Monday, January 31, 2011

CNN Today On How Serious Games Can Make You Smarter

Serious Games as powerful learning tools

Via: CNN Today Filed Under Gaming and Gadgets By Scott Steinberg

Scott Steinberg’s today article How Video Games Can Make You Smarter special to CNN, focuses on four ways that Video Games can actually help make you smarter.

Steinberg addresses video games upside, stating that “contrary to popular belief, many build, not burn brain cells by requiring extensive problem solving, teamwork and dynamic decision-making skills. Also capable of building players' confidence and helping them see the world from multiple viewpoints, games can be powerful learning tools. At minimum, they readily encourage fans to fall on their face then pick themselves up and try again, promoting hands-on learning without the fear of ridicule or embarrassment.”

With no intention of being exhaustive, here is how he describes the four contexts that make you smarter.

Hands-On Experience

More interactive and absorbing than passive forms of entertainment like movies and TV, video games promote higher levels of engagement because observers are actively and enthusiastically involved with on-screen activity.

It's a point author James Paul Gee emphasizes in "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy," which argues that digital diversions promote more substantive learning. As he once told UK newspaper The Guardian, "good video games ... are complex designed systems that players have to learn to engage with reflectively and strategically." Many children can pass biology and physics tests, he points out, but few can apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Job Training

Businesses and Universities are increasingly turning to Serious Games as training tools to educate employees.

From Cisco to NASA, the U.S. Army to IBM, numerous corporations, government organizations and colleges have all employed interactive learning solutions.

Consider Loyalist College in Ontario, which offered students a simulation of U.S./Canada border crossings where they played the role of guards, and actually saw the rate of successful test scores jump from 56% to 95%. Or the Hilton Garden Inn, which built a custom 3-D hospitality training game for the PlayStation Portable, reasoning that it's more informative and reasonable for staffers to experiment by interacting with virtual customers.

Contextual Learning

Video games may soon save lives as well.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Taekman, the director of Duke University's Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, "Serious Games are the future of education."

Besides offering medical students the ability to practice on patients (which is much safer in the digital world), simulations offer health care providers several upsides. Chief among them, he says, are the abilities to make choices, see results and apply information immediately.

Beyond allowing for greater scalability and group collaboration than traditional classrooms, every decision made in a virtual world, he continues, can be tracked and benchmarked against best practices, then standardized or archived for others' review. "The traditional textbook will soon become passé," he suggests. "Gaming platforms will offer an interactive way for students to learn and apply information in context."

Teamwork and Collaboration

Massively multiplayer games such as "World of Warcraft," "EVE Online" and "City of Heroes" may seem like idle fantasy and sci-fi escapes.

But many require active teamwork and high-level project management to do well. Collaborative elements often take the form of loose alliances disguised as in-game guilds, factions or virtual corporations where players join forces to complete objectives such as seizing territory or battling otherwise unstoppable opponents.

As Georgia Tech professor and Persuasive Games founder Ian Bogost explains, these titles frequently require advanced mastery of resource allocation and practical leadership techniques.

Requiring direct management and informed decision-making at multiple levels, group heads quickly learn to delegate responsibility, direct personnel and steer allies toward a common goal. Actively promoting teamwork between seemingly disparate individuals located states or entire countries apart, he says, all ironically offer preparation for a job in today's increasingly virtual workforce.

About the Author

Scott Steinberg is the head of technology and video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, as well as the founder of GameExec magazine and Game Industry TV. The creator and host of online video series Game Theory, he frequently appears as an on-air technology analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Upcoming XNA Gamefest Brazil Addresses the Serious Games Market

Serious Games challenging us to play a better future

The 3rd edition of the XNA Gamefest Brazil - Microsoft Game Technology Conference, taking place on February 19th at FIAP - The Singularity University located in Sao Paulo, will specifically address the Serious Games Market in its Industry Track.

As the Brazilian Game Development Industry is experiencing significant and rapid growth, the industry track will focus on major trends for the upcoming years, Serious Games among them.

The event targets professionals and students interested in creating games for Microsoft ® platforms, PC, Phone Windows 7 or 360, including Game Developers, Media Artists, Technical Directors, Game Development Companies and Publishers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

GDC 11 Serious Games Summit Preview: Bunchball's Gamification Playbook

Serious Games driving player behavior and increasing engagement

Via: Game Developers Conference 2011 - Serious Games Summit

SGS Session: Gamification 201 - 60 Tactics in 60 Minutes [SGS Gamification]

Speakers: Molly Kittle (Bunchball)

Session Description: A look inside Bunchball's Super-Secret Invisible and Hard-to-Read Gamification Playbook - the tactics that they've learned from 4 years of implementing gamification solutions for companies of all sizes, and across multiple industries.

Takeaway: The answers to a lot of tactical gamification questions that you will encounter the minute you try to actually gamify something.

Bunchball's Background

Bunchball is a leading provider of online gamification solutions, used to drive high value participation, engagement, loyalty and revenue for some of the world’s leading brands and media. 

Based in Silicon Valley and founded in February 2005, Bunchball’s investors include Granite Ventures and Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Customers including Warner Bros, Comcast, Victoria’s Secret PINK, USA Network, LiveOps, and Hasbro use Bunchball’s Nitro gamification platform to create compelling, meaningful and enjoyable experiences for consumers, employees, and partners.

Nitro Drives Participation Using Gamification

On the web, information and entertainment are commodities and visitors are fickle; the differentiating factor between one site and another is the degree to which visitors are engaged.

That’s where Bunchball comes in. The innovative company studied the best in games, social networks, and virtual worlds, and extracted the components that were being used to drive consumer behavior, based on the fundamental human desires for reward, achievement, status, competition, and self-expression. Then Bunchball dove deep into the field of behavioral economics, learning about the irrational yet predictable ways people make decisions. The company took everything it learned and built Nitro, a web service designed to help companies drive consumer behavior online.

Nitro dramatically enhances companies’ ability to engage online consumers. Nitro enables us to track and reward participation across the Internet by adding game mechanics to websites, Facebook applications, and mobile applications. The Nitro solution includes a proven Gamification Platform and Analytics.

The Nitro web service, which is seamlessly integrated with customers’ websites, drives consumer behavior and online activity through game mechanics including point systems, levels, leaderboards, challenges, and virtual goods. According to Bunchball, the incentive- and rewards-based service is currently increasing online engagement and delivering returns for major brands. Nitro customers find that their online visitors spend more time on their sites, come back more frequently, and are personally invested in the site experience.

Via: Venture Beat - Latest Additions: Bunchball Helps Bravo “Gamify” its Top Chef All-Stars TV show

The Bravo TV channel is teaming up with start-up Bunchball to “gamify” its Top Chef All-Stars show so that fans will be more engaged and loyal.

Gamification adds game-like features, such as rewards and achievements, to non-game applications. San Jose, Calif.-based Bunchball has specialized in gamification for web sites for five years. With the TV show, Bunchball is creating a Virtual Top Chef competition on the web site.

This kind of deal is what Bunchball is all about. Some of its customers have been able to double their impressions; one has seen a 40 percent increase in unique users, the company says. Another site saw an 85 percent increase in the amount of time spent on one site.

The game is all about getting users to be more loyal to the web site than they otherwise would be, and is part of a larger gamification trend hitting the market.

The game features all 18 “cheftestants” from the current TV show season. Fans can choose their favorite cheftestant, and then earn points and trophies by completing actions and activities on the site.

The cheftestant whose team has the most points at the end of the season will be honored with the Virtual Top Chef title and be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win $5,000. The more the fans play, the more they increase their chances of winning.

The game is a way to reward the most loyal and passionate fans, particularly those who watch season after season, said Mari Ghuneim, vice president of Bravo Digital Media. The competition focuses on strategy and team dynamics. Fans can recruit fans to their teams, or switch chef teams at any time. The top-performing fans are highlighted on the home page. Fans can earn trophies, which are displayed on the person’s profile page on the web site.

Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer of Bunchball, says it makes sense to integrate a virtual competition alongside the TV show, since rivalry is the heart of the show and fans can make a difference in the outcome of the show, which concludes on April 6.

Have a taste of it!

Daisy Whitney gives us the inside scoop on the companies that marketers and agencies are excited about starting with the marketing technology firm Bunchball, which has generated major buzz in the media and ad business for its "engagement" tools. You can learn about why networks like USA and NBC, media companies like Comcast, and brands like Victoria's Secret are inking deals with Bunchball.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Serious Games Uncover Principles For Designing RNA Molecules

Online Serious Game Helps Unravel Secrets of RNA

Via: EteRNA - Played by Humans, Scored by Nature

Investigators at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University have launched an online Serious Game that challenges players to design new ways to fold RNA molecules.

EteRNA was designed for non-scientists, allowing players to design elaborate RNA structures that go beyond simulations: players are scored and ranked based on how well their virtual designs can be rendered as real, physical molecules.

But the game doesn't end with the highest computer score. Each week's top designs are synthesized in a biochemistry laboratory. This lets researchers see if the resulting molecules fold themselves into the 3D shapes predicted by computer models.

In EteRNA you score when the molecule you've designed can assemble itself," said CMU's Adrien Treuille. Treuille is an assistant professor of computer science at CMU. He leads the EteRNA project with Rhiju Das, assistant professor of biochemistry at Stanford.

Treuille noted, "Nature provides the final score — and nature is one tough umpire."

Because EteRNA is crowd-sourcing the scientific method — in other words, enlisting non-experts to uncover mysterious RNA design principles — it is essential that scoring be rigorous.

"Nature confounds even our best computer models," said Jeehyung Lee, a computer science Ph.D. student at CMU who led the game's development.

"We knew that if we were to truly tap the wisdom of crowds, our game would have to expose players to every aspect of the scientific process. Design, yes, but also experimentation, analysis of results and incorporation of those results into future designs."

"These experiments are the first-line strategy for validating a design and a crucial part of the scientific method," said Das, whose lab at Stanford synthesizes the molecules.

The EteRNA project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Playing With RNA

In the online game EteRNA, players are helping to create the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs.

Biologists believe RNA may be the key regulator of everything that happens in living cells. Understanding its design could prove useful for treating or controlling such diseases as HIV.

You don’t need to be a biology major to help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking, and eventually controlling, living cells and disease-causing viruses.


By interacting with thousands of players and learning from experimental feedback, players are pioneering a new way to do science. 

Each colored sphere represents one of four types of nucleic acids: adenine (yellow), uracil (blue), guanine (red) and cytosine (green).

Clicking the RNA mutates nucleic acids and refolds the RNA into its most stable shape. EteRNA challenges players to design RNAs which fold properly in practice.

Visit EteRNA to play the full version

Serious Games Creating Cultural Experiences To Reinforce Language-Learning

Serious Games to immerse players in environments unique to each language's specific culture

Following my prior post Serious Games For Online Language-Learning, which covered the agreement between Middlebury Interactive Languages with Muzzy Lane Software to produce an online language-learning role-playing game, here are some recent news about the development.

Muzzy Lane is partnering with MIL to create an innovative 3D language learning role-play game as part of MIL's online world language courses. The MIL courses will adapt the highly successful full-immersion formula modeled on the Middlebury College Language Schools for online delivery.

Initially, Muzzy Lane will produce versions of the game to support French and Spanish languages, and each version will include a rich 3D environment specific to that culture.

Students will interact with computer characters and each other in the plaza of a small French (or Spanish) city, and will be able to exercise their language skills in a variety of real-life situations and interesting game challenges.

A full immersion language game

Students will collaborate with others to obtain and share clues to complete quests and advance in the game, all while reinforcing their developing foreign language knowledge. The game will mirror MIL's unique formula of using engaging and authentic cultural experiences to reinforce language learning in real-world context, rather than by simple memorization drills.

About Middlebury Interactive Languages

With the world growing more connected every day, the need to communicate effectively in a foreign language is clear. Despite that, only 18% of Americans speak a second language, compared to more than 50% in the European Union.

Middlebury Interactive Languages, LLC, is an online language learning company that combines the rich history of Middlebury College’s language programs with K¹²’s patented and ground-breaking methodologies for creating effective online courses.

For nearly 100 years, Middlebury College’s language programs have been immersing students in language, helping them make huge leaps in ability, confidence and cultural understanding. K¹² is the leader in online learning for grades K-12, with over 2 million courses delivered to date, a patented method for online learning, and a 95% satisfaction rating from parents. Middlebury’s pioneering approach in language learning combined with K¹²’s unique knowledge of creating dynamic, effective online courses will create market-changing, 21st Century online language learning options for students in grades K-12.

About Muzzy Lane Software

Muzzy Lane Software is an innovative developer of 3D single and multiplayer games. Based in Newburyport, Mass, the company creates its own branded games and works with partners to produce private-label games based on the company’s Sandstone platform. Sandstone delivers true 3D games in the browser, as a web service, with tight integration between the games and the web. Muzzy Lane provides simple web tools that support the customization of Sandstone games.

For more information, visit

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gamification As Consumer Oriented Serious Games

Serious Games mapping real-world onto a game environment

Via: Richard Carey Digital Media - Gamification is Coming. Are You Ready?

Richard Carey has just published a superb post Gamification is Coming. Are You Ready? (Please find also GDC 2011 Serious Games Summit: Gamification Day)

His opening statement - The debate about the use of gamification hardly started before being overtaken by tools, workshops and service providers all too willing to use game techniques to start up their latest digital masterpiece, while many in the gaming world are complaining “Not so fast!” - by itself could be a source of relentless discussion.

In this sense he also declares The Great Gamification Debate slated for GDC’s one-day Serious Games Summit segment this March may be worth the price of admission alone.

In his post, Carey tries to provide some perspective on what some say is gratuitous but others call an effective User Experience design.

The gamification wiki and encyclopedia to guide the uninitiated, a gamification platform that purports to make it easy, and the gamification blog are examples of Carey’s useful references coupled with the gamification controversy set to unfold at the upcoming Game Developers Conference 2011.

His closing statement is pretty close to my heart and perfectly aligned with my often declared credo: “If you want to change the world, play it first!”

“Having been active in the Serious Games movement for more than five years now, the “gamification is good” vs. “gamification is evil” controversy feels manufactured. Serious Games are, by definition, using game mechanics to lure/motivate/reward users for desired behaviors, so I assert that gamification is a useful tool which can be used to motivate some users, in some circumstances, by rewarding them for performance, achievement or other metrics appropriate to the intention of the application/service/product at hand.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

XAITMENT Turns Students Concepts Into Intelligent

A step forward for life like AI in Serious Games

Via: xaitment inc.

Following my prior posts XAITMENT Brings Emotional Intelligence To Serious Games, XAITMENT Incorporates Lifelike AI Into GIANTS Upcoming Serious Game, XAITMENT BrainPack: A Step Forward For Lifelike AI In Serious Games and XAITMENT Grows Into North American Market, here are some inspiring news from xaitment's monthly update.

xaitment Supports GAMES ACADEMY in Germany With Free AI Tools

xaitment is supporting students at GAMES ACADEMY with the free use of its artificial intelligence tools. While designing games and game features at the academy, students can use xaitment's tools to bring realistic and life-like artificial intelligence to their projects and games.

The GAMES ACADEMY, with locations in Berlin and Frankfurt, is a specialized college for training in the areas of computer and video game production.

Founded in 2000, the GAMES ACADEMY™ was conceived to be the German-speaking countries' first college to specialize in computer and video game production.

Monday, January 17, 2011

GDC 11 Serious Games Summit Preview: Nike’s Gamification of Life

Serious Games influencing design methodology and practices

Via: Game Developers Conference 2011 - Serious Games Summit

SGS Session: Gamification of Life + Social, Serious Gaming + Behavior Change Psychology = Games for Good! [SGS Health]

Speakers: BJ Fogg (Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab), Michael Kim (Kairos, Inc.), Ricky Engelberg (Nike Digital Sport) and David Reeves (Limeade)

Session Description

Several mega-trends are converging and are poised to profoundly disrupt the industry: Mobile, Social Games, Serious Games, & the Gamification of Life. Combined they present an enormous opportunity for companies, brands, game developers, & casual gamers. Together, they can empower entirely new Games for Good that integrate contemporary game mechanics with research-based methodologies, e.g., the Fogg Behavior Model, Behavioral Economics, Positive Psychology, Purpose-Driven Marketing,

This session will highlight the most recent trends, tools, & innovations that attendees can apply immediately to take advantage of this emerging market. Panelists include executives & leading academics representing Nike+, Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, XBox,, & the Quantified Self movement.

Nike Digital Sport Background

Ricky Engelberg - Global Digital Innovation Director
Ricky Engelberg has worked at Nike for 8 years in the Digital Marketing and Brand Communications groups. In his most recent role as Global Digital Innovation Director, he defines the direction for all digital platforms, including websites, mobile, gaming, and social media for the Nike Brand, as well as partnerships with industry leaders such as Facebook and Google.

Ricky has spearheaded a number of initiatives, ranging from partnership with Google on to the Global Football Social Network, launched for the '06 World Cup. He led development of the 25th Anniversary of the Air Force 1, where Nike created an archive of over 1,200 AF1's, and let consumers vote for the re-release of classic models. He managed the first partnership with EA Sports for in-game integration on titles such as NBA Live and NCAA Football; this helped create the industry's in-game ad placement model.

Since its inception, he's directed the digital experience for, one of the most awarded sites in the digital industry.

In addition, he's been involved in key innovation projects with NIKEiD, including new iterations of the builder for, the interactive Out of Home execution in Times Square, and, most recently, the launch of NIKEiD on the iPad. is the online destination for those who want to be the first to interact with Nike's most performance-driven products. It is a completely interactive experience featuring Nike's most cutting edge products and innovative digital content.

So what does this online experience deliver? aspires to be a totally immersive experience that lets customers learn about Nike's latest performance products -- from footwear to equipment and eventually apparel -- through cutting-edge graphics and original episodic content.

“It allows consumers to interact with Nike products on a whole new level," says Ricky Engelberg, Nike Digital Innovation Director. "Picture a virtual football game in which an Air Max Q cross trainer morphs into a robotic version of football great Marshall Faulk. Floating objects you manipulate only by blowing or speaking into your computer microphone. That's just a sampling -- and just the beginning -- of what you'll see on this site."

R/GA, a leading interactive agency based in New York, used the latest digital design tools of Flash MX and Shockwave to build They created a number of engaging experiences specifically for this site, including entertaining content that reveals dynamic functionality. In conjunction with Tronic, they also created 3-D product presentations that let users "peel away" layers of the products to reveal the underlying structure and technology.


Some of the best digital engineers in the world are involved in this project, charged with the task of developing interactives that explore Nike products in a new and unique way.

Here is one example of what customers experience:


Personalize your shoes with Nike's state-of-the art personalization tool: NIKEiD

It allows customers to choose their own base colors and accents, and then add a personal I.D. of up to eight letters and/or numbers, whether it's a name, a nickname or a personal motto.

For NIKEiD, R/GA developed a new interface that uses the same visual language that flows through the rest of the site, capturing the spirit of individuality and personalization that NIKEiD is all about.

In addition, Virtual Football Game featuring NFL Players allows users to engage in a simulating football game; a virtual speed simulator that takes the user on a rapid journey through various environments. Focusing on "speed", each scenario immerses the user in a three-dimensional space combining super-real journeys with elements of gameplay giving users a sense of distance and velocity; floating shoe manipulated by blowing microphone; and many other features.
About NIKE

Nike, Inc., based in Beaverton, Oregon, is the world's leading designer and marketer of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities.

Wholly owned Nike subsidiaries include Bauer Nike Hockey Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of hockey equipment; Cole Haan(R), which markets a line of high-quality men's and women's footwear, accessories and outerwear, and Hurley International LLC, which markets action sports and teen lifestyle apparel.
SOURCE Nike, Inc.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

GDC 11 Serious Games Summit Preview: Solving Real-World Problems w/Games

Serious Games mapping real-world and scientific problems onto a game environment

Via: Game Developers Conference 2011 - Serious Games Summit

SGS Session: Deeper Problems, Deeper Gamification: Solving Hard Real-world Problems with Games [SGS Gamification]

Speakers: Seth Cooper (University of Washington) and Zoran Popović (University of Washington)

Session Description: From the creators of the groundbreaking protein-folding game FOLDIT this session focuses on the creative process behind three games being developed at the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, covering the topics of biochemistry, early math education, and reconstructing the world in 3D.

Center for Game Science: Putting Science Into Games And Games Into Science

The world is full of important very hard problems that currently cannot be solved with computers or people alone.

Zoran Popović, the director of the new Center for Game Science, believes that a symbiosis of people and computers that leverages the computational and creative strengths of each can make significant advances in science and in education, and perhaps can even lead to a more peaceful world.

The new center aims to discover a general framework for solving hard problems using this symbiotic structure. The center focuses on games as an ideal mechanism capable of engaging people long enough to turn them into experts, and building the most effective human-enabling computer programs.

The center will study automatic methods to guide this co-evolution by creating self-adapting games that iteratively refine themselves based on large-scale data analysis of Serious Games play.

Initially the center has targeted scientific discovery in biochemistry and bioengineering and creating student-specific learning games that cover key bottlenecks in early STEM education. The intention is to develop general set of principles applicable to all hard problems facing humanity.

Foldit: A Problem-Solving Science Discovery Game

By playing Foldit (please find also Foldit Update: Playing Our Way To Better Drugs), thousands of novice players worldwide produced a collection of protein structures. In this game, players compete to discover the most compact protein-folding structure by collaborative direct manipulation of proteins. The calculated molecular energy of the structure is the game score.

Foldit is a game designed to tackle the problem of protein folding. Proteins are small "machines" within our bodies which handle practically all functions of living organisms. By knowing more about the 3D structure of proteins (or how they "fold"), we can better understand their function, and we can also get a better idea of how to combat diseases, create vaccines, and even find novel biofuels.

Seth Cooper (CSE grad student, and now Creative Director of the Center for Game Science) and Adrien Treuille (CSE Ph.D. alum, currently faculty at CMU), together with their advisor Zoran Popović, developed a game that augments the computational search for protein folds with large-scale human spatial reasoning ability. The state-of-the-art biochemistry simulations embedded within the game are created by a team lead by UW professor David Baker, a world-renowned expert in proteomics.

Since its release, Foldit has gained over 200,000 players from all walks of life. In fact, the best Foldit players have little to no prior exposure to biochemistry. These players have helped to push Foldit to the forefront of protein folding capability, showing that for some particularly hard proteins, Foldit produced predictions outperform the best known computational methods.

Discovering Optimal Pathways For Learning Early Mathematics

The Center's first prototype math game, Refraction, recently won the Grand Prize in the Disney Learning Challenge. Refraction targets conceptual understanding of fractions, one of the key bottlenecks in early math education.

In an effort to relieve the crisis in STEM education, CSE grad students Erik Andersen and Yun-En Liu and Professor Zoran Popović are leading a team of undergraduate students and artists to create Serious Games that can discover optimal pathways for learning. They have focused so far on early math, including topics such as fractions and algebra, which are some of the main bottlenecks preventing students from pursuing a career in science.

However, children naturally gravitate toward video games, which can attract tens or hundreds of thousands of players. The goal of this project is to leverage this popularity to acquire huge amounts of learning data and discover the best ways to teach early mathematics.

If players receive different versions of a game that have particular concepts changed or introduced differently, and the game records how players perform, researchers can use this data to understand how students learn. An additional goal is to make the game adapt to every player, so that it will never be too easy or too difficult and each student will always be working on the next concept he or she needs to learn.

Using data from Refraction, an early prototype game, Andersen and Liu developed a new visual data mining method to analyze the behavior of large numbers of players.

Ongoing in-school educational trials are evaluating the effectiveness of the games for improving pen-and-paper test scores. These games have already become a hit in the community. Refraction won the Grand Prize in the Disney Learning Challenge at SIGGRAPH 2010. Over 100,000 people have played Refraction since its release on Flash game website and dozens of elementary school students are already playing the game at school. In the coming year, the game will reach up to 50,000 students through K12 Virtual Academies, helping to gather the data necessary to answer big educational questions.
PhotoCity: Reconstructing the world in 3D

Imagine a real world video game stretching across the whole of UW campus. There are virtual flags to capture and real territory to defend. All you need to play is a digital camera, and you capture flags and buildings by taking photos of them.

Developed by CSE grad student Kathleen Tuite, from the Center for Game Science, PhotoCity is a real world Serious Game for collecting thousands of photos. The purpose of the game is to collect enough photos to reconstruct not just the UW campus in 3D, but eventually the whole world. To play, PhotoCity players at UW go outside and take dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of photos of the buildings on campus from all different angles and then upload their photos to the website.

The game automatically adds their photos to a giant, ever-expanding 3D model of campus, and awards points and virtual conquests to players who grow the model the most. As players take photos of different parts of campus, we get a more complete reconstruction that will eventually extend to cover all of UW. There are currently over 50,000 photos of UW.

PhotoCity wraps a real world game around amazing 3D reconstruction technology and puts the ability to model a city or school campus in the hands of the players. It lets them compete for points, flags, and glory, but also collaborate on a 3D reconstruction without requiring special skills or equipment (beyond a digital camera and an Internet connection).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Serious Games For First-Time Drivers

Serious Games for first time drivers to learn the rules of the road in the State of Vermont

Via: Designing Digitally - DriveVermont Complete!

Designing Digitally, Inc. was contracted by the State of Vermont to develop an innovative Serious Game for the Vermont DMV named DriveVermont.

This Serious Game has been designed to help residents of Vermont learn to drive safely. The user friendly system was developed using a multitude of applications and mediums to form a visually appealing and interactive solution that helps potential drivers learn the rules of the road in Vermont.

The specifications for the project included accessibility features, as well as the ability for users with low bandwidth or lower end computer systems to access the training module.

With this in mind Designing Digitally, Inc. built a Flash based learning tool with text that can be increased in size, as well as audio which narrates all text within the modules. Upon anonymous registration and log-in which allows users to start back where they left off at anytime, users are taken through each lesson where they learn valuable information about the laws of driving. In order to keep the modules from being simply page turning, users are asked scenario based questions throughout the lessons including multiple choice questions, drag and drop, matching, and even controlling a virtual vehicle through a scenario. At the end of all lessons, users take a practice exam which will help prepare them for the actual exam that they will take to receive their driver’s permit. Additionally, users will receive feedback on questions they missed which will direct them to the appropriate section to review.

Not only is the system engaging for students, but is also user friendly for the administrator. The system was developed with a web-based back-end that consists of a content management system. The administrator is able to log into the control panel and move slides around by dragging and dropping those slides in order. The administrator can also edit a slide and swap out text, audio clips, and video clips at any given time. This empowerment allows the State of Vermont to be able to edit the system on their own as the policies and procedures evolve over time.

The start of the project consisted of the development of the storyboard which was based off of Vermont’s 90 page driver’s training manual. Designing Digitally, Inc. decided it was best to create this project using 3D modeling and interactive mediums in order to appeal to the teenage audience that is immersed in the digital realm on a daily basis. Once the manual was converted into an effective storyboard that met each learning objective, the virtual world of Second Life was used to create 3D spaces representing Vermont.

By using Second Life, Designing Digitally, Inc. was able to setup a virtual movie set where virtual actors played out the scenarios within the storyboard and videographers recorded each clip. Sets consisted of rural streets, city streets, and highways, as well as all four seasons and all weather conditions to show each and every aspect of driving in the State of Vermont.

In total, over 900 video clips were recorded, and those clips were used to create the final Flash animations that are seen in the web-based learning tool.

About Designing Digitally

Designing Digitally, Inc. is a full-service interactive design firm,  e-learning, Serious Games & Simulation developer. Located in Franklin, Ohio, Designing Digitally, Inc. has created a number of  solutions for companies around the country and the globe.

Designing Digitally, Inc.’s overall goal is to add value to the clients that they serve by helping to create a strong and professional brand image.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GDC 2011 Serious Games Summit: Gamification Day

Serious Games and Gamification
GDC 2011 Details 'SGS Gamification Day' Debate, Lectures

Serious Games Source reports that GDC 2011 organizers are targeting 'gamification' for a one-day Serious Games Summit segment this March, including a 'passionate debate' on the utility of the subject with Jesse Schell, Jane McGonigal and more.

The second day of the Serious Games Summit, taking place on March 1st during Game Developers Conference 2011 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, will specifically address the emerging trend with both skepticism and insight.

As the advisors explain in the description, the day "will be devoted to the rising trend of 'gamification' – a debatable term and sometimes questionable process of building game-like incentives into non-game applications, to address issues like productivity, health, marketing, and so forth."

Here is the full SGS article:
The centerpiece of the day will be The Great Gamification Debate!, in which some of the leading thinkers in the space, including Schell Games' Jesse Schell, the Institute For The Future's Jane McGonigal, Playmatics' Margaret Wallace, Digitalmill's Ben Sawyer and The Inspiracy's Noah Falstein, debate the contentious subject.
In addition, a number of deeply researched lectures will present real-life examples of gamification, including Area/Code's Kati London on Hyperlocal Game Design: Connecting Social Currency to Real World Currency, discussing Macon Money, "a real world social game designed for Macon, GA that connects players' social currency with a currency they spend at local businesses."

As London explains: "Developing a game for a socio-economically segregated community, required designing for how the game fits into people everyday lives in terms of location, their social and individual identities, consumer, and entertainment habits. Learn about issues surrounding hyperlocal game design as Area/Code addressed them in this 3-zip code, community-specific game, in which constraints became a key to innovation."
Other notable SGS Gamification Day sessions include the University Of Washington's Seth Cooper and Zoran Popovic, the creators of groundbreaking protein-folding game Foldit, on three games being developed at their Center for Game Science around biochemistry, early math education, and reconstructing the world in 3D.

In addition, Bunchball's Molly Kittle will present a sharp, to the point lecture on Gamification 201 - 30 Tactics in 30 Minutes.

Overall, the Serious Games Summit also includes a first day, February 28th, devoted to health & healthcare, covering research and the many commercialized games in the health & wellness space, including intriguing lectures like Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection and much more.

The GDC 2011 Serious Games Summit joins six other notable standalone Summits, including Social & Online Games, AI, Indie, GDC Education, Localization and the GDC Smartphone Summit, as well as multiple high-profile tutorials, on the Monday and Tuesday of Game Developers Conference 2011.

2nd Call4Papers: 5th European Conference on Games Based Learning

Serious Games challenging us to play a better education

This is a second call for papers for the 5th European Conference on Games Based Learning being held at The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece on the 20-21 October 2011.

Over the last ten years, the way in which education and training is delivered has changed considerably with the advent of new technologies. One such new technology that holds considerable promise for helping to engage learners is Games-Based Learning (GBL) or Educational Serious Games.

The Conference offers an opportunity for scholars and practitioners interested in the issues related to GBL to share their thinking and research findings. Papers can cover various issues and aspects of GBL in education and training: technology and implementation issues associated with the development of GBL; use of mobile and MMOGs for learning; pedagogical issues associated with GBL; social and ethical issues in GBL; GBL best cases and practices, and other related aspects. We are particularly interested in empirical research that addresses whether GBL enhances learning. This Conference provides a forum for discussion, collaboration and intellectual exchange for all those interested in any of these fields of research or practice.

The conference committee welcomes both academic and practitioner papers on a wide range of topics using a range of scholarly approaches including theoretical and empirical papers employing qualitative, quantitative and critical methods. Action research, case studies and work in progress/posters are welcomed approaches. PhD Research, proposals for roundtable discussions, non-academic contributions and product demonstrations based on the main themes are also invited.

Conference proceedings are submitted for accreditation on publication. Please note that depending on the accreditation body this process can take up to several months.

Papers accepted for the conference will be published in the conference proceedings, subject to author registration. Papers presented at the conference will also be considered for publication in a special issue of the Electronic Journal of e-Learning.

Papers presented at the conference will be published in the conference proceedings, subject to author registration and payment.

For the first time there will be a prize for the best PhD paper and the best Poster presented at the conference.

Please feel free to circulate this message to any colleagues or contacts you think may be interested.