contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

20 Grove St
Somerville MA, 01609
United States

Game Design On Demand. Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

BLOG POSTS

Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

Filtering by Category: Uncategorized

Learning play from the supreme ninja Jedi play masters with gobs of liquid cash. That's right: Disney

Kellian Adams

Disney_castle_paris
Disney_castle_paris

Disney: building rides for a participatory generation… I spent a week geeking out at Disney World last year and I think the absolute coolest part of the whole thing is to see four generations of play/fun/pretend trends standing there right next to each other. It’s practically a museum of public play. Bear with me as I geekily analyze Disney rides and what that might mean about how people’s perception of play is changing through the decades.

When you consider Disney, you think of the original 1955 Disney World: A big, distant princess castle, a main street, a frontier land. All of these look-but don’t touch visually stimulating spaces supported by rides where you sit down in a car and go through a magic world: Mr. Toad’s ride, Peter Pan, Small World. This was the era of fantasy: dreamy and distant- and that's ok.

But then comes the 80's and Epcot: similar look-but-don’t-touch rides BUT now dedicated to imagination with obsessive talk about innovation. There’s figment the dinosaur and the spaceship earth ride, each ending with a very similar, preachy “the future is up to you” call to action. "You got it wrong, Doc. It's not about listening with your ears, it's about listening with your IMAGINATION!" (Are you feeling betrayed, generation of liberal arts majors?)

Mickey-Mouse-2
Mickey-Mouse-2

Nineties/early millennium rides seem obsessed with screen time. My sister perfectly described the Nemo ride as “watching Finding Nemo while sitting in a moving clamshell”. Some of them don’t even attempt to be rides, like Captain EO or the Muppet 3D adventure at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). You go into a big room- and watch a movie that has a few gimmicks like a moving clamshell or bursts of air under your chair.  Imagine it's 1995 and there are ALL SORTS of new screens out there.. flat screens, light screens, flexible screens "4D" screens and they're gonna use ALL of them! This is the time where images of Mickey started getting really, really shiny. (I imagine the artists at their 90's, recently photoshop-accessible computers saying "MOAR highlights- MOAR gradient! Luminescent Mickey! He must glow like a GOLDEN GOD!" something like that.)

Mickey_Mouse_Clubhouse_-_Mickey_-_Playhouse_Disney_Canada
Mickey_Mouse_Clubhouse_-_Mickey_-_Playhouse_Disney_Canada

So of course on this trip to Disney with my family in 2013, I wanted to know—WHAT’S NEW??? Disney is the master of play- they have built an empire on understanding how people have good, clean fun. So what’s the next big thing? It was exciting how clear the answer seemed to be:

1. A full story arc: None of the new rides seemed content to say “you’re on teacups in wonderland”, figure it out. They came with a story arc with a full background, even if the complete story was hidden.

2. Individualization: In each of these new rides, I had a role. There was a story and I had a part in it.

3. Interactivity:I needed to personally respond to each of these rides. I pressed buttons, shot things, moved locations. 

A simple “Turkish twist” ride called Mission to Mars BUT… the twist is that you’re in a spaceship exploratory mission. You have roles like captain, engineer and navigator and they ask you  to push buttons at a certain time in the ride. 

A Buzz Lightyear game, where you sit in a car and you go through a magic world of space aliens BUT… you’re a space ranger and Buzz instructs you to shoot at them to get points. You compete against other players in your car and in other cars.

sorcerers-of-the-magic-kingdom
sorcerers-of-the-magic-kingdom

Full on location-based games! I kid you not! Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom lets you move around the Magic Kingdom with cards, unlock messages and battle Disney villains. Disney villains are trying to take over the magic crystal. I am Merlin’s assistant and I have to hold up the correct cards to defeat them. This game... didn't really work. But there was another one that DID work (Phinneas and Ferb) and I'll compare those two games later...

But the point is-- there were a TON of games. I don’t think that’s because Disney said “games are cool and hip, let's throw money at them”, (though they might have) but more likely I think it’s because games are the easiest way for them to achieve those three magic components that kids seem to crave as part of a fun experience right now: Story, Individualization, Interactivity. There were games where I actually had to collaborate with strangers. At one point there was even just a wall of Disney-themed video games for people to play- they pulled out all the game stops if you will- they're trying every kind of game. But it's because games allow for the kids of interactions kids want right now.

It’s entirely possible to achieve those three magic components without being techie or even looking like a game at all. A “story time with Belle” preview for the new Fantasy Land, Kids were invited into Belle’s castle and asked if they could help Belle act out the story of how she met the Beast. Each kid was given a cardboard cutout to show their character (teacups, dusters, horses) and they all acted it out in an incredible 10 guided minutes of story-based interactive role playing. The kids were thrilled. The parents were thrilled. It was a total win.

If I wanted to wax philosophical, I could say that Disney is reaching out to a participatory generation. Maybe today’s 0- 12 year old is so overstimulated that they respond only when media is addressing them individually, prompting them to take action right now in a very specific way. I know that no kid- and probably no parent either- realizes that this is what’s happening… but when you’re 8 and you have exponentially more information than any other 8 year old human has ever had to date, how do you filter? You can’t respond to everything so you respond to the things that address you personally that you have to take immediate action for. I think that’s what Disney is seeing and they’re building accordingly.

These are kids that expect their feedback to matter. I’ve never seen so many little girls dressed as princesses or so many little boys with fake “pirate” beards. There are special kid-sized princess costumes for them and they get their hair done “princessy” at the Bippety Boppety Boutique. They don’t watch the fairy tale, they ARE the fairy tale. In 1955, kids didn’t have to dress like pirates to go to Disney world. Let me rephrase that: kids didn’t GET  to dress like pirates to go to Disney world. What a cool time to be a kid. Except for the bioluminescent cartoons. That I could do without.

Gradient
Gradient

What's game-based learning? Sound super knowledgeable in 10 mins!

Kellian Adams

gamify-all-the-things-520x390

What is Gamification and how can I find out in ten minutes or less? Read on to find the answer. There’s growing evidence that games may have the ability to change the world. I’m not making this up: the power of games has been profiled by big-name tech periodicals like Mashable and Wired. Museums and schools are building games to educate. Games have been funded by the NEA and the Educate to Innovate program uses games as part of the “call to action” to get kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

gamify-all-the-things-520x390
gamify-all-the-things-520x390

 This movement of building games to improve social justice, raise awareness, teach, train, heal and explore has many names. You may hear Serious Games, Games for Learning, Games for Health or Games for Good or Games for Change.  I also use gameful learning and playful design but they all mean one thing: fun stuff with a social mission. I have a dream that some day there will be one word that means this and we'll all know it. But for now, we've got lots.

Then...there’s “Gamification". Usually that’s a word used by companies who would like to use game dynamics like leaderboards and points to get people to buy things. What they are often missing is fun. It doesn’t mean that all things can’t or shouldn’t be more gameful or that games can’t be used to influence behavior, it just means that none of the cool kids say “gamification” because it's kind of evil to have points with no fun. That's more like... school. So now some people to meet:

Ready? Press PLAY to start.

gallery_btn_start_808080_v2
gallery_btn_start_808080_v2

Ok I lied, nothing really happens when you press play.

We’ll start with two canonical texts for anyone who’s interested in gamification or Games for Change… and by canonical texts, I mean Ted Talks:

#1: Jane McGonical

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE1DuBesGYM

Though Games for Change had been around for a while, when Jane McGonical spoke at TED in 2010, it seemed like a revolutionary idea. This talk had close to 2.5 million views and said in short: we spend roughly 3 billion hours weekly playing online games. How can we channel these games for social good? There’s some grumbling in the industry about Jane’s rockstar persona but I personally think she’s earned her place as the most recognizable face in the games for good community.

#2 Jesse Schell

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLwskDkDPUE

This talk is a little different in that Jesse ties the real world into all of this excitement, for instance, real objects that track our usage. It sounds a little creepy, which is why he calls it "gamepocalypse".  This broadens the idea of what a game is and is especially relevant now that most games are being made for phones- so newer games are almost always “invading reality”- and vice versa. I think he does it a little backwards personally, using objects to get us in the game rather than using a game to get us into the objects but this was way back in 2010 and I think a lot of this stuff is starting to shake itself out now.

Both of these speakers have great books that are worth reading: Reality is Broken is by Jane McGonical and The Art of Game Design is by Jesse Schell. I know, I know: 2010 is ANCIENT in the tech world that’s why I said these are “canonical” popular texts (clever, yes?). But wait, one more thing:

#3 Scot Osterweil and Eric Klopfer

So I admit, these guys are not mainstream media with Ted Talks and appearances on the Today Show but they have been doing this the longest and producing THE best stuff from none other than the Education Arcade at MIT. A nice, quick summary on the work they’re doing at MIT is here: http://education.mit.edu/papers/GamesSimsSocNets_EdArcade.pdf

Read Eric’s book, Augmented learning from back in 2008 or compare Eric and Scot’s approaches in the 2011 book, Digital Games and Learning. Scott also recently released one of my favorite new games, Vanished with the Smithsonian:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTpI3fEcZvU

942279_649714598387995_1634395309_n
942279_649714598387995_1634395309_n

But a lot of those links were from a few years ago, so what’s new? Well for Jane, new means games for health, which is a huge and growing field. As a doctor (who wanted a game) once told me, the biggest problem for health right now is not medicine, it’s compliance. Jane built SuperBetter as a way to try and get people to set health goals and stick to them. https://www.superbetter.com

Jesse, along with building lots of games and being an awesome thought leader in general, has thrown his weight in with Amplify, a MASSIVE and massively funded games and new media education company. Well-funded and undoubtedly the 300 LB gorilla of K-12 games: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2013/06/18/lexica-game-classic-books/2431337/.

Scott and Eric, along with leading the charge in research and development at MIT’s Education Arcade also started the Learning Games Network, an incredible game design group building out games like Quandary, the 2013 Games for Change best-in-show winner that deals with compromise and decision-making:http://www.quandarygame.org

So that’s a start! You now know more about Games for Learning than about 90% of the population, congrats! (See now if I were an official gamifier I would give you a Games Primer badge but that's cheap and I won't do that to you.)

Check back weekly for more adventures with games for education, arts and culture!

WebKnocker
WebKnocker