Last Friday (4/1/2016) was the second annual Game Symposium hosted by the Local Games Lab ABQ student group at the University of New Mexico. It was tons of fun and somewhat amazing. It’s essentially a mini GLS conference put on by local students. There were students, faculty, and local devs speaking and in the audience.
It is hard to get people’s time and attention at UNM and in Albuquerque. This is true for student clubs, political parties, and everything else. The fact that this club is going strong after two years, has hosted many events, and has once again put on this symposium is a testament to the hard work and leadership of Gianna, Zack, Diane, and Joey. Logistically, the event was great too. Simple and competent.
As an audience member, what strikes me the most is that many of the issues concerning games and their uses that have come up for me as an academic are important to people coming from other perspectives, and that we seem to be able to understand each others’ struggles. Also, the sense of optimism that there are a lot of nascent opportunities with games, opportunities that the big players are mostly blind to but that will be explored through the expanding democratization of game making. It was clear that everyone in the room was speaking and listening from a core positive experience: games had enriched their lives and given them meaning, connecting them to the worlds they live in and people they meet. There was a sense of shared purpose, that continued dedication to this craft would take the benefits from early chance encounters and find ways to expand and further realize and share them.
Below are a few additional notes from the event. If you’re thinking about making games, or trying to dig further into just what we can benefit from considering the learning that happens in playing and making games, the concrete experiences below might be a nice counterpoint to more academic treatments, and offer some clues about how these big ideas are woven into and emerge from people’s lived experiences with games. I haven’t gotten the official schedule yet, so forgive the missing names. I wrote down those I could catch. Continue reading
Terri Nelson, a professor at California State at San Bernardino and long time ARIS user gave a close look at her ARIS game, Paris Occupy for a COERLL (Center for Open Resources for Educational Language Learning) webinar.
I saw her talk about her game at CALICO last May. I and every one else was on the edge of their seat for the whole hour. It’s a rare and special treat to hear someone talk in depth about their design from both the game maker and pedagogical points of view. You can learn a lot about the potentials of AR games, language learning, and also the triangulation of needs that can happen through the design of game-based learning environments.
It’s great talk and I’m really glad they recorded it and put it out there for us. It’s also a pretty deep game. She is one of very few people who have used the weight feature for example.
ARIS is most often used to author content for players to experience. But it also holds functionality for you to send players out to experience the world and share what they find with each other and you. This can be data collection, photo mapping, etc. The Notebook allows players to record geolocated media (video, audio, photo, text) and together to build a collaborative record of their explorations. This functionality has broad potential and combining data collection features with the other affordances of ARIS (making games, telling stories, etc.) is a truly unique thing. Being able to richly establish a context for those who you are sending out to do the collecting is a fantastic opportunity.
Buuuuut, if you’ve actually used the ARIS Notebook, if you really had people go out there and collect some pictures, etc. then you know that clutter is a problem, especially when there is a good deal of non-Notebook content you need players to see. After a bit, the map just looks like a mess.
In ChronoOps, by the 503 Design Collective, notes left by players obscure the map and authored content.
Clutter exists because every note is marked on the game map for all players. This can be useful for viewing notes later, but it can really get in the way too. ARIS will continue to evolve, so this clutter may eventually be less of a problem. But there are some things that you can do right now as an author to clean things up for your players. Continue reading
If you haven’t made a new game in ARIS in a while, you’ll be happy to know that the long nightmare is finally over: you can now set a default location for your game’s locations!
That’s right! No more moving every single trigger from Madison, WI to your location. Depending on what you allow your browser to know about you too, ARIS will default the above “create game” screen to show your current location, making it even more convenient in most cases.
When you set this location, and make new (location) triggers in the editor, they will start out at this default location. It should save countless frustration.
This feature has been in the beta editor for some time, but today I noticed it in the vanilla editor.
Giving an item to the world and to the player in ARIS
World items are items possessed by the game world, not a player. They can be used to define the state of the game world and have it respond to players. This makes ARIS far more capable as a multiplayer engine.
This post is an intro to world items: how they might be useful, how to use them, and the ARISjs you need along the way to get the most out of them. We will do this by looking at the design of a concrete example, The Button, an experimental game Jim Mathews put together for the recent ARIS Global Game Jam.
Strap in, let’s go for a ride!
Screenshot from the article. Looks like ARIS, no?
Today, the NYT has a web article about a scientific mission to Greenland. This is very fancy web design, something only the most headlined of articles receives. About halfway through reading it, I thought, “What if this was an ARIS game?”
Many of the visual techniques and visual sources are a good match to what ARIS can do (overhead satellite maps, on-site videos and images) and the techniques try to pull the audience into the story by giving them some feeling of control (zooming the satellite shot into the basecamp as the viewer scrolls the page). The bulk of the article itself puts you inside the trials and tribulations faced by the team trying to conduct research in such a far-off, extreme place—again a good match to the strengths of ARIS and a bit different approach than communicating the underlying scientific ideas or the consequences of ice melt on this scale. There was even a portion of the article where the image of the ice from the top looked just about exactly the way it would if you had done it in ARIS, faded and transparent blue circles around points of interest.
So how about it? Would anyone take me up soon the challenge of producing a version of this story in the medium of ARIS?
I think such an undertaking, and other similar translation style activities, could teach the author a few things about how storytelling in this medium might work and how it can be similar to and different from the fancy web format. I also wonder:
- Is vicarious travel, tapping points on a map as opposed to more typical AR game design, worth undertaking? Is it compelling? Can it improve over handing someone Google maps as a set of points of interest and bring someone into the story?
- What are the possible effects of placing someone in the story as opposed to telling them about someone else’s?
- What choices do we make about what to tell and what to show? What do we hope someone gets out of being in the audience?
- If a few people do this, how different are the results? To what extent do either the software or our perceptions of it determine how we try to tell stories with it?
- What other game or game-like formats would be a good or different match for this task? e.g. how does ARIS compare to RPG Maker as a possible vehicle?
I’d be happy to hear from you if you try this design challenge or if this idea brings up any other questions.