Mar 28, 2010


Here's a weird little short film by David Kaplan and Eric Zimmerman that is kind of a metaphysical exploration of the psychology of the Gamepocalypse. It's fun, anyway. It brings to mind VURT and Living Real. Can a game be so real that we forget we're playing it? It happens in dreams...

New RFID Tag Could Mean the End of Bar Codes

Shawn Patton pointed me to this WIRED article about new RFID tags that can be inexpensively printed right onto cereal boxes and potato chip bags. Of course, we could be playing more and better games with our grocery shopping right now, but this new tech should help grease the way to the coming Gamepocalypse.

Text 2.0

Don't believe it when I say that e-readers will soon have eyetrackers on them that will track every word you read? Watch this video.

Believe it now?

In some ways, it's creepy, but I keep thinking about all the cool reading games we'll make! Reading a book is already an intimate experience -- imagine how much closer the reader and the author will become when every book can also be a game!

Mar 27, 2010

Spark Radio Interview

Nora Young, the host of Spark, interviewed me for a show this past week. It's a 45 minute discussion about trends in gaming, and the implications of the Gamepocalypse. My favorite part is not on the recording -- when we were getting set up, there was some kind of mismatch in digital bit rates between the two recording studios, and Nora sounded like a giant monster. I begged them to do the whole interview that way, or let me be the giant monster, but instead we just had a nice chat. Spark is a super cool show!

Mar 23, 2010

Why is Every App a Game?

Great post from Alex Wilhelm on about Gravity and the "badgification of the Internet".

Mar 20, 2010


An oldie, but a goodie! Boktai was a series of games for the Nintendo GBA that featured an ultraviolet light sensor built into the cartridge. The theme of the game is that you are a vampire hunter, and you kill the vampires with your "solar gun" that you charge up with real sunlight. You don't have to be in the sun all the time that you play, because of the charging, but when you fight boss monsters, you better be outside, and it better be a nice day! I never played beyond the first game, but I was fascinated with how the game made me view the world differently. "Oh no! It's getting late! If I'm going to kill that vampire today, I better head outside now!" I actually woke up a few times thinking "It's a great day ... for boktai!" Anyway, I get a feeling this game was ahead of its time -- I suspect that sometime soon, other toys and games will revisit the idea of a sun sensor... but for what? Sometimes I fantasize about an MMO where each character class uses different sensors out in the world -- water wizards with some device they dip in lakes, puddles, and rivers, wind wizards who have a device that gets magic from the winds, sun wizards, moon wizards, animal wizards who get power from taking pictures of animals... it could be vast and fascinating. Anyway, thanks, Boktai, for scouting out yet another inroad to the Gamepocalypse!

Mar 19, 2010

Lee Sheldon gets Slashdotted!

Lee Sheldon's XP method of giving out grades I mentioned in my DICE talk got slashdotted today! Sorry, Lee, if you are getting unwanted attention. I think it is funny how people assume that the class has "no grades" because of the XP system -- when really, it is exactly the same system everyone else uses (each assignment is graded, the grades are combined), the only differences being that:

1) Averages are delayed. By delaying averaging, you delay achievement, which can be a good thing, because it gives you something to look forward to.

2) Your grade never goes down. People HATE losing progress. If you've been getting A's all semester, and then you get a D on your final project, you have the experience of going from an A average to a B average, and it feels like lost progress, certainly a decline. But, if you've been getting A's all semester, and all this has earned you is a "C-", then when you get a D on the final project, you are still making forward progress to a B. Same final grade, but you experience going from C- to B instead of going from A to B.

3) By explicitly calling it XP, it associates the experience with a game, which makes sense because the class is about multiplayer gaming. I suspect there is a novelty to this that lends it appeal, but of course, this would fade if it were widely implemented.

4) By making everything about cumulative points, it is actually easier to add in extra credit -- you just throw some more points on there. With an averaging system, you have to talk about adding percentage points, and it can be nebulous and confusing. A simple clear extra credit system makes it easier to give extra credit, and increases motivation to want to earn it, and therefore the teacher is more likely to seek and find novel opportunities to give it, and the students may try harder to earn it, since they know exactly what it means.

It seems strange to me that no one has done experiments of this kind before to see if an "additive" grading system as opposed to an "averaging" grading system provides more meaningful and motivating psychological rewards. Anyone know of research on this? I'd love to see it. I just got my copy of Punished by Rewards today -- maybe it has something.

Mar 16, 2010

Intel wants chips in your brain by 2020

This isn't real yet, but Intel hopes it will be. They hope that by 2020 to have computer chips installed in human brains. Then you can access Facebook from your actual face.

"Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant." Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!

I mean, I don't think it will work for at least thirty years because of risk of infection, not to mention there is not an OS in the world I'd want in my head. But, hey, sometimes technology can surprise you. I wonder if the pocket exception applies to chips in your head? Hmm, that lab is right up the street... Maybe Schell Games can do a launch title!

Mar 13, 2010


When I mentioned Lee Sheldon's experience point grade method in my 2010 DICE talk, I really thought of it as an unusual experiment. Then Joseph Lui sent me this link to uboost! It's a system that allows teachers to award points to students for good grades, or, well, pretty much anything. The points can be used to buy virtual goods for avatars or virtual pets, or for real world prizes and gift cards. Maybe this is a good way to enhance motivation in school? Or maybe, as some research suggests, this will actually backfire terribly, actually decreasing student motivation. Exactly when external rewards increases and decreases motivation is kind of mysterious -- because it is clear that depending on the circumstance, it can have either effect. I need to study the research more, to understand what the drivers are. Jesper's article doesn't make it clear to me. I've heard Chris Hecker talked about this some at GDC 2010, but I wasn't able to see the talk -- I'm hoping to catch a recording of it. Anyway, if you think you understand when extrinsic rewards help, and when they hurt, I'd love to hear about it!

Mar 8, 2010

NPR Interview

My NPR Interview with Steve Inskeep aired this morning!

Mar 7, 2010

Treasure World

Treasure World for the Nintendo DS is a really strange game. It works this way -- the DS can detect wi-fi signals, and each wi-fi signal has a unique id. In Treasure World, each wi-fi signal you find is a treasure! So, to "play" you just leave your DS on (you can keep it closed) and roam around the wi-fi rich world. Everyone asks, "Is that all you do?" and, yeah, pretty much. I mean, they work hard to put the treasures into types, so that you are forever trying to complete sets, and the treasures do minor cosmetic things, such as complete outfits for your "avatar", and even become musical notes for songs that you collect, but yeah, mostly this is a game about going for quantity. It is eye-opening to play it, though, because you start to see how many wi-fi signals exist in the world. On one 2 hour car trip, I found 300 treasures. And it changes your behavior a little -- I found myself driving to work on different paths each day for a while, trying to up my treasures. The sweetest pleasure was unexpected -- I was visiting a major corporation, and I had my DS on and in my pocket, and I felt like some kind of master thief, sneaking in and stealing their treasures. If the DS had unlimited battery, I'd probably do this more, but as it stands, it takes a bit of battery management to play this in any serious way. And I can't help but wish that there was more "in-world" challenge -- maybe the treasures could be monsters to fight, etc. Anyway, I get the feeling that more advanced, more interesting versions of this same concept will appear. I also think how strange it is that if I took this game backwards in time just fifteen years, how weird it is that it would be completely unplayable. I remember reading Bruce Sterling's Islands In the Net in the early nineties, where he describes pretty much the wi-fi system we have today, and thinking, "no way -- wireless internet everywhere? It's way too complicated and expensive -- that won't happen." Turns out I was totally wrong -- it's here, and now it's a game, too.

Mar 6, 2010

ThinkGeek Interactive T-Shirts

These might be old news to you -- but did you realize there were so many kinds? T-shirts that let you play the guitar, that detect wi-fi signals, that have microphones, and that can even sense other interactive T-shirts? Sure, it's just a geek novelty now, but for only $20-$30, soon this stuff will find its way into pop culture... how about a shirt that detects when you are near a facebook friend? Or one that lets people become facebook friends just by bumping shoulders? Or a shirt that connects to a pedometer to show how far you've walked today? Or a shirt with a camera that shows a picture of where you were 15 minutes ago? Or a shirt that tells how long since it's been washed? A shirt that lets your friends play pac man or tetris by touching you? A shirt that displays the top of your twitter feed? Or shows the status of your farmville farm? Or your virtual pets? Or your actual pets... remember your actual pets? Or a shirt that sounds an alarm when you spill something on it? Or a shirt that shows the level of your WoW character? Or...

Mar 5, 2010

The Sopranos A&E Connection

I hadn't heard of this one! It's a game that came out in 2008 where you make a sort of bingo card out of Sopranos characters, and when the episode airs, you get points every time a character appears on screen. I'm sure it won't be long before someone does the same for TV ads.

Mar 4, 2010

Augmented (Hyper)Reality

After seeing my DICE talk, Shane Langnes sent me this cool video.

I find it very thought provoking -- it implies we will have a future where we will have an option to save money by choosing to view ads. I often wonder about this structure. We kind of have it now -- Pay movie channels with no commercials and "free" ones with commercials. But we do not yet have two options with the same brand ... HBO with ads, and HBO without. It may be that there is something in us that does not like to make this choice... I cannot think of a single successful product where you have the choice of paying your way out of having to encounter ads. Can anyone else think of one? 

Mar 3, 2010

Tron Legacy Scavenger Hunt

Tron Legacy is being hyped with an elaborate scavenger hunt game. I wonder how elaborate these movie promotion games might get in the future?

Mar 2, 2010

Tropicana Juicy Rewards

Points for drinking orange juice! Every Tropicana orange juice cap now has a unique code in it. Enter the code on the web, and win points. According to my orange juice, every carton is worth up to $15 savings! Interestingly, the system seems to work like a a slot machine -- you don't know how many points you are going to get until you enter the code. Psychologically, I think it is interesting how this connects to the idea of fruit, and oranges, especially. You don't know how good an orange is going to be until you peel it, and sometimes oranges are very disappointing, but other times, they are unexpectedly juicy, sweet, and flavorful. I don't think this promotion would feel right with, say, milk.

The codes look like this:

I tried this out, and it has some interesting qualities -- first of all, they use their points currency to incent you to do other things, like this: 
To register, I had to give it a zip code, and then the survey asked me about personal preferences. And after I entered my first cap, it offered me a number of offers, but this one was at the top:

It would seem that the system picked something relevant to my zip code, and it also took into account my preference for "family fun." Pretty cool, really!

So -- is it worth the time and effort? Probably not -- but they work hard to make it kind of fun. You can even enter the codes easily from your phone. Here's more from an exec. One step closer to the gamepocalypse!

Mar 1, 2010

Withings Wifi Body Scale

This bathroom scale has integrated wi-fi, so it will automatically update an Internet database each time you weigh in. You can even make it update your twitter feed (I doubt many people would want that!)

So -- who will make a game from this?