Home > Career, Entertainment, Life, Technology, Video Games > Yes, but what have Video Games Done for You?

Yes, but what have Video Games Done for You?

Today, a conversation I had with a comrade (22) at my work  ignited me to ponder a career path which I imagine, if followed, could lead someone like me, in fact, me to an Arnold Schwarzenegger style c[u]ming all the time lifestyle. All of  sudden I was metaphorically grabbed in the lower cajones region and forced to dwell on all that time and money I spent on Education and Video Games (not after turning to the side to cough, embarrassingly hoping that my semi might pass for a generous flaccid).

Bien sûr, this brain wave doesn’t involve a spin-off from something we were nominally employed to do, no siree to The Bobs! (See what I did there: Olde timey saying mixed with an Office Space reference! … I really have to get some of my lower ribs removed.) My work is at a large evil medical device company which makes large evil life saving products but we were scheming up large evil ‘serious games’ to combat the void left by the large evil K-12 education system. That includes you Kindergarten Cop!  Dective John Kimble played by a cu[nn]ing Arnold Scwharzenegger and even your teacher-turned-cop partner Phoebe O’Hara.

Yes, that ‘Serious Game’ term is new to me too, I came (hehe) across it while I was researching: the barriers to entry…, more positive; the lay of the land…, more directed: my potential mode of attack into the video game industry. Speaking to my fellow chronically-under-stimulated-Compañero-de-Trabajo, I brought up my vision of a video game that is equal parts entertainment and equal parts science information, I was thinking knowledge of the human brain (maybe the immune system?). Not only was he interested but he was, as was I, practically foaming at the mouth at the thought of how stimulating that would be.

Understandably, this might not sound that novel but think about the current tradeoff curve for the industry, go ahead, plot “y=-ln(x)+2”and imagine the y-axis is the Learning Quotient and the x-axis is the Gameplay. It’s steep! Can you think back and verify this? You can either learn or have fun, but the learning will be about as fun as your class in high school, minus being high. Notice that if you take the xmax and ymax out to 10 you can see the curve fall below 0. They are so fun people get dumber from the games! Wohoo!! Here I come Calypso!

So much precious youthful brainpower goes into learning facts like, “The largest Tauren tribe, the Bloodhoof Tauren, reside on the top of a cluster of tall mesas known as Thunder Bluff, in the grasslands of Mulgore.”  That’s fucking great! Thank you Blizzard Entertainment! Maybe Michael Jackson and I will go vist them one day!! (Your mom’s “too soon.”) To be clear, I don’t condemn the exercise of creating fantastic fictional universes, but as a man of science I hate to see a good mind maneuver its host into a career at Best Buy or worse yet a Psychology Major because, “OMG! I love it, and I it’s really great because I feel like, you could do anything with it.” Building that deeper intuitive understanding is what so many people spend so much time studying to get, and if you could just put that in the form of a video game (which is a natural fit as I see it) … or a supository

As I now understand it, the role that me and homeslice from work were pinning for is the Game Designer (look at the Roles).

Anyways, I would not divulge how I would start to make my dream a reality and my reality a dream (as Arnold [Cumings] did) but a big part of my point (hehehe) is that it is not everyday you find a job that simultaneously calls upon all of your aptitudes, not if you have a lot of them, and if you hold them dear, especially the creative and the spatial ones. Take now (as I write this), for instance: I get to be random and self referential. This is fun. I get to connect with people but still work independently, use logical reasoning skills, call upon my memory. Awesome. But is my right hemisphere really being utilized? That big ganglia might try to make himself known as I add colons and parenthesis and brackets and italics; as I insert hyperlinks and graphs; banging on the inner walls of my skull like Trick or Treaters locked in the basement. But let’s face it kids, at the moment, there’s no getting out.

I want to make a game that pushes the trade-off curve to the right and puts it right at the 50-50 point, where y=x. Not to say that there are no games like this in existence. Par exemple:

This one is not that much learning and not that much fun but it’s equal parts both.Granted, it’s only learning if you believe in that evolution stuff.

This one was created by a Harvard/ Stanford Business Professor and I’m told it’s legit. Looks like Sim City.

The kind of stuff people in that industry know is not easy, “most job solicitations for game programmers specify a bachelor’s degree (in mathematics, physics, computer science, ‘or equivalent experience’).” I’m taking a class right now, Mathematical Methods of Theoretical Physics and that shit is not to be taken lightly, even by an Asian. But a game designer does not need to be a programmer. I have no idea what it would take to get a hold of those kind of resources but I relish the thought. (Hmmmm, r-r-relish, aghrghghhhhh).

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  1. JayAaroBe
    2009-07-25 at 11:33:39

    So you wanna be a game designer: http://www.gamespot.com/features/6129276/index.html

    Also, don’t forget to categorize/tag your posts, beeeee-otch!

  2. Myles Brocklestein
    2009-07-31 at 13:06:03

    Yes! I’ve often thought that video games would be an excellent vector for education, much like a hollowed out virus can be used to deliver target genes into a cell. I’m onboard for this idea.

  3. ronular
  4. ronular
    2009-08-14 at 08:38:47

    Bleszinski: You need to understand most of the disciplines that are involved. You need to be an avid game player. You need to be a big picture guy, as far as paying attention to pop culture and relationships, and life, in general. Real life experience does make you a better game designer. If you go skydiving or scuba diving that will make you a better game designer.

    But you also need to put yourself in the right position to get a design job. If you’re working as a programmer on a project and your lead designer is expecting you to work with him on coding systems, then talk with him about the design. Show others that you have a thirst to get into design. If that lead designer quits, then you’ll be in a good position.

    Understand that it’s also your job to sell your creative vision. It’s not just enough to come up with it. You’re the one who’s going to be on the press tour. You’re the one standing on stage with an executive at E3 trying to sell what you made. It’s a multifaceted job.

    The ideal traits include a good balance between logic and creativity. Be artistic and open minded. Be focused. Charisma doesn’t hurt either, because you’re selling the game to your team members. If they buy into your vision, they’ll work hard and try to help you make that vision a reality.

  5. Melays
    2009-09-21 at 12:48:55

    The Federation of American Scientist (I think the same guys that built the city of Rapture) have a webpage dedicated to science based video games. Check it out! http://www.fas.org/programs/ltp/games/index.html I’ve downloaded and started playing immune attack. Pretty good so far, I recommend it!.

    • Johnteezey
      2009-09-28 at 20:41:10

      Sweet game! Pretty high production value and I like the voice over a lot. Like, Cortana in Halo or some other robot bitch.

      My critiques would be, not that I have played it for more than a few minutes and not that I have my own nice shiny completed game to refer to, they would be that the click-and-get-info-on-the-cells function, while it has good info and voice over, it disrupts the flow of the game significantly. You have to make the conscious decision to stop and learn. I saw no evidence that this information was pertinent to the game play either.

      Also, I told my work comrade about it and he immediately jumped to the same peeve I did, in that the nanobot is probably unnecessary. I can see the idea, add a cool, high tech, sci-fi, element to make it all seem more interesting, but to me, and my work comrade, that is distracting to the issue at hand. Better just make the player a cell and give the cells personalities. Make a macrophage belligerent like an ogre from Warcraft (not WOW I don’t touch that shit), make a T cell wise like a treeant from the Lord of the Rings, fuck, make the H1N5 Duke Nuk’em. If you can give color and personality to the actual functional units of the body, you are effectively pirating the emotional centers of the brain (we always remember times when we have strong emotions) for the purpose of shooting a hot load of knowledge onto their exposed brain. Not that that’s easy to do, I mean, you’ve got all this skull to get through.

      I watched a documentary recently on a female chess champion (yes, I know it sounds silly) where a female nuero-researcher (I know, right?) put her under an MRI and said she had pirated the facial recognition part of her brain for chess purposes.

      A great way to add character to the cells would be with sound. The sound doesn’t even have to make sense, like the X Wings flying through space in Star Wars. Makes no sense, we all still love it. Hell, there’s sad sack of shit that have the bulk of their investment strategy locked up in Star Wars collectables. The sound makes it satisfying and satisfying is what makes everybody come back for more. You know the satisfying I’m talking about; Gears of War Hammer of Dawn, chainsaw impaling, sniper shot to the dome piece satisfying. This guys got the right idea:

      Finally, work comrade showed me a video which I think is the sort of thing that would make for excellent Command and Conquer/ Red Alert style cut scene fodder. Melays, you may want to sit down for this because it will probably give you a raging mega huge…well, you’ll see, apparently it was put together at Harvard and is electromagnetically/chemically accurate:

  6. 2009-09-28 at 21:05:00

    Wow, that’s awe inspiring. They need to make a lot more…the possibilities are vast. I wish I knew exactly what I was seeing take place here.

  7. Johnteezey
    2009-09-28 at 21:43:42

    By the way, what’s city of rapture?

  8. MaximumSpazz
  9. Johnteezey
    2009-11-09 at 22:47:27

    I met somebody on Halloween who is an artist at EA games and he revealed a little bit about how it works when they have to decide if they want to add a gameplay/ artistic element to a game:

    An artist or designer says, “I think the pipes on the wall should be able to be removed by the player so that he can use them in fighting the mechanical spider boss.”

    Then the guy with a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering or something runs some numbers and does some fancy stuff and says, “That will cost, $10 Million and take 4 months, it is not on the table.”

    Anyways, I got his name and will be adding him on FB along with his friend who appreciated my green man costume.

  10. Johnteezey
  11. Johnteezey
    2009-12-22 at 15:13:34
  12. 2009-12-22 at 18:16:32

    Wow, Duke Nukem…what a money pit

  13. Johnteezey
  14. Johnteezey
    2010-12-04 at 22:00:02

    The future is now:

    http://www.zefrank.com/zesblog/archives/2010/02/the_future_of_g.html

    While watching I had two responses to certain parts in his presentation:

    -“I do! I try to think about pschological tricks and keys!”

    -“Nooo! Shut up! Shut up! Don’t suggest ways that the government can come up with ‘incentives’ you, were all good before that, just shut that thought out of your head.”

    • 2010-12-04 at 23:41:41

      He started off so well, but including, right at the end, that there will allotted points by the government to get citizens to do certain tasks or purchase certain items caused me to shift my admiration for him into a grudging disappointment 😛

  15. 2010-12-08 at 21:24:25

    From http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/science/07tierney.html

    By the age of 21, the typical American has spent 10,000 hours playing computer games, and endured a smaller but much drearier chunk of time listening to sermons about this sinful habit. Why, the experts wail, are so many people wasting their lives solving meaningless puzzles in virtual worlds?

    Now some other experts — ones who have actually played these games — are asking more interesting questions. Why are these virtual worlds so much more absorbing than school and work? How could these gamers’ labors be used to solve real-world puzzles? Why can’t life be more like a video game?

    “Gamers are engaged, focused, and happy,” says Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University who has studied and designed online games. “How many employers wish they could say that about even a tenth of their work force?

    “Many activities in games are not very different from work activities. Look at information on a screen, discern immediate objectives, choose what to click and drag.”

    Jane McGonigal, a game designer and researcher at the Institute for the Future, sums up the new argument in her coming book, “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” It’s a manifesto urging designers to aim high — why not a Nobel Prize? — with games that solve scientific problems and promote happiness in daily life.

    In the past, puzzles and games were sometimes considered useful instructional tools. The emperor Charlemagne hired a scholar to compile “Problems to Sharpen the Young,” a collection of puzzles like the old one about ferrying animals across a river (without leaving the hungry fox on the same bank as the defenseless goat). The British credited their victory over Napoleon to the games played on the fields of Eton.

    But once puzzles and gaming went digital, once the industry’s revenues rivaled Hollywood’s, once children and adults became so absorbed that they forsook even television, then the activity was routinely denounced as “escapism” and an “addiction.” Meanwhile, a few researchers were more interested in understanding why players were becoming so absorbed and focused. They seemed to be achieving the state of “flow” that psychologists had used to describe master musicians and champion athletes, but the gamers were getting there right away instead of having to train for years.

    One game-design consultant, Nicole Lazzaro, the president of XEODesign, recorded the facial expressions of players and interviewed them along with their friends and relatives to identify the crucial ingredients of a good game. One ingredient is “hard fun,” which Ms. Lazzaro defines as overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a goal. That’s the same appeal of old-fashioned puzzles, but the video games provide something new: instantaneous feedback and continual encouragement, both from the computer and from the other players.

    Players get steady rewards for little achievements as they amass points and progress to higher levels, with the challenges becoming harder as their skill increases.

    Even though they fail over and over, they remain motivated to keep going until they succeed and experience what game researchers call “fiero.” The term (Italian for “proud”) describes the feeling that makes a gamer lift both arms above the head in triumph.

    It’s not a gesture you see often in classrooms or offices or on the street, but game designers like Dr. McGonigal are working on that. She has designed Cruel 2 B Kind, a game in which players advance by being nice to strangers in public places, and which has been played in more than 50 cities on four continents.

    She and her husband are among the avid players of Chorewars, an online game in which they earn real rewards (like the privilege of choosing the music for their next car ride) by doing chores at their apartment in San Francisco. Cleaning the bathroom is worth so many points that she has sometimes hid the toilet brush to prevent him from getting too far ahead.

    Other people, working through a “microvolunteering” Web site called Sparked, are using a smartphone app undertake quests for nonprofit groups like First Aid Corps, which is compiling a worldwide map of the locations of defibrillators available for cardiac emergencies. Instead of looking for magical healing potions in virtual worlds, these players scour buildings for defibrillators that haven’t been cataloged yet. If that defibrillator later helps save someone’s life, the player’s online glory increases (along with the sense of fiero).

    To properly apply gaming techniques to school and work and other institutions, there are certain core principles to keep in mind, says Tom Chatfield, a British journalist and the author of “Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century.” These include using an “experience system” (like an avatar or a profile that levels up), creating a variety of short-term and long-term goals, and rewarding effort continually while also providing occasional unexpected rewards.

    “One of the most profound transformations we can learn from games,” he says, “is how to turn the sense that someone has ‘failed’ into the sense that they ‘haven’t succeeded yet.’”

    Some schools are starting to borrow gamers’ system of quests and rewards, and the principles could be applied to lots of enterprises, especially colossal collaborations online. By one estimate, Dr. McGonigal notes, creating Wikipedia took eight years and 100 million hours of work, but that’s only half the number of hours spent in a single week by people playing World of Warcraft.

    “Whoever figures out how to effectively engage them first for real work is going to reap enormous benefits,” Dr. McGonigal predicts.

    Researchers like Dr. Castronova have already benefited by tracking the economic transactions and social behavior in online games. Now that Facebook and smartphones have enabled virtual communities to be created fairly cheaply, Dr. Castronova is hoping to build a prototype that could be adapted by researchers studying a variety of real-world problems.

    “Social media like video games are the only research tool we’ve ever had that lets us do controlled experiments on large-scale problems like global warming, terrorism and pandemics,” Dr. Castronova says. “Not everything in virtual environments maps onto real behavior, but a heck of a lot does. Rules like ‘buy low, sell high’ and ‘tall people are sexier’ play out exactly the same way, whether the environment is virtual or real.”

    Dr. Castronova envisions creating financial games to study how bubbles and panics occur, or virtual cities to see how they respond to disasters.

    “One reason that policy keeps screwing up — think Katrina — is because it never gets tested,” he says. “In the real world, you can’t create five versions of New Orleans and throw five hurricanes at them to test different logistics. But you can do that in virtual environments.”

    Well, you can do it as long as there enough players in that virtual New Orleans who are having enough fun to keep serving as unpaid lab rats. Researchers will need the skills exhibited by Tom Sawyer when he persuaded his friends it would be a joyous privilege to whitewash a fence.

    Tom discovered, as Twain explained, “that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” The ultimate challenge, when trying to extract work from the World of Warcraft questers and other players, will be persuading them that it’s still just a game.

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  1. 2011-04-06 at 14:21:46

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