Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More On Learning By Doing Civics Through Serious Games

Serious Games help students learn by doing civics rather than learning about it

Via: Filament Games

Guardian of Law is also part of the suite of games developed for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's free, interactive, web-based program designed to teach civics and inspire students to be active participants in our democracy.

The player is a Guardian of Law, a legal professional, who must establish Rule of Law in a futuristic, multicultural society inhabited by humans, alien species, and intelligent robots.

Players explore SkyCity that uses the American legal system but has regions of lawlessness where specific civil rights are violated. The player meets people who have civil rights cases that must be resolved. After a player takes a case, the player finds case cards to support arguments. When the player has a sufficient number of case cards, the player goes to a courthouse to argue the case.

As the player wins cases, rule of law is established, and SkyCity changes to reflect the effects of the civil right on society. Players will also be given the opportunity to argue extreme cases, so they see the dynamics between law and society and see the impact on society that laws may have.

The purpose of Guardian of Law is to teach students, specifically middle school students, about American civics in a new and exciting way. Students will learn about legal concepts such as due process and equal protection as well as important case precedents such as Brown v. Board of Education. More importantly, students will apply their knowledge in a way that improves their argumentation skills, which will fundamentally improve both their traditional academic and 21st century skills. Students will also learn about civic engagement by exploring various civil rights topics within the game.

Over time, improvements in argumentation can be measured as the student takes cases and argues them in court. Having cases that develop particular issues allows the possibility of gauging student interest in specific civil rights topics and allows students to become expert in topics of personal interest.

Argumentation in Guardian of Law

Filament Games had various Our Courts and ASU (Arizona State University) folks help them whiteboard and paper prototype argumentation. The first challenge was structural: if they're to let players argument using cards, how do they break an argument down into pieces that fit onto cards in the first place?

They’ve decided to whittle cards down into two simple categories: Argument and Support. An Argument Card was the "head" of an argument, a basic statement that needed reinforcement. A Support Card was one of the myriad ways you could support an Argument Card. Players would make evaluative judgments on the quality of the relationship between arguments and supports, and that judgment included the evaluation of that support intrinsic strength.

This system gave the subject matter experts a deep level of evaluation of argumentation without cramming a dictionary-sized rulebook down the player's throat. It meant that players interested in doing well would either have to play the game many times (an educational win!), research a hint document that maps out which card works well with each other (win again!), or evaluate the cards on their merits by reading them carefully and pondering (super duper win!).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learning By Doing Civics Through Serious Games

Serious Games help students learn by doing civics rather than learning about it

Via: Our Courts - Helping Middle School Students "Learn By Doing Civics" Rather Than Simply Learning About Civics!

Our Courts is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy.

Our Courts is the vision of Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation and that civics teachers need better materials and support.

Our Courts hopes to promote civics education in the schools by creating discovery-based learning games for students and useful classroom resources for teachers.

Georgetown University Law Center, The College of Teacher Education and Leadership at Arizona State University and Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University are the three lead partners in this initiative.

Our Courts Games

In August 2009, Our Courts launched its first online civics games Do I Have A Right? and Supreme Decision. In February 2010, Our Courts released Argument Wars where players argue landmark Supreme Court cases.

Here is a taste of them!

Argument Wars (Filament Games)

In Argument Wars, you debate historical Supreme Court cases by advancing arguments and backing them up with supports. Play New Jersey v. T.L.O., Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Texas v. Johnson, or Gideon v. Wainwright.

Argument Wars is a game designed to highlight the role of argumentation and reasoning in civic engagement. Step into the shoes of a lawyer and participate in trials ripped straight out of the history books. In order to win points with the judge, you must analyze your arguments and evidence carefully and be prepared to not only back up yours claims, but to pop your opponent's bubble when they make a misstep.

Do I Have A Right? (Filament Games)

Do I Have a Right? explores the Bill of Rights in the context of operating and growing a Constitutional law firm from obscure to distinguished status.

Hire lawyers with special talents and areas of expertise and assign them to distraught clients with legal quandaries of varying validity. Wield the Bill of Rights like a high power microscope, examine a variety of fun and quirky legal cases, and ultimately become a prestigious purveyor of expert legal advice.

Supreme Decision (Cabengo)

In addition to designing the Our Courts identity and website, Cabengo created the animated online game Supreme Decision with development partner Studio Mobile.

In Supreme Decision, the player is a clerk to a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who must help his or her justice decide a challenging First Amendment case.

In the fictional case, modeled loosely on Tinker vs. Des Moines, a student has been suspended for wearing a T-shirt with his favorite band's logo, against school policy.

Focusing on the affordance of digital media and how it can support student learning and teacher practice, Supreme Decision encourages thoughtful engagement with first amendment issues through a series of internal challenges. Game play involves evaluating animated disagreements between pairs of justices to determine whether the shirt should be given the same protection as political speech or whether the school was justified in the suspension. The playful interface, and charming, quirky illustrations and animations are appealing to middle school audiences.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Filament’s Serious Games Suite: Finalist At SIIA CODiE Awards

 Serious Games as Digital Labs

Via: Filament Games - Suite of Energy Games

Following my previous posts Uncharted Depths: Serious Games For Scientific Inquiry developed by Filament Studios, their website informs that the finalists have been announced for this year's SIIA CODiE awards, and Filament’s Suite of Energy games, developed for JASON Science, has been revealed as a finalist!

The CODiE Awards, originally called the Excellence in Software Awards, were established in 1986 by the Software Publishers Association (SPA), now the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), so that pioneers of the then-nascent software industry could evaluate and honor each other's work. Since then, the CODiE Awards program has carried out the same purpose - to showcase the software and information industry's finest products and services and to honor excellence in corporate achievement and philanthropic efforts.

The CODiE Awards hold the distinction of being the industry's only peer-reviewed awards program, which provides member companies with a unique opportunity to earn praise from their competitors. Now in its twenty-fourth year, the CODiE Awards program has raised the standard for excellence and serves as prestigious representation of outstanding achievement and vision in the software and information industry.

Filament Games is gunning for number one in the category of Best Education Game or Simulation. The games in the suite include Energy City, Transform It! and Coaster Creator.

Energy City

Craft an urban energy portfolio that balances economic, social, and environmental issues...all while negotiating with stakeholders and generating enough power to support a growing population. Do you have what it takes to successfully lead a city toward a sustainable energy future?

Transform It!

Ever wonder how energy gets from a heap of biomass to a streetlight? Assemble contraptions out of components like furnaces, turbines, and generators in order to convert energy from a source (e.g. chemical energy stored in coal) into a form capable of powering a goal (e.g. a giant robot).

Coaster Creator

Coaster Creator is a design-based exploration of energy transfer and the concepts of potential and kinetic energy. Step into the role of a roller coaster engineer and design a top-scoring ride that both thrills riders and dissipates all its energy before reaching the end of its track. Customize the look of your coaster and its mass, and then construct a custom track complete with death-defying drops and pulse-pounding loops.

About Filament Games

Filament Games, Llc is a private company categorized under Prepackaged Software and located in Madison, WI. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $950,000 and employs a staff of approximately 12.

Founding Partner and CEO, Dan (AKA Mr. White) holds a BS in communication technologies from Cornell University and an MS in educational communications and technology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Dan spent four years working at the Cornell Theory Center as development lead on an NSF-funded game project designed to teach advanced genetics concepts to middle school students. He later designed instructional technologies at the UW Division of Information Technology and the Academic ADL Co-Lab. Dan co-founded Filament Games in January 2006. His principal roles at the company include production management, design and art direction, client relations, and strategic planning. Dan's prime professional directive is to deliver game experiences that broaden perspectives, educate, and spark inspiration.

Jason Science: Serious Games Educating Through Exploration

Serious Games connect students with great explorers

Via: Jason Science Education Through Exploration

The Jason Project was founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, the oceanographer and explorer who discovered the shipwreck of RMS Titanic. This prompted thousands of kids to write him letters, asking to join his next expedition. Technology was the way The Jason Project made that happen.

Backed by National Geographic, this interactive and immersive site connects students with great explorers and great events to inspire and motivate them to learn science. The award-winning curricula embed cutting-edge research from NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Geographic Society and other leading organizations and allow leading scientists to work side by side with JASON students.

The Jason Project has always embraced technology as a way to connect real scientists doing exciting research in the field with teachers students around the world.
Given the changes in technology, the changes in students, and the changes in schools, they are always looking for ways to make that real-science connection stronger. Games have been a powerful way to do this.
For example, The Operation: Resilient Planet game empowers school-aged-children as they travel to some of the most unique underwater ecosystems in the planet and gather cutting -edge data about some of the planet’s most vulnerable creatures. Kids use fun, exciting, and authentic tools like remotely operated vehicles and “Crittercams” to assemble an understanding about some of the most endangered marine species in the world. Together with close collaboration with some of National Geographic’s leading ecologists, players uncover groundbreaking ecological theories that have only recently emerged in scientific journals.
The first mission occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. Explosives on an oil platform are in the process of being placed and time is running out. Below the surface of the waves, many species must be protected, and Dr. Bob Ballard (the discoverer of the Titanic, who does the voice acting in the game) is asking for help to save the turtles.

In Jason’s Operation: Resilient Planet Game students get to use an ROV to visit the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans outside of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to recreate some of the research questions tackled by National Geographic explorers such as Bob Ballard, Enric Sala, and Greg Marshall. Jason Project collaborated closely with these scientists and worked to capture these environments as faithful as possible.

In Mission 2 - Resilient Planet: Flower Garden Banks, players step into the role of a NOAA marine ecologist and licensed operator of the Hercules ROV working to decode a complex ecosystem according to the scientific process. Aided by archaeologist and oceanographer Bob Ballard, and equipped with a host of authentic scientific tools and practices, they must navigate the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in search of data that will help them protect the local marine life. Players use a Crittercam to monitor the activities of hawksbill and leatherback turtles, perform a biodiversity survey using a dichotomous key, locate and evacuate at-risk turtles from the area surrounding the platform, scope a pickled buffalo, and so on.

In Mission 4 - Resilient Planet: NW Hawaiian Islands, players must navigate the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in search of data that will help them either corroborate or debunk the shark infestation theory.

The Operation: Resilient Planet is very much a field research game: it gives students scientific understanding and insight into the factors leading to species endangerment. The game focuses on four endangered species and offers an exploration on how human behaviors impact species survival. The intended impact is to arm students with empirical data about why biodiversity is essential to the planet and humankind. But collecting good data is only part of the picture. Afterward, players must use their data to construct and deliver scientific arguments: the game is a call-to-arms against harmful practices such as water pollution, over-fishing, shark culling and uncontrolled CO2 emissions.

About Marjee Chmiel

Marjee Chmiel is the director of digital media for National Geographic's The JASON Project where she designs and produces a variety of video games and other interactive online applications that support The Jason Project's award winning online science curriculum. She is a doctoral student at George Mason's Graduate School of Education in Fairfax, Va.

“As we are starting to really gather a rich library of games, the most exciting thing for me has been to work with and talk to teachers using these games in schools”, she says. “I hear from a lot of teachers that their return on time investment in these games is amazing. Kids get excited and talk about the content of what they are learning to other students, teachers, and parents. When we piloted one of our games last year, we did so on the last full day of school. It was a Friday in June and we had five class sessions of seventh graders who were dead silent, playing the game. I couldn't believe it.”

“Students get really into fact-checking our games as well”, she adds. “They wouldn't do that if they weren't interested in what the games are saying. For instance, in the game we talk about pristine ecosystems, atolls that have never been inhabited by humans.

Apparently, some of the students were skeptical about whether this was true, so they looked it up over the weekend and reported to their teacher the following Monday that there was such a place in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Some of the species we cover in that mission, such as monk seals and tiger sharks, really caught their imagination. They went home and tried to find more information about them. That is precisely what I think we all imagine when we talk about developing the habits of a life-long learner.”

“The premise of one of the missions in the ecology game is also that you are questioning a proposal put forward by a pretend, but respected, scientist, and I really do think that is a strength of how games can present science. This habit of skepticism and peer-review is vital to the way science works and is something we all need to be scientific literate, but it's often left out of textbooks and traditional curricular materials. There is something elegantly perfect about the idea that we use technology to teach those habits, and then the students turn around and use technology to verify our claims. I've never seen a textbook motivate students to do that.”

“The other piece that has been promising is the extent to which games allow themselves to be areas where students with certain learning disabilities can really thrive. Some students need their own private, little universe to learn, explore, make mistakes, or try new things. When you've got a variety of visual and audio cues helping you learn something, the content is just that much more accessible and students are imbued with this new confidence. We saw some really wonderful instances of this during our pilot testing.”

More Games at Jason’s 

Available for free in the JASON Mission Center, JASON games and digital labs are designed with the practical realities of the classroom in mind. Teachers can search for games and labs by state standards in the JASON Mission Center Web site, where you will also find worksheets and handouts.

Some of their award-winning games include: Coaster Creator, Storm Tracker and Mini Labs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Uncharted Depths: Serious Games For Scientific Inquiry

Serious Games for refining and defending a scientific theory

Uncharted Depths - Also Dubbed The Game Of Scientific Inquiry

What if the educational objectives of a game are about exploring rather than formally assessing? What if a game is designed to help a player form an opinion rather than be told an answer?
These sound like Holy Grails for Serious Games, but Filament Games has tackled these issues head on and found out that designing around less explicit objectives actually requires a different kind of game experience. …

Via: Filament Games

About the Studio

Filament Games, LLC is a game production studio dedicated to creating next generation learning games that combine best practices in commercial game development with key concepts in learning sciences.

Filament's core directive is to create educational experiences that spark inspiration through interactive exploration and discovery. Secondarily, they seek to help teachers and parents excite their kids about learning, track their progress, and assess their performance.

Filament's development team represents expertise in game design, programming, art, sound, quality assurance, and learning sciences. The titles in their portfolio, including both 3D Torque games and 2D Flash games, cover a diversity of STEM, literacy, and civics education topics. Every game make is subject to an extremely high standard of quality, extending to often overlooked areas like accessibility, usability, efficacy, and visual/auditory fidelity.

Filament's recent clients include National Geographic’s The JASON Project, Florida Virtual School, the University of Wisconsin, the Smithsonian Institution, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's iCivics Inc. They are also proud to have received grant funding from the MacArthur, Kauffman, Annenberg, and National Science Foundations.

Their methodology starts by identifying the core learning objectives. Based on those objectives, they design custom-tailored gameplay mechanics, or "verbs": actions the player can take in the game environment that scaffold them from understanding the learning objectives to internalizing them.

Filament Games Philosophy

• All games are learning games...
• Games are not a good fit for all learning goals.
• Learning is naturally pleasurable. There is no reason to awkwardly sandwich learning content between mechanics designed solely to be "fun" or otherwise divorced from learning objectives.
• Good games embrace experimentation and, by extension, failure. They prioritize inquiry over right versus wrong.
• Rather than focus on content, good learning games focus on building problem spaces in which content has authentic utility

About Uncharted Depths Game

Uncharted Depths (also dubbed “the game of scientific inquiry”) is designed to teach the practices - both procedural and cognitive - by which science professionals form questions, collect data, compile data into defensible theories, articulate said theories, and participate in scientific communities of practice.

In the game, players conduct lab-based controlled experiments and field-based measurements/observations in order to develop, refine, and defend a scientific theory.
“It is the distant future. You are a scientist; a prominent inter-planetary researcher known for your pioneering efforts to understand the fabric of life's tapestry on remote, uninhabited worlds.”

“A mobile research station grants you access to mysterious, unexplored sea-escapes, and a submersible equipped with tools for collecting data (EG phosphorous readings) and capturing specimens allows you to investigate and decode complex alien ecosystems; specifically, creature relationships (EG symbiosis), population dynamics, and water quality.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Main Challenges Assessment In Serious Games Is Facing

Assessment information could be used to re-generate ”try again” game scenarios

Via: Gaming LabWhat About Assessment?

Gaming Lab has posted earlier today a great article on the main challenges that assessment in Serious Games is facing, under the Adaptive Games tag.

The post section Assessment information could be used to re-generate ”try again” game scenarios, has reminded a lot Noah Fahlstein’s talk at the 2010 Serious Games Summit on Open Possibility Set Games, which I quote:

“Most every computer game arbitrates outcomes based on a finite set of rules and possibility sets. Many activities and problems in the real world require, at times, more complexity, and open possibilities. What would computer games look like if they had to account for a much larger universe of player action and reaction?”

The point in question is that assessment information can become valuable not only per se, but also to improve game-play, both while playing and in future interactions.

Open Possibility Set Games would then account for the above mentioned much larger myriad of player action and reaction, re-generating game scenarios adapted and focused on what the players failed or easily succeeded on the previous session.

More than a matter of measuring player performance, it would involve interpreting how the player is creating learning value.

Here is “What About Assessment?” transcript

In-game player performance assessment is especially important for Serious Games, but it has seldom been considered in academic research in games and simulations.

In particular, there is no work on combining game adaptivity with assessment. However, some results point to interesting challenges that indicate a promising role for game adaptivity in assessment.

Chen and Michael have already identified the main challenges that assessment in Serious Games is facing.

“The mere criterion of successfully completing the game falls short on a number of fronts. Besides the possibility of students cheating or exploiting holes in the system (a time-honored tradition in video games, but considered in a less positive light in classroom settings), it's important to know whether the student learned the material in the game, or just learned the game and how to beat it.”

Most traditional methods for assessment are not accurate enough for Serious Games, since they are inspired by the simple feedback mechanisms used in their entertainment counterparts. Identifying and reflecting on mistakes and decisions is especially important when considering Serious Games.

So far, research in assessment for Serious Games has been mainly centered on After Action Review (AAR) methods. However, results already demonstrate that the direction identified by Chen contains a lot of potential. AAR systems for military simulations are already being used in innovative ways they were not designed to, not only for assessing past behavior, but especially for planning new future training exercises. In these systems, real-time in-game and AAR assessment information establish an emergent domain culture that could allow the co-creation of future game scenarios. Assessment information could be better explored and even incorporated to potentially influence content in Serious Games.

There is typically a lot of valuable information in game logs and emerging from AAR sessions, in Serious Games. This information is far from being fully explored by the game itself, to improve game-play. This happens because logs usually offer an enormous amount of unstructured game data that is therefore difficult to interpret and use. Moreover, AAR information emerges to engage communication between trainees and their instructors and it is not incorporated back in the game. Using this information as a source to guide adaptivity seems a promising, unexplored area.

Assessment Information Could Be Used To Re-Generate ”Try Again” Game Scenarios

Assessment information can became valuable not only per se, but also to improve game-play, both while playing and in future interactions.

The challenges ahead indicate multiple research directions on what and how to adapt. On the one hand, assessment information could be used to re-generate ”try again” game scenarios, adapted and focused on what the players failed on the previous session. So, offering a re-generated game scenario could simultaneously allow a better understanding of what went wrong, and better opportunities to succeed. Work on this direction should tackle, for example, customized content creation, e.g. adjusted to better achieve a learning goal. On the other hand, on-line adaptivity can also be influenced by assessment methods. Game scenarios, and even intelligent agents, could adapt to the assessment of how players are deviating from these purposes. More than a matter of measuring player performance, it would involve interpreting how that performance is being achieved. One example would be to adapt the game because the player is succeeding in learning, but in a slow pace (instead of because he is just performing too good or too bad).

As an important note, researching the relations between adaptivity and assessment seems to be limited to the Serious Games domain. We still need plenty of human expert knowledge to make sense of the correct assessment information, either during or after game time.

“Games Essentially Are a Form Of Assessment”

• Schooling to stress the ability to solve problems collaboratively - as opposed to privileging people who know a lot of facts
• Video games put you in worlds where you have to solve problems
• Video games are all about problem-solving and assessment
• Video games do not separate learning from assessment: you don’t learn some stuff and later you’ll take a test; all you do is getting assessed as you try to solve problems;
• Assessment is probably the more painful part of schooling but in a game it is a lot of fun – gameplay constant feedback can be highly encouraging!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LEEF 2010: Effectiveness of Serious Games as a Learning Strategy

LEEF 2010 Keynote: A Development Approach for Successful Serious Games

Thursday - Friday, June 17-18, 2010 - Harrisburg, PA

LEEF is an interactive professional development event showcasing the convergence of learning and entertainment technologies and exploring the organizational, design and technical challenges for adopting games and simulations for learning.

The 2010 Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF) will explore the use of games, simulations and virtual worlds for learning and performance by looking at the needs for successful adoption, and will specifically explore how to addresses business objectives, design goals, and technical development needs.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of games and simulations as an organizational learning strategy is a central theme of LEEF. However, this year’s program will focus less on why games and simulations are so effective, and will look more closely at how these approaches are successfully implemented and what steps can be taken to integrate this new approach into established learning organizations.

LEEF will feature new perspectives from keynote presentations, practical applications and lessons learned from in-depth case study sessions, hands-on play with new and experimental technologies through high-tech demos, focused instructional workshops, one-on-one time with innovators and entrepreneurs in the exhibitors area, and lots of opportunities for networking with a diverse array of attendees. 

Keynote Presentations

Jerry Heneghan - Managing Director, Virtual Heroes Division, Applied Research Associates

Friday, June 18th

Uniting Three Disciplines: A Development Approach for Successful Serious Games

In order to create effective serious games, it is frequently necessary to blend the disciplines of instructional design, game design and cognitive task analysis into a process that works for both internal teams and clients.

This is not an easy task! Some consider it an extreme sport with high levels of physical and mental exertion, spectacular feats and inherent dangers along the way.

In this KEYNOTE, Jerry Heneghan shall provide a frank discussion regarding the highs and lows involved in creating some of the most successful Serious Games to date. He will illustrate the proven process used at Virtual Heroes to create serious games such as ‘America’s Army’, ‘Pamoja Mtanni’, ‘Hilton Ultimate Team Play’, ‘Zero Hour: America’s Medic’, and the ‘Virtual Peace Project’. Special emphasis will be given to the topics of stakeholder management, goal alignment, subject-matter-expert interaction and the dialog that should take place between the three disciplines.

Mike Cuffe - Vice President University of Farmers, Claims, Agoura Hills, California, Farmers Insurance Group

Thursday, June 17th

Talk about a revolution...Learning, Technology, and People

Early-Bird Registration available through March 31!

Stein Institute Study: Benefits of Active Serious Games

Serious Games as Exergames

Exergames may be an easily performed, entertaining, and viable method of promoting physical activity in older adults

Via: Serious Games Source - Study: Exergaming Offsets Depression in Older Adults
Via: Science Daily - Video Games May Help Combat Depression in Older Adults

Stein Institute Study Shows Potential Benefits of Active Video Games

Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that Exergames may produce health benefits among older adults exhibiting symptoms of subsyndromal depression (SSD).

In a pilot study, the researchers found that use of Exergames significantly improved mood and mental health-related quality of life in older adults with SSD.

The study, led by Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine, Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, and director of the UC San Diego Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

SSD is much more common than major depression in seniors, and is associated with substantial suffering, functional disability, and increased use of costly medical services. Physical activity can improve depression; however, fewer than five percent of older adults meet physical activity recommendations.

"Depression predicts nonadherence to physical activity, and that is a key barrier to most exercise programs," Jeste said. "Older adults with depression may be at particular risk for diminished enjoyment of physical activity, and therefore, more likely to stop exercise programs prematurely."

In the study, 19 participants with SSD ranging in age from 63 to 94 played an Exergames on the Nintendo Wii video game system during 35-minute sessions, three times a week. After some initial instruction, they chose one of the five Nintendo Wii Sports games to play on their own -- tennis, bowling, baseball, golf or boxing.

"The study suggests encouraging results from the use of the Exergames," Jeste said. "More than one-third of the participants had a 50-percent or greater reduction of depressive symptoms. Many had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation."

"The participants thought the Exergames were fun, they felt challenged to do better and saw progress in their game play," Jeste said. "Having a high level of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a choice among activities, Exergames may lead to sustained exercise in older adults."

The study was funded in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the UCSD Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Study Context

The benefits of physical activity for adults, both young and old, have been widely publicized. Regular exercise has been shown to improve a myriad of health conditions, from arthritis and diabetes to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

People often start exercising because they want to improve their health or to lose weight, but the data suggest that people keep exercising because they enjoy it. Creative ways to help older adults to increase regular physical exercise are likely to contribute to improved physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning.

Based on this theory, researchers at the Stein Institute for Research on Aging recently teamed up with members of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology to evaluate a new and surprising way to increase the accessibility of exercise through the use of active video games, or Exergames.

The Stein preliminary study evaluated the effects of Exergame use on older adults.

Three older adults were invited to try various commercially available gaming systems. As a result of their feedback, the Nintendo Wii system was selected for the study. Then twenty-three older adults were recruited from various sites in San Diego and trained to use Exergames; they played for three thirty-minute sessions every week. Participants were also trained in appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises to minimize their risk of injury. The trial lasted a total of twelve weeks (three months).

Study Findings

At the end of the study, nineteen participants had completed all twelve weeks of the study. Seventeen participants were followed for twelve more weeks. Even though this was a small group, there were significant improvements in overall mood and quality of life. Just as notable was the fact that no participant reported any injury or pain as a result of this study.

This preliminary study was promising in several ways. First, it suggested that Exergames may be an easily performed, entertaining, and viable method of promoting physical activity in older adults.

Second, it showed that engaging in physical exercise using Exergames may have multiple benefits, including improvement in depression and quality of well-being.

Third, with appropriate instruction, older adults were found to be able to use Exergames systems in their homes to make exercise more convenient.

And finally, with training, physical injuries could be minimized through proper precautions and appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises.

There is promise that Exergames may offer a safe, effective, and entertaining means of promoting physical and mental activity in older adults. At the Stein Institute, we are excited by the possibilities and potential benefits of Exergames and are currently planning several new studies to build on this work in collaboration with other researchers at UC San Diego.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Globaloria: Preparing Youth To Become Serious Game Makers

Serious Games empowering youth to create and collaborate online

The most active network of Globaloria, MyGLife.org is comprised of an open architecture of educational, programmable websites and related wikis that offer more than 100 educational activities, simulations and tutorials to play, learn, explore and contribute new ideas online.

Via: World Wide Workshop Foundation

Following my prior posting GDC 10 and Serious Games Breakthroughs, where I report on Globaloria STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Games Competition, here are some further details on the Globaloria Program.

The Globaloria Program was established by the World Wide Workshop Foundation in the spring of 2006. A network of educational, programmable websites and related wikis and Blogs, the Globaloria Program prepares young people (13 and older) to use technology, specifically to become makers of interactive games and simulations, for their own personal and professional development and for the social and economic benefit of their communities.

As a result of participation in the Globaloria Program, secondary school and university students from underserved communities develop the expertise and self-confidence needed to become active global cybercitizens in today's increasingly connected and digital world.

The Globaloria Program is comprised of multiple platforms, each of which has its own network, themes, and active communities. In 2006, with the support of Cisco Systems, the Foundation launched the first of these platforms, My Global Life, a game developers' "starter-kit"™.

MyGLife.org: Empowering Youth to Create and Collaborate Online

Currently the most active network of Globaloria, My Global Life (www.MyGLife.org), is designed to help youth 13 and older:

1. Learn Internet media technology and game-development skills;

2. Hone professional and life skills;

3. Experience positive virtual communication with other communities; and

4. Foster social change

Through an open architecture of websites and related wikis and blogs, MyGLife participants learn to analyze, design and build web-based games and simulations that address globally relevant and social issues of their choice and passion. Topics include climate change, ecology, water, community services, technology skills, peace and more.

My Science Life: A Social Network for Science and Technology Learning

My Science Life - a social network and virtual program for learning how to design and develop Animated Illustrations, Interactive Simulations and Sim Games in Flash

One unique aspect of the MySLife program is that it is completely virtual. Students and teachers from SEED schools in Trinidad, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Russia have joined Schlumberger volunteers from all around the world in a unique online learning community. Almost every continent and time zone is represented! Participants come from very different backgrounds and have a wide range of skills, including technical and English proficiencies.

Because of this unique global collaboration, the program is not like a typical school course! There IS NOT a traditional instructor who runs the show, giving out assignments and grades. Instead there is a Facilitator who is a highly motivated co-learner, completing the course along with the participants. The Facilitator helps to foster communication, highlight great work, find and share solutions, and generally inspire and help the group along in their self-learning. It is a Collaborative Social Network: everyone contributes as a learner and facilitator.

The MySLife Global Climate Website offers a comprehensive set of tutorials, tools and resources to help learn fundamental design, programming and project planning skills for use while building original animated illustrations, interactive simulations, or sim-games -- simple or complex, small or large.

My Health Life 

As participants in the My Health Life network, students become the makers of interactive web-based games to share their knowledge on health issues such as nutrition, exercise, HIV/AIDs and malaria.

My Health Life is the latest thematically-focused Globaloria network. Like My Global Life and My Science Life, it uses open-source applications of social media technology and game production, to enhance learning, innovation, entrepreneurship, and an understanding of the world in economically-disadvantaged and technologically-underserved communities.

The first pilot for MyHLife was conducted in New Orleans in the Summer of 2008, in collaboration with Rethink, an initiative founded in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina - with the purpose of helping low-income young people whose lives have been devastated by Katrina to: (1) develop the insight, vision, and voice to move from being "powerless victim" to resilient, capable achievers and leaders; and (2) rethink and bring about improvements to the public schools.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Serious Games On The Move Also @ MIT Sloan

The MIT Sloan's Business in Gaming Conference (BIG)

Via: MIT Sloan's Business In Gaming - MIT Sloan’s 2nd Annual Business in Gaming Conference - Registration Open!

MIT Sloan held its inaugural Business in Gaming Conference (BIG) on May 8, 2009. Highlighting current transformations and trends in the gaming industry, the conference featured panels covering topics like Serious Games, in-game advertising, digital distribution, and massively multiplayer online (MMO) business models.

MIT Sloan School of Management's 2nd annual Business in Gaming Conference (BIG) - Registration is OPEN! 

This year’s event will be held on Fri­day, April 16th 2010 from 8am-5pm at the Microsoft New Eng­land Research and Devel­op­ment (NERD) Cen­ter in Cambridge, MA. This con­fer­ence is unique in that it focuses on the busi­ness side of the video game world. It will bring together indus­try lead­ers, game devel­op­ers, game design­ers, aca­d­e­mics, and stu­dents from lead­ing MBA schools and will facil­i­tate dis­cus­sions of the lat­est busi­ness trends and future direc­tion of the video game industry.

The BiG con­fer­ence theme “Com­pet­ing on Ana­lyt­ics,” will cover a wide scope of issues and shall give  atten­dees much to dis­cuss through­out the day­long conference.

Here is the Full Release
March 18, 2010

MIT Sloan School of Management‘s Busi­ness in Gam­ing Con­fer­ence (BiG) Regis­tra­tions is OPEN! So, tell all your friends! Reg­is­ter here: www.mitbig.com Early Bird reg­is­tra­tion runs thru Mon­day March 29th, 2010 so sign up now! Keynot­ing the 2nd annual BiG Con­fer­ence will be MMORPG (Mas­sive Mul­tiplayer Online Role Play­ing Game) pio­neer Gor­don Wal­ton. He is cur­rently VP and co-Studio Gen­eral Man­ager at BioWare — Austin work­ing on Star Wars®: The Old Republic™.

Each of this year’s con­fer­ence pan­els and sev­eral notable pan­elists have been set and include:

The Chang­ing Face of Social Games

- Pan­elist – Nabeel Hyatt, Founder and CEO of Con­duit Labs

The Next Big Thing

- Pan­elist – Andy Zaf­fron, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Coun­sel, Sony Online Entertainment

Build­ing and Fos­ter­ing an Online Community

- Pan­elist — Tom George, Direc­tor of Online Mar­ket­ing and E-Commerce, Turbine

Hol­ly­wood: Con­verg­ing Media and Block­buster Properties

- Mod­er­a­tor – Chris Weaver, Bethesda Soft works, MIT Fac­ulty

Best Prac­tices in Mar­ket­ing for Gam­ing Companies

- Pan­elist — Leonie Man­shan­den, Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor, Irra­tional Games

How to Build and Finance a Gam­ing Startup

- Pan­elist – Pano Anthos, CEO Hang­out Industries

Gam­ing Com­pany Finan­cial Analytics

- Mod­er­a­tor – Michael Pachter, Wed­bush Morgan

Mass Effect: The State of the Gam­ing Indus­try in Massachusetts

- Mod­er­a­tor – Alex Aber, Foley Hoag

Early Bird reg­is­tra­tion runs thru Mon­day March 29th, 2010.

Friday, March 19, 2010

GDC 10 and Serious Games Breakthroughs

GDC and Serious Games broadening space at the institutional level

Returning from GDC 2010 and trying to catch up with press coverage, I have realized that this year event has produced a number of breakthroughs.

Here are a few value metrics:

All-time Record Attendance

Organizers of the 2010 Game Developers Conference announced an all-time record of 18,250 game industry professionals attending San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center for the March 9th-13th event, surpassing last year's total of 17,000 attendees. 

Offering a full five days of content, the event also hosted a extensive Exposition floor, featuring the biggest firms in the games space alongside the Career Pavilion and associated Game Career Seminar, the 12th Annual Independent Games Festival, the 10th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, Game Connection America, and more opportunities for networking, discussing business, sharing knowledge, and meeting with equally-devoted fellow developers.

Following the success of the show, organizers of the Game Developers Conference have announced that GDC 2011 will return to the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco from Monday, February 28 to Friday, March 4, 2011, with a call for lecture submissions to open this summer.

On Top Of Emerging Trends

Besides the AI Summit, the GDC Mobile/Handheld Summit, GamesBeat@GDC, the IGDA Education Summit, the Independent Games Summit, the Game Localization Summit, and the Serious Games Summit, the inaugural iPhone Games Summit and the Social & Online Games Summit proved to be extremely successful.

Serious Games Start To Enroll The U.S. Government
Sources: Gamasutra and Ian Bogost

Evidence 1 - Aneesh Chopra, White House CTO, Announces the Apps for Healthy Kids Contest

During the awards ceremony, an announcement via video was delivered by Aneesh Chopra, the United States's first Chief Technology Office, who directly addressed GDC attendees.

The video message announced the Apps for Healthy Kids contest, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move!" campaign, encouraging developers to create games meant to engender healthier eating and exercise habits among kids and educate parents on their children's diets.

In the video, he said around 40 game industry figures had been collaborating with the White House, discussing ways to advance "national priorities" that include combating child obesity.
Chopra said in his video address, "It is our hope, through the Apps For Healthy Kids competition, that you will take full advantage of that information and build it into new games on-line, new programs that are built within the games you’ve already established, and to have those of you in the audience today participate in new and creative ways to help advance this national priority."
He reiterated the administration's support for videogames as a part of its strategy for improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
Evidence 2 - Senator Rockefeller to Chair STEM Games Competition
The World Wide Workshop Foundation in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Education and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller as Honorary Chair, announce Globaloria, the 1st Annual Games Competition on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 
Globaloria is a game development pilot course currently held at 22 West Virginia middle schools, high schools, community colleges and universities. While enrolled in the course, students create and develop original web-based games covering a variety of educational topics.