Those who know me, who have played games with me anyway, can tell you I don’t like to be restricted by a small board. For example, I dislike chess because I find the board too small and crowded. I think I may have found the game that really suits my personality, Ingress.
Ingress is an augmented reality game (really an overlay of Google maps created by Google’s Niantic Labs) that uses the real world as it’s game board and an Android smart phone as it’s interface. Nominally the point of the game is to link portals that appear at notable locations to create fields that either control (for the Enlightened/Green/ Frogs team) or protect (for the Resistance/Blue/Smurfs team) the population using/from the influence of XM, or exotic matter. Control of territory by way of insurgent warfare sounds very strategic, and it is, but the true heart of the game is logistic. To me this is the future of gaming.
Maybe I’ll find time to post about some of my Ingress adventures, if I stop playing long enough.
Can gaming change the world?
I personally see no reason why it can’t. This TED talk by Jane McGonigal is a vision of using the principles of gaming, specifically online gaming, to harness the abilities and efforts of large numbers of people to solve real-world problems. Essentially, it is crowd-sourcing using the systems designed for online gaming to provide the risk / reward payoff for participants.
I love the reference to Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals that occurs around the 11:00 mark. Many theorists have attributed the essence of 5GW to actions by Super-Empowered Angry Men (though I would find it much more likely they would be the puppet instead of the puppet-master), but it intrigues me to consider that the creation of Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals to achieve the goals of a 5GW campaign as proxies attempting to build rather than destroy.
To me, that would be an epic win.
I am interested to see how the Evoke project turns out.
Transformice may well be the greatest time-waster of all wasted-time. In this flash-game you, and a swarm of other mice, relentlessly search for (what else) cheese and attempt to bring it back to your cozy mouse hole. The bad news is that cheese is usually in some sort of hard to reach position, defended by a diabolical trap or exists in an environment where the laws of physics loosely apply. The good news is that, quite often, one or two of your fellow mice are imbued with magical shamanistic powers that allow them to materialize boards, trampolines, balloons, and tiny anvils, combining them into cheese-reaching contraptions.
Stranded mice often fall into the bottomless depths with cries of “Spartaaaa!!”
Yeah, the game is like that.
The beauty of the game is that each board only lasts a couple of minutes, usually involving mouse-chaos. Some boards are easy, some complicated, and being the shaman is a whole other game in itself that takes a lot of practice to really excel at. Some mice are so good they climb walls like ninja. Some shamen(?) deserve engineering degrees. The best part is that the development team is constantly adding new boards and new items to create.
Bow down to the anvil god!
One of the ways that I use social media is to share with friends and fellow travelers what books I have been reading and what I think of them, what they have caused me to think about, how they are shaping by world view. Lately however, probably because of Facebook’s ever evolving privacy functionality (or dis-functionality depending on the moment) the application I normally use to do that hasn’t been automatically creating neat, bite-sized, snippets that automatically publish to my wall and resists any attempt to convince it to do so. Actually, its resistance is approaching that of a five-year-old presented with green vegetables. So, I guess all that is left to do is leave those snippets here and hope they are of interest to a wider audience.
by Tom Bissell
To start off with, I am not a Gamer. I don’t own a game console. The last video games I played were on my PC and usually fell into one of two categories, combat flight simulators or Real-Time-Strategy games depicting Civil War battlefields and the guiding of Civilizations from the founding of their first city to their colonization of the stars. I also played some of the early text-based ancestors of RPGs like World of Warcraft. Even though I no longer play those games I still have a great interest in games and Gamer culture in general.
Extra Lives is in many ways a search for the redeeming value of the time and effort Tom Bissell has put into his own personal addiction to the games and the worlds they have created. He, at times, seeks to find their relevance as art, comparing them to novels, films or visual art. He explores how the stories they contain try to engage the player in order to make the experience of playing a visceral one. He delves deep into his own personal addictions to come to grips with how games have the ability to absorb so much of his, and other player’s lives. He relates to the characters of games by proxy and recognizes the “Extra Lives” that he has lived through them in the literal sense and how they have allowed him to escape from his own reality.
Throughout, he talks to the people who make the games in order to find out what makes games work, what shortcomings they seek to overcome as narrative and as entertainment, and how games have become such a force that defines many aspects of whole generations. This window into the personalities that create these worlds is interesting and informative and full of insight. I enjoyed the book, though the last chapter was my least favorite as it was the least objective and chronicled a particularly dark time in the author’s life. Extra Lives is an interesting peek behind the scenes of an industry that interests me for its pervasiveness and latent potential for the future.