Superstruct, the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game

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Developed by the Institute for the Future, Superstruct, the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game, goes live today and will last for six weeks, played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other online spaces.

“By playing the game, you’ll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face,” the Web site says. “Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. It’s about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.”

The Ten Year Forecast team at the Institute for the Future will analyze the player-created game content and prepare an official Superstruct Report featuring the top collective insights about the year 2019, and the best tactics for “superstructing” society.

Gas Zappers- solo show at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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Please come to Gas Zappers solo show at BAM/PFA! We are gonna debut the long anticipating Gas Zappers’s online game. I will be there on Oct 30 giving talk to Prof. Richard Rinehart‘s class.

October 22, 2008 – February 8, 2009

Gas Zappers, by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, is an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. Hung is among the contemporary artists and educators who have adopted video games as a new platform for social debate and aesthetic experience by developing “serious games.” In Gas Zappers, the idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues.

Berkeley and the Bay Area have been at the center of the cultural debate around alternative energy sources and global warming, due in no small part to developments like the $500 million joint project between UC Berkeley and British Petroleum to develop alternative biofuels. Gas Zappers furthers this discourse in a serious game that is also at times fantastical and wry.

Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The animation style of Gas Zappers reinforces and goes beyond the game’s subject of global warming, caricaturing the exasperating and vulgar noise of the political media engine itself. In adopting the artistic strategies of photomontage, political satire, humor, and surrealism, Hung is an artistic descendent of Dadaist John Heartfield, whose photomontages lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. Ken Johnson wrote for the New York Times, “Looking at Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung’s art is like peeking into the fever dream of an overworked political blogger. Mr. Hung, 31, is a fierce, funny and inventive political satirist.”

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung received a New Media Fellowship, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop Gas Zappers. A video version of the work was shown in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. BAM/PFA’s exhibition, on view starting October 22 at bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/gaszappers and in the museum’s Bancroft Lobby, is the world premiere of the fully realized work, including the interactive game.

Richard Rinehart
Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator

Harpooned

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I have been doing research on more social games (see my old post) and came across Harpooned– a free downloable game about whaling in Japan.

Harpooned is a free game for Windows. It is a Cetacean Research Simulator, where you play the role of a Japanese scientist performing research on whales around Antarctica.

Space Movers: The Bloom Initiative

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Social Gaming Network (SGN) is known for making popular Facebook apps and games. They just release a new green game called “Space Movers: The Bloom Initiative” focus on tree conversations.

From Market Watch:

SGN has united with the Arbor Day Foundation to re-grow forests around the world. SGN will donate up to $50,000 of Space Movers game revenue — equivalent to planting 50,000 new trees — to the Arbor Day Foundation. With the help of donors and corporate sponsors like SGN, the Arbor Day Foundation works to support positive tree conservation and education projects. SGN will also provide the opportunity for users to donate money to the Arbor Day Foundation from within the game.

Space Movers is the first social game production of its kind. The game was designed in-house at SGN, with an original soundtrack and advanced social gaming features and branded with the Arbor Day Foundation’s logo throughout the game. Space Movers will first be available on Facebook and soon players will be able to compete asynchronously with old friends and new opponents on additional social networks like MySpace and Bebo. With the release of this game, SGN has catapulted social gaming to the next level. Not only does Space Movers include adorable characters, a quick paced gaming experience, and a catchy beat — but game play is now a meaningful and world changing experience.

http://www.whatisthebloominitiative.com/

Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest

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Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest is a real-time strategy game in which players use the Touch Screen to control units of woodland creatures—named Ecolis, Ecoby and Ecomon—to protect the naturally beautiful Mana Woods and recover the polluted land. All creature types have unique skills that must be strategically managed. With proper nurturing, they can evolve to learn new abilities that help complete the game’s more than 40 environmental missions. As players grow their woodland army, they must plant new trees to revitalize the woodlands and prevent deforestation.

Virtual Labor Lost

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Credit: Synthetic Worlds Initiative, Indiana University

The failure of a highly anticipated game shows the academic limits of virtual worlds.
By Erica Naone

Academics are flocking to use virtual worlds and multiplayer games as ways to research everything from economics to epidemiology, and to turn these environments into educational tools. But one such highly anticipated effort–a multiplayer game about Shakespeare meant to teach people about the world of the bard while serving as a place for social-science experiments–is becoming its own tragedy.

The game, called Arden, the World of Shakespeare, was a project out of Indiana University funded with a $250,000 MacArthur Foundation grant. Its creator, Edward Castronova, an associate professor of telecommunications at the university, wanted to use the world to test economic theories: by manipulating the rules of the game, he hoped to find insights into the way that money works in the real world. Players can enter the game and explore a town called Ilminster, where they encounter characters from Shakespeare, along with many plots and quotations. They can answer trivia questions to improve their characters and play card games with other players. Coming from Castronova, a pioneer in the field, the game was expected by many to show the power of virtual-world-based research.

But Castronova says that there’s a problem with the game: “It’s no fun.” While focusing on including references to the bard, he says, his team ended up sidelining some of the fundamental features of a game. “You need puzzles and monsters,” he says, “or people won’t want to play … Since what I really need is a world with lots of players in it for me to run experiments on, I decided I needed a completely different approach.”

Castronova has abandoned active development of Arden; he released it last week to the public as is, rather than starting up the experiments he had planned. Part of the problem: it costs a lot to build a new multiplayer game. While his grant was large for the field of humanities, it was a drop in the bucket compared with the roughly $75 million that he says goes into developing something on the scale of the popular game World of Warcraft. “I was talking to people like it was going to be Shakespeare: World of Warcraft, but the money you need for that is so much more,” he says. Castronova also says that he was taking on too much by attempting to combine education and research. He believes that his experience should serve as a warning for other academics.

Continue reading the Original Article at Techonology Review 

EA And BP Collaborate To Include Climate Education In SimCity Societies

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Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) and BP have collaborated to include climate change education within SimCity Societies, the next iteration in the genre-defining city-building franchise that has sold more than 18 million games to date. The collaboration brings together world-class game building skills and industry expertise on energy, electricity production and greenhouse gas emissions to highlight the impact of electricity generation on the emissions of carbon dioxide that are linked to climate change. The low-carbon electricity choices and monitoring of SimCity’s carbon emissions provide an entertaining, fully-integrated and accurate look at some of the causes and some of the major solutions available to combat rising levels of carbon and to help address the threat of global warming.

The game does not force players to power their cities any specific way, but allows them to make choices, each of which come with advantages and disadvantages. Similar to real-life, the least expensive and most readily-available buildings in SimCity Societies are also the biggest producers of carbon dioxide, an invisible gas that contributes to global warming. Should players choose to build cities dependent on these types of sources for power to conserve their in-game money, their carbon ratings will rise and, at reaching critical levels, the game will issue alerts about the threat of the various natural disasters like droughts, heat waves and others that may strike their cities.

Alternatively, players can strive to create a greener environment and avoid hazards caused by excessive carbon emissions by choosing from a variety of BP Alternative Energy low-carbon power options. Using hydrogen and natural gas plants to wind farms and solar power, SimCity Societies encourages people to learn about some of the causes and consequences of global warming in an engaging, educational and meaningful way. While these power sources maintain nearby property values and keep the cities’ citizens safer from disaster, they also mimic real-life in that they cost players more of their funds, and do not produce as much power as less green options that take up similar space. Informative real-world snippets about power production and conservation will also be available in-game, informing players of global warming issues both virtually and in reality.

new works by EDDO STERN at Postmasters

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EDDO STERN is one of my favorite artisist. He specifically deals with gaming culture. Don’t miss this new show he has at the Postmasters, reception Sept 8, 2007 from 6-8pm.

Postmasters is pleased to announce the exhibition of new works by EDDO STERN opening on September 8. This is the artist’s third solo show with the gallery. It will be on view until October 13 with the reception scheduled for Saturday, September 8, between 6 and 8 pm.

Los Angeles based Stern has been involved in video gaming culture as a practitioner and theorist for many years. He is presently on the faculty at California Institute of the Arts. The works in the show are a result of the artist’s obsessive participation in online fantasy games, most recently a yearlong immersion (2000 hours played) in World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) with more than 10 million players worldwide.

His new works – kinetic shadow sculptures and 3D computer animation videos – use a mash-up of documentary material from online forums, clip art, YouTube videos, midi music, electronics, and hand made puppets. They mine the online gaming world at its paradoxical extremes: on one hand, an untenable perversity of life spent slaying an endless stream of virtual monsters, on the other, an ultimate mirroring of the most familiar social dynamics. The struggles with masculinity, honor, aggression, faith, love and self worth are embroiled with the gameworld’s vernacular aesthetics.

In “Man, Woman, Dragon” (kinetic sculpture), World of Warcraft is reduced to its core elements: the cult of Chuck Norris, female elves, and a slain dragon.

“Best Flame War Ever (King of Bards vs. Squire Rex, June 2004)” is a two channel 3D computer animation diptych recreating an online flame war about degrees of expertise around the computer fantasy game Everquest, as followed by the artist in June 2004. The specific points of contention may appear recondite at first glance, but gradually the unfolding narrative acquires an unexpected pathos and reveals a glimpse into the shifting codes of masculinity.

In “Level sounds like Devil (BabyInChrist vs. His Father, May 2006)” (computer animation), a teenager living with an adoptive Christian family posts the question to the online Christian forums: “Is World of Warcraft Evil ?” The Community helps him reckon with the moral and spiritual dilemmas of reconciling his life in World of Warcraft, with the strict edits of his father and the challenges of following his new faith. As a new synthetic fantasy world encroaches on the territory of an established religion, the inner workings of faith, truth and the boundaries of reality begin to unravel.

In Postmasters’ second gallery a monumental portal structure is erected. It houses a central projection sequence: found 3D animations of tunnels, wormholes, voids, and flythroughs – the iconic abstractions of computer gaming’s spatial aesthetics, a clichéd metaphor for timeless and endless transcendence.

GamePlay- panel discussion on gaming at Eyebeam

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August 1, 2007
Wednesday at 6PM
Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st St., NYC

Eyebeam presents a panel discussion on gaming, featuring Dr. Ian Bogost, author of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (MIT Press 2007), Eyebeam Honorary Fellow Alexander R. Galloway, author of Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Minnesota, 2006) and Eyebeam Honorary Fellow Kenneth McKenzie Wark, author of Gamer Theory (2007).

The panel will be moderated Clive Thompson, who writes on science, technology and culture for the New York Times Magazine and other publications.

Sentient world: war games on the grandest scale

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Perhaps your real life is so rich you don’t have time for another.

Even so, the US Department of Defense (DOD) may already be creating a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda.

The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual “nodes” to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.

Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a “synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information”, according to a concept paper for the project.

“SWS provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP),” the paper reads, so that military leaders can “develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners”.

SWS also replicates financial institutions, utilities, media outlets, and street corner shops. By applying theories of economics and human psychology, its developers believe they can predict how individuals and mobs will respond to various stressors.

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Yank a country’s water supply. Stage a military coup. SWS will tell you what happens next.

“The idea is to generate alternative futures with outcomes based on interactions between multiple sides,” said Purdue University professor Alok Chaturvedi, co-author of the SWS concept paper.

Chaturvedi directs Purdue’s laboratories for Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulations, or SEAS – the platform underlying SWS. Chaturvedi also makes a commercial version of SEAS available through his company, Simulex, Inc.

SEAS users can visualise the nodes and scenarios in text boxes and graphs, or as icons set against geographical maps.

Corporations can use SEAS to test the market for new products, said Chaturvedi. Simulex lists the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and defense contractor Lockheed Martin among its private sector clients.

The US government appears to be Simulex’s number one customer, however. And Chaturvedi has received millions of dollars in grants from the military and the National Science Foundation to develop SEAS.

Chaturvedi is now pitching SWS to DARPA and discussing it with officials at the US Department of Homeland Security, where he said the idea has been well received, despite the thorny privacy issues for US citizens.

Continue to read the Original article from The Register by Mark Baard

OLPC Game Jam

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The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project is asking software coders to develop free, open-source educational computer games for the XO laptop, continuing its push toward a September launch date.

OLPC on Thursday offered a laptop prize for software teams who create new games during a three-day “game jam” scheduled to begin June 8 on the campus of Olin College, an engineering school in Needham, Massachusetts.

“The purpose of the game jam is getting people together to hack for a couple of days. Hopefully this will be the first of many,” said SJ Klein, OLPC’s director of content.

XO users already have their choice of certain games in a “Pygames” library of open-source applications written in the Python programming language, and the XO’s eToys application that allows children to create their own basic media and games, he said.

But in the game jam, developers could create new types of games that rely on features of the XO’s design such as mesh networking between nearby users, an integrated still or video camera, and a tablet mode for mobile gaming.

“There aren’t too many games right now that take advantage of mesh style networking,” said Klein, referring to the XO’s ability to use Wi-Fi to communicate with other users up to a kilometer away, and display them as icons on its Sugar interface. “There are networked games, sure, but they aren’t sensitive to the ability to display the presence of other users depending on where they are in relation to you, or to pop up on the screen when they are close enough.”

Beyond creating games that teach specific tasks like counting or reading, OLPC hopes the contest will produce templates that allow kids to build their own games, according to OLPC’s development guidelines.

original article via Yahoo. OLPC Game Jam’s official site.

Play Games With Your Brain, Literally

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Wow! This will absolutely change how we are gonna play games and communicate with the computer in the future. Imagine you can control your avatar to kick or jump with your mind, without even touching the joystick or any controller devices. Two Silicone Valley startups, Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky both have develop headsets that “tunes into electric signals naturally produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expression. It connects wirelessly with all game platforms from consoles to PCs. And makes it possible for games to be controlled and influenced by a player’s mind.” It is just like the ultimate fight as described in the Chinese Wu Xia world:

HOW would you like to rearrange the famous sarsens of Stonehenge just by thinking about it? Or improve your virtual golf by focusing your attention on the ball for a few moments before taking your next putt on the green-on-the-screen? Those are the promises of, respectively, Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky, two young companies based in California, that plan to transport the measurement of brain waves from the medical sphere into the realm of computer games. If all goes well, their first products should be on the market next year. People will then be able to tell a computer what they want it to do just by thinking about it. Tedious fiddling about with mice and joysticks will become irritants of the past.

Controlling things by mere thought is a staple of science fiction. That fiction, though, is often based on a real technique known as electroencephalography (EEG). This works by deploying an array of electrodes over a person’s scalp and recording surface manifestations of the electrical activity going on under his skull.

At the moment, EEG’s uses are mostly medical. Though the output of the electrodes is a set of crude brain waves, enough is now known about the healthy patterns of these waves for changes in them to be used to diagnose unhealthy abnormalities. Yet, because parts of a person’s grey matter exhibit increased electric activity when they respond to stimuli or prepare for movements, there has always been the lingering hope that EEG might also manifest someone’s thoughts in a machine-readable form that could be used for everyday purposes.

To realise that hope means solving two problems–one of hardware and one of software. The hardware problem is that existing EEG requires a helmet with as many as 120 electrodes in it, and that these electrodes have to be affixed to the scalp with a gel. The software problem is that many different types of brain waves have to be interpreted simultaneously and instantly. That is no mean computing task.

Original Article via Economist, Msnbc also has an article about Neurosky.

Here’s a video from Emotiv:

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The elevetor effect of Second Life

Gaming 1 Comment »

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Original Article via Slashdot:

There is an good video on NPR about how real human reactions translate to the virtual world. It’s interesting in view of the question posted here about rape in Second Life. The video covers a little experiment in SL where a reporter gets together with a psychologist to see if some unspoken human rules apply in the virtual world — such as staring or standing too close to someone. Perhaps surprisingly, in this world where you can be or do just about anything, you can’t break these unspoken rules with impunity.

Gawker have a story of hiring somebody to rape yourself for 220 linden dollars. Technology Review has an article about Second Life residents rise up to protest increasing technical problems due to burgeoning population.

And at last, Reuters actually has a News Center dedicated only to SL. Other news blog reporting news in (not about) SL includes SLNN, Second Life Herald and SL Daily News.

The Latest Massively Multiplayer Online Game? Birdwatching.

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Ha ha ha! LOL! This is fun! I miss San Francisco!

Craigslist founder hosts robot camera game developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Texas A&M.

CONE Sutro Forest allows players to earn points by taking live photos and classifying wild birds. CONE Sutro Forest (CONE-SF) combines a remotely controllable robotic pan-tilt-zoom video camera with live streaming video, image database, and point system.

Conceived by Ken Goldberg, artist and professor of engineering at UC Berkeley, and Dez Song, professor of computer science at Texas A&M, and funded by the National Science Foundation, CONE-SF automatically computes the optimal camera viewpoint that satisfies dozens or hundreds of simultaneous players, including both experts and amateurs. Managing large communities is the specialty of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who will host the camera from his San Francisco residence overlooking the Sutro Forest. All photos on this page were taken by him.

CONE-SF is free and open to the public. To play, visit: http://cone.berkeley.edu.

Serious Game Engine Shootout

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For people who are not familiar with the term, “Serious Games” are computer or video games that are created for sole educational purpose, and that is the primary goal for our project Gas Zappers. Richard Carey from Serious Games Source analyzes which game engine is the most comparable to the special needs of Serious Games.

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Serious games and educational simulations are an unique product category with functional requirements that are different from platform and casual games, MMOGs, and drill–n-skill learning games. The gameplay itself is only the tip of the iceberg: hidden out of sight is an engine the player doesn’t see. (Note in this article the term “engine” is meant to be inclusive of the middleware, networking, client software and other components used to deliver the desired user experience, whereas “platform” refers to the combination of hardware and software required to use the product).

As an emerging market little has been written about the best engines for building serious games. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for publishers to choose development partners, and for developers to scope serious game projects and determine the best tools to use.

Full Article Here

More resources here:
Serious Game Engine Comparison
DevMaster.net database of game engines
SIGGRAPH database of game engines
Game Engine Features & Possibilities

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