Posted in Games, Uncategorized

Campus Crisis – building Alternate Reality Games for learning

So… Alternate Reality Games (ARGs).

I wrote a little post about these and posited that Facebook is a sort of ARG a while back.  Not a very good ARG but, I think, very arguably an ARG.

Warning: when talking about Alternate Reality Games there is a real possibility that I will end up repeating ARG a lot just because I like the way it sounds…

ARG

Ok.  Now that’s out of my system… for anyone that isn’t already aware of them, Alternate Reality Games are basically games that are played in both the real and virtual world, i.e. you might play part of it online and another part of it in real-to-goodness offline mode.  Why, you might ask.  Good question.  Well – for a start it can be a great way of engaging with our surroundings in new, imaginative ways.  It is also good to remember that, no matter how much enjoyment we might get out of the virtual, our bodies are in the real.  And our bodies are not just vehicles to get our heads to games consoles.  Indeed – engaging the body and the mind at the same time is about as immersive as any experience can be.  Why else would anyone go to so much trouble to make VR a reality?

I made a little ‘history of ARGs’ timeline a while back.  You can see it here.

It is by no means a complete history, but it does endeavour to give a solid account of the beasts.

So… skipping to the end.  I believe that ARGs are incredibly powerful ways to organise information.  Perhaps even more powerful than traditional stories.

They have greater potential within education than, say, Egan’s story form model, or stories in general, because they require more active involvement from the player(s).

Traditional stories give us the privilege of seeing the world from someone else’s perspective.  ARGs call us to be in the world and to embody this perspective.  Or – to my mind even more excitingly – to explore our own perspective within the play-space.

In other words, in ARGs you are the hero.  Or you can be.

And that is what I tried to capitalise on when I developed Campus Crisis with some wonderful colleagues at my place of work; Campus Crisis is an ARG that teaches players about sustainability, by inviting them to save the world.

Yep – some non-player-characters from the future, have found a way to talk to us now.  And they have one thing to say: help us, our world is dying.  Help us.

And there you go.  The students are tasked with strategising ways to change first their own lives, and then the world… They are given guidance in the form of a blog, some audio files and some teaching videos.  Their tutor is there to add any further pointers, but that is it.  They are the hero.  This is the hero’s journey.  And, in a nutshell, that is a key feature of the ARG, the hero’s journey.  And, on that note, here is a brilliant youtube video about this cunning little structuring technique:

Other things to consider include pace and opportunities for emotional engagement, i.e. why should the player care… and this is a whole thing in and of itself.  But, for now, when thinking about an Arg for learning think: what structure are you employing and why; why should the player care? and where is the pace quick, and where does it give the player some space to reflect?

Primarily, though, I believe that when you have a solid structure (i.e. everything is there for a purpose), then you should have something that will ‘work’.

I was fortunate enough to deliver a workshop about this game and some of the more subtle points underpinning it at the Playful Learning Conference yesterday.  And if you happen to be reading this, and you would like to know more or chat about it, please leave a comment and I will be very happy to get back to you.

Posted in Uncategorized

On Creativity

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity recently.  Specifically about the human capacity to be creative, the space we allow it to occupy in day-to-day life, and one phrase that I seem to hear a lot from students, colleagues and friends…

I’m not creative.

Where does ‘I’m not creative’ come from?

All human beings start off creative.  At least that’s what I think.  And if you’re not sure whether or not you’re creative, take a moment to look at this:

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What is this really?

What is it?

 

Try to imagine what you might have to eat later…

 

And take a look at this:

Image result for box
Picture from: Kunal.vicky (talk | contribs)

 

What do you think might be inside it?

If your brain automatically turns two dots, a line and a circle into a face, if you can imagine something that you aren’t doing yet (like eating dinner), and if you imagine things that might be inside a box (whether it’s the portal to another world or something that you might more realistically find inside of a box), you ARE creative.

We cannot help but be creative.

It is the way that our brains work.  We try to answer, ‘what if’, we make patterns out of seemingly random things, we search for meaning… we can’t help it.  I’ll say it again, it is just the way that our brains work.

Earlier this year, a student told me that she wasn’t creative.  And I could see I kind of yearning in her whole being.  She wanted to be creative, but she was convinced that she just wasn’t.

Nonsense, I told her, nonsense.  Of course you are creative.  We are all creative.  And then I went through some of the examples I’ve given you.  She wanted to believe that she might be creative.  I gave her, in fact I gave the whole class, some creative exercises to keep playing with.  We are all creative, but like everything, it helps if we exercise it a little.

By the end of the course my student had written a picture-book.  She seemed to vibrate with wonder because she had realised something about herself.  She had realised that she was, indeed, creative.

But I wonder… what happened in the first place to convince her that she wasn’t?

Let’s get to the heart of it.

We have not valued creativity in our society.  In fact, we’ve kind of devalued it.  We have said that it’s for children (making it seem childish and something which we ought to grow out of), or the creative subjects (thereby separating creativity from ‘serious’ and ‘important’ subjects).

Which subjects do you associate with creativity?

Most people don’t immediately think mathematics, the sciences or engineering.  You might have done, but be honest… was it your first thought? Well done if it was.  I know that those subjects are creative, but they’re never my first thought…

This is not a test. Just a quick gauge to get a sense of where we have placed creativity in order to wind up believing that we aren’t creative.

We don’t start that way.

Children learn through creative engagement with their world and others.  Sometimes, we call this ‘play’.  And then, one day, we are told to stop playing, stop daydreaming, stop doodling…

Play and creativity become things that we do when we have finished with the serious and important stuff.

I used to work as a freelance writer.  I remember a short contract, where I had to get children who had been excluded from class, and who would never write, to write.  That was my task.

I spent some time with them making up stories that we told one another.  Then I brought in flipchart paper and pens, put the paper on the floor and gave them the pens.  I invited them to write their stories on the big paper and I also welcomed the inclusion of drawings.

40-minutes later we had to make them stop.  These kids never wrote.  Except here they were… writing.  A lot.

What had happened?

Nothing much.  We had just shifted the dynamic from work to fun. We had turned it into play with nothing more than big paper and big pens.

One of the great and wonderful surprises about the human capacity for creativity, is that it actually doesn’t take much to awaken.

So go on, wake it up, what is in the box?

Image result for box
Picture from: Kunal.vicky (talk | contribs)

And remember… don’t stop playing, don’t stop daydreaming, don’t stop doodling.

Creativity and play are not things that you do after the serious and important stuff.  They are the serious and important stuff.

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games – parents – and a book that just might help…

‘This game’s just come out.’  I’m showing one of my colleagues Monument Valley 2.  I loved the first one, and I’m pretty sure her daughter will really like it.

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A kind of square-hay-tree-thing-of-beauty in Monument Valley 2

‘Thanks,’ my colleague furrows her brow and stares at the iPad I’ve thrust into her hands.  ‘I never know what games are good – I mean, not good but good.  Does that make sense?’

I nod my head.  It makes perfect sense.  No one knows.  That’s the problem.  Or, to put it another way, very few parents know.  And what, exactly, makes a good game anyway?

I’m a university lecturer.  I teach creative writing, how stories can develop learning, the digital world and how games work.  And it’s a question my students often ask me, particularly those students with gaming children.  Actually, there are a whole host of questions that they ask me.

And there are lots, and lots of answers.

‘Is it ok for a fourteen-year-old to play a game with a PEGI 18 rating?’ Well, that depends on the emotional intelligence of the fourteen-year-old and the emotional intelligence of the game.  So probably not.

‘Why do children want to play on their game console all of the time?’  Well… games offer us something that we crave but rarely find anywhere else – challenge.  Specifically, the right level of challenge to enable each player to continue to progress at their own speed.  And this, quite frankly, is essential if you want to obtain flow.  Image result for flow by that game companyYou know, that feeling you get when you are so involved in the activity that time ceases to have meaning.  Incidentally, also the title of another great game.

 

‘What about people skills?’  Seriously?  You’re asking me this question while you scan your phone. While. You. Are. Scanning. Your. Phone.

I could go on… actually I will, just for a moment because the phone thing really, you know, pisses me off.  I use my phone a lot too.  And I have a three-year-old daughter.  When I’m with her, I suddenly become aware of the phone that I keep looking at.  And I make myself put it away.

Smart phones and the apps we use every day rely on game mechanics to keep us checking them (we should probably think less in terms of using our phones and more in terms of playing them).  But when I’m with my daughter I try really hard not to look at my phone, because she should not have to compete for my attention with a phone. A. Phone.

And I would say that the odd glance at society (just a quick glance as I look up from my phone), would seem to confirm that we are all doing this.  We are all staring into tiny handheld screens clicking ‘like’ and ignoring our kids.  And for some reason we’re worried about the games that actually call themselves games and, for the most part, endeavour to engage children (and adults) in activities that are actually fulfilling.

 

The issue – or at least one issue – is not that games are bad.  It is that they are not understood.  And parents, in particular, seem to find them truly bemusing.  So, ok, parents might need a bit of help to work out what is good about games.

Hence the conversation I was having with my colleague.  I sent her an email with a bunch of suggestions for her daughter.  I do that a lot for the people I work with and for my students.  But I only know a bit, about a bit.  If only there was someone else who spent a whole heap of time on this thing… and if only they were writing a book about it…

Wait a minute!

I’ve been following Andy Robertson on Twitter for several years now.  And he has addressed this exact need.  I pre-ordered a book he’s written called Taming Gaming, and ever since clicking the lovely pre-order button, the concept of this book keeps tugging at my mind.  And I think it’s because so many people have asked me about games and children over so many years.  I’ve ordered the book so I can show it to my students and my colleagues and direct them to it (and also so that I can read it).  But then I thought I’d write a blog and suggest it to as many people as I can.

It looks good.  Not just good but, you know, good.

And as soon as I get my copy I will write a full review.  In the meantime, though, you may want to have a gander yourselves

Posted in Uncategorized

Is Facebook an Alternate Reality Game?

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Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are narrative puzzles that you play in both the virtual and the real world.  They are stories scattered across spaces, a little like autumnal leaves across a playing field.  You discover these stories by resolving the puzzles they pose.  And, very often, you do this by working with others online.

This idea of a story that might be played has its roots in good old D&D, choose-your-own-adventure books and, later, computer text adventures.

A key feature is that they are stories you sort of, kind of play.  And to those dedicated ARG players, they are the culmination of what a narrative/game really can be, and perhaps should be, if it is to exist (at least in part) in the digital world.

So why on earth would I ponder over whether Facebook, might be considered to be an ARG?

Stick with me.

Facebook is a game.  Of this much I am certain.  And this concept may be pretty well established to you, or you may be thinking that it isn’t a game, it’s a social media platform, and that I appear to have lost the plot.

Stick with me.

FB is an incredibly effective social media platform.  And the reason it is so effective is because it uses the principles of game design to hook us, and to keep us playing.

Getting and giving likes – or the many emotional responses we are now able to give – are little pieces of feedback that make us feel good (not unlike gaining XP).  Getting a comment is even better.  Having some sort of comment-based exchange is great.  And yes – these things play to our social selves – but they are also part of what makes us want to play.  Feedback.  We love feedback.  We love feeling that our actions (clicking like or leaving a comment), have impact.  It gives us a sense of agency.

Scroll through your feed and you’re playing the FB game.  This time the feedback is that bubble Facebook places you within.  The news and media bubble.  You only tend to see the things you already like and agree with.  Information filtered just for you, to make you feel good and want to keep on playing.  Your views are brilliant – look, all of you newsfeed agrees with you.  You must be amazing.

I’m not trying to suggest that FB is some sort of sinister machine.  I just want to point out how very much like a game it is.

But why do I think it might be an ARG?

I’d say it’s a social game – we are the SIMS – and we are playing our social existence.  We play this game in the real world – when we occasionally see some of those people with whom we are friends on FB.  And we play this game, overwhelmingly, in the virtual.  To gain satisfaction from the FB game, we do need to have some sort of recognition of our social interaction (likes, comments…)

And the story?

It’s our story, and we’re working it out as we go.  There are lots of vignettes along the way: ‘look what he did now!’, ‘politics and that’, ‘I feel cross or something and wish to announce this publicly…’, and ‘look – a Kitten!’ However we choose to express ourselves in this game, we are essentially expressing a particular version of ourselves.  A character or caricature if you will.

The thing is, it’s the sort of ARG that will never finish.  It’s an Alternate Reality Game MMO.  Like World of Warcraft.  It will never end, not until you stop playing.

So we are playing Facebook.  The shame is that the story isn’t really much of one.  Don’t get me wrong – the stories of our lives are important.  To us.  They’re just not great literature.  Well – not often.

So if Facebook is an ARG, it’s not a truly great one.  But it is really, really good at getting us to play.

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8-woodworking projects in 12-months

Just over a year ago I began my first little build.  It was something I had been intending to do for a while, so when I found myself with some unexpected free time I decided to crack on.

I’m pretty pleased with the way the various projects have turned out, and I think they deserve a blog.

So here we go…

Project One: a storage-window-seat (note to reader: probably not the best project to begin with)

The first thing I learnt when building the window-seat is that Victorian houses are not symmetrical.  This means that if you are building something to fit a Victorian house, then every single measurement will be different because the walls aren’t really straight.

I wanted to make sure that my window-seat would be strong enough to stand on (I have a little girl who will, undoubtedly, one day use it as a stage), so I made a robust frame.

IMG_2716

I decided not to build-it-in because it was going in a basement room, and I wanted a bit of clearance between the edges of the seat and the wall for air-flow.  However, I forgot that all my measurements had been for a built-in unit, which meant they were, well, weird… I had to keep up the bizarre measurements throughout the project after that, somehow it all worked out!

Thanks to the mighty Sue for making the cushions, and to Ed-face for helping me select wood at the timber yard.

Project Two: entertainment unit

With the plywood off-cuts I built an entertainment unit to house our game consoles…

Project Three: bespoke playhouse 

As anyone knows, once you’ve built a couple of things you’re definitely ready to build a play-house/tree-house/climbing-wall/slide…

Yep. Not ambitious at all.

When my daughter turned 6-months old, I started saying that I wanted to build her a playhouse. I made my plans, my architect neighbour made them make more sense (thanks Rob), I bought a load of old scaffold boards and fence-posts, booked some time off work and got started…

Why build your own playhouse I hear you ask.  Well, we have a long but narrow garden. I figured that, over time, we’d end up getting things like playhouses and slides for the little one, and I thought they’d take over the whole garden.  We looked at playhouse/climbing frames, and they were all too big.  My own design seemed the best solution, but I wouldn’t say it was any cheaper…

Anyway, here it is…

A few people came to help me. Thanks Andy, Dad, Mom and husband-face!

Project Four: a garden table

Our garden furniture was rotting, I still had some scaffold boards left, so I decided to make a new garden table.

Really enjoyed this build, I used proper joins and everything!

Husband-face helped tighten some screws and provided logic when I got confused at one point.  Thank you husband-face!

Here it is:

 

Project five: a garden bench

A new table needs new benches.  The first used a lot of glue and was built to this design:

It looks good and it does the job but I discovered a crucial thing. I hate the glue-gun thingy.  They look like they might be fun to use.  They are not fun to use.  So I decided to make a different sort of bench the next time, because why learn from your first attempt when you can make new mistakes on a completely new design…

Project six: another garden bench

This design used left-over wood.  We already had a few old railway sleepers in the garden, the others were used in the next project I refer to, but the best of the bunch became this bench’s legs.

Project seven: a small wood-store and garden gate

From our garden you can access the basement/kitchen via some steps of doom.  A while ago I decided that we needed some sort of device to prevent children from falling down the steps of doom, but it was an awkward space to easily gate off.  It needed another structure to hang the gate from, and then it hit me… that structure could be a small wood store… yep, that’s how I role.

So I built this:

My dad helped a lot on this one.  Thanks Dad!

Project eight: a big wood store

I built this in stages.  The base was knocked together when I was building the playhouse.  This used the other sleepers from the garden and some old decking.

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We’d recently replaced some old fence posts, and I cut off the rotten ends from the old ones and used the posts for the frame. And the last bit of plywood from the playhouse build for the wood-store’s roof.

My dad helped a lot with the frame – thanks Dad!

I later added some old tongue and groove cladding that Dad was throwing out (even re-used the nails in the planks!). Then I used whatever left-over bits of ply I had to fill in the gaps:

My friend, Helen, foolishly popped by when I was painting so she grabbed a paint brush and helped me to start off the felting process.  Also, a neighbour saw me muttering at the felt later on, and he brought out some shorter felt nails and lent a hand.  I really hate felting.

Anyway – finished product!

That’s 12-months of woodwork!

I had always intended to get into woodwork, but the big prompt came when I needed an escape from my head after a traumatic event.  Since then, taking on the odd project hasn’t just been about needing to sort something out, like the steps of doom.

It’s been my happy place.

If I start finding it difficult to sleep, I book a bit of time off work, get out the tools and head to timber yard.

I may not be the best woodworker, but it makes me smile.

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TEDx and my trouble with adrenalin

Just over a week ago I gave a TEDx talk:

Why did TEDx choose this still for the video?  Why?  WHY?

It was quite something to be asked in the first place – frankly it was a privilege.  And I grabbed the opportunity.  I grabbed it, even though I was a little concerned about the whole speaking-in-front-of-a-large-crowd thing.  It’s not every day you get invited to do something like this, and it meant that I would be able to talk about something I love.  Games.  Games and how understanding them can improve how we educate.

So I said yes.  Despite the imposter syndrome I continually feel.  Despite my concern about addressing a large crowd – I said yes.

A bit on my issue with the big crowd thing

Speaking in front of what would be, for me, a large audience would always produce nerves.  It would for most people.  But, here’s the thing, I like public speaking.  Always have.  I loved Theatre Studies at school – enjoyed being in plays.  I would usually ride that adrenalin rush.

But on this occasion, it was the adrenalin that I was most worried about.

Something had happened to me 6-months prior to TEDx – and if you’d rather skip to the video below, then please do.  What follows might be difficult to read, particularly if it makes you think of any unsettling things that you have had to cope with.

Still with me?  Here we go.

6-months before TEDx, I was walking my dog when I came across a man who had hung himself.

I was in the middle of a large park and, but for my dog, alone.  The air had that early morning chill.  I fell to my knees and stared at the man’s hands and then the earth.  Then I pulled my phone from the left trouser pocket and dialled 999.

While I was waiting for a paramedic, the person on the other end of the phone urged me to go through a series of steps.  I was functioning on auto-pilot so I did what they said.  I got him down from the tree.  I felt for a pulse.  When they asked if I had a defibrillator I finally understood what was happening.  The man was cold.  He was blue.  He had been dead for a long time.  I said that I did not want to attempt to resuscitate him.

When the paramedic arrived, he took one look at the man and said, “Oh.”  The paramedic put his bag down, asked if I was ok, and waited for the police.

This event was, for me, traumatic.  I am still ‘getting over it’.  And a side effect has been what happens – or what happened – when adrenalin floods me.

I teach at university.  And there is always a bit of an adrenaline rush when you’re teaching.  In September the first two weeks of teaching were some of my lowest.  The adrenaline would send my body back to that morning in the park.

I would feel sick.  I got dizzy.  My mind felt disjointed.

I could hold it together.  I could complete the class.  And then, when I found a quiet corner, my shoulders would shake and I would weep.  Every day for two weeks.  In week three the crying stopped and I just felt sick all the time.  And then that eased away too.

By the time the TEDx talk rolled up I was, pretty much, fine.  But seeing the audience and knowing that I was about to be called onto the stage escalated that adrenalin and, for a moment, my body took me to the park.

I stood in the wings, stage left, waiting to go on.  And I breathed.  I concentrated on breathing.  And then my name was called and on I went and, well, acted.  And it was fine.  Really it was.

I’m still coming down from it somewhat.  That buzzing, nipping mind is back, tugging me from sleep.  But I know that it will fade away and I will be, once again, fine.

Things can happen.  Things that take time to heal from.  Realizing that I could be, so brutally, at the mercy of my emotions and my body’s reaction to these has had a lasting impact.  Some things do not vanish with the arrival of logic and reason.  And that is ok.  Some things take time and that is ok.

I am ok.

 

Thank you for the chance to share my thoughts about games and learning TEDx!

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Life is Strange

This week I finished playing Life is Strange.  I enjoyed it, but there were also some face-palm moments.  I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but I am gonna tell you about the game so… be warned and that…

Gameplay:

This is Max.

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Image from BagoGames (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/19530583178)

Max is the protagonist.  She is an ‘ordinary’ teenage girl until she sees her best friend, Chloe, get shot.  Max then discovers that she can rewind time and, in doing so, save Chloe.

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Image from BagoGames

 

The rest of the game is, essentially, a series increasingly complex time shifts to save Chloe:

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Courtesy of pinterest

Chloe can’t seem to stop hurling herself into death’s embrace.  Seriously.  Stop it Chloe.  Chloe!  Don’t play on train tracks Chloe!  Chloe!  Why do you have a gun Chloe!  Chloeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Story:

When they were kids Max and Chloe were inseparable.  Then Chloe’s dad died in a car accident and Max’s parents moved, taking Max with them.  Chloe went from carefree to f**** you.  Max didn’t stay in touch.  Max feels guilty about this.  Chloe keeps making Max feel guilty about this.

Chloe’s other friend has disappeared.  They are trying to track her down.  But there’s something unsettling beneath the surface and they keep poking it.  Hmm…. more opportunities for Chloe to die and be saved.  And repeat.

Characters:

Chloe: the world hates me, everyone leaves me.

Max: I feel guilty about everything.  It’s probably all my fault.  Except this big hole in space and time.  That’s probably nothing to do with me.

Max and Chloe’s friendship is both loving and, frankly, not.  And this does lend the whole thing some believability.  Though it will also make you want to slap them for their endless stream of self-obsession.

Everyone else: mean girl, pregnant girl, cruel rich boy, nice geek boy, ex-military PTSD, drunk principal, harassed mom… you get the idea.

World:

Twin Peaks meets high-school drama.

So – what did I think?

I did enjoy the game but I could have done without some of the breathy voice acting and the face-palming lines… ‘Can I pet the doggy’… What?  Who says that?

There’s at least one clunky section that involves spending an inordinate amount of time searching for glass bottles.

I wish we could do more in the game.  It’s meant to be realistic, so, ok – we can’t fly (just time travel?), but why, oh why, can’t Max climb over small obstacles?  And I get a little fed up of the dialogue-trees.  Too much of this game relies on the dialogue.  On the one hand, I really like this feature because the power of conversation is often overlooked in other games, but on the other hand good dialogue is what remains unsaid. Too much is said in this game/story.

I’m not convinced that this is a game.  Definitely knocking on the interactive story door.

The pace gets better though.  As the game crescendos you really want to keep going and uncover the truth.  And this thing had me in tears by the end, so for all of its flaws, it’s done a lot right.

Should you play it?

Probably.

Why?

I don’t know.  I’m bored now.  Go procrastinate somewhere else.  Maybe by playing the game…

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Interactive Story or Game?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot more recently. What makes something a game as opposed to an interactive story?  Is narrative important, at all, in game design?

Given that I have a vested interest in narrative, I tend to think that story is important, or at least as important as other game mechanics.  But it’s also true that there are exceptions to this.  Tetris is probably the favorite example of ludologists everywhere:

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@joefoodie

Quickly! Get the blocks in rows.  Then get more blocks in rows.  Keep doing it!

How can a game like this have a narrative?

But then, how can it not?

It is entirely possible that the player will furnish further story themselves.  And this is where my thinking around narrative is perhaps not all that conventional.  Though it really ties in with a bit of post-modern pondering.  We all bring our own multiple truths to, well, everything.  A book, for instance, can be interpreted according to the reader’s world view.  The writer’s intent can be disregarded.  And, honestly, I think it’s rare that a human being doesn’t bring a world of story to everything they encounter.  So, we could argue that it doesn’t matter whether Tetris has a story.  The player brings one.  This is about as broad as  it gets of course.

Another way to see it, is that while Tetris doesn’t offer us a story, it does offer us a tension that certainly has a lot in common with the way narrative works…

Get the blocks to line up.  Don’t reach the top of the screen!

That, in itself, is a narrative.  It’s not complex.  We’re not talking three-act structure.  Just one act: beat your previous score.  We’re not overcoming the monster here, but we are overcoming ourselves.

I think that most people think in story terms, which is to say we arrange our experiences into narratively cohesive units.  We can’t seem to help ourselves.  Ok – Tetris is a bit of a stretch, but I just don’t think the jury is out on whether this game offers narrative tension.

But enough about this particularly thorny point.  When I started writing this post I was really thinking about two other games/stories:

Device 6…

and Life is Strange…

Device 6 is a story.  You unlock the next chapter, by solving the puzzles in the first.  Device 6 is a game.  You solve puzzles to get to the next set of puzzles that happen to be hidden within chapters.

Life is Strange is a game.  You make choices to move on to the next set of choices.  Life is Strange is a story.  You make choices to impact the narrative’s outcome.

Both of these games are certainly story-centric.  Does that mean that they’re not really games, but interactive stories?

I don’t propose to have the answers, just a lot of questions.  That’s the beauty of blogs… they occupy uncertainty.

 

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Narrative Arcs and that…

Here is a video I recorded AGES ago, and finally edited some time ago to, at last, appear here.  Now that some more time has passed I am finally getting round to it.  ‘Cause you know, why do anything in a timely fashion if you can wait until it’s no longer relevant and no one will much care…

I appear to say ‘so’ at the beginning of every sentence.  I dislike this.

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The power of comics

Earlier today I was listening to the Today Programme on radio 4.

Yes. I listen to radio 4. I’m not sure why you’re surprised. The clue is in the title after all : geeky girl. I am a geek. And radio 4 is a home of geek. (My husband just told me that the average age for the radio 4 listener is 60. He is lying. I married a liar.)

(http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Joker-Comics-Superhero-Figurine-Villain-Character-1104762)

Anyway. The section was about comics and the impact they can have, specifically, it was looking at whether students learnt more when presented information via the comic book form, rather than the standard text book form. The answer was a resounding yes.

A few years ago I was making a case  for comics in Higher Education to my colleagues. Actually I was making a case for Pecha Kucha style presentations and for comics.

It went a bit like this:

The radio piece and the research being undertaken is brilliant. I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the assumptions the presenter seemed to hold, or at least exhibited, about the comic form – he referred to them as not all being silly. I’m not sure that any of them are purely silly.  What they are is abstract. And an abstract image is particularly powerful. You only have to consider cave paintings to see that.  (What’s wrong with ‘silly’ anyway).

I’m also a fan of Videogames and they are generally dismissed too. What is it with this human tendency to label anything fun or engaging as ‘not really serious’?

Anyway, this is what Radio 4’s website said about the section in the programme:

‘According to a new study by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, comics are a better educational resource than traditional textbooks. The study investigated how the way information is presented can affect how easily it can be memorised. Dr Paul Aleixo is the lead researcher on the study and Nicola Streeten is a graphic novelist and comic scholar.’

If you get the chance to listen to it then please do. Im sure you’ll enjoy it and, hey, we could all learn from comics.