Apr 15, 2008

Super Mario Bros theme performed by an RC car on a row of liquid-filled bottles

http://view.break.com/487616 - Watch more free videos

Mario: A video game that inspires one to reach into his/her multiple intelligences and express oneself completey.

Apr 12, 2008

Apr 11, 2008

Brain Development and Effects of Video Games

This post is a continuation of my comments from a gamer interview with two eight-year old boys inspired by and related to the topics headlined above. (sans tedious citations)

Back in the (my) day (50's to 70's) young boys' (ages 5-12) leisure activities typically involved physical activities on the playing fields (stick ball, sandlot baseball, football on what ever ground was available, basketball on any sort of court), running around outdoors, collecting baseball cards, playing with slot car racing sets and playing with action figures (first military related ( i.e. “army guys”) then fantasy related (i.e., Ninja Turtles)).

Since the advent of video games, which coincided incidentally with the advent of the “working mom”, or the double income household, followed by the emphasis on organized community youth sports (a guilt induced solution for the absent caregiver syndrome brought on by the dual income family unit), the playing field has changed. Instead of playing outdoors, boys are playing indoors in their leisure time waiting for parents to return from work, waiting for parents to bring them to extra curricular activities or community sports practice, etc. Boys have adapted and the indoor playing field has proved to be as exciting as the outdoor playing field. The indoor playing field, of course, is the latest and greatest screen (CRT, HD TV, etc.,)

From the 50’s to the 21st century the games are the same. In their core they are the same. Rules, competition, bravado, and victory reign. Only the playing field has changed. From the realities of the muddy field to the mysteries of the virtual world, boys are exploring the many faces of the entertainment world. Boys are exploring the ultimate challenge of pinpointing the ultimate goal, the source of extreme fun.

Fun for boys is defined by that which naturally induces competition and opportunity for bravado. Mario Kart is the epitome of such fun.

Apr 7, 2008

Boys just want to have fun!

Boys just want to have fun!

I think I only see one girl's name in this long list of Mario Kart world record holders.

Go with the FLOW! After all, it's only a game!

After observing two eight year old boys play this game, I realized that I am missing out on a lot of fun! Investigating the learning in Mario Kart is not the point, so it seems. Knowing what you're learning is not the point. Investigating the fun is the point. Why is this game fun? You can play over and over and over again under a multitude of conditions. The potential for repetitive play is inherent in a game that is fun to play. Forming relationships with the characters, actually talking to them while playing, is another prerequisite for fun. Boasting about your accomplishments and moaning/defending/rationalizing your defeats to your friends is fun, too. Figuring out the best kart and character combination is fun. Expressing hatred for particular characters to your friends is fun. Getting to the next level is fun even if it takes you a very long time. Cheating with cheat codes you find on the internet is fun! Not reading the instructions booklet and figuring out the game by yourself is fun! Beating a girl at the game is fun! (Not beating a girl at the game is humiliating, though.) Being obsessed by and addicted to a game is fun. Losing track of time is fun, until someone yells at you to stop wasting your time (what little do they know). Most of all, loving the game is fun!

Mar 24, 2008

Virtual and Augmented Reality and Mario Kart

Have you checked out "Real Life Mario" in my links section. It really is a hoot! It's pretty close to a virtual reality Mario Kart experience with folks, like you and me, taking to the racing circuit in a full body (not just thumbs) kinesthetic way. Each player in this video chose which character he wanted to be, dressed appropriately, designed his own vehicle for speed, acceleration, drift, etc., and finally through a collaborative effort with other Mario Kart avatars designed and constructed their own race track. They video taped the experience and uploaded it to YouTube to share with all the other Mario avatar wanna be's.

During a recent family gathering , I engaged my 11 year old nephew in some Mario Kart DS play. He proceeded to trounce me in three consecutive WFC (Nintendo Wi-fi connection) match circuits. Of course, he was delighted and I was shocked that my defeat was so decisive, since I had been practicing diligently in anticipation of this occasion. Did I mention that the wine selection for the evening was particularly engaging?

Here's another interesting twist on Mario Kart play.
Mario Kart Drunken Dash - Editors of the Eastern Washington University newspaper (of Cheney and Spokane, Washington) recently conducted an experiment using the Mario Kart driving simulation game to illustrate how much alcohol affects the way people drive.


Of course, the results are in keeping with the saying, "Don't drink and drive."

So what logically follows here is the installation of the Mario Kart driving simulation kiosk in every drinking establishment. Before leaving a bar patrons would be required to use the Mario Kart driving simulation (preferably the new Wii version with the Wii wheel: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yA5IDMaKt1g ). Their performance in the game would determine whether they would be issued a "not licensed to drive" ticket signifying their failure to pass a Mario Kart Grand Prix test circuit or a "licensed to drive" certificate signifying their ability to perform accurately and safely behind the wheel of a real automobile. Granting this certificate would insure safer streets and protect bar owners from those who helplessly blame bar proprietors for their poor judgment at the wheel. With all the college students already engaged in Mario Kart game play (see links) this should be an easy requisite to enforce.

All of this leads me to a huge question: How could Mario Kart Wii lead to an augmented reality version of Mario Kart that would guide drunk drivers home, or prevent drunk drivers by automatically disabling their automobiles if their performance is subpar? I could make big bucks off this idea, don't you think? Is this just the Mario Tycoon effect? Or as is so often the case, did someone already think of this?

Mar 9, 2008

Games and Emotions

Strolling through the T 545 game blogs I came across Rachel's Emotions and Video Games post. It caught my interest since I'm not sure where my emotional satisfaction comes to play. I haven't really explored many different genre so I don't have much to base an opinion on. However, that being said, I can't recall ever really feeling relaxed. Competitive, yes. I seem to be attracted to the "beat the clock" type of games, my all time favorite being Tetris. When I examine other games I enjoy playing the list includes, Scrabble, Backgammon, Cribbage, Solitaire, and jigsaw puzzles. All of these are neat, predictable, rules based games. I could do these things endlessly just for the thrill of doing it better or faster or first each time. This is exactly why I like Mario Kart so much. It's not really complicated unless you read all of the directions and get involved in the nuances of the short cuts etc. I just stay on the track and try to beat the clock or my opponent over and over again.

In contrast, while playing Mario Kart with CW, my 7 year old gaming buddy, the first day I introduced the game to him, it was clear that he was getting something entirely different from the experience. At one point he commented, "Oh, now I get it. If you do this and then this, that will happen. Hey that's really cool." He loved the challenge of figuring out all the little nuances of the game play. For him it's more than just a puzzle. He's very competitive, too, but I think his emotional satisfaction lies somewhere in the thrill of the unexpected. I don't like the unexpected. When something unexpected happens, I'm thinking that's not fair and I go straight to check the rule book.

Back in the day when my kids were young I enjoyed playing Oregon Trail with them, but I recall that I wasn't very good at it, probably since I couldn't manage all the unpredictable variables. It wasn't really a "neat and tidy" game. I guess I should dabble in some other genre of games to investigate further the emotional possibilities of the video gamer in me.

Mar 5, 2008

What's with the girl thing.

Okay, I played CW again. Another WFC connection. He was beating me bad. My phone rang and I lost my connection with CW. I guess that's a glitch in the technology, a little "airwave" issue. I tried to get back on. I tried for several minutes to no avail. By the time I got on the phone to tell CW that I was having connectivity issues he was already in the "Bubbles." (taking his bath) His Mom said that CW announced that I quit because I was losing and so he was going to get ready for bed. Another date is set for tomorrow. I'm feeling a little video game "challenged" about now. And I must admit I'm wondering about the strangeness of this social interaction. The DS has a built in microphone which is only operative on some games. I wish it was operative for all the games. When I'm playing with CW it feels really strange not to be able to interact verbally with him. I think it would add to the experience.

Anyway, I decided that I was really going to practice tonight instead and get ready for the match with CW tomorrow. I concentrated on the "physics" of driving and really tried to hug the corners on the race tracks, go in straight lines from one corner to the next when possible. I find it really difficult to use the two screens on the DS although they provide really good support. This game has great feedback in numerous formats. I find this feedback very motivational. It's great to see yourself on top of the ranking and scoring lists. I especially like it when I win a trophy. (Truly) And I am annoyed when I get a "B" ranking. The notion of "other" and the personification of the DS as my competitor is interesting and troubling at the same time. Remember, I am really a first time gamer here (other than tetris-really) so this all news to me.

I am also surprising myself with my connection to Super Princess Peach. (Silly, but true) She is my preferred driver. I think I score better when Super Princess Peach is in the driver's seat. I'm going to think some more about this emotional connection and the relationship to motivation and ultimately performance. Hopefully this coming week's readings which focus on gender and gaming will shed some light and understanding.

Mar 3, 2008

Monday March 3, 2008

CW and I had a WFC (Wi-Fi Connection) Match tonight. CW was very excited since last night's session didn't pan out because of connectivity issues. All that's squared away now so we're on our way to some real competition. Tonight we played 3 rounds of the Grand Prix. My record is already quite dismal. 3 wins and 6 losses. Each round includes 4 races on the courses of your choosing. We each get to make choices for the courses we'd like to play, but you have to be quick to choose, since the first to input a choice wins the draw. For some reason, I did not perform quite as well in competition as I do in Time Trials on my own. Hmmm...

At one point in the competition, my son came running upstairs to tell me that CW's older brother had just IM'ed him with a message. Apparently, at his house CW was laughing his head off, exclaiming and inviting everyone in the house to come and watch him beat Mrs. Cleary "bad" in Mario Kart. I really was trying my hardest, keeping in mind all the "physics" of the game. Alas, it didn't seem to make a difference. We have another date set for Wednesday evening of this week. In the meantime, I will practice every chance I get.

Mar 2, 2008

March 2, 2008: Setting up a DS Friend

Today I invited CW, a 7 year old boy, former kindergarten student of mine, to be my Mario Kart friend, complete with a bribe included (his very own Mario Kart DS game.) Naturally he obliged. CW came over to my house (his choice) to get us started. We played a series of Multiplayer games. Multiplayer games allow you to connect to several friends in the same location. The photo above shows some college students exercising the same feature. It's really quite cool and you can include up to eight friends at a time. A Mario Kart Party! Very nerdy, but fun. Of course, I let him win. My plan was to "bait and switch." Later in the evening we tried to connect from our respective homes. The telephone was our communication backup. I encountered some difficulty making a connection to the WiFi system. This experience offered much frustration, in the form of "Is it working yet? Can you see me?" At one point CW offered "Let me walk you through the process. Listen to me." This was clearly a boy that was technologically savvy, and understood the sometimes exasperating experiences that stem from computer technology confusion. After a fruitless half hour CW declared that this "was not going to work and we should just hang up and try tomorrow." After all, it was his bedtime. We hung up. Subsequently, I dialed the 1-800 number provided on the very helpful Nintendo DS website and managed to clear up the issue, (WEP instead of WFP.) I was able to reset my wireless network and we were good to go for Monday.

Feb 22, 2008

Week of February 16th - 22nd

I've spent the week being the ultimate consumer of video games. I got gussied up in Mario and Princess Peach accessories. Inspired by the plethora of customizable options, I chose to purchase a pink game purse, Super Princess Peach game system appliques, matching headphones, and I installed a Princess Peach wallpaper on my computer laptop. I am good to go.

In the meantime I have been branching out into the Grand Prix course options, competing in games with the likes of Luigi and Bowser. I'm still trying to figure out the effects of choosing the different options in the categories of kart, engine type, and character. It seems that I get better lap times with smaller cars and smaller characters.

Feb 16, 2008

February 9th - 16th: The Decision

Based on the survey results of 7 and 8 year olds at a local elementary school, I've decided on a game and a system: Mario Kart and Nintendo DS Lite.

Mario Kart was a very popular December video game seller, and DS was one of the most popular systems sold in the year 2007. The survey I conducted of 7 and 8 year olds at a local elementary school revealed that most children had played Mario Games and that most children owned the Nintendo DS system.

The DS system comes in a variety of colors including pink, black, blue and white. I wanted pink. After visiting a few local stores, to no avail, I decided to "let my fingers do the walking." I enquired by phone at several stores and was unable to locate a pink DS Lite, so I settled on a black one. Mario Kart was available at every store where I tried to purchase the pink DS game system.

I am on a personal quest to try to figure out how to play Mario Kart without reading the manuel.

Immediately, I got into the Time Trial mode, trying to out best my time on various tracks, for hours (literally) on end. It was kind of like a "tetris trance". Scary.

Real Life Mario Kart

Feb 4, 2008

How my interest in video games as learning tools began.

This was a very popular video game in the kindergarten. The children were so captivated by this game I decided to develop an academic curriculum unit based on this game. The unit culminated with a multimedia dramatic production performed for family and friends. Here you see a photo capturing the beginning of the production. The pink and white frame in the center of the second photo is our replica of the classroom's strawberry iMac computer. The children entered the stage by walking through the computer as though they were becoming the characters (avatars) in the video game. You also see poor Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. Click here to hear Humpty's song. And yes, as you can see in my profile photo, I was Mother Goose.

Most Frequently Mentioned Video Game

On Thursday 2/06/08 I conducted a survey asking 39 first and second grade boys and girls which video games they liked to play. Eighty-Five percent (85%) mentioned this game. Click on the PLAY link below to play a version of this very popular game.