contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘first-person shooter’

scoop on new parent site reviewing games kids play

Posted by contentgrrl on November 9, 2007

Yesterday, LA Times reporter Alex Pham asked (LinkedIn members click here for all answers), “As parents, do you ever wonder what exactly is in those video games your children are playing? How do you go about finding whether a game is appropriate for your child?”

I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t leave my kids completely alone to do whatever they wanted on their computers. Parents are responsible for their children’s welfare, offline and online.

There are cyberstalkers who may show up in online games sometimes known as massive multi-user games (MMUGs), which include online chat functions. Some of those deviants can persuade a child or teen to reveal information that could result in dangerous consequences.

Also, keep in mind that in addition to whatever the original game designers released, there are folks out there who offer skins, hacks, and cheats for download. I remember one first-person shooter where you could change the monsters into snacks like ice cream cones. I think I remember a story about another hack that allowed the San Andreas guy to see more skin than clothes on his “dates”.

Otherwise, I agree with most of these comments: Read others’ reviews, check the ESRB rating, and play it, or at least watch while your children do so. I rely heavily on Amazon.com’s reviews, as well as Gamespot.

Pham followed up with a few questions:

Q: Do you think that there are adequate resources out there for parents to make informed decisions about games their children play?
me: For all the games on the market, there are a multitude of resources. Perhaps not all in one place, which may make it difficult for parents. Opportunity may knock here.

Q: Do the ESRB descriptors tell you much of what you need to know as a parent?
me: I wouldn’t rely wholly on ESRB. ESRB is not likely to review anything outside of the game per se. But since cheats, hacks, and skins are not always tied to the game producer, it’s difficult to monitor them to standards. There is a lot that remains out of the control of the ESRB.

Q: Are traditional game reviews informative in that regard?
me: To an extent. Most reviewers follow a certain structure of software or game review, and most modern review sites offer community features such as user ratings and comments.

After that, it turned into a phone interview for an article on a site Pham said was called What They Play (I now have the link), to be launched Monday by (correction: former) executives of Ziff Davis.

I’m a long-time fan of ZDNet’s reviews for all sorts of software and technology products. They already have a site, 1up.com, that includes the latest game reviews, news, previews, codes, cheats, contests, guides, and q&as. But 1Up is mostly geared for the gamer.

Apparently, What They Play is for the parents. I’d say it’s also good for grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and other caregivers. Anyone who may be concerned about objectionable content and other details that would help them make decisions about whether to buy a particular game for a child. Anyone who wants more detail than what they find on the ESRB label on the retail box.

I’m hoping it will include information about the educational value of certain games. Sure, I’ll watch for objectionable content for my nephews aged 8 and 12, but more importantly, what will they learn? Will I find everything I need to make a decision in one place? Will games be filtered or categorized according to content appropriate for different age groups? Will that be more detailed than E for everyone, T for teen, and M for mature?

I’m also interested in more specific violence statistics or descriptors. On Buffyverse‘s episode synopsis, you could see how many humans, vampires, and demons were killed, as an indicator of just how violent Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel the Series was. I know that a game is not that static, but some kind of rating for each kind of violence would be helpful. Assume it’s more disturbing to see a human killed than a big Bad. Is bad behavior rewarded in various quests, as in Grand Theft Auto, Thief, and Oblivion? Or is heroism rewarded, as in Spider-Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Is it easy to find games that encourage reading, moral decision-making, applications of what you learn in school, creative problem-solving, environmental stewardship, and political activism?

I wonder, who else has heard of What They Play? I’m looking forward to the launch, and to the LA Times story on Monday.

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Posted in community, culture, games, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

best ways to help adults learn difficult concepts through interactive design

Posted by contentgrrl on November 8, 2007

I know this doesn’t sound much like the “adult” way to learn, but…Let them PLAY!

When I worked for Creative Education Institute, a good portion of the target audience for the reading and math software was adult literacy programs. They may not seem like difficult concepts, but tell that to someone who can’t read or figure. The programs are very interactive, designed for specific cognitive goals. In the math program, manipulatives (like learning toys) are used in tandem with animation to teach basic operations including addition and division of fractions.

When I taught DOS way back when, one of my most effective lessons was having the students role-play parts of the computer during startup. It was fun, and they actually remembered the sequence.

w3schools.com has tons of Try It examples, where you can play with different HTML, CSS, and other script source code and see the results.

When I was at the SBC (now at&t) Center for Learning, most of the network tech training consisted of lecture and lab. That’s a good thing, as long as the lab exercises are real-life tasks, and it’s fairly easy to restore the system if a student screws up.

Back in ’97 I was lucky to be involved in the design of a telecom technician training simulation, that turned out like a video game. The tech was first instructed with animation how to use metering equipment and a little bit of theory (with quizlike questions interspersed), and then was given a job assignment in a virtual world. Assuming their truck was well equipped, they had to perform all the troubleshooting techniques and procedures required to solve the problem.

But the simulation program had to run on special Silicon Graphics machines, which SBC (now at&t) had to have an instructor travel around with on a truck. And once the monitoring equipment was upgraded (a frequent occurrence), the simulation became outdated. It was expensive to maintain.

Nowadays the game engines are so advanced that it’s cheaper to develop and much cheaper to distribute and maintain. Granted, the last games I’ve actively played/watched were:

  • Planescape Torment — a great RPG exploration of factions holding philosophies such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on.
  • San Andreas — a stupendous playhouse of a first-person shooter/driver/dancer/whatever. My husband thinks that game companies should integrate all kinds of play, so you only have to have one world, but be able to play all kinds of games in it, including his favorites: golf, racing, and shooting.
  • Half-Life 2 — a groundbreaking sci-fi first-person shooter that gives the user control over so many unexpected items in the environment.

SecondLife looks interesting as a mechanism for developing such environments and training labs, where a gamer or trainee won’t hurt anything in the real world, and I’ll be watching to see what comes out of it.

Posted in games, learning, performance, project management, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »