Games: Necklace of Skulls and The Sinister Fairground (Cubus Games)

Emily Short, author and researcher of Interactive Narratives, has published a review of “Necklace of Skulls” and “The Sinister Fairground”, both by Cubus Games. She writes: “Necklace of Skulls is a fairly substantial piece. I played five or six times and never actually won, though I think I got close, and in each case there was pretty significant variation in my experience of the midgame. It’s possible to take several different routes on your journey to look for your brother (picking up, of course, a wide range of codewords and inventory items along the way). In the late game, this can yield satisfyingly fairy-tale payoffs in which creatures you earlier helped came to your rescue, or mysterious gifts from elderly peasants turn out to be the basis of an ingenious bit of self-rescue”.

Read the full review at https://emshort.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/necklace-of-skulls-the-sinister-fairground-cubus-games/

Article: Casual Games with a Pervasive Twist

Sofia Reis and Nuno Correia write: “In this paper we present proposals for including real world elements in games taking into account the profile of casual players. Several real world elements can be utilized so that the fictional game world merges with reality. We focused on sound, video, physiological data, accelerometer data, weather and the player’s location”.

Read the full paper at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261327666_Casual_Games_with_a_Pervasive_Twist (free registration required)

PhD Thesis: Playermaking. The institutional production of digital game players

A PhD thesis by Steven Boyer at the University of Glasgow. From the abstract: “This thesis investigates how the digital games industry conceptualises its audiences in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Adapting the term “audiencemaking” from mass communication research, this thesis identifies three key phases of the “playermaking” process in the digital games industry. [It also provides] a comparison between the US neoliberal definition of both the industry and players as primarily market entities and the UK creative industries approach struggling to balance cultural concerns while safeguarding domestic production and inward investment”.

Read the full thesis for free at http://theses.gla.ac.uk/4925/

Journal: Eludamos, special issue on digital seriality

The latest issue of Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, a special issue devoted to the topic of “Digital Seriality”, is now out! This journal is open access and features articles by

  • Patrick LeMieux on the culture and technology of tool-assisted speedrunning
  • Jens Bonk on the serial structure of Halo
  • Scott Higgins on the ludic pre-history of gaming in serial films
  • Lisa Gotto on ludic seriality and digital typography
  • Tobias Winnerling on the serialization of history in “historical” games
  • Till Heilmann on Flappy Bird and the seriality of digits
  • David B. Nieborg on the political economy of blockbuster games
  • Rikke Toft Nørgård and Claus Toft-Nielsen on LEGO as an environment for serial play
  • Dominik Maeder and Daniela Wentz on serial interfaces and memes
  • Maria Sulimma on cross-medium serialities in The Walking Dead!

The issue is available for free at http://www.eludamos.org/index.php/eludamos/issue/view/vol8no1/showToc

Game: Elegy for a Dead World. A game about writing fiction

Elegy for a Dead World is a game that puts a new and interesting twist on narrative as a game mechanic. Instead of following a scripted story, the game quite literally ask players to write it while following some cues. From the website: “In Elegy for a Dead World, you travel to distant planets and create stories about the people who once lived there. Three portals have opened to uncharted worlds. Earth has sent a team of explorers to investigate them, but after an accident, you are the sole survivor. Your mission remains the same: survey these worlds and write the only accounts of them that outsiders will ever know”.

The game is available now at http://www.dejobaan.com/elegy/

Thanks Mauro Salvador / Dotventi for finding this gem!

Blog: Narrative Mechanics in The Last of Us

Alex Cope published an interesting blog post on the narrative structures in The Last of Us. He writes: “By limiting what the player can do and see, it allows for a focus on the smaller details of its locales. Instead of roaming through the streets of a large city, exploring in The Last of Us takes place on a more personal level; for example, looking through the contents of a master bedroom in an abandoned home”.

Read the full post at http://gamesandimpact.org/news/blog/the-storytelling-series-narrative-mechanics-in-the-last-of-us/

Thanks to Hartmut Koenitz for sharing this in the first place.

Serious Game: Elika’s Escape

Charlie Hall writes: “The game starts with her mother dying of cholera. And in this first shot your older brother dies trying to defend you. Meanwhile, Elika herself — you — escape away and a bullet grazes your infant baby brother”. Elika’s Escape is not an actual Serious Game, but a publicity initiative pitched by UNICEF at a gaming convention to raise awareness on the conflict in South Sudan. Attendees were shocked by the idea of a realistic game on that terrible conflict – what about actually trying to make a serious game out of that? Something that is not disrespectful, but that helps Western people understand better that terrible situation?

Read Charlie Hall’s article on Elika’s Escape at http://www.polygon.com/2014/12/12/7380831/UNICEF-video-game-stunt-south-sudan

Journal: New Media and the Imagination of the Future

Wi:Journal of Mobile Media announces the release of the latest issue “New Media and the Imagination of the Future”.

Predictions and forecasts of the future of digital media are usually presented as ‘innocent’ and unbiased. In contrast, “New Media and the Imagination of the Future” aims to examine digital media as cultural constructs that are embedded in political, social, cultural, and ideological frames. Through critical analyses of case studies and theoretical viewpoints, contributors to this issue interrogate how predictions about the future of mobile and digital technologies inform their representation and acceptance in the public sphere. The issue therefore proposes to account for more serious considerations of what our claims and visions about the future tend to be.

Read the full issue at http://wi.mobilities.ca/category/2014-vol-8-no-2-future-media/

Game: “Three Fourths Home”, a narrative game about families and adulthood

From the game’s website: “In her mid-20’s, Kelly has moved back into her parents’ house. Back to the flat expanse of Nebraska, that seemingly endless sea of rustling cornstalks peppered by rusty silos and rustier towns. In Three Fourths Home, players assume the role of Kelly while she is driving home during this thunderstorm. The focus of the game is its narrative, conveyed through an extended conversation Kelly has with her parents and younger brother. The player must navigate the conversation while driving through a stylized representation of rural Nebraska set against rumbling thunder and the music playing from the car’s tape deck. The narrative touches on a variety of issues affecting Kelly and her family, including disability, adulthood, familial obligation, nostalgia, and loss.”

Browse the website for the game http://www.threefourthshome.com/about/ and read Nathan Grayson’s review on Kotaku http://kotaku.com/the-game-that-made-me-realize-i-ve-let-down-my-family-1663850730

Free Ebook: Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning

Free: Richard E. Ferdig, Kathryn Kennedy, et al. (2014) “Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning”

From the back cover: “The Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning is an edited collection of chapters that sets out to present the current state of research in K-12 online and blended learning. The beginning chapters lay the groundwork of the historical, international, and political landscape as well as present the scope of research methodologies used.”

Download the ebook at http://press.etc.cmu.edu/content/handbook-research-k-12-online-and-blended-learning-0