Why Gamification is Stupid

This.  This video by Chris of Errant Signal.  This is what I have been trying to say all along (well that and that grades ARE gamification of school so why do we need anymore gamification.  And that gamification=manipulation and I HATE manipulation.

Edit: and the fact that WordPress.com is all gamified and telling me how many posts till my next achievement REALLY gets under my skin.

More on the Gamer Personality Survey

Okay, so far some interesting  information is emerging from the gamer personality survey here.

My categories still need  some honing but seeing a lot of overlap in certain areas– for instance as expected, the people who come from Shamus’ site (Shamus regular readers) tend to be similar to him in their  reasons for playing games in general.   This was expected.  A lot more Story/Aesthetics players than I would expect if I  went to the EA games or XBox Live forums and asked them to choose.

The following are the  characteristics that need renamed or broken up based on where I am seeing confusion over terms.  Down the line I want to add higher level categories that combines the more detailed ones so they can be grouped by type.  For right now I am just trying to figure out phrasing and types and make sure I am not missing any.  Also eventually I want all the characteristic titles to line up so you could use them interchangeably in a sentence and have them make sense; i.e. “I play for____ “or “I am a ____ player” or “I love to____”.

I think Goal needs to be divided into designer created goals and personal goals .  Also Goal needs agame breaking added to the explanation because game breaking is a type of internal motivation.

I think Comfort needs to be divided into Nostalgia and Comfort.

Achievement needs a better explanation.  For instance grades in school are achievement based.  So is being on the honor role.  I need to clarify that and make it clear that it is different from goals.  (For example– grades and honor role did nothing for me in school but I made it a goal to read all of the books in the young adult section of our library in a summer and did.)  Maybe just focus on Achievement and Goal with Goal being personal motivation and Acheivement being  the arbitrary?  Not sure about that.) And all of these would be lumped under motivation.  Maybe intrinsic motivation vs external?

I need to rephrase and divide Reflex into Brain related and Physical– probably go with Chris’ Kinesthetic plus something tho imply brain tickling of some sort.  Need to think on that some more.   (Suggestions welcome.)

Explore needs a  better explanation that includes not just exploring a world but also exploring all the possibilities.

Risk needs clarified (and I think rephrased.)  All risk involves some form of gambling (taking a gamble that you won’t fail against some random event) however there are varying levels of risk.  Some people want none at all (i.e. turn off all random events if possible.)  Some prefer a little bit, others prefer full out gambling.

Optimization needs clarifying.  Optimization is almost a subset of goal but is important enough to be on the same tier.  Makes me wonder if Goal needs to be a higher tier description of a group of these, not sure.)  Optimization would include trying to perfect the game play, trying to fill your box in minecraft perfectly, replaying to find all the best solutions, etc.

So that is where I am right now and what I am considering.  Input welcome.  I also plan on going back and recording the results so far so I can see the patterns emerge better.  I need to simplify and clarify the characteristics so far,  read back through the comments I have already and garner more once I have clarified things.  Down the road I want to have a hierarchy if I can see the pattern, and possibly come up with questions to help a gamer decide which elements are key (if the person is the sort who doesn’t naturally analyze things.)

Regardless I think it is a healthy conversation to have and ponder since it reminds all involved that we are all in gaming for a variety of reasons and just because Joe Schmoe next door  doesn’t think story is important doesn’t mean his reason for playing is any less valid.

Half-Naked Elf

I am still working on the gamer personality thing here (and if you haven’t already it would be awesome if you weighed in.)  However, I am taking a break till Sunday and want to point you to the awesome post about male female clothing in games here (well, it is actually HERE but read the bit on Shamus’ site first because I love his comments there as much as his post on the Escapist.)

Also, I want to point out that over on the Escapist there are ALREADY people who DIDN’T READ THE ARTICLE.  Sigh.

A Gamer Survey for YOU

I am taking a survey of sorts based on something Shamus and I have been discussing off and on for years and now more recently thanks to James Portnow’s panel “The Genre Divide” at PAX East this year.

Shamus and I have spent a lot of time talking about gamer personality and why people play games.  Each individual plays games for a variety of reasons and plays different games for different reasons.  What I am trying to come up with is a basic list of reasons people play games (video and unplugged).

Mr. Portnow had a decent list of about 12 reasons which had been developed by a group of academics.  I don’t have that list because: a. I forgot to write it down, b.we had to leave early to get to another panel, c. the panel is not available online, and d. I can’t find the paper the list came from. Feasibly I could contact Mr. Portnow and ask but instead I would like to continue with the list that Shamus and I already have combined with what we can put together here with your help (and your friends– this  is where you get to ask others to come here and respond.)  This way I can clarify my list and make it more dynamic and possibly even useful (which is my goal.)

Here is the list so far (no game names because everyone plays for different reasons.  Instead, I want to focus on why you play a specific game.  Instead of thinking about what type of game it is think about why YOU play it.  Most people play for fun.  My question is: what makes it fun for you?):

Escape: Pretending to be someone else or getting to place yourself in a world or situation you couldn’t do in real life.  You see this a lot in dating sims or games where you get to be a fantasy creature or live in a fantasy world.  This could also apply to any time your character is in a situation you personally couldn’t be in and which you put yourself into personally.

Story: Treating a game as an interactive story to be worked through rather than just something to read or watch like a movie or book.  This includes people who love using a walk thru so they can just go through the game or even those who enjoy watching a game over someone else’s shoulder.

Goal: The urge to beat a specific challenge or set goals and overcome them.  This can be the arbitrary ones set by the game designers or ones set by the individual. Arbitrary goals set by designers could include saving the princess or collecting all the stars.  Personal goals could be deciding to beat all the levels in a game with the top score or getting all the power ups.  This also includes people who set out to “break the game”.

God Complex: The urge to create something– applies to sandbox games as well as simulation type games but also to any game that lets you play god.  Sandbox games are good for this but also simulation games.

Aesthetics: This can include sound effects, visuals, anything you sense or which spawns a specific feeling.  Some people adore horror for the feeling it creates, others adore highly stylized art and music, still others prefer lifelike imagery and the more realistic or movie like the better.

Comfort: Some just like the same old and don’t like new things.  Others want to relive an old favorite for the sake of the feeling it gives us.  Going back to replay  favorite games or levels or  finding a game similar to a loved game.  This includes nostalgia playing, playing sequels (if you are playing for that same old feeling and not for continued story), or going back to a game when you are feeling a certain way because it comforts you.

Achievement: Some people play not just for goals or overcoming a challenge but specifically for a feeling of achievement.  Often this is the person who loves a specific type of game because that is what they are good at.  It also includes those who just want to unlock all the achievements because it makes them feel good.  People who do 4square fall into this category. :)

Reflex:  Any games that makes you work either physically or mentally, they tickle the brain or  get your body moving.  Puzzle games fall in this but so do fighting games and Wii and Kinnect games that make you move. These people play certain types of puzzle games in order to get their brain working a certain way or certain exercise games to get their body moving.

Explore: The ability to see and do new things, to open up new sections of a map or new levels.  This is the urge to see what comes next and what can I find.

Compete: Playing against others (or against the computer).  These are usually the people who love PvP but occasionally you will find someone who just loves beating the computer.  Sports games fall into this one as well.

Social (now broken into Social and Bonding): Playing for social interaction (and I would say this too could include npcs) .  Includes those who play MMO’s to be with their friends, those who play social games and want you to be their neighbor or are constantly sending requests.

Bonding: Playing in order to be close to someone.  This would include playing online with people you know or playing  on a couch side by side, and group play– one person controlling and the other helping make decisions.

Risk: This can take the form of gambling but also any time the player just enjoys the randomness of a situation or game.  This sort of game play includes most card games like solitaire, any gambling type game, any grab bag events in game.

Added the following:

Zen: Playing in order to get in the zone.  Usually involves playing something  that you have no real goal, you just want to play and do and not think.  Often the game play can be a background noise to other things going on in the room.

Self-expression: This would include people who spend more time with the character design than the actual game as well as people who behave in deliberate ways within the game in order to express themselves.  Also would include those who  always design characters that  think and do the same way they think and do.

 Craft: Playing in order  to keep up on some element of a game.  This includes playing a game  in order to be able to talk about said game with others in a coherent manner and people who produce content, whether writing, art, videos, or games themselves, playing in order to keep up on what is out there.

Optimization: Playing for the urge to organize or find the best path or solution to any given problem.  This includes micromanagement.

Empowerment: Playing in order to be the strongest or kill or whatever said game allows.  Mindless vilence fall sinto this category.

Novelty: Playing something because it is new whether just a new game or a new experience.

Fandom: Playing a game because you like the same content from another medium.  This would include video games of card games, pen and paper games, books, movies.

*Most people play for many reasons.  For the most part there are usually 3-4 primary reasons and 3 secondary and then elements that are “meh” or even disliked or hated.  What I am looking for is  why individuals think they play in order to look for patterns (which I am already noticing).  And lots of words is understandable– we are analyzing WHY.

Now my questions to you:

Why do YOU play?  

Which elements do you not like (had hate but apparently that is too strong for you all. :))?  

Are there any reasons to play I am missing?  

Anything you would rephrase or add to?

There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?

Real Women Wear Armor

A dear friend of mine (who is geekily awesome despite her hair tossing, unassuming wallflower persona ;)) Cat sent me this comic and website this morning. The comic is hilarious (well it is to me though it might also be my precaffiene inability to think straight doing the laughing). The site, Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor: ladies that actually dress for dealing damage is beyond awesome. It makes me want to get my art on and start doing female characters dressed to suit. Sadly I have 4 boys and a half-orc to draw and paint before I can get anywhere near such a project so instead I will spend my spare time perusing this awesome tumbler site.

Game Genres Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Video games have a different “genre” format than other media and it makes things confusing for both the publishers and the buyers.

In books and movies the genre is based on story type.  Most people prefer one type of story (or several types) and dislike other settings and genres.  Place the story in medieval times and you will make one group of people happy, place it in outer-space and make a different group happy, make it real world, modern times and make a completely different group happy.  Some people love space operas, others love action sci-fi.  Still others love sci-fi mysteries.  For me personally a story can be sci-fi but I prefer fantasy (magic over tech).    The thing the game industry (and gamers) have missed is that those same genres also apply to video games.

I am a sucker for 1940′s mysteries in books, movies, and also in games.  Set pretty much any game in the 1940′s and you have caught my interest.  Even if it is not a type of game I like to play I will still watch someone else play for the sake of the setting.

In gaming people use the word “genre” for mechanics instead of story type and setting.  We already have  book genres and  movie genres that are very similar and give the  consumer a sense of whether this book or that movie suits their taste.   We are missing the fact that people play video games not only for mechanics (video game genres) but also for the style/aesthetics/story.  So essentially people who enjoy space drama in books and movies will move towards  space drama in video games.  People who prefer epic fantasy in books will enjoy the same in a game.  I personally love tower defense games but I love sci-fi and fantasy and hate war stories– guess which tower defense games I am not interested in.

Instead of just assuming someone will like a game based on the video game genre  I think we need to include setting/story type and possibly art type (like movies do) because games are more complex than movies and books.  We need to use the preexisting media genres, or at least a close proximity, to define setting in a way that will actually describe the game so people will know whether it is what they are looking for.  For instance:  Mass Effect is  sci fi, WoW is fantasy, L.A. Noire is mystery.  Then take the preexisting game genres and add those for game mechanics.  Instead of just “first person shooter” we would have “fantasy first person shooter set in Victorian London”, instead of  “RPG” we would have “anime fantasy RPG set in an alternate world”,  and instead of “life simulation” we would have  “real world life simulation set in modern time”.  Sure it makes the explanation longer but it gives a much clearer picture of what the game is.  There is a huge difference between a FPS set in outer space, a FPS set in the Korean War, and an FPS set in Middle Earth.  

Now someone needs to make an FPS set in Middle Earth because I would be all over that.

Gamification and Education

There has been quite a bit of talk in the last year about gamification (a word I hate — it sounds cheesy, manipulative, and underhanded.)  Last weekend at PAX East I got a chance to enjoy James Portnow’s panel on Gaming and Education (Educating Through Play:  The Future of American Education).  As a former elementary and special education teacher turned unschooling facilitator (not only for my own children but for 500 + families via a Facebook group not to mention a well read unschooling website I own) I find the whole topic fascinating.  This is especially true since I spend several hours a week explaining to nervous parents that games aren’t evil and in fact are a wonderful natural way for children to learn.

Games give the child a natural reason to learn and develop the basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic.  But games also provide a natural way to develop higher level skills like problem solving and trigger deeper interests and thought processes.  At least once  a week I explain how my own children have learned all the subjects that schools insist must be force fed naturally through playing games of all sorts, including the dreaded video games.  It is a subject close to my heart to say the least and I am anxiously awaiting the panel to be uploaded so I can share it.

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Es working through all the information on the dinosaur display at the local science museum.

Back to gamification.  Two of the panelists were using games and gaming as a means to facilitate natural learning through interest, which is awesome.  The other was gamifying college.  Now her explanation was fine and interesting and its great that it worked for them.  However, this is the bit that bugs me: school is already gamified.    In fact school even uses the same vocabulary as gaming (or visa versa since schools were around before video games):  achievements, levels, metrics, tests, pass, goals.  Grades and grade levels are in fact school gamified– grades are an arbitrary set of goals established by the designers (in this case usually the writers of the curriculum  though occasionally they are set by the teachers or administrators depending on the school system).  Grades naturally motivate a certain subset of students who are drawn to that particular sort of game.  On the other hand, grades do not motivate those of us who prefer setting our own goals or who see through it all as a game created by people who are trying to “trick us” into learning things they think we need.

One of my beefs with school was that I felt manipulated by the arbitrary rules, star charts, and grading.  It was all a game and it didn’t matter because I prefer, even in playing video games, to set my OWN goals based on my current interests.  I like to look at the possible goals to choose from and work towards a specific goal completely and totally until I reach it and then move on to another goal.  (This drives my kids crazy.  For instance just yesterday I finished a goal I had set in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. It was an arbitrary goal but it was the one I chose to work towards at this time in the game– I could have instead been working towards getting any of the many other possible goals, but this was the one I chose at this time.. )

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Shamus and Issac watching a cut scene in a video game together.

Unlike video games, where I can choose whether I want to play towards the goal of moving to the next level or finding out how badly I can fail, school insists that all members be working toward the same goal– basically playing the same game in the same way at the same speed.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sure there are certain types of jobs out there where you need people who work the way the school system does but honestly most jobs nowadays require you to be intrinsically motivated rather than motivated by arbitrary things like star charts or grades.  The thing about life is that, just like choosing the  games you play based on what you are good at and what you hate, you can choose which direction your career takes you.  Frankly, unlike school where the “game” is already in place and you have to join whether you choose or not, life is full of goals you can choose for yourself, and we need to be prepared to make decisions and know ourselves well enough to choose wisely.  By gamifying school  we are just adding to the problem of kids getting all the way through and not knowing themselves and who they are well enough to make decisions for their future.

Instead of gamifying school even more, and adding even more arbitrary goals let’s focus on helping each child move in the direction they particularly need to go, based on their interests and natural skills.

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Rach and Es trying to work through a specific song together perfectly (as "twins" in Dance Dance Revolution).

Having been in the school system and seeing the many different sets of goals I can say, yes, the goals are arbitrary and all depend on who is making them.  There is no one skill set that all children will need since each person is an individual.  We all have different things we are good at.  As we grow up we will all go in directions that naturally utilize our known skill sets.  You wouldn’t expect a fish to be excellent at climbing a tree.  You would never expect a fish to even attempt it.  So why expect a child who is naturally excellent at sports and other physical activities to spend their entire day sitting in a classroom and missing recess because they didn’t sit still long enough to finish a math page?  Meanwhile, if you asked that child to figure out those same numbers in regards to their favorite sports team they could answer in seconds.

By allowing children to pursue their actual interests and play games; whether pretend, board, card, video games, whatever– kids naturally gravitate towards games they are good at and therefore find fun, we allow them to grow and learn the way they learn and grow best.  This allows them to gradually  move into the areas and subjects they find more challenging without fear.

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Issac and friend playing Super Mario Galaxy together.

For example: My kids love that I play video games and that when I am playing I research the ways to solve the problems, set goals for myself, and often get them involved in the research.  For games like Harvest Moon we print up charts and organize information in order to better play the game and not waste time (I am a walkthru player– I play mostly for the story and to set my own goals within a story). Yesterday my oldest was helping me figure out  how best to work through the next part of the game which requires a lot of farming.  She spent 20 minutes figuring out which would be the best crop, how much area I would need to plant, how much money it would cost to buy the seeds plus the fertilizer, and how much money I would make in a month by shipping out whatever was produced each day (some crops are every 2 days, some every 3, some every 4) in order to reach the next goal and then wrote it all down for me so I would know when I was ready to move to the next season.  I didn’t ask her to do it, I just asked which seeds would be best to use (info the walkthru already had available.)

She is 14 and if I had asked her to do that same amount of math on a worksheet there would have been much misery.  She hasn’t done a worksheet since she was 8 and other than occasional discussion about how to figure something out based on real life experience– like baking, shopping, coupons, etc. she has no experience with math as recognized by kids in public school.  However, she was able to figure out each aspect correctly, quickly, and in her head and put all the information into simple coherent notation so I would know when I needed the information.  She solved it because she wanted to and was interested.  She knew it wasn’t even information I was interested in yet but that I might want it eventually and she decided that she wanted to figure it out.

Carnegie Science Center

Es playing a video game at the local science center-- note that she is the only female there, and yes, she won the game.

We have many similar stories since that is how my kids have learned– by doing what they love and gradually learning to do the things they find hard because they want to do what they love. (For those who are sure this is a special case; all three have learned math, science, history, spelling, reading, writing, geography, etc and all into the deeper higher level high school and college subjects, all out of natural curiosity, through video games, board games,  tv/movies, and even occasionally books.  In fact, my husband and I have also delved deeper thanks to media and our kids’ interests.)

So, instead of gamifying school even more– which it is with its grades and levels, achievements and star charts, and divisions based on age and ability, it is better to allow each child to play and grow in the areas they already excel, doing the things they are good at, and in doing so allowing them to approach the things that are outside their comfort zone naturally.  And no, I don’t have an answer for public schools except maybe to look at the model for Sudbury schools or at least to allow for differences and focus on the skills the kids have instead of on those they don’t — there is a reason we unschool and that I encourage those who can to do so.

The Thing with the Buttons

A recent discussion got me thinking about why I don’t “fit in” with the gaming community despite spending an awful lot of time actually playing video games. I just don’t fit in with the popular kids.

I blame my parents.  Well, at least my parents choices.

I grew up in the 80′s (born in ’74 but up until age 4 I didn’t get much access to computers or games.)  My dad was a math teacher and technology geek.  He loved the concept of computers and new technology and often brought home cool stuff that my friends had never heard of.  (When I was in grade school he brought home a video phone.  Really.  Problem was NO ONE ELSE had a video phone so it was useless– oh, and it had a cord.)

We owned this version of pong and played it on a little black and white tv-- that's right-- we owned a video game console before we owned a color tv.

I only got to play Pong occasionally because it was a “grown up” thing that I had to be supervised to use. Really.

Not long after that we got this:

My dad was one of the math teachers who got to turn into a computer teacher overnight so he brought this home.

I very quickly learned a little bit of BASIC (enough to show off on the computer at school). I also got to play text adventures but again with the adult supervision. For a time we had no way to save and later there was all the trickiness of turning it off at the proper time, saving at the proper time, and whatnot.

Around the same time my dad bought us a TI99.

THIS was my first gaming console-- the first one I was allowed to use freely and as much as I wanted. I adored it.

Finally I had free access to a console.  It had game cartridges that you had to blow on occasionally (dust kept the connectors from connecting and since the end was open that happened often.)  You will note that it had a keyboard so of course I learned to play using WASD instead of a controller.  We still own this console, it still works, the games are still fun, and my kids still enjoy it though way less often than the Wii and DS.  The Atari system came out around the same time as we got the TI99 but I was still the first kid in our school (small school) to own a computer AND the first with a gaming system.

The Intellivision holds a special place in my heart. I still love this thing and we still play it occasionally.

I was devasted when my parents bought us an Intellivision for Christmas the same year all my friends got Ataris. I wanted an Atari.  Everyone else got an Atari.  Note the difference between the Intellivision controller and the Atari controller.

Atari-- the one all my friends had. Okay, maybe just my best friend but still.

What we had. And the reason? The Intellivision was cheaper. The games were cheaper. And you could get a voice synthesizer. We also had a voice synthesizer for the TI99. My dad was into synthesized voice-- it tickled his inner geek.

The Atari had a joystick with a button.  It was what people who played at the arcade were used to (smart move Atari) and would be the controller of choice for some time.  The Intellivision had rather a clever controller  : you had to put an overlay on for each game  but it made it super easy to know the controls for each game  but it never caught on.

Various game overlays for the Intellivision. I have a pile of about 40-- 2 for each game.

I actually really liked the 12 button with overlay system since it gave you a lot of different possible controls and the bottom thumb pad was also nice though you had to hold it up and down.  It was similar to the current d-pad on Wiimotes.  This made it an easy transition for my brother and I the year he got a Nintendo for Christmas (I got pc games instead– we had a TRS 80).

Oh the hours spent beating Zelda, all the Super Mario Bros. games, and Metroid. And oh the confusion when we beat Metroid and suddenly our character was replaced by a green haired chick. ;)

The NES was the last console we got until both of us moved out and moved on. We did however have a variety of joysticks for the computer– all variations on the original Atari joystick but with added z buttons.

We had several joysticks for the computer that looked along these lines, and then a few with fancier buttons and doodads.

So I spent most of my gaming time on controllers that looked NOTHING like this:

A Sony controller. Not only is this thing uncomfortable for me to use because I didn't learn to play on it, but for me both the Sony and the Xbox controllers are way too big for my small hands and are therefore uncomfortable to use.

However, you will note that the game controllers that I cut my teeth on look an awful lot like this:

Look! If you hold it sideways it is very similar to the original NES controller as well up and down feeling similar to the Intellivision controller. Also note the thumbstick issimilar to the joysticks I grew up with-- in fact we even had one very similar to that at one point.

So it makes perfect sense that I would continue to prefer Nintendo and PC games given that I didn’t even get my hands on a Sega or Playstation or regularly use any other kind of controller until I was in my 20′s.

Our kids on the other hand have had exposure to all sorts of gaming systems though they too prefer the Wiimote for its simplicity of use though they spend a large portion of their time playing PC games.

And me?  I will continue to enjoy my Nintendo games both on the Wii and DS along with spending a lot of time playing pc games.  I never was one of the cool kids anyway.

PAX East 2012

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The show floor from the sky bridge that you walk across everytime you want to get to a panel room across the building on the same floor as the last panel you saw.

We just got back from PAX East  Monday night.  God provided that we had the money to get there, sold all the books while there and therefore had the money to get home.  Go God!!!  And thank you to the random gift givers who helped us get there.  You all are awesome!!!

Escapist Movie Night

The Escapist movie night panel, L-R: One of the dudes from the new show "Space Janitors", Shamus, Movie Bob, and the crew of Loading, Ready, Run: Matt Wiggins, Kathleen De Vere, Graham Stark

We got to find out how quickly Shamus’ book would sell out and wish we had brought more.  Very sorry to all those who didn’t get to buy one– if you want a signed copy of “The Witch Watch” you can now order a signed copy directly from us here.

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Blankety Blank Panel which was hosted by Susan Arendt (NOT in the photo) which was hilarious! In photo : Russ Pitts, Dan Amrich, Kathleen De Vere, and Movie Bob

We saw some amazingly funny panels (like the LLR panel and those that the Escapist creatives including Susan Arendt and Movie Bob were involved in). We got to meet some more cool people to add to the list of cool people we already know (like Russ Pitts and James Portnow along with a slew of Shamus’ readers and some really awesome indie game developers) and see friends we hadn’t seen for a year (like Susan Arendt and the LLR crew) .

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James Portnow of Extra Credits among many other things.

We got to see some incredibly thought provoking panels which I am still pondering and percolating posts thanks to (namely two that included James Portnow and were on topics close to my heart– one on Gaming and Education and one called the Genre Divide about rethinking why people play certain games and how games are divided into genres.)

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Girls Like Robots (a pretty fun indie game.)

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A very cool concept for a rpg that my kids are really looking forward to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/JoshuaACNewman/mobile-frame-zero-rapid-attack

We got to see a ton of amazing indie games and some cool AAA games.

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Shamus crashed while waiting.

We got tired and hungry and sick of granola bars (thanks to the convention centers ridiculously huge symmetric layout where you have to go down a level and cross a sky bridge to get between two panels on the same floor and expensive food–$7 for a HOT DOG.)

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In front of the convention center-- parking was in rear and you had to walk a quarter mile of wind tunnel just to get in a door.

We got stuck in 2 hours of 5 mph traffic and only got lost in Boston once (last year we managed to add a half hour of wrong turns onto every single trip and this year we were saved mostly thanks to paying close attention, avoiding the roads we knew we had trouble with, and Josh’ excellent sense of direction.)

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The audience at the Escapist movie night panel.

 We are glad to be home and pondering all that we saw.  I have multiple posts in my brain about gaming so that should be interesting (if I have time to write about them.)

Harvest Moon Animal Parade

This was written by Rachel– age 13, my oldest and a girl gamer for an essay contest on Gaming Angels.  I asked her if I could post it here, to which she said yes.  This is the first essay she has ever written.  The original question was what is your favorite video game and how would you make it better.

One of the  game’s many qualities is that it has a great tutorial. The tutorial is so good because it starts you out with no walls. The other Harvest Moon games had long, boring tutorials and even after the tutorial was over it never really let you go. You would have to go meet everyone in town, then you couldn’t leave one area until you mastered farming, then it would move you to another area and not let you leave THAT area till you learn another skill.  Harvest Moon Animal Parade is different.  Instead it will tell you how to do things, give you some plants, and let you go, which is nice.

Pets are another big change in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. In the old games you would have two pets: a dog and a pig.  You couldn’t choose between them or refuse them, they were just there. In this Harvest Moon you don’t start out with a pet.  You can choose which animal you want but you have to put a lot of time into making it to love you .  There is so much more variety now that you can choose from multiple breeds of dogs and cats, plus many other species.

But there are problems with this game.  For instance, the world is huge and filled with empty space.  This leads to a lot of needless walking, especially at the beginning of the game.  Later in the game this isn’t such a problem but when you first start out it is cut scene heavy and you are walking a lot as you try to further the plot.

To fix this I would shorten the distance between areas.  I would fill the paths with more collectible items.  That way it wouldn’t feel like such a waste of time to be doing all that walking.

Another bad thing is that the days are long.  Every hour is three minutes which means that a full day is 72 minutes.  This is fine if you want to fill the day with gathering.  However most of the time you have a little bit of work to do in the morning and the rest is in the evening.  If you don’t have anything to do until latter, the best thing to do is put down the controller and leave the game running for a while.

I would make it so you could trigger a event by entering the event grounds, with a pop up message that asks if you are ready to enter the event.

Another problem is that when you get closer to the end of the game it slows down noticeably.  The cut scenes slow to about one a month (in game) instead of one a day like at the beginning of the game.  At this point you are spending all your time trying to get the villagers to love you, so you can actually beat the game.  This means you have to talk to and give them each gifts daily, which is tedious.  Then suddenly, when you finish making everyone like you the cut scenes go back to once a day until they just stop.   In other words, this game has serious pacing issues.

I would spread the plot and cut scenes out over the whole game instead of just at the beginning and the end. that way I wouldn’t get bored or quit the game before finishing.

All in all, the game is good but it does have some big issues that I think could have been easily addressed.

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