Essay: Learning to Play to Learn (Nick Fortugno & Eric Zimmerman)

Game designers and researchers Nick Fortugno and Eric Zimmerman published an essay describing some important principles for the design of educational games.

They write: “Educational games are a hot topic these days. From game developers and learning theorists to classroom teachers and policy wonks, all manner of curious folk seem drawn to games that teach something, to someone, in some way or another. However, the only consensus in this whirlwind of activity seems to be that educational games are something of a failure. To quote industry veteran Brenda Laurel at a recent conference, “I can sum up educational games in one word – and that word is… CRAP!”. Our position, in a nutshell, is that no one has all the answers. Developers and educators need to work together to tackle these issues. So in the short space that follows, we have tried to highlight some of the ways that educators, developers, and others involved in creating and studying educational games fail to see eye to eye. Perhaps by planting some seeds in the fertile “crap” of current educational games, we can begin to grow some new ways of thinking”.

Read the full paper at:

Edu-game: Mars Generation One – Argubot Academy

Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy (iOS and Android) is the newest tablet game from GlassLab, a project of the Institute Of Play, a leader in game based learning. Jordan Shapiro writes: “The first human settlement on Mars has a lot of decisions to make. There’s a lot to figure out when it comes to planning for a 21st Century civilization. The game works kind of like Pokemon. Players construct arguments; then they equip their robot assistants with claims and evidence for battles of the wits. The robots duke it out, and the one with the stronger argument wins”.

Personally, I’m a bit disappointed with this approach to edutainment (could we call it Pokemonization?). As a game scholar, I see a good learning potential in some areas, but maybe designers and investors should accept that some others, such as rhetorics, composition and argumentation, may require a human interaction and not procedural contents. This is not to slam procedural literacy, but maybe we should see both its benefits and its shortcomings

Read Jordan Shapiro’s article at:

Column: Video games that embrace irony and death

Joshua Rothman writes on the New Yorker about the games Rogue, Shattered Planet, Hoplite and Out There. “Hoplite and Out There aren’t exciting games, because they don’t work in real time, and you can take as long as you want to decide what to do next. For that reason, they’re not to everyone’s taste. Still, there’s a lot to be said for their slowness. Video games can leave you feeling tense and exhausted. Roguelikes, I find, have the opposite effect. They’re oddly restful. They encourage caution and patience. And, when you die, a whole new world begins”.

Read the full article at:

Culture: Swedish politicians play StarCraft tournament

A group of politicians in Sweden took part on a StarCraft 2 tournament this past weekend to “raise awareness about eSports in politics, and politics among gamers,” The Daily Dot reports. The tournament, called Politikerstarcraft, was created by Jonathan Rider Lundkvist in 2010. Politikerstarcraft is held just for fun, but the 2010 winner Mathias Sundin coincidentally won the tournament for his party, which ended up winning the election that year.

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Video game: Tomodachi Life (Nintendo)

Martin Robinson writes a short report about Tomodachi Life, the new life-sim game by Nintendo. “After two weeks with Nintendo’s new life sim, is it any clearer what exactly it is? Dirty realist Raymond Carver is working the afternoon shift at the hat-shop, though his sullen demeanour suggests he’s none-too-pleased about it, while two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has been kicked out of bed by Princess Zelda and the perma-tanned Cary Grant has just asked me if he can have lasagne for tea. Tomodachi Life, the simulation title that made its western debut in such spectacular style a couple of weeks back, defies easy definition, but it’s a game full of steady, often irregular surprises”.

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Column: How Islamic Art Can Influence Game Design

Dave Owen writes: “Islamic art can be subject to restrictions that should hobble most video games. Under Islam’s strictest tenets it must be aniconic, so any depiction of nature – humans, animals, trees, etc. – is considered a sin against God. As a result its artwork traditionally took the form of attractive shapes, intricate patterns, and complex geometry designed to inspire the human mind. Islamic­ influenced art and imagery has cropped up in games from Journey to Prince of Persia, but now a couple of game developers are out to prove that despite its conspicuous rarity in the medium, Islamic art lends itself brilliantly to game design”.

Read the full article at:

Keynote: (Molleindustria) Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism

Molleindustria presented a speech titled “Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism” at Indiecade East 2014. He writes: “Videogames are built upon technologies of control and quantification, and they are still by and large informed by them. When we produce artful depictions of our world using computers, we inevitably carry over a cybernetic bias that could reinforce certain assumptions and mindsets”.

The video of the talk is available below

You can also read the text of the speech at:

Article: What does it mean when we call videogames cinematic?

Chris Priestman published a thoughtful critique of game designer and writer David Cage. He writes: “Cage has helped to define what the term “cinematic” means in videogames since sharing his vision for his 2005 game Indigo Prophecy, which he’s admitted was heavily influenced by the cinematic storytelling techniques of 2000’s Shenmue. I, and many others, have been ensnared by Cage’s ideas, and have been waiting for him to push them further, to find a seamless blend of cinema and game that takes us down new paths. But I’ve been let down, time and again. And Cage has become skilled in making excuses for for his failings to merge the two mediums”.

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Research paper: Spectacular Mortality – intersections of punitive & educational player-death in video games

Meghan Blythe Adams, PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario, writes: “Death in the game is a rupture not merely of the narrative of the game or the experience of play, but the player’s fundamental identification as player-character. Player-death meant to function both punitively and educationally models this conscious separation through various degrees of spectacle and even partially relies on it in order to function”. In her paper Spectacular Mortality, she analyzes the intersections of death, the spectacle, punishment and education in games today.

Read the full paper at