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Brain Age To Go

Nintendo announced today that it will be offering free games for its DS handheld game system - via wireless downloads at selected airports.

Just stand within a few feet of the "Download Station" and you can suck down demos for titles including Cooking Mama, Brain Age, and the latest Tomb Raider. The project rolls out this summer at JFK in New York, Atlanta, and Cincinnati.

This is kinda great, but it's just a beginning. Digital/wireless distribution of games - from Microsoft's stellar Xbox Live Arcade to mobile phones - is the future. It lets game developers experiment with snack-sized content - easy to play, cheap to make, fast to download. And it lets busy players get their game on anywhere, anytime - even when they have limited time.

I love the idea of games infiltrating the stale air of airport lounges. But why end there? I'm always surprised that games haven't worked their way into movie theaters. Imagine multiplayer Halo 3 on the big screen while you're waiting for Iron-Man to show. Or why not videogaming in Vegas? A room at the Hard Rock where you pay an entry fee to challenge another team of Madden pros.

This has been an amazing time of innovation for Nintendo - from the wireless Wii remotes to the slew of odd, arty, fun titles (Brain Age, Wii Sports, Nintendogs). I'm looking forward to what they'll be showing this July at E3.

Creative Approach To Life

My name is Rob Garfield. In an interview recently, my interviewer applied the subject phrase as a description of my diverse and chaotic background. It felt so affirming that I decided to adopt it as the title of my first post. In my darkest hours of self-questioning and general dissatisfaction with the seeming lack of virtue of a single path in my life, I can look to it as a beacon of hope and definition.

At least until something better comes along. ;)

I graduated college sometime back in the 1800's with a degree in English Literature. After bumming around a bit, I decided to go back to school and get an MFA in poetry. I went to Brooklyn College for a brief time where I had the great fortune to study with Allen Ginsberg. Afterwards, I pursued a "career" as a poet and literary editor in New York for a few years before the publishing "game" started getting to me. My finances weren't in great shape either. So I latched on to the corporate finance world as a technical writer and later a tools developer.

After some years of corporate angst, I threw it all up to head back to school for game development. At Full Sail Real World Education, I learned how to create computer games and specialized in artificial intelligence programming. We learned how to build computer games from the ground up -- how to design them, program them, develop assets for them and organize teams to develop them.

After graduation, I was recruited by the school as an instructor there and spent over 2 years teaching students the finer points and necessities of pre-production in developing software. Curriculum Development became part of the mix when Full Sail transitioned from an Associate's to a Bachelor's degree.

As an instructor, I "produced" hundreds of student games and became well versed in the rapid software development (3-5 month cycles).

The last 2 years I spent designing and programming military simulations for a company in Orlando. At this position, I worked with various development environments and engines (e.g. Unreal) and developed for proprietary input and feedback devices. Our clients included DARPA and other governmental organizations.

Currently, I hold a position at Columbia's Center for New Media Teaching and Learning where our goal is to facilitate the purposeful use of new media in the classroom and beyond. We focus on furthering education by creating new models of learning that incorporate the finest residue of the technological boom.

I plan on approaching this blog with an open mind about subject matter. That said, simulations (and serious games in general), player experience, multiplayer communities, educational uses of games and just plain discussions of games and game systems will comprise the bulk of my non-autobiographical writing.

Nice to meet you all. I hope this will be the beginning of a long relationship.

RG

Google's Gamer Patent

Online games are an escape. Even better, for most people, they're a private escape. Any hour, day or night, some dude in Iowa can sit down, log on, and boot up. Then, after an hour or two (or six) of battling through World of Warcraft or flirting in Second Life's Midnight City, he shuts down, and returns to his carbon-based life.

But what would happen if his sense of privacy was gone? Would the success of online games be hampered if the gamer thought that someone, somewhere was monitoring his play?

That's the question raised now by Google. As detailed in a report in the Guardian, Google filed a patent last month for tracking gamers' online activity and selling the data to advertisers. Under the plan, personalized banner ads would appear on the player's screen. For example, the patent reads, "If the user has been playing for over two hours continuously, the system may display ads for Pizza Hut, Coke, coffee." What no Cup 'O Noodles?

The overall effort is to engineer an instant online personality profile. "User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterise the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc)," the patent reads, "Also, user play may be used to characterise the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc)."

I'm not surprised at all by this kind of Orwellian ad-speak. As games shift more and more online, companies will have to find ways to monetize play. But they need to do it in a way that doesn't piss off the players - who will surely find, or create, alternatives of their own.

I like to make games

My name is Harry Teasley, and I've been making games professionally for around sixteen years now. My coworkers call me "Old Man Teasley" to my face, and "Harry" when they think I can't hear them. For this, they will pay.

I started in games as an artist, which I still am, but I've also done game design, production, user interface design, a number of different things that make me talk about games as if I know something.

The highlight games I've worked on are Civilization, Doom PSX, Half-Life, and most recently, Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. The lowlights would be... hmmm, probably Double Dragon V, and Dr Floyd's Desktop Toys. Although Dr Floyd shipped with Kye, which was great, it also had an early precursor of Clippy, only the good doctor was even more annoying and less useful. Hence, it can never be forgiven.

The industry has changed a lot over the past sixteen years, yet, for all the advances, it is surprising how little computer and video games have changed on a fundamental level. I intend to gripe about that fairly frequently. There is almost nothing that I won't gripe about.

Microsoft's Family Games

Who do you see when you picture a video gamer? A 17-year-old boy playing Grand Theft Auto in his parents' basement? Or a 55-year-old mom playing Mahjong online?

With the success of Nintendo's Wii console, which targeted "non-gamers" with its intuitive motion-sensing remote controller, Microsoft is now waking up to the power of older gamers. As Microsoft v.p. Peter Moore recently told Bloomberg, ``If we don't make that move, make it early and expand our demographic, we will wind up in the same place as with Xbox 1, a solid business with 25 million people...What I need is a solid business with 90 million people.''

They'll do this, in part, by adding more family and parlor games to the Xbox Live Arcade system, the digital download service.

This isn't new territory for Microsoft. The company has been pursuing so-called "casual games" for years on its MSN Games service. A few years ago during a visit to the company, I ran into Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, who has been brewing up puzzle games for Microsoft.

Problem is, Microsoft faces a challenge in getting gray gamers to feel comfortable on an Xbox, no matter how many Tetris clones it serves up. It's one thing to play a casual game on a PC or cell phone (the preferred platforms), and another entirely to paw a 360 controller.

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