Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reading Response

It’s strange to think of the internet as a digital sweatshop for most the interest is a vast intangible space that runs not on man power but machinery. We completely forget as Terranova says, “Internet is animated by cultural and technical labor…a continuous production of value that is completely immanent to the flows of the network society at large.” Terranova focuses on how there are connection between society and the internet. Labor and culture are linked through this technology saying that our society today is developed through this connect. This technology will soon start to shape the way capitalism will work in the future and the future laborers. How will one structured such a vast wide spread technology. I can only think that this kind of capitalist society people have found numerous ways to take advantage of the laborers and the technology. There are many people that believe that the internet should be free from any capitalist agenda but as our society stands today there is no way for our world to move in any other way.

Harraway’s interview was interesting because it focused on those that don’t have access to the internet. In the modern globalizing world cultures that are made to have a disadvantage to the rest of the world. This is interesting subject to me because there are so problems with making our world a internet focused world because they are some many that don’t have the technology, and even if they do have the technology doesn’t mean they know how to use it or it is made for them to use it. Harraway talks about the “digital divide” because of this third world countries are thrown even further into poverty. They have to compete with a market they don’t even have the technology or training to enter. If we could change the way we see technology as a way to help the world to equalize itself then we could if ways to make it benefit all and not just the few.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thought Provoking Readings from The Politics of Information

Terranovas claim in her essay “Free Labor, Producing Culture for the Digital Economy” that the Internet embodies a complex relation to late capitalist societies is rather fascinating. She asserts that this relationship is based on free labor: a trait of the cultural economy and fundamental yet undervalued part of capitalist societies. She cites that the internet is a specific instance of the role played by free labor. She states that the internet is not an unreal, empty space, but rather “the Internet is animated by cultural and technical labor through and through, a continuous production of value that is completely immanent to the flows of the network society at large” (100). However, I became increasingly enthralled as Terranova expanded on the social implications of the internet. She goes on to reiterate how she seeks to discover ways in which the Internet connects to the “social factory”: that is, how the social, cultural, and economic relationships of the internet connect to the larger relationships of labor, culture and power. Accordingly, the notion that the internet is connected to the development of postindustrial societies is a captivating one. Terranova makes her claim that “cultural flows” have originated in a field that is already capitalism. The active participation of subcultural members in the production of cultural goods provides the look, styles, and sounds that sell the goods. Consequently, the product of collective cultural labor has been challenged and structured in capitalist business practices. Complex, I know…

What are the politics of making decisions between the oral and the written? This is the question King addresses in her essay “Women in the Web.” King calls her field “Feminism and Writing Technologies” and she asserts that it combines the study and practices of oral and print culture, the creation and study of new cyber cultures, and the feminist investigations of techno science (wow, talk about a hefty workload!) She asserts that these practices all produce the others and serve as forms of everyday life.

Working in the field of writing technologies and feminism has led King to question the movements of power involved between the oral and the written. Additionally, I thought Ohmanns point about whether it is possible to describe technologies without using phrases such as “the computer” and making them grammatical agents and without using other phrases like “the man” “the mind” and “the human condition” to be thought provoking. How can we describe technologies without implying that they interact with people and cultures in global ways? Thus trying to do without phrases like “the computer” not only seems daunting, but by using it individuals are engaged in the discourses of technology.

Accordingly, I found Kings discussion of the gendering of technology to be extremely pertinent. For example, when she titles her class” Feminism and writing Technologies” her colleagues pointed out that this might sway female students from taking the class since it had technology in the title. The course also entailed addressing contemporary technologies of writing and their social meanings and power. But when contemporary technologies started being introduced in other classes, King sought to create a class that fused cyber culture, orality and literacy studies, and feminist technoscience: thus resulting in the formation of Women on the Web: Ways of Writing in Historical Perspective. I think that the resistance to technology on behalf of some women is making them subordinate. All too often women see the “maleness” associated with technology and fail to see women’s creative engagements with technology: particularly writing technologies. Consequently, I think that it is important for women to read Kings essay in order to reflect on how technology is intertwined with social meaning and power.

Gaming My Way!!!

If I were to create a game to have a social impact it would ideally be one that would address sexism and discrimination in the work place. The hardest part of planning a game of this type is coming up with a concept that would completely address the issue without being too broad and loose it relevance. Also with issues like these that are primarily propagated within individuals it would be had to gauge whether or not the game would actually be having a social impact.
The idea i have so far would be to put the player in the position of a boss of a company who is actively hiring new individuals. The game would consist of having the player choose the individuals on their resumes then move to a face to face interview with the chosen individuals. At this point the object of the game would be to create and foster a positive work place that is also productive. Within the frame work of the office would be other current employees that for whatever reason would have problems with the new hires, be it that they are of a certain race, sex, or sexual orientation. The players goal would be to try to keep the current employees happy and to hire a productive new set of employees. The logistics are difficult to work out but in essence failure to keep moral high, through firing of current employees or side stepping issues of discrimination through some other means would result in loosing the game.
I feel that this game could help, if nothing else, shed some light on the factors that go into workplace discrimination.

Video Gaming for Education: My mom would never believe this!

When it comes to Video games I thought I had run the gamut and seen all there is too see but now I'm not so sure. After playing around with Social impact games I saw that there are many different applications for video games. When I had originally conceived video games in my mind they are always very linear, in terms of plot line, and object. The object is to win: the player learns the parameters of the game and adapts accordingly. Social impact games incorporate this concept but also apply another goal; that the gamer walk away from the game with some new knowledge that is applicable outside of the game. For me this was a shocking concept because, as a man who loves games, I had never even believed that games could be used to teach. For me the concepts within games offered an escape from the confines of reality and a venue in which to break the law; both of physics and of society.
The games I chose to write about in my diary are the ones that affected me the most. These games were "Waste of Space" an educational game that teaches players the basic laws of physics, "The Anti-Bush Game" a political game that highlighted points/effects of the Bush Administration, and "Darfur is Dying" a game about the escalating situation in Darfur, Sudan.
"Waste of Space" was interesting to me because it reminded me of some of the reading computer games I played when I was a child. However this game presented much more complicated material in a way that was easy to follow and actively reinforced through game play. I think that this game would be a great tool to place in to elementary school classrooms, because it makes the concepts fun, however my one critique is that at time the important concepts about physics are overshadowed by the aspect of fun in the game. What I mean by that is that although the point is to impart knowledge of the concepts of inertia, at time these lessons are easy to ignore in anticipation of playing a game, regardless of the properties of science that is utilizes.
The game that I enjoyed the most but also had the most problems with was "The Anti-Bush Game." This game was focused on highlighting the social repercussion of the Bush Administration. One thing that I found interesting is that the game itself was tied to an clothing company, American Fear (AMFR). My major point of contention with this game was its method of presenting the politics. It was obviously going to be heavily biased and slanted against Bush, but I feel that by presenting its facts in game form it makes them seem very strange. The inclusion of superhero's and politics seems like a combination of iconography that appeals to two different demographics. The message being sent here I find potentially dangerous, I personally am not a supporter of Bush but I have reasons for this that I have discovered on my own. I feel that this game is attempting to appeal to the youth who may not know too much about the political situation surrounding the Bush administration and that that group would take the "facts" presented in this game as the end all of facts. I just feel uncomfortable because the game seems to be using scare tactics to coerce the ideas of the youth with facts that are not cited.
The third and final game was "Darfur is Dying." This game was especially memorable because you can't win. The game does have a "high score" wall but the only goal is to stay alive. The repetitive nature of the game seemed indicative of the the daily struggle of the people in Darfur. The most powerful part of this game was that every time that the militia attacked you, as the player, had the option to contact the Bush administration, local government, or sign a petition to make movements to help with the problem in Darfur. I feel that this game has the most potential to have a direct social impact, more so that the other ones because of it's tie to a contemporary problem and direct method of affecting said problem.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ben's Reading Responses

“The Informatics of Higher Education”

Bousquet’s “The Informatics of Higher Education” deals largely with the issue of unregulated/under-regulated “on-demand” labor in higher education institutions.

The whole idea of “on-demand labor”--labor that comes about only when it is needed by a manager--was particularly fascinating to me. I had never before thought of students (more so graduate than undergraduate) as “on-demand” laborers (or of students as laborers at all), but the more I read the more obvious the notion became. What effect would there be on higher education if we began calling students workers, or if students organized and fought for labor rights?

“Women in the Web”

King’s “Women in the Web” is a “workplace narrative,” in which she talks about a variety of subjects pertaining to her “Feminism and Writing Technologies” class.

I found her discussion of the reasons for her renaming her class to be very interesting. Female students were turned off by the title of the course because it contained the word “technology,” a traditionally male or male-dominated field. It isn’t that women do not like technology, or wouldn’t enjoy a tech-based course, it was just that the wording tended to discourage them from enrolling it the class. As I read this, I wondered: what other courses/fields not only in college, but in modern life suffer from this same feature/stereotype, both inside and outside academic circles?

"Prospects for a Materialist Informatics"

In Nakamura’s interview with Harraway, the parts that I found most fascinating had to do with labor and cyberspace.

Haraway talked about the “digital divide,” how certain people/cultures don’t have access to the internet, and that it is seen as “bad.” She argues that this is the wrong way to look at it, though, because these people are then forced to “live in relationship to standards that they don’t and can’t fit” (156). Having become so used to the internet, to having internet access all the time, I was sort of taken aback when I remembered/realized that many people don’t have access to the internet--how hard would it be to live or try to “fit in” in America without the internet?

The other part of the interview I liked was the discussion towards to end about “speedup” in both the workplace and in school, and how to resist it. It was interesting that Haraway’s solution was to “do less,” to resist the “do more” culture we live in, and I wonder if it is possible for one to actually do that today. Also, I think Haraway’s question--“how do we ask our students to read less, write less, think more?”--is a very important one. There has been a de-emphasis on thought in our society--we are conditioned to complete tasks assigned to us by others, not to think up our own tasks, to take our own steps to accomplish our goals. Haraway’s solution--resistance--is a good one, but how could such a major shift in thought take place?

"Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy"

Lately, I have been very involved with the "open source movement," swapping out the pre-installed programs on my Mac laptop with any open source ones I find. I do this because of the benefits such programs offer (benefits Terranova points out, such as the speed with which problems/bugs are fixed), but also because I try to avoid supporting big business as often as possible.

Terranova, however, opened my eyes to the reality behind open source ("The question for Netscape now is how to tame the freeware beast so that profits are secured," [114]). Thinking about the open source sites I have visited, I realized that most are clearly trying to find ways to maximize their profit--no matter how meager it is--whether through small fees for extra features or support, or by requesting donations to keep them running. The most notable recent example of this--of, as Terranova calls it, "incorporation"--would be the Dell/Ubuntu (a Linux OS) partnership.

Through the reading, I have gained a better idea of some of the negative effects of capitalism on the parts of the internet that start out as something great, or, in the case of open source, something that really benefits the collective mind. Is there any way to slow the capitalism train down? Or will big business always be one step ahead, always manage to have enough horsepower, to ensure that it will always be able to incorporate that which it desires?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Video Games - Using History as a platform for entertaining education

I think a person can learn a lot of history and culture through video games without being encumbered with the learning aspect of a video game. Math Blaster and Reading Rabbit were fun when I was 5 and technology was struggling to support the games. Now technology has outgrown basic games and so have most people. Math Blaster and Reading Rabbit will continue to be a simple, engaging, and developmental tool for very young children, but more advanced and intriguing games must be developed to capture the growing/maturing video game audience. With much contemplation I have surmised that video games on the topic of history, mythology, and western civilization would be engaging, instructive, and constructive games to build for enjoyment and educational purposes. The game I roughly propose is as follows:

This game idea focuses on mythology and incorporates original fantasy and science fiction elements as well. That is because of the little variety of games that use mythology as its center. I see many games out there that have used characters and terms that originated from mythology such as Ragnarok, Yggdrasil, Odin, Sleipnir, Sol, and Thanatos just to name a few. Huge game developers don’t mind using ideas and characters from two thousand year old civilizations; but they haven’t considered what could be produced if the right amount of creativeness was combined with the various realms of mythology that is known today. But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that no games are based on mythology because I am sure that there are. I am just saying that mythology has much more potential than being a database for names to call you creatures, items and characters. I created this game to use my own creativity with the rich history of mythology to do something that isn’t just fun, but also give a sense of gratitude to mythology for it‘s role in literary history. Also, the world in my game will be a reflection of the real world in an era in the future. I have never played an RPG that is situated in any world similar to that of Earth. I decided to do this because it allows the game to have a more direct effect on someone when you speak of his or her own world. I can create science fiction elements to enhance the game. But don’t get me wrong, there isn’t any gigantic warships that travel at light speed. I am tired of people convincing themselves that the future will have man searching the galaxy with advanced weaponry when they aren’t going to be alive to experience it themselves. I just mean that technology will play a role in the game.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Video Games make me cool, even if my mom does not say so

Video Games are a form of extracurricular activity that many people engage in, particularly people of the X generation and onward. I play video games as a form of enjoyment—an activity that lets me explore the mysticism of the impossible. In being introduced to the concept of “Social Impact Games” I have been extremely skeptical of the type of enjoyment that can be extracted from such games. Conventionally I play video games as a second life, without much thought to purpose. The idea of “Social Impact Games” is disturbing and bordering on the lines of thought control and subliminal messaging. Most video games I have played have been for pure enjoyment. I play MMORPGs, RPGs, and other games without considering the “Social Impact” of the game. The thought of “Social Impact Games” comes across as Orwellian.

“Social Impact Games” seem to be a response to popular games like Grand Theft Auto. True video games like Grand Theft Auto are left with an open ended purpose that is meant to be decoded by each individual player. “Social Impact Games” are constructed around a purpose and restrict the players’ imagination. “Social Impact Games” are designed like a thesis paper—heavily structured to relay a message instead of allowing for creative game play. I am not saying that “Social Impact Games” cannot be fun; I am saying that “Social Impact Games” have ulterior motives that usurp the purpose of traditional video gaming. “Social Impact Games” have the ability to teach the player lesson(s) but they lack the ability to continuously engage the players’ imagination. Games that are categorized as “Social Impact Games” lose their appeal as a game for enjoyment and become a daunting task.

The drawbacks to “Social Impact Games” are that they do not appeal to the traditional video gamer. The traditional video gamer plays games for enjoyment, for exploring possibilities, for engaging their imagination. “Social Impact Games” usurp the traditional video gamers drive to play and replace a gamers desire to play with a purpose to play. Although “Social Impact Games” can closely mimic the real thing, they are designed with a Big Brother aspect that leaves the gamer with a feeling of being watched and controlled—ultimately manipulated.

“Social Impact Games” can pass as real video games so long as the players’ do not associate the game with a social purpose. Video games, like writing, have an ethos, logos, and pathos. The more mysterious the ethos of the video game developer the less distractions there will be to the play of the game. The more creative and innovative the logos and pathos are respectively to the video game the more disguised the video game will be as a game designed for enjoyment. Video games designed by the NAVY, the US Marines, and by other government institutions have the intrigue of generic shoot-em-up games but they lack the creativity that video games like Halo are able to master. Most video games succeed because they are able to detach the excitement of game play from the humdrum of reality. When a player begins to blur the line between reality, particularly social reality, and video game play they begin to lose their imaginative interest in the game. People do not like to be reminded of real world situations in the video game world. Now, this does not mean that people lose touch with reality when video gaming—players continue to be objective about certain aspects of video games, like gravity, lighting, and human capability. “Social Impact Games” transcend and transgress the line of social reality with virtual reality.

“Social Impact Games” are not fun because they are real. While I play video games I try to not think about the reality of the situation. I may be shooting an alien with some sort of futuristic weapon, building a civilization up through the Bronze Age, or flying around with super powers, but I am certainly not thinking about the “Social Impact” (message) of the video game. Well thought out games will be able to implement social impact strategies in their game play, but games designed specifically for social impact purposes will always have a bias that draws away from their effective purpose.

Video games that are successful share a unique ownership relationship with the player. Most players of video games continue to game because they have invested their time (money, effort, skill…) in the game and therefore feel a special sense of ownership, not only over the actual game, but also with the ownership of the avatars/characters that have been modified to reflect the players’ desires. When people invest their time in a game they expect to gain influence in the video game they are playing and expect the video game to react to their actions. A game like Fable (XBOX) illustrates the relationship between a gamer and the video game. In Fable the gamer’s conduct of his avatar is eventually reflected in his actual avatars appearance, abilities, and reputation. Where if you feed your avatar a lot your avatar is likely to become fat, if you do cruel things your avatar if more disliked and begins to look more demonic—gamers tend to relate to their avatar so long as their avatar is able to relate to them. “Social Impact Games” are too structured in their approach to gaming and present the gamer with a set world, set actions, set outcomes, and a limited amount of creativity. Instead of classifying “Social Impact Games” as a type of game, perhaps we should reconsider the nature of many of these so called “games” and redress them as simulations.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Game

I think that it would be fun to have a game that had something to do with power or control over others. It would be a game that be based on the experiment where there were students made the guards of the prison and others the inmates. The game would give one team all the power to make the rules and regulations and the others no power. There would be no limitations to what they could do in the game. The members of each team would be chosen at random. This would be interesting to see what students would do if they had all the control over people and to see what it would be to have none. Let the craziness being.

Social Impact Game

With all of the recent immigration debate I think that an interesting social impact game would involve building or destructing a fence on the Mexican/American border. At the beginning of the game you could choose to either be a wall builder or a wall destroyer and the game would play out accordingly. I was originally just going to have the game have "wall destroyers" because I am a fan of pushing liberal agenda, but I think that I can do that from both ends of this. I think that the actions of the destroyers and the builders will fully impact the lives of undocumented Americans and their families. This game would not only highlit the struggle for undocumented workers in America but it will display their economic ties to their families. In destroying the wall more families will be able to work across both borders and relationships would be maintained. In building the wall individuals who need to find work would try harder to look for it and be forced to take greater economic and physical risks.

I think that social impact games can be extremely important and influencial. Maybe not for people like me who get a little impatient with games, but for a lot of people I think that this medium of communication is ideal.
Paper Topic

For my final project I would like to focus on the how censoring the accessible information on the internet influences a society’s world view, but also how the people of the society view their government. The question then would be: does the internet have the ability to change the world? Or is it another type of big brother? In the many ways one can use the internet, what are the ethical boundaries? Are we really able to access the world or are we just able to access the powers that control our world. After reading James F. Moore's “The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head” I see where people could be taking the internet in the future, but is this really even possible. There are many countries that censor the information that their citizen can access over the internet. It may seem like the internet is a free for all with no limitations but the truth is that is untrue. And even if it is not being censored it is still being watched.

If the internet does have the capability to change the way the world works it would first have to be truly free. Free from censorship but how free is to free. Should we allow people to do and say whatever they want how ever they want, or are these watchful eyes working for the good. It seems that there are many barriers that start in the way of making the internet the next superpower. Will be a global effort or just anyway for someone else to gain all the power.

I would like to look into in what ways the internet can be censored and how information can be blocked. Also how the government uses the internet for “the good of the people”. I want to use this information to see if one could create a superpower out of the internet or not, and if it was possible where it would led us in the future.

Am I a gamer now?

Reading Disabilities-Fast Forward Slide

I think that eventually I'll go into elementary education so I was curious as to what online games would look like for children with learning disabilites. This particular game aims to improve a child's phoneme recognition, which can lend to reading improvements. I found myself kind of annoyed by the game, even though I can understand that it could be useful. Repetition is often necessary to fully develop sound comprehension, but I couldn't bare to listen for too long. The game requires you to move squares around and match sounds with one sound presented by a sheep. This sound isn't just a "ba" sound but it varies with each game you play. I can see this games use, but if I'm annoyed I can't even imagine how annoying this could be to a child with a learning disability.

Anti-Bush Video Game
I was curious to see what this game looked like after reading some of your reviews of it. I was a bit confused by some of the opening page imagery at first (see: Hulk Hogan pixel-man) but I decided to go on ahead. Once I got into the game I couldn't help but laugh at first. Its absolutely ridiculous at times. But in the end I really appreciated a lot of the information. Definitely not the venue that I would want my political or social commentary from, but appreciated none the less. I soon found myself processing through pages and pages of text between some highly visible American figures. Then I entered the interaction section where I was assumed the roles of several of the high profile Americans presented and I tried to defeat the Bush administration. I played for awhile and killed off some mutated machines, learned some facts and figures about the deficit/surplus, and was generally entertained and educated.

Growing Your Chi
This game was terribly chi-sy. I mean do I really think that clicking on clouds of people smiling as opposed to frowning will make my day better? No. In fact it kind of made me frusturated. I lost points for clicking on the names "Marcus" and "Stewart" because they were not my name. So am I to assume that Marcus and Stewart are bad for my Chi. And then I started thinking about people who weren't physically capable of smiling, and then I felt bad. Okay, so I am taking this a little far. Basically I just didn't like this game. haha.

Ryan's Final Proposal

In an attempt to delve in to the world of online predation and pedophilia, my final project will focus on the recent events surrounding sexual predators on Second Life and Myspace. Recently a Second Life based child pornography distribution ring was disrupted and investigators are currently uncovering the true identities behind the avatar users. Not only were these individuals trading images of child pornography but also engaging in “age play groups” in which child like avatars were being sexually abused in Second Life. One way in which online activities are facing real-life consequences is in the recent events surrounding registered sex offenders on Myspace. State prosecutors are currently investigating legal ways in which information from Myspace can be obtained by State of Federal officials in sex offender investigations and inquiries. As we all know Second Life has many blatantly sexual theme based regions, however a problem arises when these themes turn to real-life crimes that warrant prosecution. I would like to examine the problems associated with such activities as well understand the interface that exists between the real-world and places or environments like Second Life

Michael's Project

For my final project, I want to explore the real possibility and absolute necessity of countering empire. After first building off the many proposals and anticipations in James Moore’s “The Second Superpower,” I want to focus on ‘digital divide’ issues—how those of us privileged with the technology we have learned about in class can and must use this privilege to empower those less fortunate, i.e., the 3 billion people who live on less that $2 a day.

I want to focus on connecting globally with these people. And not in some way like a telecommunications corporate commercial. Not the “globalization” that we know— “the world is flat,” Tom Friedman-type, reinforcing empire lies, but globalization from below. For this part of the project, I’ll probably focus on what globalization is in the first place. Right now, it is just one version international integration, and we need another that uses our technology to give power to the people instead of private interests (Chomsky).

I also want to explore the participatory aspect of the global technological culture that has been and needs to continue forming itself. For example, we are shaping technology and new media in the context of globalization at the same time that these things are shaping us—our identities and ideologies.

Then explore how indigenous and other oppressed/impoverished peoples who make up the majority of the human population can learn this technology, become literate in this medium and in dominant culture—not to succeed in it, but to dismantle it; keeping the good, demolishing the bad and beginning anew.

My site and essay will probably be called "Countering Empire" then have something about "21st Century Literacies" in it.

Social impact games

At a first glance at the official genre of these games, “Social Impact Gaming,” I immediately, as a video-gamer, thought “lame.” But on the other hand, as a political science student, I thought it could be a great awareness tool, but I was still skeptical. So, I gave them an honest, open-minded opportunity. Here’s what I played.

I started in the Public-Policy area. I couldn’t believe that there were public policy games! I intern in the public policy sector, so I was very interested in what they had to offer. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything of much worth. When browsing I saw a game that I own, which said a lot about my social life. It’s actually a fun game, but since it’s a current events game, its now outdated but check it out here. So now with heavy depression sitting, I started with the budgeting game. It sounded like a very interesting and useful game, since the government seems to always be in some sort of budget crisis (that’s weird, who would’ve thought the government would have trouble collecting taxes from citizens!?). The original Massbudget for the Massechusets budget game didn’t work, so I tried to help out Bloomberg turn his bottom line green in NY. Trim social services here, cut a little spending for the loan paybacks here, lay-off a couple thousand government employees (they’re terribly inefficient anyways), and there it is: a one million dollar surplus! It was pretty easy for me to do – why can’t Mayor Bloomberg do it so easily. Well, the answer is the reason I originally thought social impact games would be lame: it’s completely different than a real-life budget process and the only way to make it work is to have artificial intelligence in the game as good as human intelligence – and that won’t happen. Although I did send it in, so maybe it will actually have an “impact.”

Ok. So I’ll give another public policy game a try. Hmmm…how about some good old corporate greed hating! Link here. This is a simple “match-the-devil-in-flesh-CEO-face-to-his-or-her-name-game.” Aside from being extremely boring, I did learn a lot about the details of some of those ever-referred to corporate scandals. It’s a good idea, but it’s hardly a video-game and I can’t really see the importance of it. Yes, corporate crimes are bad, but is it necessary to have the skill of matching the perpetrator’s face to the scandal, while answering the follow-up detail question correctly. I didn’t gain anything from this game.

I then switched to political and social games. I was intrigued by “Catechumen” – the Christian first-person-shooter. I had no idea Jesus was down with first-person-shooters, even if they’re shooting angel dust or whatever else it is that they shoot from the first person angle. Its ridiculous. Sorry God, but as Nietzsche said, you’re dead. Unfortunately you can’t play it, you have to buy it (typical Christian gaming trick).

So I moved on from purgatory to Darfur. The game “Darfur is Dying" was made by MTV U, which makes me respect it less, to be honest. The game is made up of two environements, the desert where you run to get water without being run over by the Janjeweed and the other is at the village, where there is a countdown to an attack on the camp. This game is terribly unrealistic. There is a directional meter that tells you where the water is, the Janjeweed don’t shoot their guns, and farms grow food in seconds. I just don’t see the value of this. I don’t think there is any good way of making someone feel what the refugees feel. I know that feelings can be a powerful tool, but I don’t think that tool is attainable through this kind of thing. It’s naïve to think that a video game by MTV U will raise awareness of Darfur. If someone has the interest to play the game, then they are already aware.

Lastly, I gave a business game a try. This was probably the best (I thought they were all crap, though) of the games I’ve played. It’s a British better business simulation in which you respond to a memo or some other kind of announcement or news flash by choosing an action to take from three given options. It then alters the following questions based on what you choose, and also lets you know how the shareholders, employees, and community groups feel about your actions. It’s sort of like a ranked choose your own path book, but a simulation. It helped one realize the dilemma that a CEO faces when making a decision, but that’s about all the value I got out of it. Not much to offer, but slightly entertaining for the first four questions.

In Summary, I thought they all weren’t very entertaining (I know, they’re not supposed to be) and not very informative. My reason for gaming has been to not think about all the bad things going on in life, so why do I want to be a Darfur refugee. But these weren’t made for gamers (a point made obvious by very simple controls/graphics/gameplay). So I ask the makers this, why would a non-gamer choose to learn this way? And how much social impact will they have at a site called socialimpact.com? I felt like knowing it was made to be an impact game took away from the impact that it could’ve had. But, I’m not ruling out their potential yet. Simulations are the future classroom – isn’t that what a classroom is, a big simulation?

Being the Director of a billion dollar business is SOOO hard

Those goddamn radicals trying to organize my workplace, launching environmental campaign and suing McDonald's really hurt the economy. If we can't have economic growth, we will have to fire the crew and bribe the politicians to enact laws to stop workers from organizing. It is a huge pain. Those god damn commies, liberals and obese people, they never stop suing and organizing. Thank god we have money to pay them off, thank you WTO for allowing us to extend our operation to the Forbidden City in China. Thank you for corn subsidy and best of all, the right to privatize water in India and Bolivia, so we can supply tasty coca-cola to our customers.

Who cares about workers rights and the environment when we have cheap burgers for hungry children in the developing world to eat? We donate all kinds of left over to the third world. These countries must let us do business there, who doesn't want an awesome meaty burger? We need to establish McDonald's everywhere, including Mount Everest and the South Pole. Who wants to hunt whales when there is McDonald's right by their village? Who needs to preserve their culture when the golden Arch is so great?

A differnt kind of social impact game...

Social Impact Game Proposal: Dining Out

My social impact game would be focused around the restaurant industry. It would tackle several different issues which I have come to witness in my 3+ years of working in restaurants: 1.) Food waste; 2.) Obesity; 3.) Server morale, and 4.) Tipping standards.

I would divide my game into the four quadrant structure that the McDonald’s videogame had used.

In the 1st quadrant the user would pick what body type the user is. Next, they would be given a virtual menu and would have to decide what to order. The meal would be brought, and the person would get to choose if they wanted to eat until they are a.) almost full; b.) full. c.) or completely stuffed. Then the user would be presented with a visual of how much food was left over and they could choose to have it boxed up or throw it away. If the user chooses to have the food thrown away then an image of a starving person in a third world nation would pop up on the screen and a message saying, “I’m sure this person would have liked to eat it.” If the person chooses to take the leftovers home then a message saying, “That saved you money! You won’t have to pay for your next meal because you are finishing this one,” would pop up.

The 2nd quadrant would take the same menu that was presented in the 1st quadrant and would ask the user questions about it. This section would be a multiple choice quiz which would ask questions which teach the user about proper nutrition, ways to reduce calories while dining out, and would present representative nutrition facts for certain menu items.

The 3rd quadrant would allow the user to have a one-on-one interaction with their server in a number of given situations. The 1st being the response they give their server at the initial greeting, their answers to questions the server asks, and how they would respond to an issue/or concern. Users should try various options and observe what kind of service they receive from the server. For instance, when a refill is needed and the user chooses to demand rather than ask for another drink, does the server return faster or slower. This would tech the user about proper interpersonal relations while dining out.

In the 4th quadrant the user would be presented with their bill listing the items they bought, the tax, and total. Using their bill, the user will be asked to calculate the tip for a below-average server, an average server, and an exceptional server. After making these calculations a screen would pop up which would talk about the social standards for acceptable tipping. It would also provide a checklist for determining whether the server was neglectful or just busy. For example, was the serving out of breath or running? Did they come by the table to tell you that they would be with you in a moment? Did the server just stand around? Etc.

I believe this would be an important social impact game in that millions of Americans work in restaurants, and a majority of Americans will dine in a restaurant at some point in their lifetimes. This game is meant to be a way to educate restaurant-goers about the issues regarding food and food-service.

Final Project Proposal

For my final project, I want to look at the way virtual online communities form, as well as some of the self-imposed standards and regulations that become a part of such communities. In particular I’m rather interested in looking at gaming communities and the way that a community replicates many circumstances in real life, particularly the way in which social contracts and allegiances are formulated and evolve, as well as the way in which reputation within a virtual world can have positive or negative influences on your gaming experience and interactions with others.

The articles that we read for this week regarding the social impact gaming were interesting, yet I didn’t find them to be quite as interesting as things like communities within massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The social dynamics that occur in worlds where thousands of people can interact at once, often with tens of thousands belonging to a particular server, where the safety of real-life anonymity can influence actions and yet dependency upon others is equally important, creates in me a great interest in observing the way in which people interact with one another in a game that for some individuals can be nearly as important as activities in the real world.

Allie and Claire's Social Impact game

Our game is going to be about teaching water safety. You would be a character that is watching over the water and you would have to be able to answer questions about the area and what not. It would show a victim and you would have to know what to do to save them in there situation.
I would be as much like real lifeguarding as we could possibly get it. YOu would have to deal with problem children and adults that dont follow pool rules.
We would try to get Red CRoss to use it to either teach Lifeguarding class, or use it as a way to challenge expired certifications. I think this would be a fun game for players because it is kind of addicting and it is a challenge so therefore kids will want to play and at the same time they will be learning about saving lives.
We were also thinking that it would be good to have camps play it before they bring there kids to the pool so the kids have an idea of what the rules are at the pool before they just get there and start running around.
SO we think that are game would be helpful for everyone, including lifeguards and swimmers because it will help and teach the kids and guards how to save lives and what the rules are.

Social Impact Game: Diffusing Conflict

My idea for a Social Impact Game stems from my interest in the contemporary issue revolving around Northern Ireland and the consistent conflicts between the Unionist and Nationalist factions. Over 800 years of tensions between the English and Irish have led to a fierce divide in the mindset that pervades today, with religion emerging as the preeminent dividing factor, especially under the reigns of Henry VII and Elizabeth in the 16th century. With the development of the Irish Free State in 1922, the six counties of Northern Ireland remained under the rule of the United Kingdom, and eventually the Protestant (Unionist) majority began to blatantly exploit their power, causing great difficulties for the Catholic (Nationalist) minority. Violence erupted on an unprecedented scale in 1969, continuing on at a very intense level in the early 1970s and eventually declining in frequency but always remaining in the minds of those on either sides even to this day.

The ratification of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 set a plan in motion to establish a peaceful, power-sharing government in which Unionist and Nationalist leaders would work together, the formation of such a plan which has taken years to create. In the same fashion, it has taken an equally long period of time to finally set the plan in motion, requiring events like the IRA disarmament in July of 2005 and certain concessions from each side before the two sides would come together to begin operating as a joint-government in the spring of 2007.

Despite the fact that the government has now been elected and will begin operating independently of Irish and English influences from Dublin and London, respectively, there is still much resentment in the mindset of the people of Northern Ireland that permeates the social landscape today. Every city has areas that are specifically Unionist or Nationalist, with prominent signs that ensure any newcomer is aware what sort of territory they are in. The hatred and resentment for such acts of aggression or retaliation, depending on which side one aligns his or her self with, have created immeasurable amounts of suffering and loathsome feelings for the other that have not withered even to this day.

This anger is what my Social Impact Game will attempt to counteract. In an issue as difficult and tense as this, one must be very careful in creating a game that will appeal to both sides and create a common understanding between the two. The game would explore in an interactive manner the way in which both sides have experienced numerous difficulties and the pressures that lay on each, as the best way to overcome such divisive hatred is to give an accurate depiction of the injustices that each side endured to show the respective rationales. The idea is to explain how such perpetuated hatred emerged in the hope that the knowledge will decrease the resentment for each side as they come to understand that there is more to conflict than an “Us vs. Them” mentality, and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While the game will be rather historical in content, it will have a fun, interactive element which will create an entertaining approach to conflict diffusion and hopefully lead to a more peaceful future in Northern Ireland.

For the love of gaming....

McDonald’s Videogame

This game was really, really well done. It was easy to play and utilizes the user’s interaction with the game to address the issues that the maker has with the McDonald’s Corporation. The game is separated into 4 sections that the user must simultaneously manage: agriculture, feedlot, fast food restaurant, and McDonald’s headquarters. In agriculture the user must pick sections of land to dedicate to growing feed for the cattle and for raising the cattle. This sometimes means that areas of rainforest must be chopped down. In the feedlot one must decided whether to add industrial waste to the soy fodder for the cows, whether some cows should be exterminated b/c of infection, etc. In the fast food restaurant portion the user must decide how many employees to have, whether they should be rewarded or fired, and so on. In McDonald’s headquarters the user get to decide whether to bribe politicians, use shady advertising techniques, and other irresponsible corporate means to obtain a profit.

I couldn’t stop playing this game because I really wanted to see if there was a way to actually win. That is to say that I ran into so many problems with cattle health, disgruntled employees, etc. in the process of trying to be a responsible corporate entity that I kept bankrupting the company! The game starts in May 2000, and the furthest level that I got to was May 2006. It was impossible to please both the corporate giants as well as to provide a healthy product and look after environmental interests. Financial gain for this corporate giant was compromised and the executives were not pleased…

September 12 Videogame

This game was interesting, but it was a lot less complex than the McDonald’s game. I understand the point that the creators of the game were trying to make about the war on terror, namely, that it is a war in which no one wins and no one loses. However, I feel like their game was a lot less accurate than the McDonald’s game. The previous game provided facts about the industry such as that oftentimes rainforest have to be cleared to make way for production as well as the hormones and animal matter that are added to the cow feed which lead to disease. I felt that that game was extremely informative. However, the simple point and shoot method of eliminating terrorists didn’t take into account military intelligence or the international implications of exterminating such terrorists, even if civilians are killed in the process. Although I think that civilian casualties are something that should absolutely been taken into consideration with regard to war, there was no way to not shoot civilians whereas in real life there could be ways of doing so.

Plan Your Future Park Game

This game teaches the user about the user about planning and building a park in a big city. The different issues it addresses are identifying a location for the park, financing, the purpose of the park (nature or recreation), vehicle traffic, dogs, playgrounds, food/concessions facilities, bathrooms, and issues regarding crime. Whenever I would made a decision about the park, a box would pop up that would tell me about the history of another park which had made a similar decision. What I liked about this game was that it came across as being extremely unbiased. That is to say that the game presented the concerns that would be likely to arise from choosing a certain course, but it ultimately left it up to the user to determine what the best course of action would be. I ended up designing a park that would draw fund from the community as well as local government, would combine both recreational fields as well as areas designated for natural space, no vehicle traffic would be allowed, dogs would be allowed on leashes, there would be a playground and picnic areas, bathroom areas would be maintained, and a number of measures would be taken to ensure that local crime wouldn’t deter the community from the park. Issues that it let me know about that I hadn’t thought about were angry motorists not being able to cut through the park, the fact that bathrooms in parks are extremely hard to keep clean, and that teenagers/seniors would be put off that a playground existed for the young but there wasn’t a specific are for them. This was a very informative game.

week 7

I first started exploring the social impact games without much luck. it seemed like whatever game i clicked on, the link would either be broken, or the game wouldn’t exist anymore, or something else would hinder my efforts. my first experiences with the social impact web site was not very positive. some examples of games like this included the “interactive nights out” game (what? i have to buy this?) and the media blackout game. the descriptions and reviews of both games made me really want to try to play them—and not being able to was really annoying.

anyway, i finally found a site that i seemed to be able to play. the self esteem games were actually really fun. for the grow your chi game, you had to click on the clouds that had smiles or your name in them, and avoid clicking on the clouds that had others’ names or people frowning. it was really fun—there was always this one lady who i could never remember to not click on. i got used to looking for teeth and clicking—it was basically fail-proof except for that lady who was frowning, but still showing her teeth. as i got further on in the game, there were more and more clouds, and they moved quicker. it actually was rather hard to move the mouse fast enough to click on them. instead of promoting self-esteem and growing your chi and achieving enlightenment, at the end it was promoting stress! but all in all, it was a cute game.

in the same site, i played the eye spy game. this had the same idea—click on the smiling face. only this time, they would give you a box with about 8 frowning faces in it, and 1 smiling face. this was much trickier since all of the faces changed every time and everyone moved around. eventually, though, it got easier to spot the smiling face. at the end, they showed you how your time improved through all four rounds. the old man was the hardest to find—he wasn’t really smiling, so my “look for the teeth” technique couldn’t be used on him.

then i moved on to a more educational game. i played the chemistry elemental game. it was kind of like tetris, but you had to match element from the same type (metal, non-metal, transition). once you got 3 in a row, they would disappear. again, this was really fun until things started moving faster. and it seems like sometimes the blocks would just drop down from the top without even giving me a chance to see them.

from there, i played the public policy game plan your future park. this game was probably my favorite. in the beginning, i loved how they gave you options for where to put your park, and all of these grungy places are already taken! so, i went through, clicking on the options that i thought the game wanted me to click on, but then i realized that this isn’t the kind of game where you end up with an A+ park—you can’t always choose the right answer, and there always won’t be an “all of the above” choice. so, then i started choosing the options that i wanted to see in my park, and no choice was ever the best. you either alienate the senior citizens and the teenagers by putting in a playground, or you get taxi drivers and motorists angry by not putting a road through the park. i think that this game was the best for highlighting how you can be playing a game and learning something new at the same time. i came into this not expecting to learn anything new, but through this “serious” game, i definitely did.

then i played some games that others in the class recommended. i REALLY enjoyed the super shag land game—i told my roommate about it and she started playing, too. and i also tried to get into the anti-bush game that had been recommended, but i found it hard to pay attention. the music was just a little too hardcore for my delicate ears, and it was too wordy from the beginning. i mean, what’s the point of sitting there, on a computer, clicking away, when i could have just read about all of that in a newspaper, without a soundtrack?

if i created a social impact game, it would probably be something along the lines of the plan your future park game. my friend reed has cancer, and he’s had to make multiple hard decisions this year. just like planning a park has risks and consequences, my game would, too. it would follow the life of reed—from deciding to go to the doctor after the pain in his hip has made it hard for him to walk, to making a decision regarding his hospital, to figuring out ways to raise awareness of his cancer (ewing’s sarcoma—it’s kind of rare, especially for males his age), to deciding to leave college, to putting off college for a second year…his decisions and actions over this past year have been huge and life-altering. additionally, the consequences from those decisions have also been huge and life-altering. one could ask why he put off school for another year—what does he hope to accomplish? will he ever go back to school? does he need to? right now, he’s in the midst of organizing a group that raises awareness for his cancer—what good would school do for him right now? also, his relationship with his girlfriend has suffered. reed, in his path to recovery, saw fit to remove himself from any kind of negativity or stress, but his girlfriend leads a stressful life. and part of her way of dealing with that stress was talking to reed about it. now that he “doesn’t want to hear it,” she feels restricted: she wants to tell reed that things are suffering in their relationship because of this, but how can she if he refuses to listen? a “serious game” about cancer and the decisions that one has to make when facing it would be appreciated.

game idea

For a social interaction game, I would probably make one that has to do with healthy eating habits and exercise routines. There are so many kids in the world today who are incredibly obese because their parents let them eat whatever they want and don’t make them do anything active. These kids are constantly ridiculed and made fun of for being fat and it undoubtedly affects them in a negative way. Not to mention, obesity can shorten one’s life and cause diabetes. So I want to make a game that teaches about healthy eating that can taste good too. The game might be something like where you get to be a chef and “make” different meals. As you add stuff, nutrition facts like fat, sodium, and sugar will pop up and a little person in the corner will get fatter or skinnier based on those food choices for the meal. There can also be a part where you calculate what your caloric intake should be for your age and activity routine. In terms of exercise, the game might just suggest different fun games to play outside or encourage things like rollerblading, jumping on the trampoline, etc. Hopefully simulating these activites will make kids want to do them in real life because they see how fun they are. This game would be intended for kids in middle school.

project proposal: sexuality in myspace

For my final project, I want to focus on the “culture” of many myspacers and look at how it is becoming more and more prevalent for girls as young as 13 to put provocative pictures on their pages as a way of attracting more people. I have a younger brother who is 15 and I used to go on his page and look at is friends and almost every girl who was around that age had pictures in their underwear or just a slutty pose. I don’t think I actually got a myspace until I was about 17 but even then, I didn’t find it appealing to put pictures like this up. First of all, because back then my overprotective dad seemed to have the need to search for my page to make sure it was appropriate. Secondly, because even with a normal picture of me smiling, I would, and still do, get messages and friend requests from creepy old men saying things like, “I saw your page, you are beautiful, I want to be your friend” and stuff like that. I think it’s really sad that these young girls feel the need to do this just to be accepted in the myspace community. I realize that the standards for beauty are really high these days and that girls in high school and middle school feel more and more pressure to be popular and look “hot” but it’s kind of disturbing when they are doing it to attract complete strangers, most of whom are skeezy old guys, to be their friends. I want to go through myspace and look at these profiles and try to get some statistics and decipher exactly what these girls might be thinking when they make the decisions to exploit themselves like this. I am hoping to be able to go to different girls’ pages take notes of what their pictures are like, and who and how many friends they have.

Learning Games

The first game I played was in the category of Political and Social Games. It was called the Anti-Bush Video Game. It was designed to teach people about all the bad things that President Bush has done to our country. It is a very one sided argument because it is all about how horrible of a president Bush is. When I first started playing it, I was very skeptical and bored because it was just a lot of nonsense with people talking and it wasn’t much of a game. Then, more characters were introduced and the game actually began. You have to pick a character and make it through different worlds by shooting the rich pigs. Every now and then you have to face a “master” and you have to battle them one on one and if you win then you get a key. Once you get all the keys to Voltron (master of the United States) then you can stop him. During the game, you learn about the federal deficit, land tax, dividend tax, and tax breaks. The creators included characters like Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Howard Dean, Chris Reeves, and Paris Hilton to make the game more entertaining to play. I ended up dying before I made it to the end of the game. This game is definitely intended for older audiences because it has a lot of swearing and vulgarity in it. If one had a lot of time to sit around and play games like this, then I can see how they would be entertained by it but I just thought it was kind of dumb.
The second game I played was in the Health and Wellness category. It was called Feed the Monster and was definitely intended for kids in elementary school who were first learning about the food groups. To play the game, you have to grab food and slingshot it into the monster’s mouth. The food moves on a conveyor belt and the monster moves back and forth. There are lots of different foods including bread, yogurt, peas, watermelon, peanuts, chips, etc. The foods all represent different food groups and the goal of the game is to feed the monster one food from each group. When you have done that, then you move on to the next level. As you move up in the levels, the conveyor belt moves faster so it is harder to get the food. The monster also moves faster so you have to be able to aim so that the food hits him. There is also a time limit which gives motivation for thinking quickly. After you give the monster the food, there is a bonus question which teaches you something about the food. Sometimes it asked how the food was grown and sometimes it asked what could the food be eaten with for a healthy lunch. This game is good because it is entertaining and it teaches you about which foods fit in each group. It also teaches kids what healthy eating is.
The third game I played was in the Educational category and was called Mapojib Experience. It was a way to learn the Korean language. In the game, you watch as two people interact over food and speak in Korean. The game gives you the ability to listen to the words as they are said, see them written in Korean, and also see what they mean in English. This isn’t so much a game as a simulation that you watch and click “next.” Overall, it was pretty boring even though I did learn some Korean words.
It was hard to find games to play because most of the links either didn’t work or took me to a site where I had to register or buy the games so it was kind of frustrating trying to find three to play. My favorite game I played though was the feed the monster one because it was easy and actually seemed like a game whereas the other ones included a lot of just reading. The monster one was also fun because it was very elementary but had cute music, sounds, and pictures. I think that if someone is going to make a learning game, they should structure it like this one where it is very interactive and fun for whomever is playing.

Ben's Project & Game Proposal

Last week, while reading articles and visiting websites about issues such as the movements of both the Zapatistas and Durban Shack Dwellers, I realized that there are so many disputes and battles taking place all over the world with which I am not familiar. For my final project, I would like to find and research the largest areas of contention in the world, and maybe create something like a “top 10” or “top 5” list for issues everyone (or every American) needs to know about. My hope is to both create awareness of lesser-known global problems and offer people the means of contributing to resolving them--something like Darfur is Dying or 3rd World Farmer--but I might end up including some of the bigger issues as well.

I have not decided on which problems to address, but I have come up with a general layout for my site. I will have a general summary for each of the larger events, and each page will contain a link to a site/sites dedicated to the issue (if there are any). I want to be sure to make clear steps people can take in their daily lives to contribute to solving the problems. I may also incorporate video clips from someplace like Witness.org or YouTube.

Thinking about my project led me to an idea for a social impact game. If I were to create a game, I would make it on the issue of coffee farmers. I chose coffee as the focus for my project because Americans consume more coffee than any other people in the world, and I believe that it is incredibly important to be aware of the effort put by other people into making the products we consume regularly and often take for granted. I would find out exactly how much labor, resources, etc. go into a single cup of coffee, and maybe do a “day in the life of a coffee worker” where I would show the working conditions for pickers in the field.

In my game, I would incorporate elements from both 3rd World Farmer and The Anti-Bush Video Game. I would have an animated/visual timeline similar to that of 3rd World Farmer that shows the growing process of coffee beans, and then track the beans on their journey from the field to the cup (consumer). Beans are taken through all kinds of processing machines, collected in bags, shipped, re-shipped, and finally ground up by the person actually making the coffee drink; my game would show the entire process.

The feature I liked most about The Anti-Bush Video Game was that it had a bar at the bottom of the screen that contained links to all the important informational parts of the site. My site would also have this feature, so that people solely interested in learning the facts could do so. I would be sure to incorporate facts such as the average daily pay for a coffee bean picker, and show how much it compares to that of the average worker in America (or maybe California minimum wage). While my game might not be much fun, it would educate people about the importance of worker’s rights, and possibly inspire a search for more knowledge regarding other important issues in today’s world.

Project Proposal: Investigating Gender Dynamics in Second Life

We tend to categorize human beings according to gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, nationality, social class, occupation, etc. In Second Life people are defined primarily by what they reveal in-game: which ultimately comes down to avatar appearance. Moreover, appearance of avatars is immensely malleable.

Accordingly, for my project I am going to focus on sex and race in Second Life. I am also going to add an innovative approach by reading a wealth of journalistic blogs from Second Life players in an effort to explore other player’s gender experiences in Second Life. Thus my project will rely on blogs to study gender relations in Second Life.

I also want to explore what aesthetics come into play in terms of avatar attractiveness. For example, how does the furry subculture of avatars differ from the white female avatars or the harajukou female avatars? Are male avatars more attracted to the furry females or the white females?

There are a variety of sites dedicated to Linden bloggers, and a lot of bloggers tailor their writings to their experiences with gender in Second Life. I am planning on changing my avatars look and seeing how people respond in-world to her various appearances. I am hoping to be able to discover if the same standards of beauty that we venerate in the real world are still manifested in the virtual world. For example, when conducting research I found a study that concluded that males stand further away when talking to other males in the virtual world of Second Life and are less likely to keep eye contact, which reveals one aspect of human behavior carries over into the virtual realm.

Nevertheless, a crucial element of my project will be the various blogs about experiences in Second Life. Blogging is a way for individuals to articulate their emotions, and by studying a multitude of blogs, I am hoping to discover common themes and trends about gender relations in Second Life. I have already gathered a variety of interesting blogs including:




Ryan's Gaming Experience

Self-Esteem Games

There were three self-esteem games made by McGill University in which positive feedback is supposed to have a positive impact on one’s self-esteem. The first game I played was called “Wham!” The first thing that you have to do in this game is input your first name as well as the month and date of your birth. Once the game begins, you are presented with four squares into which will appear a date or a name. You have to as quickly as possible click on the words that appear in the box and each time you click a picture of a face will briefly appear. When our own name or birthdate comes up and you click on it, the subsequent picture will be a smiling face. If someone else’s name or birthdate appears, it will be followed by a frowning picture. The idea behind this game is to help people associate themselves with a good thing, in this case a smile. I am not a psych major but this all seems a little far fetched, I am sure the positive association theme does work to help people with depression, but none of these games seemed to reinforce the idea very well. It is suggested that the “patient” do this at least once a day, preferably in the morning to help them get their day started on a good note. The idea is novel, and I definitely think that a computer can be helpful in treating issues such as this, but this one in particular will not lead someone to a happier life.

Darfur is Dying

In this game you are a Darfurian refugee in Sudan and the object of the game is to help your refugee camp survive for as long as possible. Your main objective is to collect water from several kilometers away from the well, and in doing so avoid being captured by rebel factions in the surrounding area. You first select a character form the list that you are presented with, the young children are much more agile and quicker than their parents but they cannot carry as much water, so you have to pick a character that you tink will be best at accomplishing the task at hand. The next part of the game involves you controlling your character to try and avoid being captured while trying to make it to a well and back. Once back you have to use your water to accomplish various functions around the camp. What I liked about this game was that you could click on any part of the camp and a dialogue box would come up, describing the difficulties that Darfurians face in the camps everyday. There was a meter which indicated the risk of a rebel attack on the camp, and to avoid this certain things had to be done to either stave of the attack or rebuild the community. It was effective in informing people about the atrocities going on in Africa, while at the same time maintaining user engagement through various activities. To me one of the most important aspects of these games should be trying to make the user want to keep playing, and while maintaining and educational value, keep the user entertained enough to increase playing time.

McDonald’s Game

In this game you are in charge of all parts of McDonald’s hamburger production. You have to grow feed for cows, raise hormone rich cattle, hire and manage restaurant workers, and employ questionable marketing tactics. I discovered this game about a year ago and at the time I remember playing it for hours on end. It was fun trying to sell as many hamburgers as possible and if my memory serves me right I got to be fairly good at the game, helping the company to last for a good amount of time. The message about the questionable practices that McDonalds employs in both making and selling their products is presented to the user in such a way that in order to make the cows bigger and produce more meat you have to feed them hormones, or in the marketing campaigns claim that McDonald’s cares about third world nations. One of my favorite parts of the game was the evil looking Ronald McDonald character that is seen in the corporate headquarters. It really makes you aware of the fact that they have made one of the most successful youth targeted advertisement campaigns ever, leading to childhood obesity and an addiction to unhealthy foods that stays with many people their entire lives.

Michael and Ryan's Game Proposal


Each year approximately 850,000 children die of malaria around the world. The most heavily impacted nations being those in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Our game proposal would work to bring awareness to this very serious problem that faces billions of families around the world. Our game would be structured around the idea that you are a Red Cross worker that has been dispatched to Africa to organize a malaria treatment and prevention center. To fight the onslaught of the disease the player will have to overcome many of the challenges that real world aid workers face on a daily basis. In combination with actual game play, the user will be presented with questions and possible answers that will lead to different scenarios. Some examples may be swatting the malaria carrying mosquitoes with a fly swatter and using pesticide bombs to eradicate larger areas of land. There are a limited amount of species of mosquito (Anopheles) that actually carry the disease, so it will be up to the user to ensure that he or she does not eliminate all insects in the area that are vital to the local ecosystem. Other actions that the user will have to do in another part of the game is distribute anti-malarial drugs to patients in his region, using the limited funds that he or she is allocated. One obstacle associated with the use of these drugs, is that the parasite can gain resistance to them if they are used to liberally. To gain monetary resources, the player will have to kill certain amounts of mosquitoes and minimize collateral damage to the surrounding people and environment. Hopefully, this game will be engaging enough so that the user can have fun while learning about this global crisis.

Self-esteem games


This website had three different games. They were the stupidest games I had ever played. The first one was “Grow your own Chi”, in the game you entered you name, then every time you name or a picture of a smiling face flew by the screen you were supposed to click on it. For every time you clicked on a smile face or your name, you got points, if you clicked on a sad face you lost points. It is supposed to teach you to avoid negativity. The second game was “Eye Spy Matrix,” where there was a four by four grid of pictures. One of the pictures was of a smiling face and all the rest were negative faces. You were supposed to click on the smiling face as fast as you could. Each round had four grids and it took you fastest time and average of your times. Then you played another round, trying to improve you time and teaching you to look for positive information and avoid the negative. The last game on this website was “WHAM! Self-esteem conditioning.” In this game you entered your name and birthday, and once again clicked on them when you they would appear on the screen. The idea that it would give you links between yourself and social acceptance. The website says that these games are not supposed to increase self esteem but instead help you look for the positive in things. This was not true at all for me. I found myself very board and it in know way helped my look for the positive. I found all three very boring and a waste of time.

Ben’s Game


Ben’s Game was created by a kid that is in remission from Leukemia. He created the game as his wish from the make a wish foundation. The game is designed for kids to play in the hospital. In the game you have to find 7 shields, while fighting mutated cells, and diseases. I downloaded the game and tried to play but was not any good at it. I did not get how to fight the diseases to receive the shields. Also I was really bad at avoiding the mutated cells. But over all I thought the game could be fun for kids.

Break Down


Break Down is a game about New York City. It asks questions about the city’s electricity, telephone, cable, gas, steam sewage and water. In the game you are a repair man who is trying to save the city. There is an animation of a guy crawling down a sewer pipe. At each leave you are asked a question, if you get it right then you advance down the pipe if you get it wrong you have to go back to the previous level. The questions are multiple choice about New York City’s polices and facts in the different areas of electricity, telephone, cabal, gas, steam, sewage, and water. The questions were not that hard but more interesting. I was really bad at the water questions and kept being sent back to sewage. Overall I found the game very informative.

Overall, I did not really like the games I played. I found them kind of childish and boring. Break Down was the best I looked at. But on the website I noticed that I had played most of the social impact commercial games, like roller coaster tycoon, sim city, and organ trail. All of which I enjoyed. So while some of these games were very boring, I could see how others do change how people look at the world. For example when playing sim city you have to plan out the whole city. Look at where to but the neighbor hoods, the power planets, the jobs, the roads. It helps in a understanding of how a city is built.

Social impact game: SPF 101

Based on my experiences playing social impact games, I have a derived a game that is both educational and entertaining. Many of the games in the public policy category involve multiple choice questions about the topic on which each game focuses. By answering a question correctly, the player is able to advance to another level with another question. With each correct response, the character would move up or show some sign of change. If the player put the wrong answer, he or she would have to go back and select another response. While this method is effective in giving the participant a lot of information, the entertainment value is rather weak. There is no incentive to complete one question because it just takes you to another. The element that is missing is scoring or rewarding a player for his success. In addition, I feel that a greater interactive game experience is more worthwhile in keeping a player interested. With a question-type game, there is no reason to return to play the game again after completing all the questions the first time around.

I decided to make my social impact game about the dangers of overexposure to the sun that can result in skin cancer. I think that there is a largely apathetic younger population that does not realize the extreme risk involved in going outside unprotected.

SPF 101
Setting: A shopping strip on a beach front
Goal: A girl needs to get to her date’s house to attend a dance.

Picking up bottles of sunscreen and sunglasses on the way earns points.
She must avoid tanning oil and promoters with flyers for free tanning bed usage.

Different levels equate to different stages of her preparation for the dance. The character’s appearance changes after the completion of each level. At the end of each stage there is a trivia question related to skin cancer that the player has to answer correctly. If answered incorrectly, the player must repeat the level and try again.

Level 1. She travels to a clothing store to buy her dress

What is melanoma?

A. A virus that spreads during the summer months

B. Cancer of the moles: the deadliest form of skin cancer

C. A brand of tanning oil

D. A study on skin cancer

answer B: The American Cancer Society estimates that about 62,190 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States during 2006.

Level 2. She travels to the hair salon to get her hair done

How many people are affected by skin cancer each year in the US?

A. Less than 500 people

B. 1,000 people

C. 5,000 people

D. More than 1 million people

answer D: Studies show that more than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, with an estimated 10,590 deaths expected.

Level 3. She goes to a nail salon to get a manicure/pedicure

What is the most common of all cancers?

A. Breast Cancer

B. Ovarian Cancer

C. Skin Cancer

D. Lung Cancer

answer C: Skin cancer accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States.

Level 4. She goes to the flower shop to buy a boutonnière

How can you help prevent skin cancer?

A. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

B. Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you are out in the sun.

C. Use sunscreen SPF of 15 or higher even on hazy or overcast days.

D. Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.

E. All of the above

At the end, she arrives at her date’s house. Based on her level of sun exposure, she can either go out to the dance, or she is diagnosed as too red and exhausted for her date.

Stealth Education and Battling Cancer: The Power of Social Impact Games

I never knew that it was possible for video games to have an educational dimension. Of course I have always heard the theories that gaming improves hand eye coordination and reasoning ability, but I always assumed that those were far fetched theories my brothers used to wield my mom into allowing them to play video games for one more hour. However, after exploring the education and leaning games on the social impact site, I have come to realize that video games can have intellectual facets. Thus I found it essential that social impact makes a point of emphasizing how it strives to catalog video and computer games whose primary purpose is something other than to entertain.


I spent a long time on the HAGames site just because I was fascinated by their commitment to “Stealth Education” which is using games to teach middle schoolers math and science. The “stealth” component comes into play for the games are educational yet they are so fun that kids don’t even realize that they are learning (because we all know that in the eyes of a seven-year-old, when something is educational it becomes repulsive). The non-profit organization the Liemandt Foundation funds the Hidden Agenda program and the HAGames site. The site claims that its inspiration was to make learning fun for kids who enjoy playing games more than listening to teachers. Additionally they emphasize how these games help middle schoolers learn subjects that otherwise would not “stick” through memorization or reading.

As such, I decided to play “MeChem” because I noticed that it was the winner of the Liemand Foundation’s first “Hidden Agenda” content in 2004. This award is interesting for it is given to a game which succeeds in concealing its educational motive so that kids are drawn to it without the knowledge of its rewards. “MeChem” is directed as middle schoolers just beginning to learn chemistry. Players equip their characters, known as “mechs” with armor and weapons and then battle one another to see which is stronger. However the chemistry comes into play for players build their armor based on elements.

When I was playing this game I was fascinated by how fun it was. The game begins with the statement “you may build your mech from a full range of components” which essentially means choosing a name and model for your mech. However, the assemble process gets more complex as the player must decipher which element would be most conducive to creating the armor necessary for the task at hand (for example one would not want to create a mech with an aluminum body if they were going to have to endure fire because aluminum is a metal and metals conduct heat, and consequently the armor would melt). Here is an example of the choices for armor construction: http://www.hagames.com/games/mechem/mechem.swf?userid=juju&hadata=875x9x1&classid=9&classcode=class1&school=school1.
Thus this type of thinking serves to reiterate how computer gaming can actually lead to…gasp…learning!

I also enjoyed the game AlgebrArcade. Before beginning, players are confronted with the slogan “Beat the game – learn equations! The most fun you'll ever have with algebra!” I don’t know about you, but I would never associate “fun” with algebra. However, after playing, I realized that this game makes the concept of “fun math” a reality. Playing the game involves going around and using algebra to open the locks on treasure chests. While this sounds pretty unoriginal, there is a time limit that forces players to think quickly. Fusing adrenaline rushes with treasure hunts and algebra is guaranteed to create an entertaining educational experience.

Ben's Game

The greatest game I played was Ben’s Game. Ben’s Game was heartwarming and truly served as a representation that video games can make a positive social impact. Ben Duskin was nine-years-old when he came to the Make-A-Wish foundation with the desire to create a video game in which players battled and destroyed cancer cells. Ben wanted to create this video game because he thought it would be a helpful coping strategy for kids like him battling cancer. Ben reasoned that by playing a game that fights cancer cells, children would be able to relieve some of the pain and stress involved with treatment. Surprisingly, Ben’s Game did not receive a lot of support initially. Most people agreed that it would cost millions of dollars and create several years to create. However, Eric Johnston and his company LucasArts were determined to make Ben’s Game a reality. They worked side by side and were eventually able to create the game just as Ben envisioned it. Thus it was incredibly inspiring to read Ben’s doctor’s comments that the science for Ben’s Game came largely from what Ben learned himself in the course of treatment.

The directions for Ben’s Game are creative and I found myself more obsessed with various monsters than actually battling them. The object of the game is to destroy all mutated cells and to collect the seven shields that provide protection from common side effects of chemotherapy. The shields are guarded by a “monster”:
• Colds - Iceman Monster
• Barf – Robarf Monster
• Chicken Pox –Big Chicken Monster
• Fever - Firemonster
• Bleeding – Vamp Monster
• Hair Loss – Qball Monster
• Rash – Tornado Monster

Three health levels serve as ammunition in the game:
• Health you get from the hospital
• Ammo you get from the pharmacy
• Attitude you get from home

I suggest you all check out this game: http://www.makewish.org/site/pp.asp?c=cvLRKaO4E&b=64611.

Not only is it imaginative and entertaining, but it allows you to realize that sometimes social impact games can truly help terminally ill children battle their illness. It all starts with a brilliant idea, just like Bens…

Gaming Diary

The first game I played what 3rd World Famer. In this game you started with 4 people (Your immediate family), and 50 dollars. You then had to choose what to plant, and see if that would bring you more money. After a few rounds, I got my total up to $187 which made me really excited. I then filled my fields with crops to see how much money I would get this time. Unfortunately, a militia came to my farm and took everything I owned. If that wasn't bad enough, my youngest child died because I did not have enough money to pay for medical checkups. This game was a big eye opener to show the struggles of families, and horrible situations that are pressed upon them.
The second game I played was Feed the Monster. This game was for children to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits. You were able to feed the monster different foods that scrolled across the bottom of your screen. Once you fed your monster, a popup window would give you information on what type of food it was. It would tell you if it is a good choice for snacks, and what vitamins and nutrients that food provides. If you fed the monster a sugary food, it would tell you what a better alternative would have been. This game is very good for introducing young children to healthy eating habits. I believe it is very important since obesity is becoming a huge problem in our society.
Another game I played, was Super Shag Land. I am also happy to see that Andrea played it and enjoyed it as well. I found the game to be hilarious, but like she said "it got the point across."
The last game I played was Oregon Trail. This game took me back to my days as an elementary student trying to get my covered wagon across the river without it breaking. In this game, players get to determine which way they want to travel, buy tools that would be needed on the trip, and design your family. Things that occur during the trip range from snake bites to death. However, this game does not make me think about it more than just being a game.