Special session about serious gaming during the 6th Global Conference: Video Games Culture Project, from Thursday, 17th July to Saturday, 19th July 2014, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Key words: serious games, serious gaming, education, projects with students, level design, case studies
SimCity in geography lessons, Civilisation V for non-violence education, Read Dead Redemption as a means of addressing the history of the Far West… These practices are involved in “Serious gaming”: they all subvert the playful nature of an existing game in order to associate it with uses distinct from mere entertainment as originally planned.
Serious Gaming differs from Serious games. Indeed, in order to consider oneself faced with a Serious game, aside from the presence of utilitarian functions (disseminating a message, providing training, allowing for the collection of data), the game produced must also be aimed, from its conception, at a market other than mere entertainment: defence, health, communication, training, environmentalism, etc.) Thus, a Serious game can aim to heighten a diabetic player’s awareness of therapeutic education (Out of Time), teach college students about the laws of physics (Ludwig), present political (September the 12th), ecological (ClimWay) or indeed geopolitical (Darfur is Dying) issues to the general public, etc.
In a time when the economical situation is unfavourable and most educational institutions are suffering from a lack of resources, it would seem appropriate to assess the potential of Serious Gaming in the educational environment.
The panel will be structured around the two following points:
1. Commercial games used for the purpose of Serious gaming
As educational research is increasingly highlighting a new “attentional economy” (De Castell, Jenson 2006) and a redistribution of roles within learning, an examination of existing practices in Serious gaming would appear necessary, in order to identify their gameplay, the ways in which existing games can be appropriated and their educational potential.
A call for papers is published, in order to bring together both developers and users of games adapted to Serious gaming, as well as researchers from various backgrounds interested in the topic (computer science, “ludology”, cognitive sciences, education, semiotics, sociology, etc.).
2. Experiments in level design for Serious gaming purposes
Level design consists of offering the user himself the opportunity to build a level of the game using software tools, with the intention of using the game to associate him with its utilitarian functions (disseminating a message, providing training, etc.).
For example, in the first half of 2013 we carried out an experiment with the Non-Violence XXI association as well as second year Game Design students from the school for the creation of video games - Supinfogame Rubika games. As a point of departure, we asked how we could make videogame users aware of a message of non violence. The main idea was to adapt commercial videogames, using violence to speak out against it more effectively. The students adapted three commercial videogame titles in this way.
This experiment illustrated the idea that commercial videogames can indeed convey utilitarian functions, as claimed by Olivier Mauco (Mauco, quoted in Alvarez & Djaouti, 2010) in particular.
INFORMATION TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR PROPOSAL:
• A 250 to 500-word abstract of your paper.
• Your name, job title and institution as well as your contact information, including e-mail address.
ABSTRACT DEADLINE: May 15, 2014.
A selection of the received papers will be reviewed and subsequently published.
For more information on the main conference visit http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/cyber/videogame-cultures-the-future-of-interactive-entertainment/details/
Ph. D. Julian Alvarez
Université Lille 1 - Trigone CIREL / CCI Grand Hainaut - Play Research Lab / Ludoscience (France)
Ph. D. Catherine Bouko
Université Libre de Bruxelles - Free University of Brussels / Department of Information and Communication Sciences (Belgium)
Eric Chahi, a famous video games designer (Out of this World, anyone?), recently took part in the Retro Game Jam, a 32h video game creation competition held during november 2013 in Montpellier (France). In the video below, he discusses his feelings about this experience and presents the various prototypes of his game in order to explain his personal game creation process. A rare and very interesting testimony from a living videogame legend about the recent "Game Jam" phenomena (video in french language):
This video was recorded during a meeting of the Montpellier Unity User Group (MUUG), a videogame designers club gathering once or twice a month in the city of Montpellier (France) to share their experiences. This event is hosted by Guillaume Martin from the SwingSwingSubmarine studio, and offers a place to share and discuss with others indies. If you happen to travel to France in the sunny city of Montpellier, please feel free to join one of our meetings! (dates and location detailed on the MUUG facebook page).
Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA (Enhanced Edition) is a book on the history of SEGA as a console manufacturer. After a brief introduction telling the birth of the company, this thick 480 pages book details the story of all its home consoles: SG-1000, Master System, Mega Drive / Genesis with its Sega CD and Sega 32X addons, Saturn and the Dreamcast.
While the beginnings of SEGA and its first two consoles are explained rather quickly over 30 pages, the main part of the book details with high precision the story of its most famous consoles. About 150 pages are dedicated to the rise of the Mega Drive / Genesis, and its fall due to the Sega CD and the catastrophic Mars, Neptune and Jupiter projects leading to the Sega 32X. The costly errors SEGA made over the 32x will unfortunately not be solved by the Saturn, a dramatic failure compared to the roaring Playstation. When the company will finally be able to reflect upon its mistakes and start afresh with the Dreamcast, it will sadly be too late. When SEGA retires itself from the console market in 2001, it's an indeed tragic move but it's also the only way to avoid bankruptcy and be able to continue publishing games on the consoles of its former competitors. While the book is focused on the American side of SEGA history, a final chapter explains its complex story in the European Market. Despite being a bit dense and sometimes redundant between chapters, this book, full of content, is a real goldmine to anyone wondering about the story of SEGA, a popular company whose history is unfortunately less often studied than the one of its eternal competitor Nintendo.
A new year means a new section to the Ludoscience website! To celebrate 2014, we offer you a new "bibliography" section, dedicated to the books about videogames. This big list already features more than 80 books dealing with various topics: history of videogames, game creators biographies, Game Design, Serious Games, videogames studies & analysis...
Each book is presented through a personal abstract and opinion, all purely subjective. But please note that we have read each book before adding it to the list! It gathers books in English or French language, and our abstracts are also available in both languages. We will regularly update the list, as our long-term goal is to provide you with the most complete list of books about videogames possible. If you want to suggest us a book, please feel free to contact us.
We wish you a lot of pleasing videogames books reading!
Happy new year everyone!
This new year comes with an improved version of my first ever LudumDare competition entry: The One Fork Restaurant. To celebrate the release of the final version of this game, I've decided to write down a full postmortem about it. As the title implies, it's a funny time-management game taking place in a restaurant, where many people come to eat various meals. But the restaurant has only one fork, so customers have to share it!
When the customers are waiting for the fork, they start to get bored, and may leave the restaurant if they wait for too long. Eating gives them a little relief, so each time they eat, they’ll be able to wait a little longer afterwards. The player will have to swap the fork as often as needed so every customer can enjoy (and finish) his/her meal!
In order to get the best of this quite detailed post-mortem, I suggest you to try the game first (it's a web based flash game).
This first Ludum Dare started quite bad for me. Here, the compo starts at 3 am. I was planning on staying up late the first night so I could know the theme, then sleep over it, and start creating a game in the morning. But unfortunately, I've got an extra-busy week at work, and I was already lacking a lot of sleep when the weekend started. So I passed out at around 1 am, only to wake up about 13 hours later, at 2 pm on the saturday... Sure, I was feeling rested, but I was also quite angry at myself for wasting 12h compo hours on sleeping before I even started making anything!
Well, I fired up my computer to discover the theme: "You Only Got One". I then took a quick brunch before starting to work. As I didn't had time to follow closely the theme voting, I wasn't excepting anything special, so I wasn't disappointed by the theme (unlike a lot of other people taking part in the event it seems). On the contrary, I found it quite original. While searching for ideas, I first came up with the obvious ones: one life, one bullet, one arrow, one button... However, I didn't want to follow that route - I knew that many others LDers, more skilled than me, would make impressive games on these ideas (Titan Souls, I'm looking at you!).
I wanted to find something more original, and funnily stupid if possible. So, I was toying with ideas about "sharing one stuff": people sunbathing but sharing one umbrella to avoid being sunburnt, dog puppies sharing one bone, babies sharing one plastic dummy... After brunch, as I was washing my dishes, it finally struck me: what about people sharing a single fork in a restaurant? - that sounded cool, so, 1 hour after discovering the theme, I had found my idea and started working on it!
As a old-time Flash user, I chose to create the game solely with Flash IDE (meaning no cool framework like Flixel, and mouse-drawn vector-based graphics instead of pixel art). I started by coding the core gameplay with ugly programmer art. After about 4h30 of work, I got this roughly-working-but-ugly prototype:
As you can see, in this prototype the player can move a fork from one table to another. When a customer receives the fork, it triggers an "happy" animation and it starts to increase its "meal" gauge (the black bar at the bottom). When a customer is waiting for the fork, it triggers a "sad" animation, and it slowly decreases its "patience" gauge (the colored bar on top). I defined a series of four "customer profiles", with different quantities of meals to eat, and different starting amount of patience.
The core gameplay was now working, so I had to design some graphics. As I'm not a skilled graphic artist at all, this was very hard for me. But after 4 more hours of work, I finally came up with a funny eating animation for the customers, and a set of different customers faces:
Here, I basically had a working game, after 8h of work. I still had many time-consuming stuffs to do, but the "proof-of-concept" was here. That's usually where I start to loose interested in a project: when the main idea is here, but an awful lot of tedious polishing work remains to be done. Hopefully, even though I was working alone at home, browsing through the Ludum Dare site made me feel "being part of something". It really motivated me to go through the end of the game development process. So a big thanks to all of the other participants for posting so many interesting and motivating posts about their ideas, their problems, and their work-in-progress - it was a real source of motivation (I even posted several updates myself to "take part in the event").
From this point on, I spent the rest of the compo time doing some additional graphics (backgrounds, GUI...), creating a tutorial, a menu and game over screen, generating sounds with AS3sfxr, testing the game and balancing it the best I could in the too short time I had left. I also had to sleep a lot again between Saturday and Sunday (about 8-9 hours). In the end, after about 19 hours of work in total, the game looks like this:
As I finally chose a rather simple game idea, I was able to come up with a working prototype rather quickly (basically at the end of the first day). It means I got the opportunity to spend some time to balance the game (in fact quite a lot of time - about 5 hours in total). My first task to balance the game was to define different customers profiles and to introduce them in the game progressively. The longer you play, the slower the customers eat and the faster they get bored of waiting for the fork. I also balanced the number of maximum customers available at the same time. To test all of this, I needed testers - so thanks again to the wonderful people who took some time to test the game for me. This was very tedious and hard to do, but according to the comments on the competition game page, it seems most players hopefully find the game quite well balanced!
Besides fine-tuning the mechanics, another hard part of balancing is to provide meaningful and easy to read feedback to the players. I tried different strategies here:
At first (left picture), I decided to use two gauges: one at the top for the remaining patience, and one at the bottom for the % of meal eaten. However, it quickly appeared that two separates gauges are hard to read when playing a rather fast-paced game. So I decided to remove the bottom bar, and to animate the food bowl instead: as the customer eats, its bowl is getting empty (middle picture).
But it then appeared that it was hard to focus on both the bowl and the bar. As I was testing the game, I found myself losing customers because I was too focused on the bowl and I forgot to watch their waiting bar. In other words, the two "gauges" were too far apart from each other for the player to be able to read them during the game. So I moved down the waiting bar beneath the food bowl, and now, finally, I was able to watch them both during the fast-paced game! (right picture).
Last but not least, if you want players to enjoy your game, they have to understand how to play it - so I made a tutorial screen. Honestly, if I had enough time, I would have liked to implement a real in-game tutorial, but the deadline was too short. So instead I wrote up an introductory "how to play" screen, featuring an animation for people who don't like to read (i.e. 90% of players, including me).
Then, in order to test if the game was easy enough to understand and play, I took it to the ultimate test: the "girlfriend test" (another popular version is the "mommy test"). My girlfriend doesn't play videogames, so she is an excellent "ingenuous" tester. While playing my game, at first she didn't understand that you simply need to click on the target customer to move the fork. She was actually trying to click the customer who had the fork first, in order to "get back the fork before giving it to another customer". That's why the tutorial now reads "Using your mouse, click on the customers to swap the fork", alongside with an animation showing how it's done.
Then, she didn't understand that you can swap the fork between customers BEFORE they finish their meal (which is the core mechanic of the game by-the-way). So, she was moving the fork to one customer, waiting for him to finish his meal, then swapping it to another, etc. Needless to say she wasn't able to go very far in the game that way. To address this issue, I added a "tip" message in the animation, and I also made sure to specify this on every text description of the game I would write when submitting it to the competition website.
In the end, besides making sounds and additional graphics, I basically spent the entire second day (up to the compo deadline) testing and balancing the game. Sure, it was tedious, but I think it was worth it - it really seems to make the game more enjoyable, and maybe feel a bit "polished" despite a very tight schedule.
First of all, let me state how wonderful the LudumDare community is: it was the first time I was taking part in the event, and my game was rated by 79 people, with about 47 of them leaving a comment to help me improve the game or saying what they enjoyed about it!
It might not seem much, but for an hobbyist Game Designer like me it's a lot! We all know that indie and amateur game creators struggle to have people playing their game, not to mention how hard it is to have constructive and helpful feedback! I didn't knew it, but the LudumDare event is wonderfully designed for getting feedback: in order to have your game rated, you have to play and rate games created by others. It's a great way to motivate people to review games, and a brilliant idea regarding the more than 2000 videogames that were created in 48h or 72h by the participants of this event.
After three weeks of rating games, the official competition results were announced. Each game is rated out of 5 in several categories, with an overall ranking that summarizes all the ratings. The One Fork Restaurant was in the "competition" section with 1284 games, and got the following ratings:
The "Coolness" rating is related to the number of games from the others participants the author of the game has rated (it's the only category with a lot of medals!). Regarding the other categories, it's honorable to reach the top 100, and very unlikely to reach the top 5. So, the game did quite good for a first competition! It ranked 4th in the theme interpretation category, a very heart-warming and unexcepted result! I could never imagine to get a game ranked that high in one category :)!
Regarding Humor and Fun, it's quite good too (around the top 100), and Innovation and Overall ranking are not that bad at all (around 160). The real weaknesses of the game, as I've been excepting, are the graphics and audio. All in all, this game sets a starting point for me: I'll now have to try to do better the next time!
In the end, I find this ranking and rating system very clever and efficient, because it can give a useful feedback to every game creator despite the ever-growing number of titles produced during each Ludum Dare. So thanks to the organizers of this event and to the others participants for such a wonderful experience!
To conclude this lengthy and wordy post-mortem, let's go through the two the classical sections:
After the compo ended, I've also released an Android version of the game, thanks again to all the people that suggested it when rating my game. It was the first time I created an Android application, and it took me a long time to figure out how to make an ".apk" using AIR and FlashDevelop. So thanks to Sean Hogan and his wonderful tutorial on this topic - it helped me a lot!
Besides the port to Android, the post-compo version of the game was also improved/polished in several areas:
After all these efforts, you can now play the final version of The One Fork Restaurant on this website. Thanks for reading this long post-mortem, and I hope you find it interesting. If you have any comment, please let me know using the form below.