I’m a Gamer!

On numerous occasions here I’ve stated that I don’t play games. (Okay – I played Angry Birds on my iPad for several days straight. But now I’m stuck so I’m not enjoying it anymore.) I’m not good at games. I don’t have the patience, the hand-eye coordination, the “kill instinct”, nor whatever else that seems to be required to enjoy and succeed at electronic games. But in the immortal words of James Bond, never say never. ๐Ÿ™‚ I found a game that is fun! It’s called Plutonium Project.

My SL script teacher Ben Candlin (who many of you know as an SL Therion) is studying for a degree in Computer Games Programming. Many of us follow his Plurks (or Tweets and Facebook posts) but he also has a blog. A few weeks ago he posted one of his assignments in which the students were asked to create a 2-Dimensional game in one of a variety of genres. Ben choose the top down space game (I have no idea what that means, actually, except he says that it’s much like the game Asteroids).

When I saw the post, I sent the link to my son and a friend but did nothing with it myself. In the back of my mind I thought that maybe I would nag my son to play it and write a guest post for me. *grin* Oh, is THAT why he went AWAY to school???? The other night I was bored with my usual entertainments and decided to give Plutonium Project a try.

Lucky for me there are 4 levels of play: Easy, Medium, Hard and Insane. I chose Easy. *grin* The mouse controls most of the action: thrusters, direction, plasma cannon. The space bar activates the shield. There are gauges at the bottom of the screen monitoring the resources. The grid in the upper right shows you the incoming enemy (except for the ships that are invisible on radar. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Playing the easy level I made it to the 3rd fuel stop. It took me a game or two first, however, to figure out how to coordinate my left and right mouse clicks. *grin* I really am BAD at this kind of coordination. My reflexes are slow, too. I tried to take some pictures while I was playing, but if I’m bad at playing, I’m totally incompetent at playing AND recording simultaneously.

I turned my coworkers loose on the game also. *grin* Yes, of course there could be improvements. EVERY game could use improvements. But it’s fun and easy to learn. And as one coworker discovered – a great way to spend time when the moderator is late to the meeting.


I’m very bad at most card, board and electronic games. I don’t like to lose. My idea of fun does not include getting stressed out over strategy and deal-making. I do not seem to have the patience for learning all the rules and applying them. One of my earliest recollections is listening to grownups berate each other over the bridge table. There was nothing that I heard there that sounded “fun”. My idea of fun seems to need physical activity, which makes it even more odd that I like SL so much, I suppose. But the games I like all involve many people working in teams: volleyball, softball, team charades, team Trivial Pursuit and the like.

Lately I have been viewing videos and attending discussions on gaming theory and game development as applied to business applications. Since I’m not really technical, most of what I watch is relatively “high-level” and so in many ways it’s not telling me something new. What I do find new and fascinating are all the ways in which people have been developing “games” that model real situations. Playing the games teaches the players more about the subject and often exposes fundamental fallacies in accepted wisdom.

(Let me make an aside. When I was a mere lass in elementary school, I had a wonderful game. I don’t remember the name – I’d love it if someone out there knows it, but since I can’t remember the details…. *grin*…. Anyway, this game was a race against time. The ball would drop down a given question such as “The longest river in Africa is:” and you would have to put the pin (blocking mechanism) in the slot with the correct answer: Nile. I loved that game and learned so much. So even in the archaic days of my youth there were fun educational games. )

Now I do see some issues in modeling real life into a game. One of the speakers I heard talked about his six year old son greeting him at the door saying “Dad, we need to talk.” And the issue was that the child had amassed so much stuff in his virtual world room that he couldn’t move. And he could either sell items or buy a bigger house, but that would necessitate a second mortgage. /me blinks. Yes. A six year old grasping the concept of mortgages. I like it. And I also think that maybe, just maybe, we are doing a disservice to our children. When I was six, I was a child. No one expected me to be other than a child. My world was about playing and learning to socialize and learning to learn. I believe the biggest trauma in my life when I was six was that Anne W. got to be the tight-rope walker in the 1st grade circus when *I* wanted that role. /me smiles smugly. I became the bareback rider. *grin* Hardly the stuff of mortgages and trade-offs of space/materialism.

A friend directed me to Ian Bogost’s video from FORA tv’s Growing Up in a Digital World series. (He is the one with the 6 year old financier.) Ian Bogost is a professor at Georgia Tech, a Founding Partner at Persuasive Games (a videogame studio), and a Board Member at Open Texture (an educational publisher), among other things. Bogost was talking about educational games he had helped create. I was fascinated by his description of the “game” they created to illustrate just how DIFFICULT it is for a virus to become a pandemic. He mentioned many other games that described such real life scenarios and actions, from modeling the most efficient way to pack (use) the Soccer-Mom minivan to how to train store employees.

Persuasive Games is an award-winning independent videogame studio that makes games about social and political issues. Our work covers a wide variety of topics not usually found in videogames, including airport security, disaffected copy store workers, global petroleum market, Christmas shopping, tort reform, suburban errands, and pandemic flu.

Ahuva’s Update: ย  I was a bit rushed yesterday and did not realize and mention that you can PLAY some of these very very cool games from Persuasive Games online at their website. ย For free. Some can be downloaded for free. Some are phone apps. It’s definitely worth a look-see. You will be amazed at how many interesting games are there.

Yesterday I attended Metanomics Masterclass on Game Development. This was a panel discussion with 3 game developers: Tony Walsh, founder of Phantom Compass, Colin Nilsson of the MadPea Productions, a game and adventure destination in Second Life, and Oni Horan, one of the developers of the Logos collectible card game. At least two of these companies develop games that are played within SL. Again the interesting factor to me was their take on how games relate to learning and to life. It was interesting to hear them discuss whether they thought the non-player characters would/should become more “human” or less.

All of these game developers, whether for modeling rl or escapism, understand that games have a set of agreed upon rules and a goal. I think that is another reason why people like games. There are reasons, answers, goals. So much of life is less clear than a game. We may toss off aphorisms such as “Life is just a game”, but it’s not. Or rather – if it is, we still don’t have the complete rulebook.