Archive for the 'Friday Fun' Category

Friday Fun #20 Net Safety

For games that are sold on the UK High Street, the PEGI classification scheme allows purchasers to check that the game is appropriate for a particular age range, and also be forewarned about any ‘questionable’ content contained within the game, such as violence, sex or drugs references, and so on (e.g. Classifying Games).

At the time of writing, there is no mandated requirement for online games to display PEGI ratings, even if the games are made specifically for the UK market, although PEGI does have an online scheme – PEGI Online:

The licence to display the PEGI Online Logo is granted by the PEGI Online Administrator to any online gameplay service provider that meets the requirements set out in the PEGI Online Safety Code (POSC). These requirements include the obligation to keep the website free from illegal and offensive content created by users and any undesirable links, as well as measures for the protection of young people and their privacy when engaging in online gameplay.

So how do you decide whether an online game is likely to be appropriate for a younger age range? One way is to ‘trust’ a branded publisher. For example, games appearing on the BBC CBeebies games site are likely to be fine for the youngest of players. And the games on CBBC hit the spot for slightly older children. If you’re not too bothered about product placement and marketing, other trusted brands are likely to include corporates such as Disney, although if you’re a parent, you may prefer games hosted on museum websites, such as Tate Kids or the Science Museum.

But what about a game like following, which is produced by Channel 4 and is intended to act as a ‘public service information’ game about privacy in online social networks?

What sort of cues are there about the intended age range of the players of this game? Are there any barriers or warnings in place to make it difficult to gain access to this game on grounds of age? Should there be? Or is it enough to trust that the design and branding of the site is only likely to appeal to the ‘appropriate’ demographic?

Look through the Smokescreen game website and missions. To what extent is the game: a simulation? a serious game?

How does the visual design of the game compare with the designs for games on the ‘kids’ games sites listed above?

PS if you get a chance to play some of the kids games, well, it is Friday… :-) I have to admit I do like quite a few of the gams on the Science Museum website ;-)

Friday Fun #19 Let’s Make a Movie

A recent post reporting on the 2008 Machinama filmfest on the Game Set Watch blog (The State Of Machinima, Part 2: The Machinima Filmfest Report) mentions, in passing, how in certain respects machinama – films made using game engines – can “be best described as digital puppetry”.

So for the budding digital puppeteers out there, why not wind down this Friday afternoon by having a go at putting together your own digital puppetry performance using xtranormal?

This online application allows you to select a “film set” and then place one or two characters within it. The characters actions can be defined from a palette of predefined actions:

and facial expressions:

Dialogue can also be scripted – simply type in what you want the characters to say, and it will be rendered to speech when the scene is “shot”.

You also have control over the camera position:

To get you started, here’s a quick tutorial:

If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can remix pre-existing films… Here’s one I made earlier, a video to the opening lyrics of a New Model Army song: White Coats.

The following clip shows a brief demo of the application, along with a sales pitch and a quick review of the business model.

Based on the demo pitch and some if the ideas raised in Ad Supported Gaming, how do you think xtranormal might be used as part of an online, interactive or user-engaged advertising campaign?

PS For a large collection of machinima created using the Halo game engine, see Halomovies.org.

Friday Fun #18 Let’s Go F1 Racing

It’s coming up to the end of the Formula One Grand Prix season, so what better way to spend the weekend than doing a bit of F1 driving ourselves?

Enter the Puma Racing advergame, a game designed to promote the Puma all-in-one racing suit, apparently…

The controls are “typical” racing game commands:

So get suited up, and let’s go :-)

If that’s not to your liking, how about this F1 racing game from Intel?

First you have to check your reaction times…

Then try a pit stop:

Then you can drive….

Err, only I couldn’t – because I couldn’t make the pit stop… and even after repeated tries, it didn’t seem to get any easier and I gave up… So does this mean the game failed insofar as I would have spent longer playing it if I’d actually made it as far as the game proper?! ;-)

For more advergames, check out the Vanksen CultureBuzz Advergame blog or this AdvergameBlog.

PS I’ll be writing a post or two about advergames – and ad-supported gaming over the next week or so – so I thought I should get a little ad in for those too… ;-)

Friday Fun #17 – Getting Your Eye In

One of the more popular gaming fads over the last couple of years have been the various “brain training” games, that provide a handheld game console vehicle for a variety of mental arithmetic, logical and verbal reasoning tests, and timed perception/response activities (such as the Stroop task (try it here), which typically tests how quickly you can disambiguate colours from colour words (here’s an explanation of the effect on open2)).

So I was quite intrigued to see a perceptual reasoning ‘game’ today (on a woodworking website of all places!) which presents you with “a series of geometries that need to be adjusted a little bit to make them right. A square highlights the point that needs to be moved or adjusted. Use the mouse to drag the blue square or arrowhead where you feel it is ‘right’. Once you let go of the mouse, the computer evaluates your move, so don’t let up on the mouse button until you are sure.”

The context of the game is described as follows: “If you are somebody who is into woodworking or construction, its good to be one of the people who notice when things are crooked. But I suspect the ability to notice that things might be just a little off square, off centre, or not quite straight, varies greatly. I thought it would be fun for people to try to test their abilities to see if things are straight or crooked in a little game.”

So for example, in the following example, you have to move the corner to create a parallelogram:

You can find the game here: The Eyeballing Game (instructions).

If you give it a go, post how well you did back here ;-)

If that’s too, err, quirky(?) for you, how about a round of golf – in a browser? World Golf Tour.

See you in the clubhouse… ;-)

Friday Fun #16 Sharkrunners

In Play Along With the Real World…, I describe the hypothetical notion of playing games in the context of real world data being fed from live sporting events.

But live data games have actually been around for some time…

One such example is Sharkrunners, from the Discovery Channel.

Sharkrunners first appeared at the start of last summer (Live Data Gaming – Sharkrunners), as a television series tie-in, and then returned for a second season based around the Great Barrier Reef.

The aim of the game is to equip a research boat and go in search of real sharks, either as a research scientist, as a documentary maker, or with an ecological mission in mind. Finding a shark brings rewards for the captain of the boat in terms of finance which can be used to hire extra crew, purchase additional scientific instruments, and improve the boat. The shark location data is based on telemetry from real sharks, although ‘live’ weather conditions don’t feature as part of the game (yet?!).

The game is played in real time, so the player must set waypoints for the ship to travel between that will hopefully lead to a shark encounter. When a shark is detected within range of the boat, an email or SMS message is sent to the player so they can log in to the game and take an appropriate action.

I played Sharkrunners over a two week period last summer, and have just signed up for another tour of duty now ;-)

Friday Fun #15 Spore

A month away from the Digital Worlds blog, but I’m going to try to get back in the flow for a week or two, or at least stack up a few posts that can trickle out over the next few weeks… So to ease my way in, here’s a (late) Friday Fun post about the Spore Creature Creator.

If you haven’t heard about Spore, it’s an ‘ecosystem’ game (still in development) whose release has been hyped – and eagerly anticipated – for well over a year. Created by the same team that produced SimCity, a simulation game for growing and managing your own city (and which you can play in its original form online), Spore is the next step in simulation games, providing the opportunity to reach beyond the simulation of a city or civilisation, and “play with Creation”.

Did you spot the hype in the above paragraph?! ;-) The ethos of the game – which I take to be creating ecosystems that evolve over time – is reminiscent of an early ‘Artificial Life’ game from the UK, called Creatures. In the Creatures universe, players created creatures (‘Norn’) that developed and learned throughout their lifetime, and that could ‘breed’ with other Norns. Creatures is still available from Gameware Development (who also created the popular – and Creatures inspired – CBBC Bamzooki game), along with a free net-enabled version of the ‘game': Docking Station Central).

The Spore Creature Creator looks like a lot of fun (I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet:-( if the user generated creations uploaded to the Sporepedia Gallery are anything to go by!

Notwithstanding the complexity of the game, the Creature Creator tool also represents a huge achievement in design terms, as this interview with Will Wright, the game’s creator, suggests: Will Wright talks Spore and defensive cows (Joystiq interview)

Friday Fun #14 Play the News, or For Another Purpose

Okay – first up an apology for there not being any posts over the last week. It’s half term, and there have been other more pressing things to do, unfortunately…

Anyway, I canlt not do Friday fun, so here are a couple of serious games, (I guess?) that you might like to try out.

First up, is the Play the News game, in which you are presented with information relating to a story or situation that is in the news, and you choose one of several actions that people in the story might take. As well as comparing your predictions to other peoples, you also get scored according to how well your predictions turn out (that is, whether the course of action you selected is the one that actually happens).

To what extent is this approach likely to engage you in a news story, and potentially learn a little more about it, compared to something like the New York Times news quiz (which is also available as a social network (Facebook) application)?

The second game – or rather, set of games – that I’d like to mention appear on the beautifully named gwap.com site. That is, Games with a Purpose.

Several years ago, a game appeared on the web called the ESP game, that required two players who didn’t know each other, and who just happened to be online at the same time, to try and find matching words that described a particular picture. The intention was to help index images so that they could be found by a search engines, and the approach represents a form of “human assisted computing”.

Anyway, Luis von Ahn, the creator of the ESP game, has just released several more games on the GWAP website:

  • Tag a Tune: both players hear a tune and have to describe it to each other; they then have to decide whether they are listening to the same tune. The purpose? Help a search engine learn more ways of finding songs (for example, whether they are happy or sad).
  • Verbosity: players take it in turns to describe a secret word to each other – one person describes the word, the other has to guess it.
  • Squigl: both players seem the same image, and are presented with a word; they each trace round the object described by the word as it appears in the picture.
  • Matchin: two players are shown the same image; each player picks the image they like the most.

Now who was it working for who again?


The Machine is Us/ing Us, M. Wesch

Ah yes, we all work for the machine… ;-)

Friday Fun #13 Putty Puzzle

Putty Puzzle is an another of those addictive puzzle games that you have to try just one more time. The idea of the game is move blocks of putty around, a square at a time, in order to reach a goal square. The first time I tried it, I lost an hour…!

It’s available as a download, or online via a Java applet (I played with the applet)…

To what extent does the game itself teach you how to play the game during the lower levels?

Friday Fun #12 Video Storytelling

Earlier this week, I posted about machinima, the creation of short movies using 3D game engines as a stage. Creating an effective piece of machinima requires skills in video storytelling, as well as directing (insofar as you can) and filming the action in the game environment.

So in this week’s Friday Fun, why not have a go at some video storytelling?

One of the easiest ways to get started is to use something like the Dr Who Trailermaker, which allows you to cut together various scenes from Doctor Who, as well as adding music and sound effects.

You can also share your creations, so if you do make a trailer, why not post a link back here? ;-)

If you’re not into Dr Who, then why not have a go at a Star Wars movie mashup instead?

If filmmaking is not your thing, and you’d rather just play a game, then how about trying out one of the ‘adventure game’-like interactive stories on the Penguin “We Tell Stories” interactive fiction site?

- Fairy Tales
The (Former) General In His Labyrinth

Have a good weekend :-)

Friday Fun #11 Moshi Monsters

Something for the family this week – Moshi Monsters:

Moshi Monsters is a free online game for kids, in which they adopt a monster and look after it. Kids whose parents give us their approval can become members on our site, and can adopt a Moshi Monster. Kids care for their monster by solving puzzle games, which earn their monster virtual rewards called Rox. Kids can spend Rox on virtual items like food, furniture and other treats and toys for their monster. Over time their monster will increase in level, be able to visit new locations in Monstro City, and earn all kinds of in-game rewards for playing. Monster owners will also be able to make friends with other owners and leave messages on their pages.

(For more details, there’s an “in-depth tour” of the game on the Game, Set, Watch blog: Exploring Online Worlds: Mind Candy’s ‘Moshi Monsters’.)

It’s claimed that the ‘solve-to-earn Rox’ puzzles make the game “educational” – do you agree?

To provide a faintly serious side to this post(?!), how does Moshi Monsters address issues of child safety and parental control? What is the Moshi Monsters line on advertising on the site, compared to its ‘thematic rival’, Neopets? To what extent do you think Moshi Monsters is simply providing a vehicle for selling Moshi Monsters branded goods?

How does the parental advice offered by Moshi Monsters compare with information for parents provided on other child-friendly social networking sites such as Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin or Barbie Girls?

If you’re after 5 minutes of *really* educational fun (?!), why not have a go at Typeracer

The game it to type a quote out from a book, movie or song lyric faster than the people you are competing against…


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