Still Alive

I don’t know if anybody still reads this, but Portal, the game Carly covered in her presentation, is free to play until May 24th~

Green and Gold’s Big Adventure

As promised, here is the link to my Scratch game: Green and Gold’s Big Adventure

NOTE: I am having trouble jumping down from the gray platforms in the online player – it works fine in Scratch. If you choose to download the game to play in Scratch remember to CLICK THE GREEN FLAG before you begin (otherwise the sensors and characters will not synchronize).

**This is a two-player game.**
Although it is possible to beat the game with just one player manipulating both characters, the whole point is teamwork and cooperation so grab a friend before you sit down and play!

There is a half-second delay on all key presses so if a key press does not seem to work immediately, be patient and try again in a moment if necessary. Similarly, pressing the same key over and over (or pressing and holding a key) while “carrying” the other character may cause the character on top to fall off so be careful.

You may be wondering about the colored blobs on the corners of Green and Gold – this is a sensing mechanism so I can tell where the characters are in relation to their environment. I was hoping to be able to hide the blobs but the method I used means two characters cannot both have hidden colored sensors and still be able to register each other. If possible, I hope to rectify this problem in future versions.

Please let me know if you have any problems with the online Scratch player (like my inability to jump down from the gray platforms), or find any other bugs, by emailing me <>. Thanks!

Super Mario Crossover

This is a nifty little game I stumbled upon when reading Kotaku today. Entitled Super Mario Crossover, it’s Super Mario Bros. in its entirety(!) where instead of playing as Mario, you can play as the protagonist of other NES games–Link from The Legend of Zelda, Bill Rizer from Contra, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Mega Man from… uh, Mega Man, and Samus Aran from Metroid. All the characters control exactly as they do in their respective games, so it’s interesting to see how their game mechanics mesh with the mechanics of the classic Super Mario Bros. formula. This reminds me of another game we played for HNRS 353, albeit in a much more cohesive, complete form.

Obviously I didn’t need to post this for the class, but I thought it’d be interesting provided what we studied this semester. And maybe if I’m missing some earlier blogs (not sure if I am or not), this’ll make up for it…

The Valley Appears Again..

I stumbled upon this lecture on robotics and was reminded of the uncanny valley.  The robots mentioned are impressive and quite emotive, but many still fall into the valley for me.  The one ‘zeno’ robot featured around 4:30 is on the other side of the valley, with its cartoonish eyes and piecey spiked hair reminiscent of dragonball z.

Giants Give You Faith.

So I know we’re done with blogs, but I finally have something pertinent that I want to share. We were discussing Jane McGonigal’s lecture on how video games will save the world. She was discussing how we need it to begin translating to real life. After having this discussion in class I went to a concert in DC at Constitution Hall where Lights was playing. Lights is this chick from Canada who sings electro pop music and does her own thing. Anyways she was prefacing her song Lions! from her newer CD with the story behind it. Basically she wrote it about her experiences playing World of Warcraft. She is a big gamer and loves the game (she even has her sword in the game tattoo’d on her arm). She went on to dedicate the song to her Guild who came out to support her, but anyway the point of this post is that the task McGonigal has before her isn’t impossible. With games, their lessons, the skills gained, and the beliefs learned infiltrating society all around us with a “I can apply the gaming world to my life” attitude, McGonigal’s aspirations will happen in no time. Lights is a bunch of people’s role model. The tides are turning and McGonigal isn’t the only one working towards this goal (whether Lights realizes it or not). Lights has hundreds of people learning from her and that will take the messages learned in WoW and other video games and will apply them to their own lives.

Happiness in Games?

The idea of Alternate Reality Gaming is quite revolutionary because it allows for cross-media interactions. Using emails, websites, and other communication mediums to put a story together give the games a life-like feel to them. Or is it considered a life which is game-like? The ability for these games encompass real environment, real people and realistic situations allows the game to have significant effect on the games.  When I started reading McGonigal’s article, I was a bit skeptical about what she was saying. How can anyone even think about defining happiness with 4 concrete ideas? That is absurd and quite controversial. I was irate over about her idea, however I kept reading things made more sense. First of all there is no way any game can ever provide or even amplify “happiness”. That’s just what I believe. There is much more to this abstract word than we think. However, McGonigal is quite clear about the effect of games on gamers. The attributes and skill sets that she had mentioned in the article were hard to deny. ARGs are quite different in terms of gameplay and can allow gamers to develop skills and ideas to a different level.


Although I found multiple aspects of Jane McGonigal’s lecture to be discussion worthy, her reference to economist Edward Castronova jumped out at me-mainly because he was briefly mentioned in last Tuesday’s class, but also because I just find the concept of a virtual economist to be interesting.  McGonigal’s mentioning of Castronova also stood out to me, because the quote that she offered made a logical point.  She quoted Castronova’s point that “we’re witnessing what amounts to no less than a mass exodus to virtual worlds and online game environment.”  Basically, Castronova explains that  it makes sense for gamers to spend more time in games, because virtual reality provides an all-around better experience than the real world.  I personally don’t agree with that statement, but I think I can understand how some gamers could come to feel that way…life throws many difficult challenges at us, and I think games help provide a good mental escape.  Anyways, I was intrigued by Castronova, so I tried to find a lecture or something by him.  I found one on youtube, but the quality was bad and it honestly wasn’t too interesting. So instead, here is the link to his webpage..if you’re at all interested.

Saving the World, One Game at a Time

Had I read the syllabus at the beginning of term and seen that we would be discussing the idea of solving real world problems with video games, I would have laughed and said that’s impossible, real world problems need to be solved in the real world. After watching Jane McGonigal’s lecture and reading the interviews, I am beginning to understand how something like that could be done. In something as simple as the release of an album, thousands of people got involved with Nine Inch Nails to solve a puzzle and actively play a game in the real world. If games could be presented like this (naturally, we wouldn’t know the end) then people might get involved. I think the key to people wanting to change their virtual worlds is that they know that the game can be won, the game has an endpoint and a purpose. In real life, they may see things as impossible and themselves as small parts. If a game was incorporated, individuals could have more of a say and creative ideas could be presented to solve the major problems of the world. I don’t think that video games are the sole source of saving the world, but I definitely think that they can be used and have their part.

ARGs… I want in :)

So I was fascinated by the articles on ARG’s and the fact that 9 Inch Nails did a game for their fans. I think this is an amazing idea and something I’ve been in love with since first being introduced to the topic. I am a puzzle person [as many people are] and have always wished that novels such as The DaVinci Code and National Treasure were real. In Jane McGonigal’s interview she outlines four main things that make people happy. I would agree that these points do make people happy, but I think that there are other things such as thrill, ie. the release of adrenaline and the endorphins that come with adrenaline, that can increase human happiness. I know that the excitement I would get from playing a game like that would be something that would increase my happiness and give me purpose in a bigger goal (which is exactly as McGonigal points out). ARG’s are not only a wonderful recent addition to society in a much more global world, but also an amazing teaching tool. The puzzles are too complex to solve individually, so the cooperation aspect is a must and the people who are involved must learn how to collaborate to accomplish a common goal. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and am upset I haven’t been involved in one yet. Will I be involved in the next one. You betcha – will I contribute, probably not I’m not an expert at anything, but will I enjoy tracking the progress of such a huge collaborative effort. Definitely.

Casual games… not as simple as you might think

After reading casual revolution I tend to disagree with Jesper on several points.  First of all how he describes casual games.  He states that casual games are meant to be played for only minutes at a time when a person is bored.  The reason why disagree with this statement is because I don’t believe that gamers can be broken down into two simple categories.  Although I do believe that the categories Jesper creates are valid I don’t believe that they are the only ones that are out there.  There sites that are dedicated to putting out these casual games and I know some people who play these games are not hardcore gamers but will play these casual games for a lengthy amount of time.  I find this a weird occurrence because many casual games that are designed can be played for significant amounts of time, although not as much as “hardcore” games.

Another point that I disagree with Jesper on is on how casual games are all upbeat and happy.  I have seen several games on sites that set a very dark and foreboding atmosphere for their players.  I have also noticed that when casual games have this dark atmosphere it tends to increase playing time.  I can’t explain it but for some reason people would play longer if the plot of a game resembled “hardcore” games instead of the the light and carefree atmosphere that most “casual” games have.

Jane McGonigal is wonderful.

I was so incredibly impressed by Jane McGonigal’s presentation, that I decided I wanted to investigate her further. So as my link for this week I found her PhD dissertation entitled “This Might Be a Game: Ubiquitous Play and Performance at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.” (In case I didn’t embed that right  the URL is According to the website, the entire text is 573 pages, so it would be quite the feat to read it all, however browsing through the first 4 chapters definitely gave further insight to her research.

I’m going to go ahead a say that I completely agree with Ms. McGonigal. Even reading through the first article by Frank Rose, I was completely enthralled by the bolded letters and understanding the pattern that it created. This was before hearing anything about the four things that games teach us like urgent optimism and desire for epic wins. I feel like what McGonigal is attempting to accomplish is taking our most fundamental, tried and true teaching mechanism and apply it towards todays problems – which is awesome. My main question would be how to get non-gamers to see the possibilities of this type of learning avenue? Obviously, I’m a fully invested gamer and completely buy into the benefits that they can provide on an individual as well as a larger level. However, there are many differing opinions just within our classroom regarding the significance of games. So I guess the big question is how do you get everyone to buy in?; because quite frankly, if everyone does, I think ARGs could be a phenomenal teaching tool.

Not to mention that her last name sounds like a teacher from Harry Potter, so she obviously has the power to change the world.

Terminology Fail?

A problem that I saw in Tuesday’s discussion that I didn’t get a chance to mention has to do with our choice of the word “casual” to describe “casual games”. I think some people took issue with this because they saw people playing games that seem to fit this category that is separate from “hardcore” games in a decidedly “non-casual” way. Some followup questions to this then might be “are there hardcore games and casual games, or are there hardcore players and casual players?” and “if casual is a problematic term, what would be better?”

To the first question I think it is probably a combination. There are definitely hardcore games played by hardcore players and casual games played by casual players. There are probably hardcore games that are played in a somewhat casual way, if not necessarily by casual gamers in general. I know for example of World of Warcraft players that can play in fairly short bursts here and there and don’t really take it all that seriously; to them, it’s pretty much just a nice chat room where you can do stuff when nothing is going on in chat. (I will say, however, that the game really is not conducive to staying this way forever in my opinion; at advanced levels you’re pretty much trapped either starting a new character, playing in a more hardcore way, or else pretty much not playing. WoW is by no means a casual game across the board.) Similarly there are definitely casual games that are played in a hardcore fashion. Guitar Hero/Rock Band was discussed extensively in this way in class; I won’t bore anyone by rehashing that discussion.

To the second question I think the best first answer is to throw out absolute terms, as someone suggested in class on Tuesday, and go to a spectrum sort of approach. However, this alone is limited as well, since we only have labels for the absolute extreme ends of the spectrum, and since we don’t have an immediate consideration of deeper details of casual play (for example, playing MMOs primarily for the social scene). To extend this well I think we need a good label for this middle ground, which is neither casual nor hardcore, and I also think we need to turn the spectrum into a multidimensional spectrum, considering why people play the games the way they do and how this reflects on the games themselves, etc.

Casual games are fun supposed to be fun…lets keep them that way

After playing “You have to burn the rope” in class, Jake, Catey and I discussed how the game did not appear to be a casual game at all. It is short, simple, and really just makes fun of hard core games because of how short and simple the quest is. After our discussion, it made me rethink what casual games really do for the videogame industry. They are not “casual” because of their simplicity, but rather because they do not necessitate a background in hard core gaming in order for them to be enjoyable. In other words, casual gaming is simply the videogame industry’s attempt to show the people who aren’t hard core gamers that gaming can be fun. However, there is a fine line that developers tread when trying to make games that reach out to casual gamers, because if they do too much of this, they will alienate the hard core gamers who gave the industry their start. Games that worry me are games like “The Crossing,” which as we discussed in class, has very little depth after the first minute of playing time which is spent figuring out all the possibilities for what one can do in the game (and the rest of the playing time is spent trying to figure out while you’re still playing…). It is one thing if games like “The Crossing” are aimed at a specific audience (such as kids), but as developers continue to spend time creating games that appeal to the casual gamer, they must be sure to keep the hard core gamer happy as well. There is a lot of money to be found in developing games for things like the iPhone (as Mitchel mentioned in his post), or the Wii-ware games for the Nintendo Wii. However, the industry needs to keep high standards for these games, or else the casual game industry could end up repeating the initial failure that was created when too many bad video games started coming out for the Atari. Casual games are great, but developers must continue to push the industry in ways of innovation, so it must remember that quality is better than quantity, and that creating good casual games and good hard core games now will make the big money in the long run (even if creating a lot of simple games now may make a lot of money in the short run).

We need more gaming…is it so crazy?

In response to Jane McGonigal’s presentation, my first reaction is yes, it is crazy.  But then I changed my mind after listening for a few minutes.  I see where she’s going and I like it.  We’ve discussed what it is gamers are actually learning in class and in the readings (especially Koster), and I think she makes good points about weaving social networks and working towards a common goal and all that.  Her message is that we need to apply the same attitude to real world problems that we do to these not-so-real-world game problems.  And I agree completely.

That being said, I still see a problem.  This doesn’t apply to ARG type things though, I think those have a lot of potential.  No, for computer-based games, as long as they rely on some sort of static visual medium, I’m left wondering who’s going to put all these grandiose changes in the collective human conscience into action?  The people playing the games?  Um… no, they’re still at home playing the games.  So it’s left to the real farmers and real mechanics and real doctors to physically do things.

So, to wrap up, I’m just saying that I don’t think we can take this at face value.  We shouldn’t just “play more games”, or even “play different games”, because that’ll just leave more people at home clicking mice.  Like she says, if we could just learn to go for those epic wins and be urgently hopeful in real life, maybe games could find a new and effective way to actually make real world changes.  Because, let’s be honest, I don’t think Ayiti is going to spur anyone not already spurred.

Casual characteristics in Hardcore Game

On Tuesday, we discussed the differences between casual games and hardcore games. We used a chapter from Jesper Juul’s book Casual Revolution to help differentiate casual games from hardcore games and define them as two separate entities.
What we didn’t discuss though was how hardcore games could have some casual game elements. Here’s a link I’ve found on a hardcore game having some casual game qualities:

This gets me thinking, are there any hardcore games that could be borderline casual games or games that share qualities of both hardcore games and casual games?