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Posts tagged: games

ANTVR: A Virtual Reality Gadget That Anyone Can Hack

Klint Finley

ANTVR virtual reality headset

In March 2012 I wrote:

We’ve had steampunk and dieselpunk and atompunk, so now it’s pixelpunk. We’re about to hit full circle and have retro-cyberpunk complete with VR headsets and Power Gloves.

Later that year Oculus did a Kickstarter for their virtual reality headset, which also happened to kickstart a new wave of VR kit. I just wrote about the latest one for Wired:

The designs for the ANTVR headset itself and its nifty convertible game controller are proprietary technology. But the designs and firmware for the wireless receiver–which sits between the headset, the controller, and the gaming console–are open source. That opens up a range of possibilities, such as creating custom controllers or using the ANTVR controller to control other devices.

For example, ANTVR co-founder Qin Zheng says you could write software for using ANTVR to control a Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, perhaps using the headset to watch the feed from the bot’s on-board camera. You could also make your own version of the receiver specifically designed to work with a game console or device not officially supported by ANTVR. “You can use the signal straight from the USB port,” Zheng says. “We will give the developer all the documentation and libraries.”

Full Story: Wired: A Virtual Reality Gadget That Anyone Can Hack

Still no Power Gloves, though…

How to Destroy a Community

Klint Finley

Tim Maly reports on Alex Gianturco, a World of Warcraft player who uses espionage and psychological warfare to destroy rival guilds:

An aggressor, he says, can untie the binds of community by putting pressure on the group until individuals stop thinking of themselves as part of the larger collective. Power blocs in Eve are made up of alliances, which are made up of corporations, which are made up of individual people. In a strong alliance, individuals think of themselves as part of the greater whole. As an alliance weakens, individuals experience a shift in identity. They think differently about who they are.

“Pressure and not having any fun in the game makes pilots blame the alliance for their failures — ‘my alliance sucks, but my corp is great’?“ Gianturco says. “Enough people shift identity from ‘I’m a member of Band of Brothers’ [an alliance] to ‘I’m a member of Reikoku’ [a corporation], and it’s just a matter of time before those corps blame one another for the alliance’s failures.”

When it comes to putting pressure on your enemies, not all adversity is created equal, he says. Dramatic wins or losses, though exciting, do little to turn the tide of war. Humans are quite adept as rationalizing these sorts of events. If you lose one big battle, you can tell yourself that the other guys cheated, or that it was server lag.

Instead, Gianturco suggests a campaign of sustained low-level misery. “The trick is to find what the enemy hates the most and feed it to them nonstop. You listen to their discourse and find the core of their identity and then step on it as hard as you can.”

Figuring out what part to step on is the job of Gianturco’s spies. With access to the private communications of his enemies, Gianturco can figure out what parts of the game they hate and then force them to live only that.

Full Story: The New Inquiry: How to Destroy a Community

Another Fake Kidding Napping Service A La The Game

Klint Finley

Kidnapped

A couple weeks ago I linked to Odyssey Works and Videogames Adventure Services, two services that promise to provide interesting and/or exciting experiencing, including kidnapping. Here’s another company:

I had to fly all the way to Detroit to get kidnapped. Extreme Kidnapping is a company operated by Adam Thick, an entrepreneur and convicted counterfeiter from Oakland County, Michigan. Thick founded Extreme Kidnapping in 2002 after being inspired by the old David Fincher movie The Game. (SPOILER: It was all a game!) For $500, Adam and his crew will abduct you at gunpoint and hold you hostage for four hours. A thousand bucks gets you ten hours, along with a bit of customized sadism. GQ was curious to see what $1,500 would buy me.

If it strikes you as obscene that people would pay to be kidnapped at a time when it happens routinely to other people for real, the fact is that we live in an age when a normal life simply isn’t enough for many Americans. If you watch enough movies and TV (as I do), you end up yearning for a life that is more cinematic than blissful. Experiences are the newest, hottest luxury items. I looked at it like I was paying for a memory implant, Total Recall-style. But the one thing that didn’t make sense to me was how Adam could pull off the trick of making a kidnapping feel real when his client knows it’s not.

Full Story: GQ: What It’s Like To Be Kidnapped

Like That Movie The Game, But Real: Odyssey Works

Klint Finley

Odyssey Works

Odyssey Works is like a real life version of the movie The Game. From The New York Times:

IT all looked so normal: a dozen diners chatting over coffee and hash browns at an outdoor cafe near the waterfront here on an August morning. The cook flipped eggs, a dog sniffed for scraps, and the young woman in the black sweater suspected nothing of the spies and confederates sprinkled throughout. They’d been studying her life for four months and were finally preparing to pull it through the looking glass they’d constructed. Within 36 hours there would be confusion, euphoria, tears, even an abduction.

It was all in the service of art. For more than a decade a loose-knit, multidisciplinary collective called Odyssey Works has been quietly inverting art’s longstanding arrangement with its audience. Rather than a single artist creating for a general population, it directs many artists at a deeply researched population of one. The intricate creations that converge in the group members’ weekend-long performances — sound installations, films, performance art and more — exist only for their chosen subject, whom they’ve come to know very well. Then it all vanishes. The idea is a beautiful inefficiency: a tiny but infinitely more affected audience.

Full Story: The New York Times: A Waking Dream Made Just for You

(via Tim Maly)

Oh, and they’re accepting applications until April 15.

See also:

Videogames Adventure Services

The Strange and Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

ImagiNation: An RPG For People Suffering From Depression

Klint Finley

A personal game about depression and its effects intended to help people with invisible illnesses broach the subject and explore it in a way they can have power over it.

ImagiNation is set after the fall of mainland Britain to a strange reality breakdown. The barriers between imagination and reality, dreams and nightmares have shattered and strange things dreamed up by people caught in the event teem across the land.

Only those who are already ‘broken’ can hope to cope with exploring, understanding and combatting this strangeness for the sake of the huddled refugees that sit and wait and watch from the smaller islands around the coast.

A game of mental illness and art using The Description System (Neverwhere).

This game is available FREE so please promote, download, host and spread as far and wide as you can.

Full Story: ImagiNation

See also:

The Strange And Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

Study: Table Top Role Players Are More Creative

The Strange And Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

Klint Finley

I’ve been meaning to learn more about the serious “unfun” games known as “Nordic Larping” ever since I learned about the activity from Eleanor Saitta at WeirdShitCon. Lucky for me, Paul Graham Raven just happened to finish a three part series of articles for Rhizome on the topic:

First played in 1998, Ground Zero has a good claim to ur-game status, and is a great example of the ‘un-fun’ ideas that Nordic larp plays with: its players sat in a room standing in for an Ohio nuclear shelter circa the Cuban Missile Crisis, listening to mocked-up radio reports of a blossoming bout of Mutually Assured Destruction, then spent the rest of the game having their characters come to terms with the annihilation of the world outside. Far from being an outlier, the deep emotional implications of Ground Zero are indicative of the psychological spaces that Nordic larp would go on to explore.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be following Stark’s lead and using ‘Nordic larp’ to refer specifically to the avant-garde school of gameplay rather than the geographically-defined set of players. As Stark is careful to point out, larp in the Nordic countries is not a monolith so much as a collection of localised scenes, and the Knudepunkt circuit — despite its greater visibility to outsiders — is a marginal part of the greater whole.

Marginal it may be, but Nordic larp is a teeming ecosystem of styles and approaches which, again, mirrors the confusion of subgenres and styles to be found in the contemporary genre fiction scene.

Full Story: Rhizome: This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp

Part 2: This is More Than a Game

Part 3: Everything is a Game

I also just read Adi Robertson’s experience playing perhaps the first Nordic Larp in North America:

Other larps build a more open-ended world. The White War, a larp about military occupation, is one; Mad About the Boy is another: it has a few scripted events, but the outcomes have been vastly different over its three runs. In one Norwegian run, the Last Man’s arrival was met with tea and blankets. In our version, the game ended with a convoluted quadruple-cross and a lot of brandished prop guns — although, while our organizers feared Americans might be trigger-happy, none were actually fired. The forty of us were given a place to live and people to be; what we did with that was up to us.

Giving players this control tends to lead to unexpected results. “I don’t think I’ve ever organized a larp where at one point I haven’t said the following words: He did what? She did what?” Raaum says. In one of her larps, the World War II-based 1942, a group of soldiers was meant to execute a prisoner, but the plan was derailed. “They were meant to feel what it was like to look her in the eye and shoot her.” Their commander, however, “wanted to spare his soldiers their feelings, so he did it himself. That’s bullshit,” she adds.

In some cases, though, this turns out well, even if it started with a failure on the organizers’ part. Finnish war larp Valokaari was meant to feel cramped and filled with interpersonal conflict, but due to a misunderstanding, participants decided to play it as a hyper-realistic military enactment. “The characters who we expected to get on each others’ nerves never did,” the organizers wrote in larp anthology States of Play, “because most of them spent all their time either patrolling, eating or sleeping.” At the end, the players considered the game a success, even if the game hadn’t worked out remotely how the organizers intended.

The Dark Side Of The Gamification Of Work

Klint Finley

I wrote for Wired:

But some believe gamification may do more harm than good. Kathy Sierra, a game designer who has given talks on the dark side of gamification, tells Wired that game designers and scholars are almost universally against gamification.

As Sierra points out, gamification replaces an intrinsic reward with an extrinsic one. In other words, it shifts a participant’s motivation from doing something because it is inherently rewarding to doing it for some other reason that isn’t as meaningful. This, she says, is ultimately less motivating.

Sierra cites research from University of Rochester psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, which was popularized by Dan Pink’s book Drive. Deci and Ryan concluded that the most powerful motivators for employees are the mastery of the task at hand, autonomy, and something called relatedness, which might involve helping a customer with a meaningful problem. Gamification replaces these motivators with extrinsic motivators like points and badges.

The other problem is that gamified applications aren’t necessarily fun. Most of what is called gamification would be better described as pointsification, according to game designer Margaret Robertson. “What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience,” she wrote in a 2010 blog post

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: How ‘Gamification’ Can Make Your Customer Service Worse

The Dark Side Of The Gamification Of Work

Klint Finley

I wrote for Wired:

But some believe gamification may do more harm than good. Kathy Sierra, a game designer who has given talks on the dark side of gamification, tells Wired that game designers and scholars are almost universally against gamification.

As Sierra points out, gamification replaces an intrinsic reward with an extrinsic one. In other words, it shifts a participant’s motivation from doing something because it is inherently rewarding to doing it for some other reason that isn’t as meaningful. This, she says, is ultimately less motivating.

Sierra cites research from University of Rochester psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, which was popularized by Dan Pink’s book Drive. Deci and Ryan concluded that the most powerful motivators for employees are the mastery of the task at hand, autonomy, and something called relatedness, which might involve helping a customer with a meaningful problem. Gamification replaces these motivators with extrinsic motivators like points and badges.

The other problem is that gamified applications aren’t necessarily fun. Most of what is called gamification would be better described as pointsification, according to game designer Margaret Robertson. “What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience,” she wrote in a 2010 blog post

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: How ‘Gamification’ Can Make Your Customer Service Worse

The Surprising, Stealth Rebirth Of The American Arcade

insert coins

From Ars Technica:

The arcade industry is dead in the United States—everyone knows it—done in by a combination of rapidly advancing home consoles and rapidly expanding suburbanization in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The only people not in on this bit of conventional wisdom are the ones who happen to be opening a surprising number of successful new arcades around the country.

Adam Pratt, who runs industry website Arcade Heroes when he isn’t managing his own arcade in West Valley City, Utah, tracked at least 12 major, dedicated, independent US arcades opening their doors in 2011, with 10 more opening so far this year. That might not be enough to rival numbers from the golden age of arcades, but it’s a notable expansion from the years before.

"I have missed plenty of locations, but despite that, there really has been an increase over the past two years or so," Pratt told me. "News occasionally comes along of a place closing, but it is far outweighed by openings." And almost all of these locations are thriving, based on what Pratt has been hearing.

Full Story: Ars Technica: The surprising, stealth rebirth of the American arcade

The Portland bar/arcade Ground Kontrol was ahead of the curve.

Study: Table Top Role Players Are More Creative

Interesting, but there’s a fundamental causation vs. correlation problem here. I know at least one person who says she doesn’t play RPGs because she’s not imaginative enough.

A study forthcoming in Thinking Skills and Creativity found that people who play table-top role playing games (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons) engage in more divergent thinking (a common measure of creativity) than people who play electronic role playing games (e.g. Final Fantasy) or people who don’t play any role playing games.

What makes a game like Dungeons and Dragons so beneficial is that it gets at the cognitive core of what creativity is about — the act of connecting existing knowledge in a novel way in order to generate new knowledge. This new knowledge can be a pleasant way to place paint on a canvass, a plan to stop the leak in your sink, or a way to explain how a Dwarf’s Level 3 Fire spell is repelled by a Dark Ogre.

Peer Review My Neurons: Want to Be Creative? Play Dungeons and Dragons

(via Metafilter)

See also:

Research Shows That American Creativity is Declining

My interview with indie game designers Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen on their transhumanist RPG FreeMarket