Games for Change Design Contest Winners Announced in Paris

July 11, 2008 -

Games for Change has issued a press release announcing the winners of the Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge.

The announcement came at the Louvre in Paris.

Each of the entries was created using Microsoft's XNA Game Studio software. The winners are:

  1. CityRain from Mother Gaia Studio in Brazil
  2. Future Flow from Belgium’s Drunk Puppy
  3. CleanUp from the South Korean team Gomz

Suzanne Seggerman, President and Co-founder of Games for Change, commented:

What’s most exciting about this game contest is that not only are the brightest young people from around the world engaged in creating these new games, they are also laying the foundation for a new genre – socially-responsible video games. And this is where it all begins.

Games for Change bills itself as "the primary non-profit behind the new movement using video games to promote social change." The organization teamed up with Microsoft to offer the game design contest  based on environmental themes.


Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech Massacre

June 27, 2008 -

When you read that someone is planning a game based on Virginia Tech, you can't help but cringe.

But game designer - and Virginia Tech alum - Manveer Heir seems committed to using the video game medium to tastefully and respectfully tell the tale of the aftermath of the April, 2007 rampage.

Heir, whose day job involves game developments for Raven Software, writes:

To make a video game based around these events is difficult and delicate... Bereavement in Blacksburg centers around the concept of loss and grief, and how people cope with it. The game takes place on April 17th, 2007, the day after the shootings...


You can use the phone to call your girlfriend... You can use your computer and see e-mails from the administration, as well as condolences from friends. You can watch TV or listen to music to escape... You can turn to bottles of alcohol to drown your sorrows. Or you can just leave the room and venture to other parts of campus and find other interactions. The choices are yours and they affect the way your character progresses through the game.


Internally, the game keeps a “grief score”. You start at zero, and positive influencing interactions will increase this score and negative influencing actions will decrease it... Ultimately, there should be multiple paths to end the game, just as there are in life. One can move through all the stages of grief, or become stuck... In the end, the game is one of choices and how these choices ultimately affect how we deal with grief.

On the other hand, not everyone appreciates what Heir is trying to do. At College On The Record, a writer who goes by "Technical Brilliance" harshly criticizes the project, referring to Heir as a "poor, misguided fool":

What are you thinking, man? I hope this design document stays in production limbo. A lot of my friends were personally affected by this atrocity, and I don't think they'd appreciate a game mocking their grief. 

GP: Readers, what do you think?


Pong Creator Smokes Dutch Mayor to Open Festival of Games

June 19, 2008 -

The NLGD Festival of Games opened yesterday with a special Pong match between the game's creator, Ralph Baer, and the mayor of the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Vertical Wire reports that the "heated" match was played on authentic, 1960's-era equipment. After dispatching the mayor 2-nil, Baer gave the keynote address to open the conference, which was designed to promote the Netherlands as a European gaming hub.

Among those presenting at NLGD are serious games guru Ben Sawyer and Spore design team member Chaim Gingold.

UPDATE: A reader, Rob F, writes in to advise that we've got an error in this story regarding the origins of Pong:

[I] just wanted to point out that Ralph Baer did not create Pong, Nolan Bushnell/Al Alcorn did.  Also, Pong was released in the 70s, so I'm unsure what 60s era equipment they were playing on, maybe Baer's Brown Box?  Think was also from the 70s, maybe late 60s.  Bushnell viewed Baer's Table Tennis on the Odyssey (the first home console) and basically ripped Baer off.  I'm not a big fan of wikipedia, but from what I scanned they got it right.


Ralph wrote a book a couple years ago, it's really good.  You can view a sample here.



Using Games to Explore Public Policy Issues

June 2, 2008 -

The use of game tech to explore public policy alternatives is touted by futurist Jamais Cascio, writing for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

The big advantage of games as a foresight device is the capacity to fail in interesting ways: you can try out different, even bizarre, strategies for success, and do so without worry of harming yourself or others. It’s a form of rehearsal, a way to understand the ways in which the present may be manipulated to create a desirable tomorrow.

Cascio makes his case by detailing a trio of policy-oriented simulations. He leads off with Oil ShockWave, a petro-crisis simulation developed at Harvard. While previous editions were studied at the 2006 World Economic Forum and at the 2007 Aspen Strategy Group conference, a new version is intended for college classroom use. From the game's Harvard website:

Students play the roles of U.S. Cabinet members developing a policy response to a potentially devastating crisis that affects global oil supplies. Situations are presented primarily through pre-produced newscasts, video briefings and insert cards handed to the students during discussion. The exercise vividly illustrates the links between oil, the economy, and national security.


The box set... contains maps, multimedia components, simulated newscasts, a range of background materials, and an instructor's manual. To ensure that the latest information is always available to you, the box set will be fully web-supported...

GP: I must concur with Cascio's lament that the game is not generally available. It  sounds fascinating.

Cascio also looks at Budget Hero, a sim sponsored by American Public Media's Marketplace program:

Unlike some budget sims that give you nearly line-item control over what’s in and what’s out, Budget Hero limits your options to options that sound like policy proposals—Cap & Limit Greenhouse Gases, Link Alternative Minimum Tax to Inflation, and so forth. You also start with three budget priority badges, reflecting the positions you take as a leader.

Cascio is less impressed with Immune Attack, a health-themed game designed for high school classrooms.



Henry Jenkins, Sandra Day O'Connor Headline Games For Change Festival Next Week

May 29, 2008 -

Every gamer's favorite academic, MIT Professor Henry Jenkins, will be among the presenters at the 5th Annual Games for Change Festival which takes place June 2-4 in New York.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will deliver the festival's closing keynote. Other speakers include Ben Sawyer of the Serious Games Initiative, Dr. James Paul Gee of Arizona State University, Prof. Ian Bogost of Georgia Tech and Heather Chaplin, co-author of Smartbomb.

From the GFC press release:

The only festival... will explore real-world impact, the latest games and funding strategies... Expert practitioners -- academics, activists, non-profits, funders -- will be called in to examine the impact of current games, evaluations planned and the ongoing work to build the field.


You will have a chance to see a variety of new games in development first-hand, and at the Games Expo sponsored by Microsoft, festival-goers can play the latest state-of-the-art games.



Rocket Science: Games Don't Cause Crime, May Be Key to Education

May 19, 2008 -

A NASA researcher speaking at a University of Manitoba workshop discussed using video games as an educational tool and disputed supposed links between games and criminal behavior.

As reported by the Truro Daily News, NASA's Daniel Laughlin said:

Since 1993, violent crime in Canada and the U.S. has declined by 50 per cent and during that time the video gaming industry has exploded. If video games were really linked to crime, then we wouldn’t have seen that decline in violence.

Laughlin is the learning technologies project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Baltimore. The space agency is working on an MMO to sharpen math and science skills among high school and college students:

I’d love to see a space-based game where the players are placed in real careers — astrophysicists, aerospace engineer. It would be a game where you need the expertise of real science to succeed... It’s got to be fun, first. Without the fun, no one will want to play it and it won’t be successful. But it has to use real science.



Don't Taze Me, Bro! - the Video Game Version

May 15, 2008 -

A freelance game artist and programmer has designed a video game which explores concerns over the excessive use of force by police.

Jason Rohrer writes in The Escapist that he was moved to create Police Brutality after viewing the famous Don't taze me, bro! incident in which a student was tasered by police while Sen. John Kerry gave a speech at the University of Florida.

Of his game design, Rohrer writes:

The video reminded me of how scary police can be... I'm not suggesting that the UF students should have physically attacked the police. ...Perhaps they should have done some quick, ad hoc organizing. Perhaps they should have collectively stood up to the police in some kind of non-violent, legal way.

Even if the students could organize on the spot, I wasn't sure what the most effective strategy would be. I designed a game to explore the possibilities. Police Brutality is a game about fear, collective motivation, ad hoc organizing, self-sacrifice, and non-violence...



Nintendo Classics Get Political with "Super Democracy Bros."

May 14, 2008 -

A senior at California's Chico State University added a political flavor to three popular Nintendo classics for a recent art exhibit called "Eeprompaganda." The title is a mashup of EEPROM and propaganda.

As reported by student newspaper The Orion, Ryan Fitzpatick showed off mods of Super Mario Bros, Millipede and Dr. Mario. From the report:

Fitzpatrick reprogrammed the beloved "Super Mario Brothers" and turned it into "Super Democracy Brothers: The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism." Instead of Mario and Luigi... players were able to choose from President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney... The two men run around the desert, encounter men in turbans and hop over oil bins with Exxon Mobil labels...

Fitzpatrick likewise transformed Dr. Mario into Doctor Democrat:

The words "Hillary Care" stretched across the top of the screen and players became Dr. Hillary Clinton. The object of the game was to arrange pills into a medicine container, similarly to "Tetris."

Millipede was modded into what sounds like a potentially controversial take on the immigration debate, Minuteman Civil Defense Headquarters Presents: Border Stampede: The student newspaper, however, notes that the mod was presented in the vein of political commentary rather than political advocacy:

Fitzpatrick was afraid people would miss the comical aspect of the exhibit and find the games offensive... In the statement, he wrote about his curiosity with American culture symbols and the influence they have on thinking.

It took Fitzpatrick a year to create the classic Nintendo mods.


Games for Health Conference Opens Tomorrow

May 7, 2008 -
More than 300 people will attend the Games For Health Conference. The event opens tomorrow in Baltimore.

From the GFH press release:
The conference will explore the intersection of next-generation game technologies and health issues... attendees will participate in over 60 sessions provided by an international array of 75 speakers, cutting across a wide range of activities in health and health care.

Topics include exergaming, physical therapy, disease management, health behavior change, biofeedback, epidemiology, training, cognitive exercise, nutrition and health education.

Presenters include Dr. Richard Satava; Starlight Foundation; HopeLab; Realtime Associates; Virtual Heroes; XRtainment Zone; Archimage; Dr. Mark Baldwin of MindHabits; Electric Owl Studios; Noah Falstein of The Inspiracy; and Games for Health
co-founder Ben Sawyer.

The Games for Health Project was founded in 2004 and supports community, knowledge and business development efforts to employ game tech in order to improve health and health care. The conference press release describes the Games for Health Project as:
...produced by the Serious Games Initiative, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars effort that applies cutting-edge games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership and management issues...

As a kickoff to the GFH Conference, a special news briefing for bloggers will be held at 1PM Eastern on Thursday:
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"Nothing But Nets" Helps U.N. Prevent Malaria in Africa

April 20, 2008 -
When we speak of positive uses of game tech, it doesn't get much better than Nothing But Nets, an online game offered by the United Nations in order to highlight the need for mosquito netting in Africa.

After all, World Malaria Day is April 25th.

In Nothing But Nets the player steers a motorcycle and delivers mosquito bed netting to needy villagers. As games go, it's not state of the art, but it does drive home the need to combat mosquito-borne illnesses with proper netting.

There are also opportunities for the player to sign up as a donor or a fundraiser, but these are not required to play.

Via: Kotaku

PETA Game: What to Play "When Plaid Goes Bad"

March 28, 2008 -
By way of ConnieTalk, GamePolitics has gotten wind of a new message game from animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Bloody Burberry employs game tech to bash the well-known British fashion house for what PETA claims is the continued use of animal fur in its designs:
Burberry may be best known for its distinctive plaid, but its use of real fur is making the design house synonymous with cruelty to animals. Burberry continues to use fur in its designs despite the fact that leading clothing retailers like Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Ann Taylor, Polo Ralph Lauren, and others have pulled fur from their stores forever.

In the rudimentary game, players move a furry critter around a high-end shop, evading security guards and spray-painting a "no fur" message on some of Burberry's expensive designs. The site also features links to PETA videos and a place where users can sign an online petition to Burberry.

Immigration Game Attacked... Publisher Fires Back

February 29, 2008 -
In recent months, GamePolitics has been tracking the development of ICED, a serious game designed to publicize the issues faced by immigrants in the United States. The final version launched earlier this month.

Published by human rights organization Breakthrough, ICED examines immigration issues from the perspective of the immigrant. This is, of course, a hot-button political issue these days, so it's not surprising that ICED has generated some controversy.

An article on Alex Jones' InfoWars trashes ICED, terming it "an illegal immigration training game:"
An Indian woman, Mallika Dutt, has released a video game that essentially trains illegal aliens how to sneak across the border and avoid border patrol agents and cops...

For the casual observer, Ms. Dutt comes off as your garden variety liberal “human rights” advocate with a useful penchant for technology. But it is a bit more sinister than that...

As the average Mexican or Latin American does not have access to a video game console, let alone a television, the game is more practically geared toward an effort to inculcate middle class Americans into the belief that illegal immigration is a human rights issue, never mind open borders and the influx of third world people is a globalist plot to turn the United States, soon to become part of a North American Union, into a feudal slave labor gulag based on the China model. It has absolutely nothing to do with human rights.

Asked by GamePolitics to comment on the harsh criticism, Breakthrough's Mallika Dutt pulled no punches in her response:
ICED - I Can End Deportation is a video game about the lack of due process in the immigration system as it applies to legal permanent residents, asylum seekers and people who are here on valid visas - it’s not about illegal immigrants - as anyone who’s actually bothered to play the game would quickly realize.

One of the characters, Marc, is a war veteran - and many vets, who have legal resident status, have been deported because of unfair immigration laws. Current detention and deportation laws hold people, even legal residents, in detention indefinitely with no access to a judge. Legal residents can be deported for minor crimes - without the opportunity to make a case before a judge.

It’s interesting that those who claim to be supporting the American way of life, are the very ones who are ripping apart due process and fairness in our legal systems...

GP: The immigration issue is surely a controversial one, and there are valid points to be made on both sides. But, frankly, the InfoWars piece smacks of prejudice and stereotyping.

Making it a point to identify Mallika Dutt as "an Indian woman" and asserting that "the average Mexican or Latin American does not have access to a video game console" pretty much show where the article is coming from.

And, note to InfoWars: ICED is not played on a console or a television. It's a PC game.

New Game Tracks Plight of Immigrants in U.S.

February 18, 2008 -
A newly-launched video game hopes to raise awareness about one of today's hot-button political issues - immigration.

The much anticipated ICED (I Can End Deportation) is available as a free download for PC and Mac from international human rights organization Breakthrough. A press release details the game and the purpose behind its creation:
Designed to spark dialogue and create awareness of unfair U.S. immigration policies, ICED... teaches players about current immigration laws on detention and deportation...

Players can choose one of five characters to inhabit and live out the day-to-day life of an immigrant youth. The youth are being chased by immigration officers, while making moral decisions and answering myth and fact questions about current immigration policies...

Breakthrough Executive Director Mallika Dutt described the creation of ICED, which is designed primarily for high school and college students:
It's important to engage young people in social issues... Games for change help people to better relate to an issue because they can put themselves into the shoes of a character experiencing injustice.

Close to two million people have been deported and thousands more affected -- many without just cause -- due to unfair immigration policies. When we let the government deny due process and human rights for some people, we're putting all of our freedoms at risk.

As part of its launch day happening, ICED will be featured on Global Kids Island in Teen Second Life at 8:30 PM EST.

Bogost: Fewer Political Games Than Expected

February 10, 2008 -
Professor, author and game designer Ian Bogost has expressed surprise over the paucity of politically-themed games in this presidential election year.

Blogging at Water Cooler Games, Bogost writes:
During the height of the 2004 election... I remember making a prediction in a press interview. In 2008, I divined, every major candidate will have their own PlayStation 3 game.

I was very wrong about that.

But this year seems to boast less interest in election games... This year we have the rehashed White House Joust 2008 and a game about Chimps beating each other up.

In Bogost's view, online social networks and YouTube have surpassed game tech as a means to connect candidates and supporters.

MIT's Henry Jenkins: Why the Chinese Fear Game Addiction More than Game Violence

February 4, 2008 -
In the United States and Europe, the cultural struggle over the video game medium typically focuses on graphic portrayals of violence and sexuality.

In China, however, concerns over so-called video game addiction are fueling the debate. At least, that's how MIT professor Henry Jenkins sees it. Writing for his Confessions of an Aca-Fan blog, Jenkins details a recent trip to China, where he attended the International Games and Learning Forum:
I was struck by how little of the conversation about the negative social impact of games centered around issues of media violence or even sex. I had noted a similar disinterest in games violence when I had visited China five years ago in the wake of a tragic fire in a cybercafe started by a high school student...

The Chinese had little interest in the argument that games violence [causes] real world violence. Rather, the incident was read in terms of concerns about the breakdown of traditional community life and the loss of the moral influence of the extended family... both of which were seen as a consequence of rapid cultural, technological, and economic changes. The incident was also read partially in relation to a focus on 'games and internet addiction.'

Could China's ruling elites have a vested interest in fostering the notion of game addiction? Jenkins speculates on this:
We need to be careful about taking this 'addiction' rhetoric at face value... For one thing, Chinese youth used cybercafes as their point of access to both games and the internet. To some degree, the Chinese government is using a rhetoric of addiction to rationalize their periodic crackdowns on young people's digital access... (see: China flags crackdown on undesirable online games)

In that sense, addiction rhetoric does some of the same work that the Firewall does in terms of restricting youth participation in the online world...

At a time when aspects of capitalism are reshaping Chinese society... addiction rhetoric gives the Chinese a way to talk about the impact of leisure culture and consumer capitalism on their lives. Playing games is problematic precisely because it is unproductive (or seen as such)...

Jenkins' lengthy blog entry also touches on game piracy and the serious game movement in China. It's definitely worth a read.

Library of Congress Classification System Game - Will Fox News Find Fault?

January 29, 2008 -
Within Range?

Sounds like a great title for a first-person shooter.

Not quite. The edu-game, created by students at Carnegie-Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, is designed to teach players how the Library of Congress classification system works. And even Fox News can't whine about that.


Check it out.

Via: Joystiq 

Whaling Game Uses Outrage to Spread Environmental Message

January 18, 2008 -
In the past, GamePolitics has reported on various games, both indie and commercial, the very concepts of which have raised hackles.

These include the likes of Bully, Super Columbine Massacre RPG and V-Tech Rampage.

Some, like Danny Ledonne's SCMRPG, aspire to a cultural message. Others, like V-Tech Rampage, were released with the specific intent to offend, apparently just for the creator's twisted amusement.

But what if a game designer wanted you to feel outrage, but also hoped to motivate you to do something about it?

That is the case with Harpooned: Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator. National Nine MSN in Australia spoke with Conor O'Kane, who designed the game to raise public awareness of the fight against commercial whaling. O'Kane is particularly troubled by claims of Japanese whalers that they only harvest the animals for research.

O'Kane explained the reasoning behind Harpooned's direct approach:
If people [are] offended by the game they should be even more offended by real whaling... I hope people make the next logical step and realise that reality is much worse than a video game. The more people tell their friends about how disgusting it is, the better … it puts more pressures on the whalers.

Harpooned is a top-down scroller in which you control a "research vessel." Your job is to kill as many whales as you can for pet food, er, research. If you harvest enough whales in a row, you are rewarded with an "ultra-scientific bonus!"

Running into icebergs damages your ship, and colliding with protesters who are trying to protect the whale pods causes a loss of points for legal fees. Each level ends with you transferring your haul of whale meat to a cargo ship for "further research," Congratulatory messages follow, based on the number of cans of pet food and whale burgers your "research" managed to produce.

Harpooned is a Windows-only game created using the Torque Game Builder from Garage Games.

- Reporting from Canada, where he's carefully scrutinizing any pet food that says "Now with 25% more research!", GP Correspondent Colin "Jabrwock" McInnes.


Persuasive Games: Fatworld Chews on Food, Health and Politics

January 14, 2008 -
Good timing, Ian.

In recent weeks soft drink makers and even fast food giant McDonalds have tried to shift the blame for childhood obesity from their own high calorie products to video games.  Today, Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games is set to release Fatworld, a new political game which examines that very issue. Of the project, Bogost writes:
Fatworld is a videogame about the politics of nutrition. It explores the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary U.S...

The game’s goal is not to tell people what to eat or how to exercise, but to demonstrate the complex, interwoven relationships between nutrition and factors like budgets, the physical world, subsidies, and regulations.”

In Fatworld, players create a character and run a restaurant in a perpetual virtual world.  What you eat, how active you are, and how you run your business all have an effect on you and your town’s health.
By choosing your character’s dietary and exercise habits, you can experiment with the constraints of nutrition and economics as they affect your character's general health. Will it be wheatgrass and soy? Or fried chicken at every meal?

How much can you afford to spend on food, and how does that affect your general health? Characters who eat poorly will get fat. Characters who don’t exercise will move around the world more laboriously. Disease and death will eventually ravage players with poor health, while those with good health will live to a ripe age.

Enterprising players can also influence public policy and merchandizing guidelines in Fatworld in an attempt to discourage the consumption of fatty foods.  You can even force the town down the vegan path by banning meat.

User-created content such as recipes and meal plans can be shared with other players online.

Fatworld is published by ITVS Interactive, and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Via: Water Cooler Games

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen wrote this story while eating a well-balanced lunch

U.S. Army Creates Video Game Squad

December 12, 2007 -
Training and Simulation Journal Online reports that the United States Army has established a project office to create and deploy video games for the training of soldiers.

Col. Jack Millar director of the Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming, or TPO Gaming, said:
I haven’t seen a game built for the entertainment industry that fills a training gap, We will focus on the visualization piece of those technologies, not so much the entertainment piece.

One thing about the Army, there's no shortage of abbreviations. Robert Bowen, civilian chief of TPO Gaming, explained the game training concept to TSJO:
Immerse that soldier into a virtual or synthetic environment, then have them conduct a training task, using their SOP [standard operating procedures], and then AAR [after-action review] that capability.

There will be some cool user-side mod ability built in, Bowen added:
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While Leaders Hold Peace Summit, Israeli & Palestinian Citizens Try to Solve Dispute thru PC Game

November 26, 2007 -
Can a video game game show the way to peace in the Middle East?

As Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders prepare for tomorrow's Annapolis summit, 100,000 average Palestinians and Israelis have been issued copies of PeaceMaker, an award-winning simulation of the conflict.

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, PeaceMaker was distributed by the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv. A press release describes the premise behind the game:
PeaceMaker allows the player to try his or her skills of diplomacy and leadership by playing as either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President.  Incorporating real-world events and news stories, the game challenges players to succeed as a leader where others have failed; to experience the joy of bringing peace to the region - or the agony of plunging the Middle East into disaster.

Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center, told the Post:
The way is pragmatism, entering the role of the other. You must take into account the other side. It will help (each side) understand limitations of each one's president and leader, and as well the limitation of the other side.

A symbolic copy of PeaceMaker will also be sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon their return from Annapolis.

Video Report: Oklahoma TV News Looks at Immigration Game

November 19, 2007 -
Reporter Melissa Newton of Oklahoma City's KOCO-5 offers a balanced look at the emotionally-charged topic of immigration.

The focus of Newton's report is a ICED! (I Can End Deportation), an upcoming online game published by New York-based nonprofit Breakthrough, which describes itself as "an international human rights organization that uses media, education and pop culture to promote values of dignity, equality and justice."

Breakthrough's Mallika Dutt told Newtown:
It's a video game that has five young characters with different kinds of immigration status who try and avoid getting picked up by an ICE agent.

In the course of playing the game you realize that the immigration laws are really not working very well  and penalize people for very minor crimes... This game is really trying to show you that immigration is an American issue.

Oklahoma State Trooper Betsy Randolph looked at ICED! (apparently, only the logo, since the game is not yet available) and was offended:
From the very beginning, here's the small little people and here's the law enforcement person. It's a big white male that's standing towering over all of them. That right there sends the message to whomever is going to sit down and play this game, number one, you're already in the wrong because you're an immigrant. And number two, the big white man is gonna hold you down or he's going to deport you.

Of ICED!, reporter Newton said:
The game's maker hopes this high-tech role-playing will teach others what it's like to walk a mile in an immigrant's shoes.

The game is scheduled for January release.

Virtual Crack House Sim Designed to Help Addicts

November 6, 2007 -
Substance abuse in video games is often targeted by critics who fear it will encourage the use of illegal drugs.

But when a new Duke University project leads players into a virtual reality crack house, it's by way of treating their existing addiction.

As reported by ABC News, Duke prof Zach Rosenthal designed the game, which actually seeks to place addicts in tempting situations. Said Rosenthal:
What we're trying to do is take people into a virtual crack-related neighborhood or crack-related setting and have them experience cravings, just like they would in the real world.

Rosenthal told ABC that cravings are learned behavior. Hopefully, the game will teach addicts not to crave. Here's how it works:
When temptation arises [in game]... the patient rates his or her own craving level. But the magic moment comes when a high craving subsides, which it does, because the patient won't be taking drugs in the virtual world.

The therapist tries to tie that moment, when a craving subsides, to a trigger, like a tone. So the addict eventually learns to associate the sound with the sensation of decreased craving...

For example, if an addict ends up in a [real world] tempting situation, he or she can take out the phone donated by the program, dial a number and hear that tone. The addict remembers the sound learned in the therapy session, and the craving should subside.

A 52-year-old drug addict was enthusiastic about the game's results:
The program has done wonders for me. Although I have fallen since I came out of the program, I am clean and have been clean for a good while.

The Durham, NC Police Department even provided help to the Duke research team by taking them drug use locations where the team took digital images for use in the game.

PBS Website Features Immigration-themed Games

October 15, 2007 -
There are few issues in American politics these days more divisive than immigration.

For those who wish to pursue a hands-on look at the controversy, a PBS website maintains a collection of games dealing with immigration. P.O.V.'s Borders is a web-only examination of the debate. Nearly two dozen games and interactive segments are available from the site.

These include The Maria Sisters, a game about conditions faced by immigrants in chip manufacturing plants in Silicon Valley. In Your Decision the player assumes the role of an INS agent who must decide whether or not to grant a request for political asylum in the United States.

GP: Also worth a read concerning the intersection of video game tech with the immigration debate: Pixels, Politics & Play: Digital Video Games as Social Commentary.

Facing Death, Games Prof Gives Last Lecture

October 8, 2007 -
Readers of GamePolitics may recognize the name of Carnegie-Mellon University’s Randy Pausch. 

The computer science professor cofounded CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center and directs the Alice software project, a free 3D graphics teaching tool for student programmers.

Pausch also has a design credit for Peacemaker, a highly-regarded serious game about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has been referred to as a game education giant.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal Online, Pausch recently gave what was billed as his “Last Lecture.”  This is a common title for talks given at many colleges around the country.  Basically, professors assume that they will be giving the last lecture of their lives and talk about whatever means the most to them.

Sadly, the last lecture scenario has a more ominous significance for Pausch; he suffers from pancreatic cancer and has only months to live.

Speaking before an audience of 400 students, Pausch received a standing ovation before he even started.

Pausch kept his audience entertained for over an hour with his engaging and personable speaking style.  He spoke about his life, family, career and the lessons he’d learned along the way such as the best way to view setbacks to one's personal goals:
Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.

He discussed lifelong dreams he’d achieved such as designing a Disney theme park ride and experiencing zero gravity. But, he added, helping others achieve their own dreams was even more fulfilling.

One of many amusing anecdotes detailed how he had required his students to create video games without sex and violence.  Although his students all eventually rose to the challenge, Paucsh noted:
You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away.

At the end of the lecture Pausch received another standing ovation.  Obviously, the audience felt he had more than earned it.

Says Pausch on his website:
I am glad this lecture has been received so well. It really was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful to know. But rest assured; I'm hardly unique.

An obviously moved Diane Sawyer interviews Randy Pausch in this Good Morning America video clip:

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen

Booze Cruise: The Game

October 6, 2007 -
Here's something to think about as you head out for your Saturday night...

As reported by Reuters, a serious games prof at the University of Calgary is developing Booze Cruise, a drunk driving simulator. The goal is to make teenagers think twice about drinking and driving. Said Prof. Jim Parker:
The basic story is that this person is absolutely pissed and woke up in the trunk of their car and now is going to drive home. And then just for fun, we put distractions on the side of the road, like pink elephants.

This is aimed not at adults, this is aimed at people who are 13 to 16. We want to stop them from doing it in advance.

In the game, the player's field of vision is narrowed and blurred. Reaction times are slowed as well in order to mimic the effects of intoxication.

Video Trailer Released for Playing Columbine Film

July 30, 2007 -
Playing Columbine, filmmaker Danny LeDonne's movie about the controversy surrounding his Super Columbine Massacre RPG game, now has a video trailer.

We recognized some familiar faces including Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin, Smartbomb co-author Aaron Ruby, Manifesto Games head Greg Costikyan and some lawyer from Miami...

Over at Kotaku, editor Brian Crecente has concerns about the focus of the film. Is it about the game controversy or the game maker?
The more Ledonne makes himself the center of the story, the less I believe that [he made the game as a way to deal with the shooting and its aftermath]...

Judging by the rather short trailer, it feels like the documentary is a little too much about Ledonne and not enough about the very real and complicated issues involving both the shooting and the idea of tacking serious subject matters with video games.

L.A. Times on Games & Immigration Debate

July 16, 2007 -
Do video games have a place in the current debate over immigration policy? 

Reporter Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times probes the relationship between games and immigration. Along the way she quotes Suzanne Seggerman, president of Games for Change:
Games are really good at exploring complex issues, and what issue is more complex than immigration?  ...A game can allow for a new perspective and, in some cases, new conviction.

Human rights organization Breakthrough recently partnered with New York City high-school students to create ICED! I Can End Deportation (screenshot at left) The game was presented at last month's Games for Change conference and will be released online later this year. Mallika Dutt, Breakthrough's executive director, said:
Especially for the age group below 35, online media has become a very central part of their lives. If we want to engage with these constituencies, we have to engage in the method and tools that make more sense to them.

University of Denver students, operating under a grant from mtvU and Cisco Systems, are working on Squeezed (video available) a game designed to raise empathy for migrant laborers. UD student Porter Schutz told the Times that members of the Squeezed team held diverse views about immigration:
It’s difficult to sort of rock the boat without vilifying anybody.

Harry Pachon, president of USC’s Tomas Rivera Policy Institute credited games with bringing the issue to those who might other wise pay little attention:
What this does is open up the world of the undocumented.

Gorman also mention the racist Flash game Border Patrol which appeared on the web in 2006. It's objective?
Keep them out... at any cost. 

Serious Games Guru Ian Bogost Has a New Book

July 15, 2007 -
GP favorite, Georgia Tech prof Ian Bogost, who contributes issue-oriented games to the New York Times, has a new book out, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames.

Author Bogost describes his new work:
The book is about how videogames make arguments. I offer a theory of rhetoric for games, then I discuss a great many examples from commercial and non-commercial games, focusing on the areas of politics, advertising and learning. The book should be of interest and use for academics, designers, policy makers, marketers, educators, and general readers interested in the culture of videogames.

Bogost has more info on the book here.

GP: By the way, we now know that Ian has 11 consoles hooked up. Beats me by a few. Tell us, Ian - which systems have ya got?

Game Project Recreates Jazz & Blues Club Scene

June 29, 2007 -
From the Poynter Online journalism site comes word of Remembering 7th Street, a new video game project designed to recreate the jazz and blues club scene of Oakland, California in the 1940's and 1950's.

As reported by Poynter contributor Anthony Wojtkowiak, the project began with a $60,000 Knight News Challenge grant awarded to UC Berkeley journalism professor Paul Grabowicz. Of the ambitious undertaking, Grabowicz said:
Oakland was a Mecca for jazz and blues musicians from all over the country. Over the course of about a decade, the area essentially got wiped out due to a series of ill-fated urban redevelopment projects. We're using a video game to portray that world as it existed and tell the story of the clubs, the musicians, and the people in the community and what happened to them.

Our game defines an important local community and focuses on a very important aspect of that community. In essence, we have used a video game to recreate this community. It's not a broader game like Civilization, [which] attempts to chart historical events...

What's frustrated me ever since is that you could write about it but you couldn't bring back to life what it was like to be there... I found out that the UC Berkeley Architecture School was using video game technology to recreate ancient cities.... A video game is an immersive world; it doesn't seem like someone else's attempt to describe to you what something was like... 


Congress Plays Redistricting Game

June 15, 2007 -
An online game developed at the University of Southern California's Game Innovation Lab explores how redistricting - the redrawing of Congressional district boundaries - can essentially disenfranchise voters.

The Redistricting Game, playable online, was recently shown to members of Congress by Rep. John Tanner (D-TN). Tanner realizes that his colleagues are unlikely to be swayed from the practice, which is less politely known as gerrymandering. The Tennessee Democrat told NPR's Andrea Seabrook:
You're asking people - and I realize this - to give up an awful lot of power.

Seabrook added:
Maybe if voters play The Redistricting Game and have fun gaming the system themelves, they'll see how the system is gaming them and then maybe they'll demand change.

Seabrook's full audio report is a available here.

UPDATE: CNN has a video report.

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RedMageOh hey, a news station is trying to scapegoat gaming. That takes me back. - 1:40pm
Big PermA link to TB twitter with Matt Lees in the replies - - 12:16pm
Brad GlasgowWhy would he say the company lies about getting abuse? Oh, because people don't abuse GG?08/29/2015 - 10:38am
Big PermBrad - Matt Lees was also quick to say the company "Gamers Gate" lies about getting abusive messages thinking they were an official GG channel08/29/2015 - 9:11am
Goth_SkunkMGSV: The Phantom Integrity - A Rant by RazörFist. (NSFW on account of language). RazörFist discusses the latest batch of unethical journalist conduct, with a caveat. - - 7:10am
Goth_Skunk@Brad: I can.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkI assume "Stacy" is a pseudonym. After reading what she went through, I would not be one bit surprised if it is.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkA Year of #GamerGate: From Neutral To Anti To Neutral To Pro by "Stacy" - - 6:12am
Brad GlasgowI can't believe Matt Lees deleted his positive review of Ethan Carter because Chmielarz is sympathetic to GG.08/29/2015 - 5:30am
Goth_SkunkA GameDev's Year With #GG: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Adrian Chmielarz - - 5:18am
Goth_SkunkDespite not being a fan of fighting games I had to check out that R Mika trailer. Loved it. Still won't buy the game though, on account of Isuckatstreetfighteritis.08/29/2015 - 2:42am
MechaCrashI use a Dynex DX-840 headset, but it's discontinued. :( I wanted a mono headset so I could keep the other ear free for my speakers, but it has the bonus of being very light and comfortable, so you don't notice it.08/29/2015 - 12:41am
Big PermSora - I was just having a slow day at work earlier. Now I'm home with vidya!08/28/2015 - 7:54pm
ZippyDSMleeSora-Chan: Blender is easy compared to 3Dmax :P08/28/2015 - 6:51pm
Sora-Chantime to take up a hobby? maybe messing around in GIMP to make wallpapers? use qCAD to design somethin? open Blender and stare at it for a couple hours trying to figure what does what?08/28/2015 - 6:41pm
Big PermAlso, yes. I've been spamming the shoutbox. I don't have much going on today, don't judge me08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Big PermThanks, but yeah. Not sure I wanna drop that kind of cash :P I don't even mind the sound quality of my krakens, it just hurts to wear em after a couple hours.08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Sora-Chan@Big Perm: I'm a bit of a fan of the Omega Recon3D headset from SoundBlaster. Though it is a bit expensive.08/28/2015 - 2:36pm
Big PermI actually need to look into a new headset. I have those green razer krakens and I would not suggest them. Though maybe they're better for people without glasses08/28/2015 - 11:32am
Big PermI've never heard if Apple was dominant in Japan.08/28/2015 - 11:25am

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