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In challenging economic times, when all around us our losing their jobs…(sorry, heads)  it is somewhat questionable whether the commercial argument for serious games/immersive simulations should be centered around the concept of ‘fun’.

Naturally the learning design and delivery folks would like people to have fun whilst learning (especially if it is evaluated through ‘happy sheets’ as then they invariably get good feedback). When it comes to selling this to the CxO, however, you may as well substitute FUN for another, slightly longer ‘F-word’ .

Raph Koster - A Theory of Fun

Raph Koster - A Theory of Fun

You will get no argument from me that learning should be anything other than fun (although I prefer ‘enjoyable’ and ‘satisfying’) – Raph Koster’s wonderful book ‘A theory of Fun’ and 2005 GDC/Serious Games Summit keynote confirmed everything I always felt about fun and learning – but I still cringe when I see people in this space wondering why their sales pitch crashed when they major on fun rather than results.

There was with some ironic smirking Corti-ness therefore, when I saw the front page advert for Halo Wars on this week’s print edition of MCV.

Whilst many in the serious game space try to present the soft and fluffy ‘funness’ of our offerings (which are rarely actually that fun) there, in the advert,  stood Master Chief, with two Master Chief side-kicks and an army of Master Chiefs and the simple heading…”Have you got what it takes to be a great leader?”

Ironic, I feel, that this game, one of the best and most successful pure entertainment product experiences of all time is marketed with a title that one would most commonly associate with the marketing of a very traditional piece of corporate training.

The more pertinant question might be: “Which product breeds the best young leaders for world of business? The serious games or entertainment games products”. The answer might scare a few people out there!

Great leader?

Great leader?

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Adapting to the changing web 2.0 world

Adapting to the changing web 2.0 world

Sometimes all of us and, I suspect, those of who directly work with Internet technologies, are bound to forget just how transformational the Internet and the web are.

When we can pretty much anywhere obtain mega bandwidth we forget how far we have come and just how much things have changed in less than a decade ago. I certainly am guilty of this but several minor ‘epiphanies’ recently reminded me of the progress that has been made.

#1 Bandwidth

Ever wondered just how fast your net connection is? Tag along to www.speedtest.net and find out. This funky tool has delivered over 657million internet speed tests in the last few years. Just last week I rated our new office wi-fi connection at 23Mb/s download and 13Mb/s upload. I remember, just in 1999 getting a 128 Kb/s ISDN line and marvelling at how much faster it was than the analogue models we had used up to that point.

Bandwidth seems to be accelerating at a rate not unlike Moore’s law (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore’s_law). We used to be obsessed about bandwidth. It was all about speed. How fast can we consume this content? Now the focus is not upon how fast you can access online content; it is about ‘what can you do on web applications?’, which leads me to…

#2 Web 2.0 widgets and tools

Just how many ‘web 2.0’ sites are there out there now?

This is obviously a rhetorical question as there are more than any of us will or could ever uncover. I don’t mean prominent sites like Facebook and Linkedin either. Check out the following links on the 4IP web site:

http://www.4ip.org.uk/inspiration

These and sites like them have been built to cater for a very specific need or, at most, a few specific needs. Have a look at, in particular, www.evernote.com (“Easy to use information capture system for storing, filing, retrieving and sharing all the little things in life”), www.etsy.com (“A place to buy and sell handmade things”) and www.squirl.info (“Squirl is the best way to catalog, organize and share your records, movies, books, comic books, stamps, coins, or practically anything else”).

I fear that with ever-increasing inbox overload, tiny marketing/business development budgets and sometimes annoyingly web-trendy names many of these terrific applications will never gain the audiences that they deserve. Never the less, I am certain that in true Darwinian fashion that (most) of the best will thrive.

There are so many undiscovered nuggets of gold out there. Many are directly, or indirectly, intended to inform, build communities, share knowledge/ideas/expertise or enable direct collaboration. Very often this is between people that do not know each other (and probably will not ever get to know each other).

Compare that to the difficulties we have trying to get captured audiences (our employees) to use tools like Webex and the internal Intranet or LMS effectively (if such a thing is indeed possible!).

Thought: Perhaps every large organisation should have a Chief Web2.0 Applications Officer whose role is to keep abreast of what sites are out there that can be used to support L&D or as productivity tools and to go about effectively implementing them enterprise-wide?

#3 Online paint tools

A ‘twitter’ from Ben Saywer last week alerted me to Sumo Paint (http://www.sumopaint.com/web/), which is basically a (not basic) browser-based Flash/Flex-based version of Photoshop (albeit the Photoshop of several years ago).

It won’t satisfy the needs of the graphical power users (it only deals with a few web-friendly file formats for instance) but for the 99% of us that cannot fathom out where to start with the latest versions of Adobe’s finest picky creation tool, Sumo is more than we need. “But it is just a PC paint package isn’t it?” – well yes, but the amazing thing about this is that it is totally browser-based. It loads quicker than my staple 1998 copy of Paint Shop Pro (which is on day ‘several thousand’ of my 30 day trial!), support layers, imports from your PC (or the web) and loads more. You don’t need to install it. It doesn’t take up hard drive space, doesn’t bugger up your Windows registry and…it’s totally free for Pete’s sake!!!

Sumo Paint isn’t unique either. Matt Novak, one of my artists, discovered several other similar packages:

http://www.pixlr.com/

http://aviary.com/tools/phoenix

http://www.splashup.com/

Of all of these, the work being undertaken by the guys at Aviary (www.aviary.com) is, perhaps, the most impressive. They are on a mission (apparently) to “make creation accessible to artists of all genres, from graphic design to audio editing”. If that doesn’t impress you then consider that alongside the tools currently available: Phoenix (an image editor); Peacock (a ‘Visual laboratory’!); and, Toucan (a colour swatches and palettes tool), they also have in production the following:

  • Raven (Vector editor)
  • Myna (Audio editor)
  • Eagle (Pixel pattern recognition)
  • Owl (Desktop publishing)
  • Penguin (Word processor)
  • Pigeon (Painting simulator)
  • Hummingbird (3D modeller)
  • Ibis (Font creator)
  • Roc (Music generator)
  • Starling (Video editor)
  • Tern (Terrain generator)
  • Woodpecker (Smart image resize)

The basic plan to join up is FREE. The pro license only costs $9.99/month. Compare that to the costs of acquiring MS Office, Adobe CS4, 3DS Max and/or Soundforge. Yes you always need an Internet connection to use them but compared to the need install and update applications (and then add more memory, constantly defrag your PC and manage numerous serial codes etc etc) plus the fact that the Aviary apps will always be the very latest versions…..well, the world is a-changing my friends.

Microsoft, Adobe and their ilk face some rather irksome challengers here who are reinventing the way that we acquire and consume software. These brave, spirited and determined web freedom fighters are poised to topple the age-old empires that have been built up over the last decade or two. This war isn’t about brand image, excising massive marketing budgets or sewing up the supply chain. I watch with interest.

#4 Instructibles

www.instructables.com is, IMHO, nothing less than a major social experiment aimed at turning the world onto informal learning (note! – not the official ‘about us’ definition). I’ve blogged about the joys of School Of Everything (http://www.schoolofeverything.com and, more recently, about my successful journey around XBOX 360 repairs ‘training’ sites as sites that encourage self-guided and informal learning.

Instructables is, simply put, an already massive and rapidly growing collection of ‘how to’ guides provided by people whose experience and skills range from complete novice to master. Examples from today, as featured on the home page include, for example:

  •  How to program in C++
  • How to make an easy fleece beanie
  • Best meat sauce
  • Making a lamp from a wine bottle
  • How to make a Van de Graaff generator (!!!)

For sure, much of what you will uncover you will consider inane or insane but what you value and what I value may differ significantly and believe you me, there is already plenty on this site to appeal to anybody.

This site will scare many at first but it and others like it are doing more to encourage creativity, knowledge sharing, remote collaboration, skills development and confidence building than any corporate-controlled knowledge management of learning management system will ever do.

#5 Spotivity

This is an application that you download and install (so not entirely ‘web 2.0’) but a software tool that is poised to change the sheer range of music that is being played in offices and homes the world over very quickly.

Spotivity (which you can download from www.spotivity.com) after signing up (note! You may need an invite from another Beta account holder). Once installed it allows you to find and play any song or album you could possibly want.

Think about that. ANY song!

How many times have you caught a snippet of a song that brought back memories from your youth? How many times have you thought “I wish I had bought that album” (or ripped it to MP3???).

Spotivity will, I venture, find just about any song that has been published. I’ve tested this. The guys in our office have tested it. We haven’t yet found a song it couldn’t find. What is really amazing is the sheer speed of the search. It is truly incredible how quickly a list of songs appears. The music itself starts within 2 to 3 seconds and mostly appears to be streaming at 256 Kb/s or higher. There is an occasional, short audio advert in-between tracks (hey, they have to pay for the licensing rights somehow!) but it doesn’t detract from the fact that I can play whatever songs I want whenever I want them now.

What does this mean? Well, I for one can free up several dozen gigabytes on my home PC and put the CD collection in the loft. More importantly, it means that we can all discover new musicand rediscover old music. Music you haven’t listened to for many years. Music that is similar to songs you already like.

Discovery; a word that doesn’t figure very often in formal learning tomes but one that should do. Learning Theories (www.learning-theories.com) attributes ‘discovery learning’ to Jerome Bruner and defines it as follows:

“Discovery learning is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Students interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments.”

Read more at: http://www.learning-theories.com/discovery-learning-bruner.html

‘Discovery learning’ is a theory that aligns very well with the concept of informal learning. In the 21st century world where one must find facts, solve problems, find resources, master new concepts and acquire new skills almost hourly in order to perform and to progress, informal learning is a must.

Right…..I’m off to build that Van de Graaff generator!

Event URL: http://www.gamebasedlearning2009.com/index.php

Description (from the organiser)….

The Game Based Learning Conference is the only event of its kind currently in existence that deals with all aspects of games in learning.

The huge surge of interest amongst education professionals, game companies, learners, employers, parents, public sector agencies and technology providers over the last 5 years has been demonstrated by the overwhelming success of the gaming strands in the Handheld Learning Conference.

Game Based Learning builds on this success whilst providing more depth by creating stimulating, challenging and provocative dialogue spaces at the intersection between the education, gaming, social media and consumer electronics sectors. Here, policy makers, thought leaders, innovators and key practitioners meet to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences as part of a unique ongoing conversation.

Speakers include:

    * Tom Watson, MP, UK Cabinet Minister for Transformational Government
    * Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari, father of the video game industry
    * Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor, Education, Channel 4
    * Dr Richard Graham, Clinical Director of Adolescent Directorate, Tavistock Centre
    * Marco Minoli, Director, Slitherine
    * Sean Dromgoole, CEO, Some Research & GameVision
    * Derek Robertson, Learning & Teaching Scotland
    * Terry Deary, Author, Horrible Histories

The focus of this vital exploration is the impact that commercial off the shelf video games, “serious” games, virtual worlds and social networks are having on new learning and teaching practice in and out of formal education environments.

Game Based Learning 2009 will:

    * Examine practical examples of how games and other entertainment software are being embraced in schools, universities and other establishments.
    * Present and discuss latest market data, trends and behaviors.
    * Debate the implications of video game and Internet rating systems in the context of learning and teaching.
    * Provide valuable social and networking opportunities for all delegates.
    * Create, capture and make available unique reference material for the interactive entertainment industry, policy makers, education professionals and the public.

This was sent to me by Julian Alvarez at http://www.irit.fr and is worth sharing…

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Whosegame by Orange launches its 1st international competition for Serious Games. A challenge for anyone who wants to try their hand at devising and creating Serious Games!

The Serious Games competition is open to students and individual participants from all countries, and runs from December 8th 2008 to March 31st 2009.

How to enter?
1 – Choose one of three topics:
– Improving one’s knowledge of telecommunications
– Being an eco-citizen with the help of telecommunication technologies
– Acting against isolation and exclusion thanks to telecommunications
2 – Register to the competition on the website www.whosegame.com
3 – Upload your thematic Serious Game in Flash format before midnight on March 31st 2009

All the Serious Games will be put online as from April 1st 2009 on www.whosegame.com. Until April 15th 2009, Internet users will get a chance to vote for their favourite Serious Game in each category.
At the same time, the Whosegame jury will be selecting the 3 best Serious Games.

What can you win?
– A prize (5 000, 2 500 or 1 000€ worth of gift checks in local currency for the jury prizes, and 500€ for those that attracted the most votes from Internet users)
– A visibility for your creation
– Becoming a member of Whosegame creators’ community

For more details, go to the www.whosegame.com website where you’ll find the competition rules and additional information.

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Game Ready?

Game Ready?

Jude Ower of Digital2.0 – www.digital2point0.com – is conducting research into the readiness of organisations to adopt serious games. She has aske dme to pass on the following message….

We have been working on research to create the Game Ready tools and have a survey to be completed by developers and a survey to be completed by a customer of the developer.

We are looking to gather around 10 responses from each group and wondered if you can help us by filling out the developer survey and send on the customer survey to a client or past client who would be willing to help?  The links for the surveys are below:

Developer Survey
http://www.surveyshare.com/survey/take/?sid=81725

Customer Survey
http://www.surveyshare.com/survey/take/?sid=78943

Ideally, we are collating all the information next week so if we can have all responses back for the 12th January, this would be a great help and keep us on track to complete our Game Ready tools.

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