Category Archives: Video Game Innovation

New designs, new stories, new joysticks….

Benefits of Playing Video Games

Here is a current article that talks about the different benefits of playing video games.

The Office of Naval Research posted an article about its program officer Dr. Ray Perez and his research discussing the benefits of playing video games.

If you’re interested in the subject I found a great paper from 2005 about Learning Games.

The Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab members David Williamson Shaffer, Richard Halverson, Kurt R. Squire, and James P. Gee wrote an amazing paper about how video games may be the future of learning. They discuss how video games can teach us so much more than how to use a gun. They discuss how video games can teach a 14 year old politics, a normal person complex modeling, and help kids with cancer take better care of themselves. To find the paper use this link and scroll down to Joint Papers and find the working paper titled “Before every child is left behind: How epistemic games can solve the coming crisis in education.”

Don’t forget the FAS National Summit on Educational Games Report. The summit brought together more than one hundred experts to examine how to harness the power of video games for learning. This report is widely cited and contains a collection of the reasons in favor of using games and simulations in education as well the issues that need to be addressed if industry and education are to be able to collaborate on learning games.

Exercise while gaming!

Paul Ballas, OD, of our own Science Advisory Group, wrote an excellent opinion piece for Wired.

Paul thinks that video games that require us to be more active might help us actually become more active.  People exercise more when they can do something fun for exercise, he writes.  Paul suggests that if we rated video games for how active they made us, that the game companies would have a motivation to make their games meet higher standards.

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/08/exercise-ratings-for-games/

Video games really do capture our attention.  But can they really provide effective exercise?  Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) did…  maybe a starship that you control with the DDR pad could be another fun game… if it isn’t already out there.

The Wii, and now Sony and Microsoft have motion sensing controllers that are making exercise games more popular and potentially more powerful than ever before.

Read the article and let us know what you think!

Interpersonal skills learned in a video game?

I believe that video games have the power to teach us many things.
Math (See Lure of the Labyrinth, and DimensionM)
Biology (MedMyst, CSI: The Experience, Cellcraft and Immune Attack)
Ancient History (Discover Babylon)
And the many games that teach social awareness and facts about current events at Games for Change.

But can a game teach interpersonal skills? Can a game teach problem solving skills? What do you think? Leave a comment and give me an example of a time when something you learned from a video game came into play in real life? Perhaps in World of Warcraft or some other multiplayer game you convinced another player to join you, and you have tried the same tactic in real life? Perhaps in Whyville you have learned something about getting people to agree with you? Must a game be multiplayer in order to foster interpersonal skills? What about Mass Effect? Have anyone learned any negotiation skills that have worked on humans in the real world?

I’m keeping my eye out for my own experiences. I know I have started to be more experimental and to take more chances in the video games I play. But I’m wondering what effect that will have on my real life. Maybe I’ll post more often on my blog. That would be a nice effect.

Cellcraft puts you in the driver seat of a cell

So, how do cells avoid viruses? If you wonder, try playing the game CellCraft.  It is a terrific game for middle school students or anyone.   Check it out, give the Cellcraft team some props on their forum, and then tell me what you like about the game.

cellcraftgame.com

www.kongregate.com Play Cellcraft here!

Immune Attack address more molecular detail, but we are trying to do essentially the same thing: teach people how cells actually operate at the molecular level.  The world of the Cell is frankly a fascinating huge place and it should be explored in as many ways as possible, games, stories, videos, it is a rich place for storytelling with many many points of conflict… between cells and viruses, human cells and bacteria, DNA vs damaging radicals…There are endless stories to tell!

Congratulations to the Cell Craft Team!  And thank you!

Can we grade Video Games?

I attended Games for Change 2010 in NYC in May.  I was really excited to meet Bill O’Brien, Senior Advisor for Program Innovation, National Endowment for the Arts.  How about that?  The NEA is interested in Video Games, so they must be art, right?

I think of video games as art.  I always have.  Video games make me think and feel and someone made it.  Art.  The art is in the fact that video games affect our thinking, affect our way of looking at the world, the affect us in a way a conversation with another human being may affect us.  This is because art is a way for one human to contrive a way for another human being to have an experience, even when the two humans will never meet.

I wrote to Bill O’Bien at the NEA and told him how I thought of art.  And I wanted to share it here, because I believe that considering video games as means of affecting the mind of the player may make it more clear that video games can open worlds the same way books, paintings and conversations can.

I am sure someone else defined art this way before me, I don’t know who.   Tom Bissell just published a terrific new book called Extra Lives. I haven’t finished it yet, so I thought I would tell you how *I* would judge video games and we’ll see how Tom Bissell does it.   OK, here goes.

Video games are essays.  Video games are written by an author who, like the essay’s author, is not present when the game is played.  Therefore, the game and the essay must be self contained.  An essay is designed to make the reader think or feel something, and this is why we call it art.  An essay may make me weep and may make me laugh, it’s that change in my thinking that we recognize as art.

Video games are museum installations.  A video game is made to interact with the player just like an art installation interacts with the audience.  Perhaps the pieces are arranged in a certain order, so that people walking by in the museum are sure to see the pictures in the right order.  Or, the author may allow the audience to walk around as they see fit.  Video games engage in this kind of manipulation of what the audience sees and in which order.   Some games are more free form, and others are more linear, just like installations in a museum.

Video games are stories.  And just like many stories, they often effect our thinking.  After reading a story, we sometimes see the real world around us from the point of view of characters in the story.  As Wayne Booth wrote in The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction the characters, occurrences and narration of novels affect our thinking even after we finish the book.  Additionally, Booth writes that racism can be presented in a book, like Huckleberry Finn, but the book is not condoning racism, because the characters which we respect in the book do not condone racism.  Many games, even some ridiculously violent ones, contain stories that make the audience think about the consequences of their actions.  Often the story frames the violence in a way that makes it clear that horrible circumstances are driving the player to make terrible choices.  Bioshock and God of War both contain stories that explain why the player commits the violence, and leaves space for the player to feel remorse and consider the horrible consequences.  So just like any other piece of fiction, the player identifies with a character in the game, and the way the story is told speaks to the ethics of the fiction.

I think it is clear that video games are art, because they are attempts to convey emotion and thoughts from one human to another using device created by the author and which the audience interacts with independently.  The quality and worth of video games can be judged by the same standards we already use for essays, fiction, and museum installations.

This email is not an elegant or comprehensive description of all the ways video games are art, nor all the criteria that we can use to appraise them.  I just wanted to get across the point that video games create an experience for their players and this entire experience is the work of art.  While video game graphics can be art on their own, even simplistic or otherwise unpleasant or meaningless graphics can be art in the context of their video game because of how they contribute to the experience for the player.

Where to find Science Games

Here is the list of science games that we are continuously updating for you.

 

Flash Games played over the web:

MedMyst (about hunting down infectious diseases)

CSI:The Experience (just like the show, only you need to use your own brain!)

N-Squad You take on the role of a forensic scientist, solving crimes and investigating mysterious deaths.

Cellcraft is a real time strategy game in which you play the role of a cell trying to defeat a virus before they defeat you.  An excellent intro to cell biology for middle school.

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Downloads for PC and Mac:

The Curse of Brownbeard is Middle School game about pirates who need someone to figure out why they are getting sick… The Curse of Brownbeard.  Teaches experimental design.  How cool is that??

Metablast! at Metablast.org is still in development, but it promises to be a fantastic journey into a plant cell…  in a microbot (which is our favorite way to travel) and will present proteins in their accurate form…..  Very exciting!  Their Educator’s community if very nice, too.  http://www.metablast.org/community

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Available through My Game IQ (free download manager program that is PC only).

Immune Attack  (We are in the top 8 games on My Game IQ right now!  (4/01/2011).  Free PC download.

Surge harnessing the power of video games to help students build a strong intuitive/tacit understanding of the physics involved.  Free PC download through MyGameIQ.

Science Pirates: The Curse of Brownbeard helps students understand science processes to better change food safety behavior.

Re-Mission a third person shooter game about killing cancer cells.  Find on mygameiq, too.

Enercities is a game created to teach the importance of energy and conservation by the European Union.

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Games being built–that you can contribute to!

Our collaborators at Clear Lab, where we are creating a battery of fun SCIENCE! games for middle school students!  Sign up to be a part of the development team!

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Other Fantastic Sites with some science games available:

Molecules is a site with great videos about chemicals in our everyday life and some games.  See what Sweden is up to!

Games for change has several game about the environment.

http://www.gamesforchange.org/play

NISE has some games about nanotechnology.  Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.

http://www.nisenet.org/

Science Netlinks has many things for teaching… some are games, some are not…   Immune Attack is described at Netlinks, too!  (Still downloads at Immuneattack.org)

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Tablet Games!

A link to ALL EDUCATIONAL GAMES on Apple’s App Store.

ImmunityHD is a fun game in which you need to keep the intestinal epithelium clear of infection.  Good luck!  This intestine belongs to an adventurous eater!  On iPad…  at iTunes App store.

Virulent is an experimental game by the cool guys at Madison Wisconsin, and the Morgridge Institute for Research.  In the game you play a virus, and you have to infect your host cells to win.  The game is still underdevelopment, so check it out and keep up with the updates!

 

Other sites you really should know about.

Harvard Biovisions has created beautiful videos of the molecules inside of cells.  Xvivo is the company who actually makes them…  great career inspiration for your young computer programmers and 3D modelers.

Stem Video Game Challenge! Get your students involved in the next middle school STEM Video Game Challenge! Watch the video of the inaugural winners!  Kids submitted video games in Gamestar Mechanic, Game Maker, Small Basic, and some submitted written game design documents.  All the games submitted were fun to play, innovative and educational.

And contact Melanie Stegman, yours truly, if you have High School students interested in entering a Molecular Biology video game competition in Spring 2012.

Using Immune Attack to teach about Internet research.

I am experimenting with using Immune Attack to get students interested in science.  In particular, to get kids to ask questions about nanotech, chemistry or biology, etc in the game and to research their answer on the Web.  I presented this idea to the students of Mr. Kenneth Leslie’s engineering class at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, DC.  I asked, “Do you think we could really build a Nanobot, and if we did what would be build it out of?”  I had prepared three questions:  How much pressure would it have to withstand?  What material could withstand that pressure?  What would it look like?

The McKinley students answered with questions of their own, ones that had never crossed my mind:  “How will we control the Nanobot from outside the body?”  “What kind of motor will it have?”   Certainly a miniature motor or even a radio transmitter will not fit into a 50 micrometer box.  A Nanobot must truly be impossible.

We made a list of questions, small, easy to focus on.
1.  How much pressure is in arteries?  In veins?
2.  How much pressure can Titanium withstand?
3.  How much pressure can Aluminum withstand?
4.  How much pressure can Nanotubes withstand?

The goals were simple, write a 3 sentence report with 2 references.  The first reference could be Wikipedia, the second reference should be from a peer reviewed paper, or from the website of a professor at a university.

This one day’s experiment was successful.  The students were focused on their tasks, as the questions were not too difficult but still very interesting.  I never did get the actual repots from Mr. Leslie, but we have plans to create similar class experiences for this coming school year.

After we release Immune Attack 3.0 in October, 2009, I plan to encourage students from all over to submit these 3 sentence reports to our online Mission Intelligence database.  Students, teachers and scientists can vote for the database entries that they like.  We incorporate the best into the Mission Intelligence Database for Immune Attack 3.0.

If any teacher is interested in discussing this with us, please reply below, or email me at mstegman at fas dot org.