s not my headline — it’s from the New Scientist, which reports something that seems obvious — if you condition users to associate certain movements, colors, actions, etc, with particular emotional stimuli, all in a game, the users will react to those things that way even when seeing them in different contexts.

Volunteers who played a simple cycling game learned to favour one team’s jersey and avoid another’s. Days later, most subjects subconsciously avoided the same jersey in a real-world test.

It’s the same logic used as when people use videogames to treat post-traumatic stress. Really, I think the researcher is a little disingenuous when he says

But no-one has shown that video games can train the kind of conditioned responses that underlie much of our behaviour, Fletcher notes.

I think it most certainly had been, and on many levels. I think here of stuff like the Stanford research on how we treat short avatars, for example. But whatever. More studies is good. 🙂

Of course, this will also go into the pot with the studies associated with raised levels of aggression, and someone will try to link the two… sigh.

Jan 122009

Developing behaviors via genetic algorithms of various sorts has been around a long time now. You come up with a basic environment and ruleset, then you let loose millions of generations of simple AIs to keep trying to surivive. You then have the AIs tweak themselves based on what survived well, attempting to evolve the best survivor.

This can be used for lots of purposes — and now it’s being applied to game design. Starting with a simple Pac-Man like environment, researchers are generating zillions of procedural games, and then testing to see which is most fun. But how to measure the fun?

It should be pretty straightforward to see how game rules can be represented to be evolved: just encode them as e.g. an array of integers, and define some sensible mutation and possibly recombination operators. (In this particular case, we use a simple generational EA without crossover.) For other rule spaces, some rules might be more like parameters, and could be represented as real numbers.

What’s the much trickier question is the fitness function. How do you evaluate the fitness of a particular set of game rules? …

Our solution is to use learnability as a predictor of fun. A good game is one that is not winnable by a novice player, but which the player can learn to play better and better over time, and eventually win; it has a smooth learning curve.

via Togelius: Automatic Game Design.

Continue reading »

Game talkNew Daedalus project!

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Oct 102008

The Daedalus Project.

Lots of stuff to dig into, but here’s some highlights:

  • 23% of users create their own guild
  • 20% join because a real life friend invited them
  • Only 4% come via random invite
  • 26% have been in guilds for longer than 2 years
  • 59% join guilds where they know someone in RL
  • Women were twice as likely to be in guilds with romantic partners
  • 20% of people pick a class and always go for it in game after game
  • 17% go for class abilities instead (hardest, crowd control, overpowered, etc)
  • 11% go for the aesthetic of a player race
  • 67% have a preferred class type.
  • On average players have 8.7 characters on their account, but most everyone can identify a “main”
  • Genre: Both genders like fantasy best, but men also like futuristic spaceships a lot.
  • More people like being a vampire than a vampire hunter, but women are more into being a vampire than men are.
  • 80% of people would rather be in the least popular faction.

Game talkGamemakingF13 interview

 Posted by (Visited 3914 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , ,
Oct 102008

While I was in London, an interview with came out. We also did a small key giveaway for entry into the Metaplace testing, but those are all gone. Don’t worry, there will be more. 🙂

We covered stuff ranging from Metaplace to academia and game studies, to the AAA MMO market.

F13: What do you make of Blow’s assertion that “modern game design is actually unethical”?

Raph: Jon’s take on the underlying mechanics of fun, from a chemical point of view, isn’t very different from mine. I think that Dan Cook probably said it most succinctly, that “game designers are hijacking the learning systems of the brain.” But perhaps we might tweak that to “the REWARD systems” of the brain.

Lots of other things accomplish this, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil. A lot of work goes into devices and designs built to encourage gambling, for example, and if you read up on the subject, you quickly find that there’s something deeply manipulative about it.

On the other hand, we are also tapping into that when we give someone a gold star for doing well in grade school, and this is usually used for a positive purpose.