Gallery Biography Résumé Assignments



11/09/03: Video Game Simulations as a Cure for Phobias
An article, Computer Games Can Treat Phobias, in the October 2003 issue of New Scientist magazine points out that advances in computer graphic chips have enabled a level of virtual reality that give video games new power. Citing a study conducted at the University of Quebec, the article noted that confronting one's fears was a common therapy for dealing with phobias. Previous research had involved elaborate and expensive customized virtual reality simulations. Apparently researchers have now discovered that off-the-shelf games such as Half Life and Unreal Tournament can be used to create virtual environments that train phobic people address their fears and potentially overcome them. For example, Half Life was used to create an environment where arachnophobes could be confronted with spiders and conditioned to minimize those fears.

Thursday, November 13, 2003: Real World Physics
When checking out the Interactive Physics page mentioned in an earlier blog, I ran across a related page, Working Model, from the same publisher that uses similar interactive modeling for more practical applications. The program applies physical principles to real-world mechanical systems and processes as an aid to prototyping. It would appear that these same simulations could also be used as training aids once a product or process was refined and completed.

Saturday, November 22, 2003: eLearning with Disney

Not surprisingly, Disney Online has a graphically rich selection of "learning" games for younger kids on their site. Actually, once you get through the very commercial sections promoting the latest movies and theme parks, these games and simulations seem to offer a nice variety of creative activities for younger kids. There is also an overview page for grown-ups describing the activities. Some of these activities include games about spelling, the alphabet, good manners, music, playing with clay and more. They seemed to incorporate a lot of interactivity - not just passive observation. While a few of them had some tie-ins to Disney products, most of them did not. The games I viewed seemed to load a bit slowly on my reasonably fast computer with cable modem, which could cause problems with the "short-attention-span" crowd. However, once a given activity or game loaded up, the animations and response times were pretty impressive.

Monday, November 24, 2003: Tips for Becoming a Game Designer

In an article on the TechTV website, Paul Reiche III, a game designer at Crystal Dynamics provides a series of tips and a "course catalogue" for would-be game designers. Not surprisingly, he points out that game design is a "mongrel discipline" that involves a broad range of skills. While most designers have a core skill like programming, art or writing, most have dabbled in many areas. In addition to programming, art and writing, valuable competencies include math, science and history. He also provides a list of the programs most commonly used in game design.

Saturday, November 29, 2003: Vote for Your Favorite Video Game

Spike TV is presenting the 1st Annual Video Game Awards scheduled to air on Thursday December 4 at 9PM ET/PT. You can even vote for your favorite games in a number of categories. While the competition includes categories for online games, PC games, handheld games and many others; sadly, it does not include a category for educational games. The web site itself might win an award for an annoying use of Flash, but it does have clips from a number of games that might be fodder for ideas about what's popular among game players.

Sunday, November 30, 2003: Board Games' Enduring Appeal

While the toy business in general is not doing especially well, BusinessWeek reports in a November 24 article, that board games are one of the few bright spots. The overall board-games category is up 10% so far this year and toymaker Hasbro reports sales up 50% in that area. Two former Microsoft executives stumbled upon this trend a few years back when they were looking for a new business idea. With some funding from Amazon and Starbucks, they came up with Cranium, a family game that included a bit of spelling, drawing, trivia and charades. Apparently their timing was great and Seattle has become a hot area for game development (maybe it's all of the rain...).

Industry insiders have attributed the popularity to a number of factors - everything from 9/11 creating a "nesting" instinct to the increasing appeal of "game nights" as inspired by that recurring theme on the TV show Will & Grace to a desire to return to simpler times or seek cost effective entertainment.

Some of the new breed of games includes an electronic component but others are still simple games that require no batteries or electricity. Although big toymakers dominate the field, this appears to be one area where small game publishers have a chance. Several reported success with relatively small investments and limited advertising.

Last updated Sunday, November 30, 2003 9:36 AM

Home | Gallery | Bio | Resume | Assignments

© 2003, Susan Connell, Educational Technology Student at San Diego State University