Category: video games

Computer games as inspirtion for books / movies?

the trip to the movies revealed a small thought about the usage of computer games to books and films.
Boxtrolls movie, is based on a story “Here be Monsters” by Alan Snow published in 2005. The first adventure of Snake was being published in the Metal Gear Solid series of games published in 1998. The Game was designed in sneaking and famously used a mechanic of hiding in cardboard box as you sneak around the game’s world. Attracting as little attention to yourself as possible. This mechanic of hiding in a cardboard box when you were in danger is perfectly recreated by the Boxtrolls movie.

Exclusive... Daniel Radcliffe Films "Horns"
the second thought is around the new film with Daniel Radcliffe called “Horns”. Its based on a book by Joe Hill from 2010. A girl dies and the next day her boyfriend wakes up and has grown horns. This is reminiscent of the story of ICO, where the leace character a boy called ICO is locked in a castle, as he has grown wings, and has to act to protect Yorda, his female accomplice in the dark lonely castle. Having not seen the film or read the book I don’t know how close or otherwise the finished product will be.

I find it interesting that mechanics which have been developed by computer games, such as Hiding in a cardboard box, or the striking visuals image of the Horned boy is explored by film, would then be reimagined within books, and then as movies. Rather than trying to take a computer game and make a film of the game with notably disappointing consequences.

iOS app Fiete – a game for toddlers

With my daughter getting ready to go to school after the summer. 4 or 5 years of attempting to find good, fun, interesting apps for toddlers is coming to an end. Hence it is time for a short series of app reviews featuring some of our favourite apps for this age group 3-5 year olds.

app store link –

Fiete is a simple game, you are accompaning a sailor in a world where thing have went wrong and your job is to help them get better. You help accross 15 scenes (or i would call them senarios) and 3 games, In each scene or senario, you can play and interact with the world making it better.

The game runs on iOS maeaning touch is an intergal part of the game, for example onthe scenes opens with this image-
you can see a seed, a pot with some soil, and our sailor friend. using your finger you drag the seed into the soil
and then get treated to a simple animation of the change you have made.

As an app its joy is derived from logical actions from the child, see the problem, find the solution and enjoy the reaction. It is this way of engaging children with game logic that
I like. How do you at 14 or 15 become really good at computer games, or logic puzzles, or homework, or perhaps change the world and society? By this really simple encouragement to play, be creative and do the simple things well.
How do we create a healthier society? well we give all the sick people the medicine they need to be healthy for free at the point of need. it strikes me that adhering to a simple outworking of this game gives us a bit of hope for the future course of how our society functions, but also this wee game gives us a reminder, that as adults, we are responsable for doing the simple uncomplex changes which makes tomorrow grand.

Plus there is a sailor with an hat, seriously, who doesn’t like a sailor in a hat?

Computer games research hits the headlines.


Aggression from video games ‘linked to incompetence’ – BBC News
Video Gamers’ Aggression Born From Frustration, Not Violence: Study – NBCnews
(and others)

So the interwebs news reports on some research from Oxford and Rochester universities. This is good news as this type of research needs to be considered widely. Aggressive reactions to computer games are due to the difficultly of the task you are asked to complete, not the game scenarios you play. Thats good findings. But as I read the news reports I found questions come up.

Take this explanation of one of the experiments.

In one experiment, undergraduates held their hand in a bowl of painfully cold water for 25 seconds. They were led to believe that the length of time was determined by a prior participant, but in fact, all participants were assigned the same duration. Next, participants were randomly asked to play either a simple or challenging version of Tetris, after which they were asked to assign the amount of time a future participant would have to leave their hand in the chilled water. Players who experienced the difficult Tetris game assigned on average 10 seconds more of chilled water pain to subsequent players than those who played the easy version.

tetris game screen

So they inflicted pain on people, lied to them about why they had the painful experience, asked them to play a game of Tetris, after the game, the participants decide how much pain someone else should get. I am not sure the effects of the game difficulty which is causing the player to react? I realise I am easily confused, but that seems weird. I don’t know this is really the experience to be able to make findings upon. Within the paper there are seven different approaches used. This experiment was one selected to be reported in the press.

The second thing which occurs to me is the experience of the player.
If you play games regularly you develop a repetoire of skills and knowledge which is applicable, within a game setting. The theory (Sicart) argues that Video Games only have a restricted number of things you can do. As your repertoire increases so does the amount of strategy you can call on. Your ability to cope with new game scenarios and higher levels of difficulty increases. In this research what game experience did the players have? How did the players repertoire affect the findings, was it considered? Reading the article, yes it was. In the article there were 7 experiments and player competence was actually named and considered as a key factor in the study.

The last thought is the role of failure within computer games. Jesper Juul in his book “the Art of Losing”, considers that games exist in a paradox. We as humans prefer success to failure. We enjoy games. But games are an exercise in repeatedly failing. We enjoy failing in this game context. How does this aggressive behaviour study actually address this paradox? How does it move beyond a computer games are linked to aggression stand point to actually consider the very nature of games and how this experience then affect the person.

Sadly it doesn’t deal with this issue. It doesn’t even refer to this a part of the game experience. I think this is a fatal weakness which undermines this researches usefulness. If the central premise of your study is around our reaction to failure why pick a medium which has a predominancy to failure, yet paradoxically is a very popular and enjoyable space for expressions of failure?

Why not something with more of a 50-50 chance of failure. If I replaced video games with soccer, or trying to find a car parking space in a busy car park would the research or findings be different. This seems to indicate that the designers of the study decided early on that video games and aggressive reactions were significantly linked, thereby betraying a low view of video games and those who play them. Computer games are reasoned to cause more agression than other example, by inference, they are a negative way of spending time. Is the failure cause actually important to the research? This research is not about computer games and their players at all.

I know my analysis of this stuff is probably wrong, but here goes. If I was cynical I would guess that the research has used computer games in order to speak about the links between video games and aggression with a knowledge that this is a topic newspapers like to comment on. Being generous I would guess they are trying to challenge the perceptions of aggressive behaviour and games being linked. Unfortunately by not dealing with ongoing relationship between failure and video games, a vital element of the very nature of video games, they have not actually dealt with their research subject.

Scott, in brief blog – Birthdays, contentment and motivations.

Strange time birthdays, it gives space for some perspective and time to consider the failures and successes of the past year. But I don’t think I am in that considering mode. With my uni work and the running thing, its tying up with organising and pushing on, not taking an overview and pausing to reflect on everything. Its about grinding through and getting it done.

Grinding is a good computer games term there for you. It refers to games where what you hve to do is constant repedative actions in order to progress. Games like aliens versus zombies or candy crush saga and to some extent tetris all could be linked to this idea, you have to grind and grind and grind away at the task. The idea of in app purchases has taken popularity partly as the grind games have become more promenant, as part of the reason to make a purchase is to bypass the repedative gameplay. (Is that cheating or just a blatant application at its best/worst of free market economics. (If you have the money you can buy advantages not available to those without the ability to spend the money on it?) ethically is it wrong to buy yourself to a finish in a game? Is it fair to the game designer to be paid by only those who choose to buy success in the game and not play it as designed?

Anyway back on topic.
This birthday was celebrated with some family and good wishes from friends, and some lovely presents. It was really nice. And a delicious lemon cake.

And a real understanding that i needed to be organised and make the most of my time. The FT over the weekend carried the brilliant column “the sage and the shrink” written by husband and wife duo of Psychotherapist Antonia Macaro and Philosopher Julian Baggini, they toss about one diea from both perspectives. This weekend was the question of ‘can you be content and motivated?’

As i reflected on my birthday. I couldn’t help but ask myself, where i am, am i to content with things. I am very content and happy generally. I like my life, yet i know in the eight months life is going to change. The wee one will start and school and i need to work out what i will do with my time. (Beyond housework!) this change will be a huge opportunity. A new space to inhabit and live in. What could that look like? And what do i want to do with it. Part of my contentment is from taking a bit of control and directing what has been the last two three years. I have had offers to get involved with things and I have said no to a number as i was in a good place with the stuff i currently do.

Macaro makes the point.

far from meaning stagnation being more at ease with where we are means our motivations can be pulled by what we see as good rather than pushed by what is bad.

That kinda points to where i am and what I would like to do. It about pushing for what is good and working through what i think that is and making the moves to make that happen.

My contentment doesnt blind me to the things i could improve, or the injustice and preventable suffering about. Its not a contentment which brings about ignorance or turning a blind eye. The things which motivate me are still there and pushing. But i am glad that those things end up with the pull of the good rather than the push of the bad. The push of the bad can only end badly for all involved rigght?

Anyway onward to the next birthday…

(PS did i really see an advert for valentines day today?)

Get saving – 2014 Christmas guide #xboxone vs #playstation4 #longblogpost

PS4 vs Xbox One compositeSo its June and the race for your christmas spending has started. Last week saw the E3 games conference in Los Angeles, USA. The two largest news making press conferences were held by two giants of the games world. Sony & Microsoft, who have offered new shiny boxes of tricks suitable for the worlds living rooms. (Well half shiny, half matte in Sony’s case). Given the state of the market, (see the sad story of the WiiU below), it appears to be a relatively straight shoot out for that games playing space under the TV this christmas.

These video games things are popular. Microsoft revealed they have sold 70million xbox 360’s by last september. the cheapest version of the console in argos today is £169, multiply that by 70million and thats alot of money from one box. Sony given a similarity in prices, have sold a console for one year longer, they have sold around 75million consoles.

An industry of highs and lows.
Launching a new product to replace a popular on is not an easy task. Nintendo are masters at dominating this market. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was the market leader for the early years of video games. Their crown slipped with the gamecube, during the original playstation 2 / Xbox battle. With the playstation 2 becoming dominant. Their response was to innovate with a new system, a new way to interact, to make a development on how to play. They created the Wii console. It was popular, fun, easy to pick up and due it being based on current technology, (not high tech specs), it was cheap in comparision. This made it sell, alot.
Nintendo world wide have sold 99.84 million Wii consoles outselling playstation3 and xbox by around 20million units.

Given this dominance, hopes were high for the next creation. The first of the next generation of games machines. Its main innovation is a dual screen system. His meant your controller in your hands has a screen on it for playing or completeing tasks as part of the game. this mean the WiiU would lose its low cost entry point. It also has the ability to play wii games and use wii remotes. It couldn’t go wrong. The system launched in november 2012 and has sold 3.45 million consoles, (based on the document linked too above.)
Nintendo initially suggested they were aiming for sales of 5.5million, and then reduced this to sales of 4million.

My guess is the WiiU doesn’t have the novelty/fun factor of the Wii, and it seems expensive compared with the price of the Wii. It doesn’t have the elusive ‘impulse buy’ factor, and crucially it doesn’t have the games to support the more dedicated gamer market. The news that third party games makers, (companies that aren’t nintendo), are not developing any new games for the WiiU have really damaged the consoles prospects long term. So no FIFA 2014 then. Hmmm. The long term gamer market is also compromised by nintendo’s reliance on developing very edgy new games, yet relying on Mario to sell the game.

In a tought economic marketplace, 7 months after launch, the question is who will by one now? The importance of getting this right for Sony and Microsoft cannot be understated.

The other indication of how important launch is to the companies, was the strange decision to launch both consoles twice. Sony intially took 3 hours to not show the box. Microsoft took 1 hour to not talk about games. Last monday saw part 2 of these double headers with Microsoft taking an 1hour to talk just about games, release date and price, and Sony taking an hour to respond to microsoft’s double launch.

How they compare part one – philosophy.

They are very different beasts philosophically, and the companies behind them are selling them as different beasts. Microsoft is a software company, but with the xbox and the current tie up with nokia for phones they are branching into hardware. Given this, it makes sense that Microsoft is selling the xbox one as a multimedia box under the TV. It is a computer which responds to voice commands and is the one box to control everything. It brings the internet, tv, games, a media centre all in one box under the TV. It needs the kinnect system to do the voice control, and will not work without this. It also needs an active internet connection to allow you to play games.

Sony is selling the playstation4 as a games machine, but one that can also do TV & media centre stuff. (No word on the voice control yet.) Its launch event and e3 conference yesterday focused on games and its games abilitiies, making a huge play of its openness of the system to independant games makers to publish new games for the system.

Both new consoles will not allow you to play games from earlier versions of Xbox or Playstation due to different operating systems. Both consoles have added interesting add ons to the games side of the consoles. Social interateion. With the Xbox the opportunity to use of skype snapped onto the side of the screen allows for xbox live and the multiplayer experience to become both more scary and brilliant. Scary as do you know what you look like when you play a game? The playstation has a share button.
It records what you have done in game, and on pressing the share button your can watch yourself playing the game, upload it to youtube or facebook, easily.

The questions becomes how much does sharing allow for the development of community within the game playing community, or does opening that knowlegde wider meaken the game community, as interacting with the community becomes watching a youtube video, and stealing their knowledge?

How they compare part 2 – technical specification.

Both boxs are broadly similar. The selling points of which has the best processor/ graphics rendering/ etc are quite close to each other. Certainly it is close enough at launch not to make this difference the primary buying reason.
If you want a more in depth tech spec analysis it’s here

(Basically the sony bas better ram, the xbox has a hdmi input)

So that means…
The Microsoft Xbox One is trying to get out of the games market, to become in the same class of consumer gadgets as tablet computers or laptops. Things like its requirement to have constant access to the internet, (Minimum of once every 24hrs), is bizarre for a games machine but for a computer like a laptop or a smart phone or a tablet its normal.mIt has an necessary input source using the kinnect add on. The kinnect is a camera and microphone which goes on top of your Tv or similar. It allows for voice commands, and movements to be integrated into games and controls for the system. A logical development of a camera and microphone on a computer.

The first press conference majored on Tv and using the XBox as a way to get your TV signal into your TV. It has an HDMi in port to allow for this to happen. The flaws in the system though are you will still require your sky or bt or cable box in the UK. So why would you plug it into another box to watch the TV. The Xbox is focused on The North American market, historically Xbox has been dominant there, so all the TV media deals they have done with netflix or the NBA or NFl are availble in north america, but are not available globally.

The issue for Microsoft is to be judged against its most logical rival the Sony box. Suddenly a games machine that needs always on internet connection to work seems strange. The kinnect which is watching us at all times when the system is on seems weird. It allows for fears and concerns to be raised with this change in philosphy.

Microsoft have filed lots of patents over the last few years. So imagine using the Xbox One to watch a film on Netflix. The kinnect camera will be on, watching you in the room watching TV. This seems innocent enough, yet when added to microsofts patent for a technology last year it gives cause for concern. One of the patents was for a technology which would watch the people watching a film on a film subscription system, it would record how many people were in the room watching the film, check the licence agreement for how many people were allowed to watch the film, acting if too many people are in the room. The technology would stop you watching the film, it would ask you to pay for a new licence or in a move inspired by the Tv theme tune off the 80’s programme “why don’t you”, prevent you from continuing watching the film. Microsoft have made a big play of the kinnect being sensative enough to read your heart beat. Yes,i did just say your heart beat.

Microsoft is also challenging the way computer games are sold. Moving to a system of software licence purchasing. You don’t buy the game as a physical entity. You buy a licence to use software. If this move was coupled to an iTunes download only style model, this would make sense. But by continuing to have a physical box, as games buyers and shops demand, this model seems counter intuitive and a halfway house which will please no one.

Sonys reaction is to get lots of plaudits for not changing the system. In comparison Sony are saying we have a great games machine, you don’t need to connect it to the internet ever, you dont need to connect it to a camera or microphone for it to work, you buy a box in the shop, take ithome and play it straightaway. Later, if you want, you can trade it in or sell it. Plus we do all the tv and media hub stuff, and our console is cheaper by £80.

The money

The Microsoft Xbox One checks in at £425. The Sony Playstation4 at £340. (The wiiU is £219-300 on amazon now.) both will be out for christmas. This is a large amount of money, but to be the one child in a class at christmas who gets one well its a small price to pay. (Feel free to note the build up of advertising from november onwards towards christmas.) With Microsoft intent on moving out of the games console market into the home media centre sector, Nintendo’s WiiU seemingly stuck in ‘great if you want to play mario but pants for everything else’ purgatory,then playstation4 has an open goal to rule the TV games market right?

The third way

But hold on there is a third gaming way. A rival is on the rise, and it looking interesting possibly very good. The valve “steam box” is a mini computer which links into the TV. It is wireless, linking into your wifi and the internet. The key selling point is the steam network. A fully fledged game download system for PC and Mac with thousands of games already supported and ready to play. The system is unknown currently does not have a release date. But it is attractive. The ability to play the games from your PC/mac on your TV at home, share save points is great.

Philosophically it is computer which plays games on your tv, it is expected several companies will build versions with the price reflection the tech spec of what goes in liek, like computer pricing. I like this idea alot. It is a download only model, with your login to the steam system being key to playing the games.

The real downside is that there isn’t a launch date or price yet. But when it launches I suspect it will sell hunners, it may go on to dominate the market.

Christmas 2014.

If all you want is the occasional fun game buy the WiiU
If all you want a cool games machine that does the tv stuff as well buy the playstation4
I love the bravery of change being embraced by microsoft. Recent reviews of the new apple ios7 have commented how it it moving in the direction shown in the design style of microsoft phones. I think it is risky, and I am not happy about the always on kinnect thing. Plus its £80 more expensive. It could be brilliant. But if you asked me today, I think for christmas 2014 I would leave the Xbox and give it a year or so to sort itself out, develop integrated services for the TV in the uk, sort out the second hand games issue, and the issues about privacy, then think about buying it.