Line-Drawings, Cameras and New Videogames

Karl reminded me of two new games for the Playstation that depart from the normal 3D extravaganza. The first is another EyeToy game called EyePet. Basically you draw with a special pen and your doodles become 3D and part of the mixed-reality world of the game and your virtual ‘pet’.


EyePet Hd from Nkio on Vimeo.

The second is Echochrome, which seems to be a bit like Portal (PC DVD), except that it is in a plain, wireframe and stickman style:


Echochrome HD Gameplay from Banzaiaap on Vimeo.

It’s very encouraging to see this trend towards games that designed from a point of view of ingenuity rather than pure 3D rendering power. There’s nothing wrong with full-on 3D games rendered in luscious detail, but I don’t feel games as a medium progress much when that’s the only focus.

There is little difference between the basic gameplay of Wolfenstein 3D:

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and Call of Duty:

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Apart from the amount of pixels you are shooting at of course.

Children Playing Video Games

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The NY Times web site has a great video of children playing videogames from photographer and video artist, Robbie Cooper (you can watch a higher quality original plus stills on his site).

In 2009 he will be teaming up with the Media Centre at Bournemouth University as part of their ‘War and Liesure’ project. They will then analyse the footage using Paul Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System (FACS). (I didn’t realise that Ekman had published so many books with the all the images of his research).

I don’t get the feeling that Cooper is judging gamers or videogames either way, more that he is fascinated children as they play them, particularly war games because war is outside (most) children’s daily experience.

His blog is also worth having a look through, there are some great finds there including his responses to the comments about Immersion.

Should you feel the need for the antidote, I can recommend Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.

The Unfinished Swan


The Unfinished Swan – Tech Demo 9/2008 from Ian Dallas on Vimeo.

The Unfinished Swan is a still in-development game set in an entirely white world. Instead of splattering the blood of monsters around the walls, the player splatters black ink to find their way through “an unusual garden”. Apart from looking stunning in its simplicity (and somewhat like Sin City), there are some nice twists when, for example, the entire scene is in the dark and thus blacked out.

It’s the second such game I’ve seen recently that uses this kind of lateral thinking approach to the play. Portal uses a simple idea – a gun that can fire portals onto a wall – to develop what is, by all accounts, a very compelling game. You can watch the trailer on YouTube – ignore the irritating 1990s robo-voice though. (There is also a fan-made Flash version of Portal if you want to get the idea).

What I like about both of these is that they really force you to think in a completely different way from the usual first person shooter, even though they’re essentially existing in the same paradigm. Intelligent play. I like it.

(Via Crackunit).

Parents to be educated about the Interweb

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There’s a well-balanced piece from Patrick Wintourin the Guardian today about parents being shown how to protect their children online.

It reports of a government initiative based on a review by Dr Tanya Byron (she works as a consultant in child and adolescent mental health and also presented quite a few programmes for the BBC on the subject).

I’ve only skim-read the main points of the report (which is available for download in full), but it makes interesting reading. The most important aspect is that she goes quite thoroughly through the pros and cons of the use of technologies – from social networks and general internet use to online videogames. It also draws upon a lot of evidence from children themselves.

It’s nice to see Byron is not pedalling the old ‘it rots young minds and they’re all being groomed by pedophiles’ line, by rather she looks at the complexities of the interactions between parents, children, society and technology:

“Ironically parents’ concerns about risk and safety of their children in the streets and outside has driven a generation of children indoors, where it could be argued they are being exposed to a whole new set of risks.”

It’s good to see some of the onus being put back on parents too. The use of these technologies is not inherently better or worse than what children used in previous generations and I’ve lost count of the amount of conversations I’ve had about videogames.

Arguably the use of these technologies are mostly beneficial, especially in the future that children will be growing into. The real problem is that many parents have no idea about how the internet functions, about social spaces online or the culture of videogames and that really needs to change.

It’s good to see this kind of research and well worth a read – it’s well-written too. (There are also quite a few annexed documents about the methodology and brain development research that background the report).

Photo: uncleboatshoes on Flickr

[tags]Tanya Byron, child development, videogames, parenting[/tags]