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A friend of mine made me aware of the recently launched today and provided an emphatically verbalised critique that when summed up, basically boiled down to “How do people get it SO wrong?”.

Take a look at see what you think. The registration is not overly protracted and you can use Facebook Connect to sign up (assuming you have a FB account).


Admission: I only spent 15 minutes pottering around and any digital media project deserves a more intensive review than that to be fully inclusive but to counter-argue that point…..first impressions count. That is especially true in the world of the Viral Loop!

Here’s what my friend and I disliked:

Within seconds we were having customisation options foisted upon us…even before we had taken in the first ‘home’ page.

Secondly, in an equal quick-fire pace, I was being told to buy some gold bars so that I could condust aforementioned customisation options.

Thirdly, as this is the core point, the site/network/world…oops…sorry, ‘whirled’ feels like someone decided to jump on the web 2.0 / social networking bandwagon and simply made a list of ‘all the cool stuff kids like on the web’ and shoved them altogether.

This exercise seems, from what I could tell, to have been executed with pretty good technical aplomb, however there is simply no sense of meaning to the experience. In fact, there was no experience at all.  Maybe I’ve suddenly become a middle-age git in my 40th year and, as my friend commented, “maybe you need to be 14 to get it”…but everything I have learned about digital/social media tells me otherwise.

I don’t need to sign into and navigate through a cartoon living room in order to play funky flash games online. I can stream endless music from Spotify. I can chat to my friends  and maintain friends lists on Windows Live, Facebook and on numerous other  applications. Shoving all this random functionality into one place smacks of an ill-concieved and thinly veiled attempt to capitalise on the Web 2.0 bandwagon and shows, at worst, a complete lack of understanding of why people use social media.

Provide genuine value – even with beta bugs and creaking start-up infrastructure – and people will participate in their droves and go viral on you. Patronise them with a focus-group inspired feature list but no genuine value and any initial success will peter out quickly once the curiosity factor has passed. Don’t build purely to monetise…plan to deliver meaningful experiences that people will want to use then figure out how best to monetise that usage.

Signed: ‘Ol Grumpy Git

Buy some friends by clicking here (all cards accepted)

Buy some friends by clicking here (all cards accepted)


I’m on the advisory panel for this year’s Game Based Learning 2010 event in London and the line-up is looking very strong indeed.

The event is on 29th & 30th March and takes place at The Brewery, London, EC1. Last year’s event was one of the most fruitful, enjoyable and refreshing conferences I have been to and a genuine pleasure.

Learning Without Frontiers are the organisers and they managed to attract a bunch of new faces to the event which, if you have been to the plethora of ‘serious games’ events over the last 10 years, is a very good thing. The event offers an excellent and well thought-through blend of speakers from the commercial and public sectors, from training and from education and other peopel who offer alternative perspectives (last year we had the pleasure of Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari).

They are expecting around 600 people this year and the event will, I have no doubt, again attract a lot of press and industry attention.

With themes exploring how social media, commercial off the shelf and serious game technologies are improving learning in schools, universities, healthcare, military and corporate training the conference will bring together international thought leaders, innovators and practitioners from the education, entertainment and technology sectors.

Confirmed speakers for this years conference include:

  • Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister for Culture and the Creative Industries
  • Matt Mason, Author, The Pirates Dilemma
  • Siobhan Reddy and Kareem Ettouney, Media Molecule
  • Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor, Education, Channel 4
  • Ewan McIntosh, CEO, NoTosh
  • Stephen Heppell,
  • Jonathan Stewart, Director, Hollier Medical Simulation Centre
  • Major Roy Evans, British Army
  • Derek Robertson, Learning & Teaching Scotland
  • Michael Acton Smith, CEO, Mind Candy


Register before January 31st to attend this leading network building conference about video games, social media and learning and you will:

  • receive a FREE digital camcorder (640x480x30fps) RRP £75
  • receive a FREE pass to attend a workshop hosted in London by PlayGen worth £95
  • save up to £250 on standard and late registration fees

For attendee information to to purchase tickets:

For exhibitor information or to sign-up:

I hope to see you there!

Whilst exploring some fantastic examples of Prezi presentations – – I came across a wonderful one about social gaming. I can’t embed it here (c’mon WordPress!!!) but you can visit it directly with the following URL:

A very compelling video that reminds us that technology is only part of the equation when we attempt to solve the problem of effective education.

I came across an interesting article on the web site that gives a good introduction to how the UK schools sector is using entertainment computer games to enhance teaching.

An excerpt I particularly like involved an interview with the Head of Educational Research and Analysis at Becta and is below:

Perhaps more surprisingly, there is published evidence that learning outcomes can result from entertainment-oriented games played for fun. Researcher Constance Steinkuehler examined World of Warcraft, a fantasy-based massively multiplayer online game (MMO) in which players work together to complete quests and defeat enemies. She discovered that players were formulating theories about how the game-world worked, and then testing their hypotheses – practicing, in essence, the scientific method. It wasn’t just a small proportion of the players, either: “I visited the game community forums, predicting that 5-10% of the conversations would look like high-end problem solving, and the rest would be banter,” she says. “Instead, 86% of a random sample were about problem solving.”

The full article is online at:

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