Category Archives: Games

Two awesome things with the Pacific Science Center!

Pacific Science Center is hosting a month-long theme around play, featuring numerous events around play and learning including the current Sherlock Holmes exhibit! I’m involved with two things:

First, students from one of the courses I’m teaching this quarter at UW Bothell will be showcasing their games about mystery, exploration, and play at the Pacific Science Center TODAY!

Game Design Lab

Second, PacSci hosts a lecture series Science in the City, and I’m giving one about the benefits of gaming on Dec 20!

Societal Benefits of Gaming lecture

 

 

ANNOUNCING 1st issue of Esoteric Gaming!

I am extremely pleased to announce the first collection of stories for Esoteric Gaming, a new website/book project that features accounts of diverse and niche player practice.

This is not an academic journal and doesn’t necessarily include deep thoughts, conclusions, or research. Instead, it’s a bevy of detail–a space for us to share extreme, nuanced, amazing, arcane, and totally rad things that players and communities do to play the perfect game and to make life meaningful.

I started this project (initially a coffee table art book idea) to give games scholars a venue to be creative and to not stress about deadlines or worry about our CV. This is for us to celebrate why we love games and the people who play them.

Please take a moment to read about the first issue, learn more about the mission, and submit your own stories!

Thanks for any interest and HUGE thanks to the first round of authors: Matt Bouchard, Andy Keenan, Johansen Quijano, Bjorn Shrijen, Osvaldo Jimenez, and Shannon Mortimore-Smith!

Playing the Witcher 3 again

So, I got a new graphics card (970 GTX) to play through the Witcher 3 again with higher graphics qualities…

But upon installing it, I was reminded that I could import my save game from The Witcher 2:

Screenshot 2015-08-27 15.06.57

Having played through 3 once already, I know there’s a simulated save game import through a barber shaving interrogation scene, but I thought… ah hell… I should prob just replay 2 so I can remind myself what the story was about and have a more meaningful experience with 3. I remember thinking that there’s all this mention of Yennefer that really didn’t make sense to me when I played 2 way back when, but now having played 3, I could appreciate mention of her like people who’ve read the source books…

I don’t have much space on my HD, though, so I had to uninstall 3 to make room for 2. Then I got this:

witcher 2 decision

 

Jeez. Ok. What the hell… Might as well uninstall The Witcher 2, install The Witcher, and start completely over!

I do remember The Witcher relatively well, having done a review of it for E-Learning, but I never played through the Enhanced Edition.

But, you know, then I thought: there’s probably some good mods that’ve come out since The Witcher was first released… And lo and behold:

witcher.rise of the white wolfHurrah!

So, last week, I finished The Witcher with Rise of the White Wolf. The Enhanced Edition seemed like an improvement, but it was still pretty clunky. Combat takes some getting used to, characters clip and stutter like crazy in cutscenes, and there’s something seriously wrong with how Zoltan looks…

Anyway, this week and next and maybe longer, I’ll be playing The Witcher 2 (with mods). And hopefully in October I can finally do my second comprehensive playthrough of The Witcher 3. Maybe by then there’ll be some good mods for it, too.

*Knowing what I know now, it seems crazy that no one in The Witcher mentions Yennefer explicitly (though, interestingly, there are little tidbits here and there of the Wild Hunt and a tale of a witcher and a sorceress being in love, etc.). And, wow, Triss totally took advantage of Geralt’s memory loss… Making me rethink what choices I want to make in 3 next month…

 

WIP Coastal Run game using Twine #gameawhenever

Pepperdine University Coastal Run/Walk Game test

Not final at all but a test to see if I could recreate the awesome Three Fourths Home mechanic of having to continually hold a key down to progress in the story using CSS and javascript in Twine.

In Three Fourths Home, you hold the key to drive your car through a thunderstorm. In this game for Pepperdine, it’s to keep running in a charity 10k.

Currently, it seems to work only for desktop computers… Holding a key down interferes with a touch event from a touchpad, apparently… Also, I spent almost all of today trying to implement a similar touch-here-to-keep-playing thing for touchscreens, but whenever I seemed to get it to work on iOS, it stopped working on Android and vice versa. bleh.

Anyway, thought I’d document it as part of the #gameaweek #gameamonth #gameawhenever challenge. 🙂

twine2.coastalrunAlso, I should mention that I started this game during the Reed College Paideia Game Jam last weekend, organized by the awesome Joe Wasserman! Another Reedie, Kylie Moses, and I here in LA did a concurrent satellite jam where we were co-present via Google Hangouts.

Also, also, this is my first go at using Twine 2.0, the snazzy browser-based tool… though I had to revert it to SugarCube format so that stuff I knew how to do would still work…

#GameAWeek NASAGA edition: Curate! or Stuff Matters! or some other title here…

This past week I was at the North American Simulations and Games Association (NASAGA) conference for the first time.

The stories are true; it’s unlike any other conference. There’s a purity and sincerity to it that’s pretty refreshing. Other academic conferences can get pretty cynical and snarky. I like snarky, probably more than the next guy, but there’s no place for that at NASAGA. Everyone is just so enthusiastic and optimistic and really fucking cares about other people, it’s crazy awesome and really hard not to feed off that energy.

All the sessions I went to were semi-structured, hands-on play and debrief of mostly tabletop simulation games that address serious issues and are meant to be used in varying contexts (schools, NGOs, indigenous, healthcare, etc.).  Some of the people attending have been doing this work since the late 60s! They lived the new games movement. Wow…

When I first heard of the conference, in my naivete, I assumed “simulations” were all about the 3D virtual world stuff for the military, since that’s how I’ve come to associate the word in the last 10 years. But NASAGA’s “simulations” are about learning games that simulate complex systems for players to grok and critique. The best games are pretty damn great, remind me of great euro games…  and I’m sorry this conference has been under my radar for so long.

Anyway, the last day had a 3-hour gamejam for local museums and historical societies. Specifically, Eli Pousson from Baltimore Heritage and Abram Fox from the Laurel Historical Society  were there as our gamejam clients. I made this card game with the help of new friend and comrade-in-arms Bret Staudt Willet. I’m using this to fulfill my #gameaweek challenge. :p

Continue reading #GameAWeek NASAGA edition: Curate! or Stuff Matters! or some other title here…

#GameAWeek Challenge: DiGRA Edition! Six Degrees of Tweetsperation

During this year’s Digital Games Research Association meeting at Salt Lake City in early August, Dennis Ramirez and I got together to collaborate on a Twitter game for the conference!

It’s a play on Six Degrees of Separation/Kevin Bacon and my personal intent is to add noise to the conference hive mind twitter cabal. I think Dennis was more interested in making a good game. 🙂

Read the rules here:

Six Degrees of Tweetsperation

#GameAWeek Challenge: Sploder Trifecta – sHMUP bLUFF, Friends Ignore You, and Using Friends

Sploder is nominally a web-based game-making tool, but, actually, it’s more a collection of tools that make different yet somehow all sort of same-ish platform games. I think either different developers made different tools and then one person bundled them together or one developer kept starting and stopping projects and decided to release all of them instead of making one really good tool. They all sort of are meh with inconsistent creation metaphors, inconsistent levels of in-tool help, etc. It’s all sot of haphazard, and it’s hard to recommend Sploder over something like Construct 2 or GameMaker Studio. I basically wrote this in a review for Graphite (not yet published), too.

Continue reading #GameAWeek Challenge: Sploder Trifecta – sHMUP bLUFF, Friends Ignore You, and Using Friends

#GameAWeek Challenge: Button Quest

Back in June/July, before sHMUP bLUFF, I worked on Button Quest, a game using Flowlab with Sandra Danilovic. Part of the challenge was to learn the web-based game maker well enough to review for Graphite.

Button Quest

Continue reading #GameAWeek Challenge: Button Quest

#GameAWeek (Month) Challenge: sHMUP bLUFF

I’m reviewing Sploder for Graphite.

It’s a web-based game-making tool meant for kids and classrooms. Everything is driven through the web interface and there’s no programming involved. There’s also tons of pre-built sprites with animations and pre-defined behaviors (friendly NPCs, enemy AI, etc.).

The first thing I noticed about Sploder is that when you create a game, you have the option of creating a specific kind of game: a platformer, a puzzler, a top-down shooter, etc., and each of these choices gets you to a particular interface specifically for making that type of game.

And this made me want to try to push Sploder as much as possible, to create games within particular genres that break the genre. For example, what if we (Sandra and I) made a shooter game where the enemy aren’t trying to kill you and instead actually heal you or something?

In trying this out, I discovered that all you do in Sploder is drag and drop art onto a stage. Each object has behavior associated with it that cannot be tweaked. You can’t, for example, change how often and for how much damage a particular enemy ship shoots. You can’t change its speed or anything…

So, I played around with it a bit and came up with the game sHMUP bLUFF, where you are meant NOT to do anything other than watch. But Sploder still has built-in controls, so you could take control of your ship whenever you want. So the game is an exercise in trust… trusting that your wingman is there for you and will protect you. And maybe it’ll succeed and maybe it won’t. And if you take control of your ship, do you break that trust?

And I sort of saw this as a metaphor for living with a loved one who suffers from depression. The player ship is the person who suffers from depression and sometimes just can’t bring themselves to do anything… The wingman is a friend or family member who is trying to protect. (But perhaps this is the wrong metaphor… like often there’s just nothing anyone can do, really… there’s no “fixing” or solving the problems of depression… there’s only coping, so I don’t know how good a metaphor this game is, really, but there you have it… what it can sometimes feel like.)

sHMUP bLUFF

In other news, Ana and Dennis are still making games regularly!

Most recently, Ana made a game about moving called Mover, based sort of on her previous game Paper Pusher. (Grats on the new *house Ana!)

Dennis continues his trend of making small Unity games. Check out Mental Block and Hello, Universe!

And in other other news, we got a session accepted at NASAGA on our Game A Week Challenge!

#GameAWeek Failure! “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT”

Check out unfinished failure: On the Difficulty of Being an ANT: The Interactive Version!

Last week and this week, I’ve been sort of stuck in a moment of nonproductivity with regard to the #gameaweek challenge that I’m doing with Ana, Dennis, Melissa, and Greg. Ana is super inspiring and still going strong and even wrote about her experiences in the ProfHacker column for The Chronicle of Higher Ed!

My moment of stuckage can be primarily blamed on two things. First, I’m making a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game with Inklewriter based on Latour’s dialog found in his book Reassembling the Social. It’s an interlude between chapters in the book and features a professor having a conversation with a student, and it’s called “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT.”

Continue reading #GameAWeek Failure! “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT”