Monday, May 21, 2007

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.

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