Game: Blind Eyes and empathy

The Blind Eyes game has a watercolour aesthetics and stars Rae, a blind ten-year-old navigating an unfamiliar landscape in search of her lost cat. The player helps guide her through the world, learning that Rae’s perceptions of that world may not always be reliable – for instance what sounds like a bird might be the beeping of a pedestrian crossing – and helping her to conquer her fears. Game designer Sherida Halatoe explains: “I don’t really like the separation between story and mechanics that I see in a lot of games. I wanted to make games that were more connected and I liked the idea of having things for the player to explore, to reward curiosity. Reward that sense of wonder”.

Read the full article at http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-04-28-beyond-eyes

Using Fiction to Map the Emotional Geography of Victorian London

The Stanford Literary Lab has plotted quotes from over 700 19th-century authors who mentioned locations in London in order to compose concentrations of dread or happiness. Mapping Emotions in Victorian London, created on the Historypin platform in collaboration with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, is part of the Stanford Literary Lab’s ongoing data mining of literature; additional projects include studying the relationship between title and text in 18th-century fiction and how the poetic form has evolved over time. The recently launched Victorian “emotional geography” map might appear a bit random at first, with pins linking to out-of-context quotes from authors as varied as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and forgotten romance authors; however, it does have more subtlety than simply telling us that slums evoke horror and parks, happiness. As the Lab’s associate researcher director, Ryan Heuser, told the New York Times, fear was surprisingly more “associated with ancient markets and prisons” than poverty. This could relate to the authors themselves, as they likely weren’t in the almshouse if they were successfully publishing novels.

Read the full writeup at http://hyperallergic.com/199101/using-fiction-to-retrieve-the-emotional-geography-of-victorian-london/ and browse the gallery at https://www.historypin.org/en/explore/victorian-london/geo/51.5128,-0.116085,13/bounds/51.460422,-0.129818,51.565117,-0.102352/paging/1

Design Fiction: Call of Duty Black Ops 3?

Design Fiction is often defined as the creation of a possible, but fictional, narratives about other realities in order to explore the impact of future technologies. Which problems and opportunities would arise? How could if feel like to live in the future? What can we learn, as scholars and designers, by confronting these hypothetical situations?

I’m suspecting that video games could be a particularly good medium for creating design fiction. This teaser trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 seems to confirm it.

Turkish scholars launch petition against possible Minecraft ban

Turkey’s leading academics on game studies have launched a petition against the Family and Social Policies Ministry’s controversial initiative to ban Minecraft. The ministry had originally launched an investigation into the game in February on grounds that it encourages violence, especially against woman. Last month, however, it concluded the investigation with the suggestion of a ban to protect children from violence and “social isolation”. Initially signed by 24 academics from Turkish universities and published by the Turkish branch of Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA), the petition demanded “the report and the data that it used as source be publicized immediately.”

Read the full article at http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/rights.aspx?pageID=238&nID=81243

Speculative design fiction: free ebook “An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter”

As part of a long-term forecast on the future of networked objects, The Institute For The Future, produced an anthology of speculative stories by prominent scifi writers: “while science is constrained by the laws of nature, art is limited only to the imagination [and] is a rich source of signals when developing future scenarios, and studying the myths and realities that will shape tomorrow”.

They write: “Art and science conjure up ideas through vision, intuition, and study, and use myriad techniques to manifest those ideas in the physical world. But while science is constrained by the laws of nature, art is limited only to the imagination. It is a rich source of signals when developing future scenarios, and studying the myths and realities that will shape tomorrow”.

Download the entire ebook for free at http://www.iftf.org/fanfutures/

Is the Deus Ex video game a Design Fiction?

“Design Fiction is a powerful tool for helping us think about the future. Often times, the goal in creating a design fiction is to explore what a future technology looks like, how it feels, and how we might interact with it”, writes Nicolas Weidinger, researcher at the Institute For The Future.

Scifi writer and futurologist Bruce Sterling explains: “Design Fiction is the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. The important word there is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously about potential objects and services and trying to get people to concentrate on those rather than entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of design. It tells worlds rather than stories”.

So, could video games be good design fictions? Weidinger thinks so, and writes: “The video game ‘Deus Ex’ is a provocative design fiction, grounded in reality. It is a fully immersive experience that brings to life one possible reality that is just full of dilemmas. Anyone that plays through the game must actively make choices about how they feel in relation to human augmentation. This helps lay a foundation of understanding, not just for the potential of human augmentation, but also the social, political and economic issues around augmentation and how it might effect every day life”.

Read Weidinger’s article at http://member.iftf.org/node/4130

Read Sterling’s interview at http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/03/02/bruce_sterling_on_design_fictions_.html

Game: SURREALISTa

The Brazilian designer Carlos Monteiro has developed SURREALISTa, a free computer game that simulates in three dimensions a set of virtual spaces inspired by Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian metaphysical and surrealist artist. The goal is to find the secret gateways from one level to the next (there are five), each just a bit more eerie than the one preceding it. (Read the writeup at http://hyperallergic.com/195863/a-video-game-lets-you-navigate-giorgio-de-chiricos-surreal-cityscapes/)

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this piece. It’s still an alpha version, so major changes are still possible. The visuals are indeed hauntingly beautiful and capture de Chirico’s style, but I wonder if the choice of making it a 3D puzzle-adventure game is thematically appropriate.

Download the game for free at http://gigoiastudios.itch.io/surrealista

An annotated study of the game ICO

Peter Eliot has compiled a carefully crafted annotation of the cult game ICO. He writes: “ICO is at once intriguing and confusing because it insists on holding silence on its own narrative. It shows and suggests enough to convince us that something big is going on but will not tell us what it is. So I propose an exercise: I am going to take a walk through the story and point out noteworthy elements that may help us make sense of what is happening. I will not be a neutral observer; I will advance my thoughts on what I observe”.

Read Peter’s annotated gameplay at http://www.rose-tainted.net/ico/essays/petereliot_annotation.html

Game: Syrian Journey

BBC reporter Mamdouh Akbiek and researcher Eloise Dicker, put their knowledge and experience of the conflict into an interactive text adventure, Syrian Journey, which is available for free on the BBC site. Based on dozens of first-hand stories accrued during a BBC Arabic digital project on the region, it starts with the player selling their home in Damascus for a vastly reduced price, before making a series of gruelling decisions about what to do next. Do you flee to Egypt or Turkey? Do you trust the traffickers profiting from the misery of refugees?

Play the game online for free at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32057601

Also, a very interesting – and quite ideological – debate emerged on whether the BBC made an “appropriate” choice in proposing a game about Syria. The Guardian interviewed Janet Jones, professor in journalism and dean of arts and creative industries at London South Bank university. “The idea that in the future, news will be played rather than read is quite hard for some people to think about,” she says.

Read the article on The Guardian at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/06/syrian-journey-bbc-game-refugee-crisis

Free ebook: Playful Identities. The Ludification of Digital Media Cultures

In this edited volume, eighteen scholars examine the increasing role of digital media technologies in identity construction through play. Going beyond computer games, this interdisciplinary collection argues that present-day play and games are not only appropriate metaphors for capturing postmodern human identities, but are in fact the means by which people create their identity. From discussions of World of Warcraft and Foursquare to digital cartographies, the combined essays form a groundbreaking volume that features the most recent insights in play and game studies, media research, and identity studies.

Playful Identitied is edited by Valerie Frissen,Sybille Lammes, Michiel de Lange,Jos de Mul and Joost Raessens. Download the ebook for free at http://oapen.org/search?identifier=524070