Posts Tagged ‘Video game’


Apr 02

What role do video games play in the classroom?

The English Language Arts classroom has a tremendously broad and diverse scope. The curriculum covers writing, speaking, language, literature, and informational reading. That range of content gives you five enormous areas to cover. The source material you study can be taken from ancient Greece, modern popular culture, or anything in between. The means of teaching and assessing students’ progress can include exams, research projects, written essays, presentations, videos, and community projects.

With such diversity in the classroom, and the increasing inclusion of multi-media in schools, perhaps there is room for the use of video games, too. Here are some ideas on the role of video games in the classroom.

Entry points for teaching topics

Video games are good for getting students’ attention, and they can provide easy to understand illustrations of points that you want to teach. For instance, if you are teaching students about the use of tone in writing, you could contrast the tone of two different video games. You could show clips from popular games like Limbo and Little Big Planet 2 side by side, and students will easily see the difference in tone. From there, you could move on to more literary examples.

A ways to get students engaged

Often it is a struggle to get students interested and engaged in books in the classroom. On the other hand, a lot of students are passionate about their video games. This can give you a means to get them more interested in the classroom. Rather than making everyone present and discuss their favorite book, you could make it an option to use your favorite video game as a topic instead. They will be much more enthusiastic about the assignment, and will probably do a better job on it, too.

A source of inspiration

Good video games give players a magical world to enter and develop. Gamers can spend dozens or hundreds of hours exploring their digital world, developing their character’s skills and abilities, and taking exciting and dangerous actions along the way. This can be very inspiring for players, and you can bring some of this into the classroom. Even the most uninterested students may perk right up and get involved when the conversation shifts to relevant aspects of a game they love. Be prepared for some interesting and animated discussions. Your classroom may be livelier than ever before.

Digital learning tools

Schools are increasingly using multi-media learning tools, and video games can be just one more item in your toolbox. The field is still young, however, and you will need to do some experimentation in order to determine the most effective way to use these new tools to accomplish your teaching objectives. You could select a topic, like examining the narrative elements of a popular video game like Call of Duty. On the other hand, you could talk to your students for insights. The world of video games is constantly changing, so see what their favorites are. What do they play every day? What ideas do they have for using video games in the classroom? As you work through this the first few times, you will continue to develop your own ideas about how to make video games an important teaching tool.

We live in a world surrounded by social media. Gamers now have the possibility to share their experiences on Facebook, and that’s a great way of appealing to other people. Teachers should really foster that need to interact with others. Believe it or not, video games have that ability to take kids out of their comfort zone and compel them to do something fun and connect with their peers.


Jan 21

Five Fun and Addictive Online Games for Killing Time

Most people these days spend the majority of their time online on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter when they are not busy researching topics for schoolwork or doing business for their jobs. But when social media gets tired, people also love visiting the many websites that have fun, interactive games they can play to kill time and relax the mind.

Looking for a great way to get away from it all right at your desk and feel like a kid again? Then continue reading because below is a list of five of the most fun online games that you can enjoy when you simply wish to kill some time.

Candy Crush

Candy Crush made it big in 2013 as more and more people got turned onto it through Facebook, where they could compete against one another to see who could pass the most levels most quickly and where they could also help each other by sending along extra lives and moves. This puzzle game becomes increasingly challenging as you make your way from one level to the next, but unless you purchase more lives, you are given a limit of only five lives at a time to get through as many levels as you can. This is a good thing, though, as it will prevent you from wasting an entire day attempting to get through this game.

Bejeweled Blitz

Bejeweled Blitz is yet another hugely popular game that Facebook users have become addicted to. The goal is to match the jewels as quickly as possible within one minute’s time in order to score the highest points possible. Scores reset weekly and you can play against your Facebook friends to see who the best is.


Looking for an exciting first person shooter game that is intense and allows you to play with others right on the Internet? Begone, which is appropriate for those aged 13 and older because it is quite graphic, involves a shootout between teams and is fast-paced so you never get bored. Also, while you can play with others, you also have the option of playing on your own.


Looking for a great online game that is a combination of exciting slots and classic Bingo? Then Slingo is your best bet. This game has been around for many years, so those who have been playing it online for a long time will certainly remember it and will notice the upgrades that have been made to the interface since it was first released. This game is fun for people of all ages and will certainly help you pass the time.


Everyone loves a good game of Bingo, but it is even more fun when you can play it online. Some sites even allow you to gamble with play money or real money during every Bingo game that you play, upping the stakes and making the game that much more exciting. Check out these top 10 Bingo tips to stay on top of the many opportunities to take advantage of this simple yet surprisingly fun game online.


Jan 10

How 2013 was a pretty good year for video gaming women

Now that 2013 is finally over, it’s time to analyze a particular trend we’ve seen a lot in the last 12 months. Believe it or not, last year was pretty great for women in video games. They had leading roles and they managed to make their presence felt without looking too provocative. Don’t get this the wrong way; men are still ruling the industry, but to some extent it’s great that some developers paid more attention to a woman’s role as well in a video game.

Tom Raider was successful because it was led by a female

That’s right! Tom Raider might have had great mechanics, design, and visuals, but we have to admit that it attained success because it was operated by a female character-player. It was definitely a refreshing move and it brought an air of freshness to the whole gaming experience. Previous versions of the game were additionally based on a female character – namely Lara Croft – but this time the makers really managed to focus on other characteristics too, not just on the sexuality of the character-player.

Although the young Lara Croft we’re used to is definitely an appealing virtual female, her looks and general appearance haven’t overshadowed the most important aspects of the video game. She’s not getting any special treatments in the game and she’s not afraid to get stabbed or shot just to attain her goals.

Game developers have finally realized that female characters in video games can be sexy without looking too provocative. That’s exactly what the makers of Tom Raider did; they created a good-looking Lara Croft whose one tough character, but she doesn’t have to look too naked just to draw some attention.

“The Last of Us” “BioShock Infinite” and “Beyond”

We’ve grouped “The Last of Us” with “BioShock Infinite” because they use women the same way into the game. Some have catalogued these two as the best of 2013, and to some extent that’s true. Both Elizabeth and Ellie have a special connection to the male character as they’re successfully waiting to be rescued.

“BioShock Infinite” and “The Last of Us” are being led by male character-players and the way women are integrated into the gameplay converts them into assets and not liabilities males have to constantly keep safe. In BioShock, Elizabeth is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, so you don’t have to worry that her life is constantly in danger. As a matter of fact, at some point she will help you take down the bad guys.

In The Last of Us, you’ll be surprised to see how tough Ellie can be. She’s directly involved in the combat and she’s capable of taking down the bad guys by herself, without additional help. In spite of the fact that the women in these two games have to be rescued, they’re well-rounded characters able to fight back.

Beyond is a game you either hate or love. It is one of the most disruptive video games of the year that focuses its gameplay on a woman, played by real-life actress Ellen Page. Story-driven by an extremely intriguing plot, beyond centers on Jodie Holmes, and it’s up to you to decide if she lives or dies.

Some other notable games centered on the presence of female characters were Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Their role was not that notable, but at least they were present and they didn’t have a provocative purpose in the games, which was surprisingly interesting. At last game developers have started to use female characters for different purposes in video games, and from what we’ve seen so far 2013 was definitely a great year for women in the virtual environment.

Nov 09

Randomness and Video Game Design

Randomness in games is a recipe for disaster. There are some games like snakes and ladders in which everything is random. The roll of the dice is random, the placement of both the snakes an ladders are random and the winner is random. The game requires no skill and has a level playing field. This is one of the reasons it is a great family game, as a child of four playing for the first time has just as much chance of winning as their experience father, who has played many times. However, if you are creating a game for those over the age of six then randomness should be kept to a minimum.

In most cases, games need set rules and laws to govern play. These rules allow players to learn and get better at the game. If you think of tennis for example, the rules are set and anyone can play. However, only those willing to put the effort in truly excel. If randomness is introduced players would not seek to become professionals as they could never truly control the game. In some cases, such as XCOM the randomness is introduced at the very beginning in the placement of the enemy aliens. This randomness works well as it changes the game from memorizing where the aliens are, to a more strategic game where the act of playing requires skill.

Games like the original Mario and Sonic games required the user to play the levels and memorise the layout in order to achieve the best outcome. Whilst fun, it left little playability after the levels had been completed. More recently, games have introduced additional elements to extend playability such as three different star achievements which are achieved when certain criteria is met. This feature does extend the game but only by a factor of three.

One such random occurrence in modern games is the infamous winged blue shell in Mario Kart. The blue shell is a power up given to the last place player and pretty much instantly, takes out the player in first place. The game itself is fantastic and has spawned a slew of clones but one thing that does stop it from being a fully playable game is the blue shell. I know it is part of a range of balancing measures to keep the game fun for all players but it ultimately punishes good players and those who have attempted to master the game. When you see gamers play Mario Kart at a competitive level you will notice that a tactic has emerged where played actively try NOT to be in first place and that by sitting in the middle of the pack is the best strategy when competing.

I don’t think I have explained myself fully here but the moral of the story is that if you intend your game to last, and tempt players to really invest time and effort in your game, then keep randomness to the absolute minimum. It will just turn players off and pigeon hole your game with many others in the ‘good fun for five minutes’ bracket and lose players who will follow and promote your game. Obviously, some exceptions to the rule exist but trust me; my logic is sound.

Related articles Get ready to waste your life: ‘Super Mario Bros.’ is now playable on your Web browser Designer: Elements of Replayability Indie Showcase: FTL (Faster Than Light) Algorithms to play randomized game Get on board

Oct 30

Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design [Infographic]

The path to video game developer success is long and fraught with danger. It might be easy to have and idea but how do you take make that idea a reality. More than that, how do you make game design and development your life?

Developing video games requires knowledge of many different disciplines. Whilst you might be able to outsource certain aspects of the game build, such as game asset design and music composition, your first few games will require you to envisage, creatively direct, project manage and deliver all by yourself. Sadly, game creation is more than just having a game idea, coding the mechanics and then slapping on some lovely graphics… The modern day indie developer needs to manage the marketing and patiently test the final creation in order to secure some commercial success.

Outside of the game design and development process you may want to think about joining a game development team or established studio in order to gain valuable experience in the industry.

With SO many questions floating around, including those questions that you don’t know to ask yet, wouldn’t it be nice if some kind person or website put together a handy list of resources in an easy to read infographic that would act as an ultimate guide to lead you through the ferocious land of game development…

Thanks to the helpful people over at ‘Online Game Design Schools’ you now have such a document.

Behold, Click here to read The Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design



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Oct 28

Game Design Question: Are You Really Making a Game?

It dawned on me recently whilst researching game design that there is a fundamental question that you should ask yourself when starting a game:

Am I making a game or a narrative driven fantasy simulation?

Before video games were around, a game was an activity with a set of rules than could be enjoyed again and again. From Tic Tac Toe to soccer they all have a fixed set of rules and can be played anywhere with almost anything. By this I mean that both the examples can be played on a beach, for example, as Tic Tac Toe can be drawn in the sand with a stick and soccer can use a beach ball and use sweaters as goal posts.

Popular video games such as Tetris and Angry Birds adhere to this pattern. Moles could easily replace the birds and the setting changed to a garden. The rules and enjoyment of the games would still be the same. Game developers need to decide right at the beginning whether or not they are making a game and if so, what are the rules, how is it enjoyed and can it be replicated no matter what the graphics, story and rewards.

A narrative based fantasy simulation sees the player assume a role in a story and the player must walk the protagonist through a series of events and/or confrontations until the narrative is complete. Whilst fun, these games are pretty linear and often are disposed of when complete similar to books.

One question that is asked when designing games is:

How is the game won or beaten?

For a narrative driven games this is easy, as it concludes when the story is complete. However, with Tetris, the game is never truly beaten. Success is achieved by beating previous scores. Games like chess can be mastered but never really beaten.

So when your next devising your next video game ask yourself if it’s a game or simulation and if the answer is a game then focus on the rules, the gameplay and how a player wins. If the later is true, focus on story, experience emotion and characters. Trying to mix the two from an early point might just lead to a game that has mediocre effort in both areas.

Sep 27

Indie Games With Simple Graphic Styles

Making games is hard, finishing games is near impossible. Indie developers know that bringing a game to market is fraught with so many hurdles that include time, technology and cost. Graphics tend to tug at the latter as hiring an artist to produce ALL the graphics from menu GUI to animated sprites can be expensive. So for some developers and studios a good option is to adopt a ‘simple graphics’ stance where the art style is kept purposely simplistic in order to keep down costs whilst giving the game a unique feel. There are so many indie games that cover a myriad of art styles but I just wanted to pick a handful that took a ‘less is more’ approach to their game graphics.



Limbo is the first game by Playdead and uses stylized silhouettes and a great use of lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. The game, which is a puzzle based platform game is all done in black and white tones, using lighting effects and minimal use of ambient sounds reminiscent of  film noir. The nameless boy protagonist is in search of his missing sister and travels through the forest until he reaches a kind of ‘post-apocalyptic’ city. It’s very weird and the end is abrupt leaving you wondering if you actually won but the journey is a lot of fun.

Dawn of the Ronin

Though still in development, this game has teased us with videos and images for a while now. Like Limbo, this side scrolling slice-em-up uses shadows and lighting effects to create an unusual style of game forcing the player to focus on gameplay instead of graphics.


Created by Quantum Sheep this run and jump indie game is proud of its 1Bit graphic style and mixes the style of retro two color video games with the speed and achievements of a modern mobile game. This pick up and play game is a lot of fun is constantly being updated.


What started originally as a flash game, has now been ported to multiple formats uses a very simple color palette and pixel style to create a fun infinite runner following the exploits of a suited hero as he escapes an alien invasion.


That Game Company’s latest release is beautifully simple and follows a hooded figures journey to a light at the top of a mountain after ‘waking up’ in the middle of the desolate and baron desert. Being an online game it means that you can meet other players on their own journey to the mountain (only one at a time) and join forces on your mission.

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Sep 10

Celebrate International Video Games Day by Remembering the Industry’s Most Damaging Failures!

This September 12th, gaming blogs from around the world will be celebrating another excellent year of gaming, speculating what joys the coming year (and generation) may hold and reminiscing on some of the industry’s finest hours. Because of this over-saturation of good news, we have decided to provide a bit of balance on this otherwise cheerful day by reminding you all of some of the gaming industry’s most embarrassing failures.

We aren’t talking just bad games either here folks. We are talking full scale security failures. Failures which burden gamers of both the casual and hardcore variety with at best a mild inconvenience and at worst the risk of losing their hard earned cash or even harder earned identity to black hat hackers. From Sony’s enormous PSN data security scandal to Square Enix’s tiny one, here we explore what happened, why it happened and what impact it had on gamers.

Square Enix: Job Application Leaks

In 2011, a subsidiary of Square Enix called Eidos had the servers of its Dues Ex: Human Revolution website hacked. The culprit managed to extract 25,000 E-mail addresses which were likely sold onto e-mail spammers. This isn’t a particularly damaging leak by itself, as no password or financial information was leaked. The real damage was done to those who were looking for employment at the studio, 350 of whom had their CV stolen from the database. This is, obviously, much more serious as job hunters regularly include details of their home addresses, their current employer and other sensitive information as part of their CV which leaves them wide open to identity theft.

Sony Playstation: The “Working Within a Week” Fiasco

At some point between April 17th and April 19th the Sony Playstation Network suffered a security breach which would eventually unfold to be one of the largest data scandals of all time. The account details of over 77 million people were accessed and unceremoniously stolen form Sony’s servers. These details included email addresses, passwords, physical addresses and, most shockingly, credit card details.

The repercussions of this were costly for Sony, who had to take insurance policies out on behalf of all 77 million users and pay fines totalling almost 400,000 dollars. The online gaming service was also offline for 24 days, much more than their seven day estimate, incurring costs of $171 million.

Ubisoft: Multiple attacks

In July this year a Ubisoft website was hacked and user account information stolen from the servers. In an unfortunate bit of PR for Ubisoft, one of their most anticipated upcoming releases focuses on hacking as a major theme in both the plot and gameplay. The games title is Watchdogs, and on the development team there even sits a former executive from Kaspersky Lab making for some unfortunate juxtaposition that the media simply couldn’t resist. Combine this with another security breach attributed to Ubisoft’s U-Play software, which allowed cyber-criminals to install software directly into gamers computers. It paints a picture of Ubisoft as a company that are far more interested in making games about cyber-security than actually ensuring that their users are secure.

Riot Games: League of Legends Database Compromised.

Players of online e-sport League of Legends had an unwelcome surprise last month when usernames and passwords for the games entire North American player base were illegally extracted from Riot servers. Riot are also currently investigating the possibility that 120,000 transaction records could have been lifted from their database as well, potentially containing hashed credit card data. This overshadows the recent good news the company passed on to its fans when the US visa bureau granted the games top level players professional athlete visas, officially recognising the game as a professional sport.

Bethesda Game Studios: Hackers Added Insult to Injury

Bethesda studios, creators of series like Fallout and Skyrim, suffered an embarrassing data breach after their site and forum users information was compromised by hacking group ‘LulzSec’. Once Bethesda announced the leak, Lulzsec responded by issuing a statement of their own saying: “Bethesda, we broke into your site over two months ago. We’ve had all of your Brink (another Bethesda game) users for weeks. Please fix your junk, thanks!” The hacking group also demanded that they feature their signature top hat logo in one of their upcoming games, threatening that if they did not comply then they would leak their user database. The whole affair was pretty humiliating for a developer held in such high esteem by the gaming community. Lulzsec have since disbanded.

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Aug 20

How to improve user experience when designing a game

After you have been working on a game for so long it is common to develop “blindness” to certain aspects. A good tip is to get a post it note and write that user experience is not only about how intuitive features in the user interface are, it is about the ENTIRE gaming experience as a whole (including game balancing, the retention and viral mechanics, even the graphics and ensuring that it goes with the theme of the overall game). Here are a few top tips from working in gaming:

1. Let non gamers play it

Ask non-gaming/non-techy friends to have a play of the game and watch them play it. Write down anything that was too difficult or confused them. Try to avoid helping them straight away when they get stuck, but try to include a few cheats for you to input to get your player further in the game depending on how much of your game you want them to test.

2. Get them to explain what they are doing

Ask your test players every so often why they are doing whatever it is that they are doing. The answers may surprise you. “Well I don’t want to enter that dungeon yet so I am just going to chop down bunch of trees first.” or “Completing that level is too much effort (probably a game balancing issue), so I’m just going to explore for a while” or “I do not know what to do so I’m not even going to bother paying attention to it or interacting with it.”

3. Balance the goals

User experience design in video games isn’t just about captivating your players (but it’s a big part of it), it’s also about balancing the goals. The UI is where users invite their friends, spend money, and it’s through the UI that you can get people to come back – the user interface is perhaps one of the most important, if not THE most important way to meet/exceed your product goals. You want to create a enjoyable and fun gaming experience while also retaining players, increasing virality, and monetizing (if that is your thing). This is more ‘Product Management’, but every UX designer should understand some principles of product management (and every product manager should understand some principles of user experience design). Sometimes, to meet product goals, you have to compromise with delighting users. Your players will tell you one thing but do the complete opposite. Example: during testing, we had users complain that they hated how they had to spend 3 energies to chop down one tree. Their feedback to us was to get rid of it. If we got rid of it, it would severely disadvantage our balancing of the game. But guess what? Looking at their behavior, they still did it to advance in the game. You’ll only be able to measure this in an unreleased game if you do a couple of user tests. There are a few ways to do this, here are two:

For bigger teams, get a good group of users (around 50 or so) to test your game while you’re developing it. Be sure to prepare surveys/questionaires to send them. If these are all power users, well, I’d take the results with a grain of salt, but you’ll have a good starting point in that the mechanics and features at least work for them. Try using a service like to test your game in front of completely new people that haven’t been exposed to any of your previous games. 4. Test features on existing games

Use existing games that are maturing as a testing ground. If you’re introducing a new mechanic/feature/balancing, scrap something quick together and release it in an existing game you have that’s maturing in its userbase. This is powerful in that you have real users interacting with the feature or mechanic or the game balance, and you can measure quantitatively rather than qualitatively. That being said, you should also keep confounding factors in mind (theme of the game could be totally different, and therefor it works…etc etc).

5. Check out the Competition

See what the competition is doing – you might find that every so often, much larger games companies have a larger budget to test things against their users, so if it’s working for them, chances are, it’s something that works. You can use that as a starting point.

6. Don’t reinvent the wheel

There is no point reinventing the wheel or get overly creative. If there’s a common convention for a certain feature or mechanic, stick with it. Chances are, it’s something your players are already used to and it’s something they understand, so seeing something completely different can confuse them or throw them off. For example: in social games, players are used to their neighbour/friends hud on the bottom and Quests on the side. This is a fairly common convention, and if you decided to have the quests on the bottom, and friends on the side, it could cause confusion and frustration.

And remember

Making something simple is often harder than creating something complex. Don’t bury anything beyond two clicks – if you do, it’s probably something your users won’t take the time to find, or it’s something that’s not significant. And if it’s not significant, why have it in the first place? It’s just taking up server/bandwidth space.


Jun 20

6 Video Games My Kids Are Addicted Too

My children love to play games. When I need them to sit still for a while (and stay out of trouble) or if we have exhausted playtime I often suggest they play games. Finding the perfect video games for children can be tough. There are some games that look OK for children but aren’t appropriate. You can’t always tell by the picture on the case whether or not the game is suitable for those under 10 years of age. Sometimes, kids under 10 aren’t going to want to play war games or understand what they mean!

We currently have a PlayStation and some of the more popular games in our house are:

Little Big Planet

This is a fantastic game because it allows our child to create their very own levels from scratch. They can create anything and make their own world so that they can truly enjoy playing the game and letting their creative ideas flow.

Lego Star Wars Complete Saga

Everyone knows Star Wars but this game really makes it look appealing to everyone. This incorporates all characters throughout the entire Star Wars franchise and allows children to come up with fun and challenging puzzles as well. It may have shooting but as this is balanced with slapstick which makes the kids laugh.

Formula One Championship Edition

I was surprised to see this on as often as it is. It is a great choice for children who love racing cars. Also, it is a game that can be played by all of the family so with the cooperative mode on, everyone we can play along.


The film, along with a slew of other Disney movies are very popular in our house. There are puzzles to solve as well as different levels and skills to play through. The skill level starts off low and works its way up to be quite a challenge towards the end.


This is a great family game that I loved as a girl so was eager to play it with my kids. This is great for children to learn about money at the same time as having a bit of fun with their friends and family alike. It can drag on after a while but great fun for family night.

Sonic Unleashed

Everyone loves Sonic, but I was a bit skeptical about this one, after all, Sonic turns into a ‘Were-Hedgehog’. Ultimately though, he is a great character and gamers can choose different players. Plus all the damage he does is to robots and not animals or people.

There are so many amazing games to play and even if your child has a little trouble understanding or using a game or even the play station console, there is plenty of PlayStation support on offer. Use it because it really will allow your child to enjoy their gaming experience. Remember, games can be fun and they can be educational also.

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