Category Archives: Games

Natural gesture computer controls

Can you see a use for this in teaching and learning – The future is in the reach? (thanks to Steve Wheeler for the first tweet about this)

“Control your desktop and interact with apps through natural hand and finger movements with The Leap.”

Watch this and let me know what you think:

Comments and reviews that are coming in about the Leap Motion:

“Minority Report-like UI interaction? Yes please!”
Source: @mattcutts

“… 100 times more precise than Kinnect!”
Source: Mashable

“The goal is to fundamentally transform how people interact with computers and to do so in the same way that the mouse did, which means that the transformation affects everyone, both from the most basic use case all the way up to the most advanced use cases you can imagine for computing technology.”
Source: redOrbit

“The system is built on a small USB input device and a lot of sophisticated software, which the company plans to begin retailing next year for $70. For the price, users will be able to manipulate their machines with the kinds of gestures that are becoming more and more ubiquitous thanks to the explosion in touchscreen technologies–things like pinch to zoom, swiping between screens, or scrolling with the flick of a finger. The difference is that the user touches nothing; Leap 3D creates a four-cubic-foot interaction space in front of any computer that is more responsive than either a touchscreen or a mouse (and offers increased capacity for control by adding a Z axis to the touchscreen’s X and Y axes).”
Source: Radford Education

There are quite a few people wondering if this is real, I sure hope so, especially for those who have signed (and paid) up for their Leap ‘console’, which is due for shipping early 2013 (unless you’re a lucky one who get’s one of the early editions).

Is this going to make you think twice about Kinnect, or can they both develop alongside each other? Are there some topics or subject areas that will benefit from this more than others (e.g. chemical or biological simulations, sport or injury science, early stage learning, etc, not to mention gaming). What do you think … and will you be getting one or even signing up for a developers kit?

I would love to get my hands on this, and I’d love to be a better developer and designer than I am to get the maximum from this kind of technology. I’ll just have to settle with watching how others use/develop it and see if there is anyone around here I can join and help if they want to go down this route.

Game-based Learning: recent readings (2)

Even when I try and get on with something else, I keep finding excellent resources about game- and simulation-based learning. So, here we are again. Below are some links and choice quotes from the resources. Enjoy …

Jeffrey Young: “5 Teaching Tips for Professors—From Video Games

“Learning is no game on today’s college campuses. It’s serious work that many students dread. Yet when those same students play video games like World of Warcraft, they happily spend hours on difficult tasks, and actually learn quite a bit in the process. Ms. Steinkuehler … noted how players in a chat room had used complex mathematics to argue for a certain plan of attack against some unruly beast.”

Abhijit Kadle: “Top 100 Learning Game Resources

“So here they are – a Top 100 Learning Game Resource list. If you are already developing learning games, these links will broaden your horizons, as they did mine. If you are contemplating beginning – it might help to look at links that interest you to get some grounding ideas.”

Lucy Cockcroft: “Computer games should be used to assess pupils’ ability instead of traditional tests

“Professor James Gee believes that the games are an aide to learning, a view that is at odds with that of many parents who consider them a distraction from school work. He has also suggested that the games should become part of the curriculum because they offer pupils a more efficient way of learning by not bombarding them with a large amount of information all at once.”

Karl Kapp: “Using Virtual Worlds in the Conspiracy to Create an ‘ah-ha’ Moment

“Conspiracies take coordination, effort, planning and a deep understanding of what needs to be done. These adjectives rarely describe the level of effort dedicated to organizational efforts to change behavior through learning experiences. We need to stop creating awareness and start to create conspiracies. What better place to start than in a 3D Virtual Immersive Environment. Involving learners in a story where they can interact and react is the first step in the conspiracy in which we should all partake.”

Game-based Learning: recent readings

The subject of games and simulations in education and learning has been talked about quite a lot again recently. There is no way I can cover all the work that is being done in this area (or do it justice) so I’ll link to as many of the work I’ve been reading as I can remember and find, and point out some of the choicest quotes.

Ben Betts: “The problem with E-learning games

“Where goals are included as a part of the Plaything a Challenge is created. Challenges played without Competition are defined as Puzzle’s. Typically, this is where the majority of E-learning games and interactions lie. Whilst many of these E-learning objects are goal orientated, they do not actively present a competitor for the user to play against. Crawford defines this competitor as “an active agent against whom you compete”. Where this agent is apparent we have defined a “Conflict”. Conflicts in which you cannot interfere with your opponent’s performance are defined as “Competitions”.”

Chris Brannigan: “Simulated Death

“Simulations are all about performance; undertaking actions, behaviours and thinking in a situation that closely approximates the reality to promote understanding and transfer. A big focus has been on ’suspension of disbelief’ – the degree to which learners can engage with the authenticity of the experience and produce realistic behaviour.”

Real Projects: “Game-based Learning Resources for LT2010

I was honoured to be in the audience for Scott’s seminar at the LT2010 exhibition. Scott showcased some well-received games / simulations, and the link above is to the list of resources he used or spoke about in his presentation. Well worth spending time looking over and through them, there are some gems in there.

Steve Wheeler: “Just a game?

“Around the table at lunch, in the Headteacher’s office, we sat eating pizza and drinking fruit juice with five year 10 students. The talk inevitably turned to Internet games … and suddenly the students because very animated. They enthused over Farmville, the Sims and other long games and talked about how much they enjoyed playing them.”

These are extremely well defined, well documented, and well designed games (and quite expensive to develop too) that have managed to make the subject of learning enjoyable. It isn’t until quite far into the game that the player realizes that they’ve learned something (time and/or character management, organisation, planning, etc).

“Such games are often maligned by some teachers and parents as a ‘waste of time’ and children do, if allowed, play for long periods of time on such games. But doesn’t that tell us something about the power of these tools to engage, enthrall and educate? How can we harness this power in the classroom – that is the question…”

I find that the name ‘game’ has negative connotations for some, which can be overcome very simply by calling them a simulation. Similar is that some people don’t understand why children or students would want to play a simulation, but a game is a given. The wrong terminology can turn people on or off. Get this right and you could be over the worst hurdle in presenting the idea of these ‘games’ for education.

Tony Bates: Moving educational games forward

“A useful introduction to some of the issues around educational gaming.”

Paul Pivec: “Does Game Based Learning Really Exist?

View more presentations from Learning Without Frontiers.

ALT/ELN “Instructional Design for Serious Games” webinar

I’ve just got offline from the ALT / ELN  “Instructional Design for Serious Games” webinar.

We set up the Twitter hashtag ‘#altgame‘ and the archive of tweets can be found using the Twapper services here –

Thinking Worlds was one application/software that was mentioned a few times, as were;

Both look very interesting and worthy of future investigation into their abilities.

The ALT Repository will have the recorded webinar available online (soon) here:

Food for thought.

PS. Also worth a read is the “The Art of Computer Game Design” by Chris Crawford.

Introduction to the Theory of Game Elements

Following from my recent posts about games (and simulations) in education I came across this wonderful presentation by Aki Järvinen. Although written 3 years ago, it still seems relevant to the theory behind a game , especially if, like me, you are just starting out on creating games / simulations in an educational setting.

Introduction to the Theory of Game Elements

Interesting stuff.

Also worth a note is this post I found through Tony Karrer on “Games and Simuations” where Karl Kapp is interviewed about everything from “video games to virtual 3D worlds, their cognitive advantages and future trends in online learning.”

Karl says;

“As learning professionals, we need to leverage 3D virtual immersive environments for real, contextual-based learning. These virtual environments are great learning tools but are not being used properly.”

Creating games with Caspian Thinking Worlds software

Caspian Thinking WorldsWell, here I am. Two days of training with Brian Bishop from Caspian gone and what next? Blimey, now I ‘ve got to build the game(s).

Brian was truly awesome, extremely knowledgeable and honest enough to say when he didn’t know something … and straight on the phone to the office to get the solution.

From introducing the interface, the characters, the environments, etc all the way through to managing the ‘scene flow’ interactions, character animations, conversations, communications, moving around the scene (and changing scenes) it is all so very complicated … but SO MUCH FUN!! Who’d have thought I’d be coming to work today to design a game?

So, what is it all about? Thinking Worlds, as I’ve already introduced in a previous posts “Caspian Learning; Game Based Learning 2009” and “eLearning Game; have you produced or used one?” is a;

“… globally unique 3D engine and authoring environment. Thinking Worlds enables designers to create and publish highly immersive simulations”.

Brian reckons that 1 hour of playing time is equivalent to 300 hours of development time. Food for thought before you start thinking “hey, this is easy”.

From my previous ‘playing’ with the software when I had it on a 30-day trial download, now we have the fully licensed version, I was able to produce a simple environment with object and characters and very basic interactions. The training has enabled me to properly visualise the pedagogy of the scenario for the game, as well as introduce the kind of techniques that enables the player to take different tracks through the game depending on decisions and performance.

So, if I’m going to create something for a Contract Law Unit, let’s use the Courtroom environment.

Thinking Worlds - Courtroom
Click to enlarge

This is ’empty’ but with minimal desks, chairs, etc. Using keyboard and mouse controls together you can easily move around the scene, going into each room, changing the aspect of the view (from above, from beneath, rotate left/right, etc) and start placing and planning the ‘game’.

Here’s one I worked on during the training;

Thinking Worlds - Courttoom (full)
Click to enlarge

Here you can see (if you look at the bigger version);

  • a stereo – will play audio MP3 when clicked (Guns n’ Roses; it was all I could find at short notice),
  • Laptop – will open and play a downloaded YouTube clip,
  • Spline (red line) – a character will walk along this line when the game starts. You can then, if you can catch him, stop him and enter into a communication,
  • Extra characters – a few placed around to fill the court up,
  • Documents – click on the document icon on the table and read copies of PDF or Word documents.

There is much that can be done here, and I know I haven’t got anywhere near the full feature or interaction list but I am loving it.

Part of the game above is that you can walk up to a door and move to another scene; in this case into a new environment, a different Office;

Thinking Worlds - Office
Click to enlarge

This is going to be part of the background story to why the player is in court.

So, why haven’t I shown you the game so you can walk around it yourself? I think I fluffed something up when I created it. When I came to publish it I get an error, which Brian and his team are looking into for me.

One downside of the current version (soon to be remedied) is that I cannot publish for the web with embedded video in the game (on the laptop, and projector screen), but it should work when publishing for a ‘standalone’ .EXE file. Another downside is really something individual to me; unless I use this software a lot over the next few weeks I will soon forget how to use it, especially when you start looking into the advanced interactions in the ‘scene flow’ arena.

I will be writing more about this as I do, generate, and learn more about it.

Call to action – Games in education? Anyone?

diceI’m looking for resources, research, papers, links, etc on games in education (all levels of education, not just eLearning or Higher Education). Any kind of game will do 3D, Second Life (and why), arcade, role-play, classroom, online, etc.

If you have, or know of any, please post a comment below (you don’t need to register, just type away).

If you know of any games in education that are used for assessment, they’d also be welcome.

… and thank you, in advance!! You’re wonderful.

PS. If you have something you’d like to share with me, but rather I’d not share it around (just yet) then pelase contact me privately and we can discuss offline.

PPS. I will collate results here and on Twitter replies ina future blog post … don’t worry, I will share (unless you don’t want me to!).

eLearning Game; have you produced or used one?

Caspian Learning Thinking WorldsFollowing on from the presentation I attended last week with Angel Adrian (Education Enhancement Conference; Interactive Games), I thought I’d ask a question … have any of you created a game?

Any kind of game, whether it’s simple text-based or fully interactive and immersive (flash?) doesn’t matter, I’d be really grateful to hear from anyone – please reply to this post.

I am working with Angel to see if we can make the subject of Contract Law more interesting by using an immersive ‘game’ simulation. From the Learning Technologies exhibition in London earlier this year, and from this video/post about Caspian Learning; Game Based Learning 2009 we are in discussion to see if their technology will be appropriate for us;

  • to be able to generate the game and scene/interactions ourselves,
  • to link to external library and audio/video resources,
  • to be simple and effective enough for all types of users to play and learn, and
  • to be reusable.

According to the Thinking Worlds website the answer is a clear yes. The technical spec is very encouraging, publishing the game is easy and can be done for many different mediums (CD, SCORM, etc).

Why not play one of their demos, created with the very software that is available at a very good price (for academic uses) online; Rome in Danger.

While the students who will using the first version of the game(s) are not the typical 18-20 Generation Y students (it is being targeted at the mature students on the fully online International Business & Management degree) that does not mean it will be any easier. Far from it. If anything it will be more of a challenge as we will need to spend more time scene-setting and producing instructions and guides on what they need to do and how they do it.

Please let me know what experiences you have with games in education (using, playing, creating, storyboarding, etc) or with using the Thinking Worlds system from Caspian.

3D movies in your learning

XtranormalThere are many ways to create film and video content for your learning materials. Some of them require very technical knowledge of tools and software, nearly all of them also need some willing volunteers.

How about a nice (free) system that you can do online? Nah, it’ll never happen, will it? Yup, and here it is;

Xtranormal | Text-to-movie

Enjoy! The below is my first attempt that I don’t mind you looking at (the first couple were so bad I’ll send them to You’ve Been Framed, see if I can get £250!!)

Caspian Learning; Game Based Learning 2009

Graeme Duncan (CEO, Caspian Learning) discussing the explosion of the 3D web and the opportunities for developing games across social network platforms such as Facebook.

I’ve been in discussion with Caspian Learning about their soon-to-be-released version of Caspian Authoring Tool education licence; the idea being that we, the educators, can build our own fully-functioning ‘game’ – it’s all talked about by Graeme at 21:25 onwards (and at 22:09 he says they’re launching at a very low price!)

It is also interesting to hear Graeme talk of Web 3.0 … it’s here (apparently)!!