I just came across this silly gamification, the Microsoft Developer Movement – Code Kwondo. The idea is that developers get points (and belts) if they learn Windows Phone and Windows 8 programming techniques. This competition is only available to residents of Canada and it includes challenges. I can’t tell if this is simple way of getting Canadian developers creating apps for Windows or if it is patronizing to developers. The imagery is reminiscent of Bruce Lee with nunchuks or Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. Either way they are playing with the Old Martial Arts Master trope. The title “Code Kwando” sounds like someone replaced the “Tae” in “Tae Kwan Do” with “Code” to get “Code Kwan Do.” My understanding of the Korean is that Kwan means “fist” and Do means “art” or “path of”. Thus we have a project that is the Path of Fist Code or Code Fist Art. Not sure they put a lot of thought into this, or perhaps they did.
Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category
I’ve been meaning to blog about a nice feature in Polygon, No girls allowed. The essay starts by talking about gendered toys (and toy store aisles) and then moves on to why there isn’t the same gendering in games, but worse:
As for the boys section — there isn’t one. Everything else is for boys.
If the selection at the average retailer is anything to go by, girls don’t play video games. If cultural stereotypes are anything to go by, video games are for males. They’re the makers, the buyers and the players.
It has been fashionable to point to statistics that suggest “forty-five percent of all game players are women.” (Entertainment Software Association Industry Facts) Such facts, however, apply to all games, but not necessarily to retail games which are marketed more to males. The essay therefore looks at marketing and the vicious cycle of designing for a market (young men) that then reinforces beliefs about the market (it is best to target young men.)
According to Roeser, it makes sense from a marketing perspective for the video game industry to have pursued a male audience, which is exactly what it did starting in the early ’90s.
Tracey Lien then looks back at the history of game marketing and notes how it is only recently that there has been such market segmentation. Lien writes about early women developers like Carol Shaw who worked for Atari and how they weren’t designing for a particular gender.
Things changed in the mid 1980s after the Atari crash. Nintendo saved the industry by reintroducing games as toys which were then marketed as toys. Nintendo started gathering demographic information and discovered that more boys were playing which then fed into segmentation.
In the 1990s, the messaging of video game advertisements takes a different turn. Television commercials for the Game Boy feature only young boys and teenagers. The ad for the Game Boy Color has a boy zapping what appears to be a knight with a finger laser. Atari filmed a bizarre series of infomercials that shows a man how much his life will improve if he upgrades to the Jaguar console. With each “improvement,” he has more and more attractive women fawning over him. There is nothing in any of the ads that indicate that the consoles and games are for anyone other than young men.
The marketing segmentation became a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that ignored all the games popular with women like Myst and the Sims. The marketing and media present the male oriented games as the important or real games and the others as exceptions. Perhaps Grand Theft Auto is the exception and Farmville is the norm. Perhaps retail console games are just a fraction of game culture.
This essay strikes me as a great entry into talking about gender and games for a course. I also like the web design with the images that alternate from one side to the other.
On a related note, see the Let Toys Be Toys (for Girls and Boys) advocacy web site.
I was interviewed by email the other day by Danny Bradbury from the Commerce Lab. The interview is now up at An Alberta researcher offers object lessons in the gamification of learning. Rereading the interview I’m struck by the disconnect between the research we do and what industry does. We do research for the sake of research, but often we don’t connect the research to the concrete problems of practicioners whether a teacher or in industry. For that matter, in the academy, most of us really don’t know much about the realities in business any more than other consumers. We make assumptions, but don’t check them. We don’t actually know what sort of research has been done or not in industry. That isn’t all our fault as industry tends to guard its research as a competitive advantage. Jane Jacobs in Systems of Survival describes the deep differences as between two ethical systems:
- The Guardian system which is open and sharing, uses force and shuns trade.
- The Commercial system that is competitive, thrifty, innovative and industrious
I learned about this from David Rosenthal’s blog entry on In-Browser Emulation which is worth reading.
Wired UK and some other sources have been blogging the Student game world that takes historic London maps into 3D space. The flythrough (YouTube) is from the winning entry to the Off the map collaboration/competiton that brought together maps from the British Library, Crytek’s CryENGINE, and the GameCity collaboration. Undergraduate teams used game technologies to model historic sites from British Library maps. The winning flythrough by Pudding Lane Productions feels like a recreation I would want to play in.
How are Japanese demographics, attitudes towards sexuality and marriage, and gaming connected?
I decided I should check my assumptions about an aging Japan and looked around for some data and articles. One interesting study I came across, from Goldman Sachs, is titled Womenomics 3.0: The Time is Now (PDF). The report has information about birth rates and dependency ratios. They expect there to be a 2:1 ration of workers to dependents (children under 15 and the elderly over 65) by 2050. The report calls for initiatives that encourage more women to join (or stay in) the workforce.
On the subject on attitudes towards marriage and sexuality and how those are changing in Japan, I came across an interesting article in the Guardian titled, Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex? Once you get past the human-interest sex frame there is a nice summary of some of the statistics and issues. The article suggests that the declining interest in getting married, having relationships and having children is not just a matter of women who don’t want to give up their careers, but a larger trend amongst men and women. They suggest it may be occurring in other countries too, especially those hit by the recession.
The Guardian article led me to a report by Eberstadt titled Japan Shrinks about the implications of the drop in fertility rates. The author makes an intriguing aside to the effect that, ”Remarkably enough, there is a near perfect correlation between the demise of arranged marriage in Japan and the decline in postwar Japanese fertility.” More importantly he lists some of the possible side effects of the changing demographics. For example, young workers leaving Japan in order to escape the burden of supporting the elderly.
What does all this have to do with games? Well, the Guardian article and others make a connection between the attitudes to relationships and the availability of virtual relationships. Eberstadt spells out a possible connection when he writes:
- In a recent government survey, one-third of boys ages 16 to 19 described themselves as uninterested in or positively averse to sexual intimacy.
- Young Japanese men are, however, clearly very interested in video games and the Internet: In 2009, a 27-year-old Japanese man made history by “marrying” a female video game character’s avatar while thousands watched online.
- Japanese researchers are pioneering the development of attractive, lifelike androids. Earlier this year, a persuasively realistic humanoid called Geminoid F was displayed in a department store window, appearing to wait for a friend.
Brett sent me links to two great talks about video games. The first, Fuck Videogames are the slides for a talk by Darius Kazemi about how there is nothing special about videogames as a medium and designers should think about different ways of expressing themselves. How To Destroy Everything, Or, Why Video Games Do Not Exist (And How This Is Great For Everyone) is a transcript of a talk by Marigold Bartlett (and Stephen Swift). They talk about the ableist language in game culture like “lame”, “moron”, “dumb” and so on. They talk about “ludonarrative dissonance” (you have to read the essay) and this leads to other reflections. They end with:
We’re not attempting to guilt you. We’re saying if you’re going to celebrate what the amazing things in this medium can do, you have to equally take responsibility for this culture. You have to take responsibility for the things you don’t own. Give up ownership of video games. See them for the social construct that they are. For the sake of others whose voices aren’t being heard, who won’t be heard unless things change.
Video games don’t exist.
We invented them.
And we can destroy them.
Derek Bruff of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt has posted a nice essay on the Lessons Learned from Vanderbilt’s First MOOCs. They have run three MOOCs starting with one on Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture for Concurrent and Networked Software. With this one they found only 7% were awarded some sort of statement of accomplishment (which is a measure of how many finished the course in some fashion.) They had better luck with the next two MOOCs on leadership and nutrition.
The essay then discusses a number of lessons learned (which I quote):
- Teaching online is a team effort
- There’s more to MOOCs than lecture videos
- Open content is our friend
- The cognitive diversity seen in MOOCs is far greater than in closed courses
- MOOC students are well-motivated students
- Cognitive Diversity + Intrinsic Motivations = Crowdsourcing Success
- Accommodating students on different time tables can be challenging
- Instructor presence is important
They have a MOOC coming up on Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative which I think I’m going to take. This raises the question of how many students of MOOCs are other pros wondering how MOOCs work.
The Economist has a short story about Zyngas woes: The chips are down. The story talks about how Znyga is struggling after being the darling of the casual games industry. Znyga hasn’t adapted to mobile gaming and spent too much money.
From Twitter I learned of Sam Biddle’s article on Fired Zynga Staff Hits Reddit to Talk Life Before the Massacre. This gathers some comments about life and business in Zynga from recently fired staff including a strategy of “fast follow” which means copying the good ideas of others.
At the same time I came across a story on a study Teens, Social Media, and Privacy by the Pew Research Center and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. They report that teens are turning away from Facebook as adults join. Teens are moving to using different tools for different tasks.
I can’t help wondering if there is a connection? If Facebook use by teens is dropping then Zynga’s Facebook games could run into trouble.