Thursday, April 21, 2011

Signing Off 'Till Next Time

A final post to wrap up the Winter 2011 semester of INF 1006/104: to let you know that your assignment grades have been posted to Blackboard, and that the links to your playlist projects have been forwarded along to the good people at TPL. Upon request, I'll be posting a page with the links to this blog as well, so that you can check out each others' projects as well. 

I also want to thank you all (both 1005 and 1006) for the wonderful semester, for the compelling class discussions and for engaging so enthusiastically with the course materials, the games and the assignments.

Hope you all have a fantastic summer!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week6: Presentations

INF1006: it's your time to shine! Let's see what you've been up to these past few weeks.

You'll have 15 minutes each to show us your game design (and playlist). Unless there are any objections, you will present in the following order:


Group 1:
Meagan Gilpin
Stephanie Quail
Julio Preuss
Victorian Baranow
Katherine LaIocca


Group 2:
Madeline.macisaac
Albert Roon      
Allie Doon
Christopher Young
Alexandria DiBellonia


Group 3:
Max King
Holly Mays
Nick Anapliotis
Leopold McGinnis


Group 4:
Alisha Barron
Ann-Marie Ricketts
Krysta Lombardi
Simon Ludgate
Kathryn Tippell


Group 5:
Adrian
Valerie Stevens
Stacey
Emily Lamond


Group 6:
Claire Baker
Amanda Brooks
Kelly Butler
Danielle Cooper

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week5: Agenda

  • 9am-10am: Play Bully
NOTE: The graphics cards in these computers aren't quite able to display the cut-scenes. For instance, when you start your game running, there's a short movie introduction - the visuals will lack colour and show up all wonky. You can skip it or listen to the audio. Once the gameplay starts, everything seems to be okay - so just get through that first part and you should be good to go!
  • 10am-10:30am: Discussion about videogame controversies; how this links back to earlier discussions about ESRB ratings, story, etc. 
    • Q: What do you think the role of the library should be in addressing and/or responding to these types of controversies?
    • e.g. Libraries protect challenges books, and increasingly films, audio, etc. Should they take a more active role in protecting challenged games (against bans, censorship, etc.)?
  • 10:30am-10:45am: Talk about presentations (and group assignments if any questions/issues)
  • 10:45am-12:00pm: Group work! (extra time today: it's our LAST CLASS before presentations)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week4: Agenda

  • 9:00am: PLAY SPORE!!!
  • 10:00am: Debrief on the gameplay experience. Discussion of the game in relation to this week's readings, discussion of the concepts of "educational" games and "games as learning engines" (James Paul Gee's arguments), etc.
  • 10:30am: Discussion of the role of educational (formal/informal) games in the library - how important (or unimportant) is this idea in building collections? For your playlists? In your game designs? Why?
  • 11:00am: Group work. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Page: Homeplay

Be sure to check out the newest addition to the course site, the HomePlay page - wherein you will find a list of free-to-play, browser based games that you can play at home, and use to think about alternative forms of game design . At times deceptively simple, I propose that these games show that there's more than one way to explore narrative - and the relationship between narrative and game mechanics.

See what you think!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week3: Games and Narrative

Agenda:

Playtime: 
- This week's workshop starts with a session of Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor (BE SURE TO PLAY ON JR DETECTIVE SETTING - due to limited time). For anyone who doesn't have a terminal, we'll supply notebooks - or you can download the game onto your laptops.

Discussion:
- Debrief on gameplay. Thoughts about linkages to readings and this week's themes.
- Chat about this week's readings (Bizzocchi - see below)

Q: What role will narrative play in your design-a-game projects? In your playlists??


Work on Projects:
Design-a-game - finish playing through the tutorials, get started on your game/level!!! 
Playlist - should have a theme established by now. Start narrowing down your choices



Reading:
This week's reading was written by Jim Bizzocchi – a prof at SFU's School of Interactive Art and Technology. I chose the article because it provides a really approachable framework for studying narrative as an integrated feature of digital games, one that can be applied to a wide variety of game types and genres. A key component of Bizzocchi's argument is the distinction he makes between narrative arc and narrative framework:

Narrative arc: is the sequence of events that make up the plot in film, books, etc. (although of course these elements are not always in the same order). He breaks down narrative arc into a series of steps, which include:

  • "the setup introduces the characters and the storyworld they inhabit 
  • the complication introduces a challenge to be overcome 
  • the development is the long phase that dominates the bulk of the storytelling, as the protagonist works towards her goal 
  • the resolution or climax is the culmination of the struggles of the development phase, often resulting in some form of victory or defeat 
  • the denouement or falling action ties up the stories loose ends, and allows the narrative experience to gracefully end" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.3)


Bizzocchi argues that the difficulty in applying this model to digital games is that “its power depends in large part on tight control over the design and implementation of details," and that “tight control over details is precisely what the interactive process does not afford” (p.3) (I would qualify this to: or at least affords to a lesser extent).

Bizzocchi outlines what he calls a “more modest framework of limited narrative parameters” for game studies – which can include examination of the following features (although we should note here that this is still a work in progress):

  • "storyworld - what is the environment within which the game unfolds
  • character - who are the beings that populate this game world 
  • emotion - both the emotions shown by the games characters and those elicited in the player 
  • narrative interface - how are narrative sensibilities instantiated in the appearance and the functionality of the interface design 
  • micro-narrative - smaller moments of narrative flow and coherence that occur within a broader context of game play" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.4)

The game that we're playing this week is a pretty straightforward example of narrative in games - some may even call the Nancy Drew games "interactive stories" or "interactive narratives" rather than "games" - although they do contain a ton of puzzles, hidden objects and exploration elements, which qualifies them as games in my book. That said, it will be important to think through the different ways that stories can be told through digital game design/play. Through experiential elements, or dramatization, through text or through environment, events or cut-scenes. 

Another key question for this week will be how the groups have thought about narrative in planning for the assignments. 
  • What is the role of narrative in the selection process for your Playlists? 
  • What types of narratives (if any) have you discussed incorporating into your game design experiment?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Simon's Gamasutra Articles

(Image of Woozworld (copyright 2011), borrowed from Gamasutra)

As discussed in class, here are some links to articles written by your classmate, and resident game industry expert, Simon Ludgate for Gamasutra (very cool, very informative industry online magazine). In particular, you might want to check out the following, which discusses real-world/in-game economies in kids' online games: "A Visit to Woozworld."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Agenda for Week2 Workshop (1006)

Playtime:
- This week's workshop starts with a session of World of Goo. For anyone who doesn't have a terminal, we'll supply notebooks - or you can download the game onto your laptops.

Discussion:
- Debrief on gameplay. Thoughts about linkages to readings and this week's themes.
- Chat about this week's readings:
  • Bryant et al.'s designing for preschoolers article (usability, design strategies, & later on...assessment)

  • ESRB Rating Systems: thoughts on process, uses, problems, oversights, etc.

  • - How to bring these issues into the game design experience (and evaluation of titles AND DIY game design programs)
    - Possible Additional Discussion points:
  • Difference in the "process" each team goes through (Bryant et al. user-centered design, informed by theory, iterative process involving kids, parents) (ESRB coding videos of the games for certain types of content - yet "E" comes to mean so much more)

  • From preschoolers to elementary-age....big developmental changes. How would the challenges Bryant describes change over time - how to accommodate for this - how to anticipate without training in child development theory, child education, usability, etc.

  • Usability and user-centered processes - how can these concepts be incorporated into collection development OR research OR tech assessment 


  • Work on Projects:
  • Experiment with the different game design programs. 

  • Assign specific tasks and roles to different team members.

  • Start searching for play list games. 

  • Etc.
  • Revisiting the ESRB - Redux

    Since we're going to be talking about the ESRB tomorrow, I thought I'd point out an article I wrote about the system last year for an online magazine (and good source for gaming news/reviews), The Escapist. In the article, I argue that the ESRB is running the risk of causing its own obsolescence - at the time, it became the centre of a small but fiery debate, both in the comments section of the magazine itself, as well as on other game community blogs and news sources. I later wrote a response on my blog, Gamine Expedition, which you can read here if you're interested.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    DIY Game Design - Samples & Tutorials

    100 Game Maker 8 Games (in 10 min)


    A small collection of tutorials for (some of) the various programs suggested for the Design-A-Game project are available on the instructor's Youtube MyChannel, in the INF 1005/6 Playlist. For example:


    Following tutorials and playing a number of existing games/levels - both official or player-made - are both really crucial for learning these programs. Playing existing levels will help you to conceptualize what is possible, what the various components/tools can do, and give you ideas of where and how to start. The official/provided tutorials are not always quick or easy, but well worth going through. And please do "cheat" by looking up player walkthroughs, cheats, tips, etc.

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    You're Invited to PrivacyCampTO2



    Check out this great, upcoming opportunity to learn about and discuss privacy issues affecting children and youth in Canada. The EDGE Lab is running the second PrivacyCampTO at Ryerson March 19th, sponsored by with Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Mozilla Foundation, Ryerson Digital Media Zone and the Ryerson New Media Program.

    This year, the one-day unconference will focus on children, youth, people with disabilities and privacy. Everyone is welcome: educators, techies, policymakers, students, academics, librarians and anyone else interested in digging into these issues. As an unconference, the day will be planned organically, online, partially in advance and partially live at the event, by all participants. You can read up about last summer's PrivacyCamp (http://privacycampto.org/2010/06/privacycampto-recap/) and add your ideas for this edition on the wiki (http://barcamp.org/PrivacyCampTO2).

    Registration is at http://privacycampto2.eventbrite.com/ and is $10. Those unable to pay will be accommodated, and all funds raised will be donated to the GimpGirl Community (http://gimpgirl.com).

    This is a wonderful opportunity for iSchool students to share their substantial knowledge of privacy issues as they relate to information rights, information technologies, child/youth advocacy, usability/accessibility, regulatory implications, etc. It would be great to have a strong presence and participation from the student body and faculty, so be sure to spread the word!

    I encourage all of you to think about signing up to do an interactive presentation or "speed geek" (as explained here) - to get into the practice of presenting your ideas, linking your theoretical work to praxis/community outreach, and helping to shape the discussion. I'd be happy to help out with brainstorming or coordinating as needed, so just give me a shout if you're interested.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Week6: Presentations, Take 2!

    Let's try that again, shall we???

    *************************************
    INF1005 students: it's your time to shine! Let's see what you've been up to these past few weeks.

    As mentioned last week, we'll draw from a hat on Wednesday morning to figure out the order of the presentations.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Week6: Presentations

    INF1005 students: it's your time to shine! Let's see what you've been up to these past few weeks.

    As mentioned last week, we'll draw from a hat tomorrow morning to figure out the order of the presentations.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Week5: Agenda

    This will be our last workshop before the presentations, so let's make sure we set aside some time to chat about what's expected, and for your groups to sort out any remaining logistics. We'll also put aside a good amount of time for group work, so make sure you bring some prepared questions/issues for the discussion component so that we can keep it short, sweet and to the point. Like last week, we'll start with gameplay.

    NOTE: The graphics cards in these computers aren't quite able to display the cut-scenes. For instance, when you start your game running, there's a short movie introduction - the visuals will lack colour and show up all wonky. You can skip it or listen to the audio. Once the gameplay starts, everything seems to be okay - so just get through that first part and you should be good to go!

    • 9am-10am: Play Bully
    • 10am-10:30am: Discussion about videogame controversies; how this links back to earlier discussions about ESRB ratings, story, etc. 
      • Q: What do you think the role of the library should be in addressing and/or responding to these types of controversies?
    • 10:30am-10:45am: Talk about presentations (and group assignments if any questions/issues)
    • 10:45am-12:00pm: Group work!

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Week4: Agenda

    We're switching things up this week - tomorrow's workshop will begin with gameplay and end with group work, with some discussion of the weekly topic (and readings) sandwiched in between. I'll pick up two Netbooks on my way to class for the overflow. Remember that there's also a copy of Spore available under course reserve at the Inforum, if anyone wants to get a head start. I've also added a brief description of the game and some of its important features the Games page of this site.

    • 9:00am: PLAY SPORE!!!
    • 10:00am: Debrief on the gameplay experience. Discussion of the game in relation to this week's readings, discussion of the concepts of "educational" games and "games as learning engines" (James Paul Gee's arguments), etc.
    • 10:30am: Discussion of the role of educational (formal/informal) games in the library - how important (or unimportant) is this idea in building collections? For your playlists? In your game designs? Why?
    • 11:00am: Group work. 

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Week3: Agenda

    • Download remaining programs onto the lab terminals (individual log-in)
    • Retrieve netbooks for those who don't have one
    • Discussion about narrative (see previous post)
    • Discussion about narrative within the context of the workshop assignments
    • Assignment brainstorming and group work
    • Playing: Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor

    More Game-Design-Tools to Try

    For tomorrow - for those of you still looking for a suitable program for the second assignment, you should now have the power to download and test out:

    Game Maker http://www.yoyogames.com/make
    Scratch http://scratch.mit.edu/

    Week3: Games and Narrative

    This week's reading was written by Jim Bizzocchi – a prof at SFU's School of Interactive Art and Technology. I chose the article because it provides a really approachable framework for studying narrative as an integrated feature of digital games, one that can be applied to a wide variety of game types and genres. A key component of Bizzocchi's argument is the distinction he makes between narrative arc and narrative framework:

    Narrative arc: is the sequence of events that make up the plot in film, books, etc. (although of course these elements are not always in the same order). He breaks down narrative arc into a series of steps, which include:

    • "the setup introduces the characters and the storyworld they inhabit 
    • the complication introduces a challenge to be overcome 
    • the development is the long phase that dominates the bulk of the storytelling, as the protagonist works towards her goal 
    • the resolution or climax is the culmination of the struggles of the development phase, often resulting in some form of victory or defeat 
    • the denouement or falling action ties up the stories loose ends, and allows the narrative experience to gracefully end" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.3)


    Bizzocchi argues that the difficulty in applying this model to digital games is that “its power depends in large part on tight control over the design and implementation of details," and that “tight control over details is precisely what the interactive process does not afford” (p.3) (I would qualify this to: or at least affords to a lesser extent).

    Bizzocchi outlines what he calls a “more modest framework of limited narrative parameters” for game studies – which can include examination of the following features (although we should note here that this is still a work in progress):

    • "storyworld - what is the environment within which the game unfolds
    • character - who are the beings that populate this game world 
    • emotion - both the emotions shown by the games characters and those elicited in the player 
    • narrative interface - how are narrative sensibilities instantiated in the appearance and the functionality of the interface design 
    • micro-narrative - smaller moments of narrative flow and coherence that occur within a broader context of game play" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.4)

    The game that we're playing this week is a pretty straightforward example of narrative in games - some may even call the Nancy Drew games "interactive stories" or "interactive narratives" rather than "games" - although they do contain a ton of puzzles, hidden objects and exploration elements, which qualifies them as games in my book. That said, it will be important to think through the different ways that stories can be told through digital game design/play. Through experiential elements, or dramatization, through text or through environment, events or cut-scenes. 

    Another key question for this week will be how the groups have thought about narrative in planning for the assignments. 
    • What is the role of narrative in the selection process for your Playlists? 
    • What types of narratives (if any) have you discussed incorporating into your game design experiment?

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Researching Games for the Playlist

    Kelly asked me if I could share some ideas about starting points for finding out the info and details necessary for putting together your Playlist assignment. Although we unfortunately can't always play every game at the early stages of putting together a list or collection (especially when dealing with commercial and console games), there are still many resources available for finding out about a game's contents.

    1) Academic articles and reviews (there are surprisingly few of these out there on kids' games, but there are some, and can be a very valuable source of info when you find one). Example: Well-Played, Game Studies Journal

    2) Reviews and postmortems published in the press - particularly within publications specific to gaming. Example Kotaku and Gamasutra.

    3)  Reviews and articles published on media watchgroups & non-profits. Examples: Common Sense Media and Children's Technology Review

    4) Fan reviews and ratings (Metacritic is a great place to look for these)

    5) Trailers and promotional materials produced by the game companies or media (Youtube)

    6) "Walkthroughs" posted by players (usually unedited, full video coverage of the game being played - often covers a game in its entirety).

    7) Demos - many games have small excerpts available for free download. For instance, Steam includes a small selection - game companies often provide downloadable demos as part of their promotion of the games.

    Ideally, once a preliminary list has been produced, the games themselves could then be acquired for firsthand exploration and testing.

    I've included links to a number of potentially useful sites under "Resources" on the righthand navigation bar of this site.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Agenda for Week2 Workshop

    General:
    - Starz Animation Event (Friday - Jan.14)
    - Meeting the groups: what are your initial ideas for playlist topics & design tools
    - Definitions of "gamer" and expertise
    - Making and playing games as learning process

    Readings:
    - Bryant et al.'s designing for preschoolers article (usability, design strategies, & later on...assessment)
    - ESRB Rating Systems: thoughts on process, uses, problems, oversights, etc.

    • Discussion points: Difference in the "process" each team goes through (Bryant et al. user-centered design, informed by theory, iterative process involving kids, parents) (ESRB coding videos of the games for certain types of content - yet "E" comes to mean so much more)

    • From preschoolers to elementary-age....big developmental changes. How would the challenges Bryant describes change over time - how to accommodate for this - how to anticipate without training in child development theory, child education, usability, etc.

    • Assessing and selecting - issues these articles might raise

    • Usability and user-centered processes - how can these concepts be incorporated into collection development OR research OR tech assessment 

    Games:
    - World of Goo and Lego Star Wars

    Work on Projects:
    - Q: How to construct a playlist without access to all the games? Reviews, trailers, walkthroughs and mash-ups/fan communities (how much is selecting like other forms of research?)


    - Netbooks (Inforum) & Discussion about additional tech/consoles & Access to this room

    Game Mechanics

    ©2006 Danc at Lost Garden: "What are game mechanics?"

    Revisiting the ESRB

    Since we're going to be talking about the ESRB tomorrow, I thought I'd point out an article I wrote about the system last year for an online magazine (and good source for gaming news/reviews), The Escapist. In the article, I argue that the ESRB is running the risk of causing its own obsolescence - at the time, it became the centre of a small but fiery debate, both in the comments section of the magazine itself, as well as on other game community blogs and news sources. I later wrote a response on my blog, Gamine Expedition, which you can read here if you're interested.

    One of the groups is focusing their playlist on Nintendo DS games, and will be bringing in a couple of DS consoles to play with during the workshop. If any of you want to do something similar, please do. I can also arrange to have an XBox 360 and/or PS3 brought in (does anyone know how to hook them up to the overhead projector? that would be neat), and can also make arrangements for a Wii by next week if there's any interest in testing out particular titles during class time. 

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Download Kodu

    For those of you thinking of using Kodu for the design-a-game project, here's the link for a free download of the software. If enough of you choose this one, we can do the tutorial during next week's workshop (or the week after). But if not - a good place to start might be to download and go through the "Classroom Kit" (available here), which you can use as an introduction to the program and a way to get yourselves started. (p.s. you can also get Kodu for the XBox 360, for about $5).

    I was also looking for video tutorials for Kodu, and found this one, which seems accessible and comprehensive (this one here is the first of 4 segments):


    I'll keep putting tutorials and other potentially useful videos in my Youtube folder for this course, which you can find here, or by visiting my Channel.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Welcome!

    Hello and welcome to section 104 of the INF1005/1006 workshop series - Children's Digital Games. Please use this blog as an interactive syllabus. I will be using it throughout the semester to post additional information on the course, readings, games, assignments, as well as highlight any relevant current events, research, developments or ideas that may assist you in your journey through the workshop and its major themes. I'll also be posting links to key resources, projects and published research in the Background section, so be sure to check in regularly.

    Looking forward to meeting half of you tomorrow (and the other half in March)!!