GameAccessibility site launches

The AbleGamers Foundation, a West Virginia charity dedicated to information and lobbying related to disabled gamers, has launched a new site called GameAccessibility. It’s a portal for developers and researchers to share thoughts about making all games more accessible, with news updates, and is well worth a look or even signing up to get involved.

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The Winter House: an interactive short story

As part of their Story campaign, Booktrust have commissioned The Winter House by Naomi Alderman. It’s a spooky interactive short story set at the turn of the last century, and it includes game mechanics in order to progress the story. The text elements fade and bounce, mirroring the actions described, and hyperlinks and point-and-click hotspots move readers to the next scene. Definitely worth a look, and full of jumping-off points for learning opportunities.

Handheld species identification with WildKey

Wild

WildKnowlege produce a range of software tools allowing learners to create and share images, forms and databases on mobile devices such as PC, iPhone and Nintendo DS. The suite of tools include WildKey, an ambitious branching database tool that provides pupils with simple prompts allowing them to categorise flora and fauna ‘in the field’. The suite also contains WildForm and WildImage as well as WildMap, which allows pupils to create their own trails – and all of the user-created content can be shared with other learners.

WildKnowledge began as a collaborative project between Oxford Brookes University and software company Adit Limited. It appears that WildKnowledge have considered some of the extended applications of their software – their brochure makes brief mention of the possibility of user-created treasure hunts and GPS-enabled role-playing games. Perhaps some teachers may soon introduce educational geocaching hunts into the school day?

Via Flux.

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CANVAS: a virtual world for pupil artwork

canvasLearning and Teaching Scotland’s educational games initiative Consolarium has announced CANVAS, a virtual world allowing local authorities to display pupils’ art. Based on the OpenSim application and created by Aberdeen-based company Second Places, CANVAS (Children’s Art at the National Virtual Arena of Scotland) has the appearance of Second Life while being hosted on LTS servers, so affording them far stricter controls than standard Second Life islands. Each local authority in Scotland will have the opportunity to curate one of 32 separate galleries held on the server.

While I understand the use of OpenSim as suitable for adapting virtual worlds to specific uses, I’m still unsure whether pupils (and indeed, local authority staff) will adapt well to the less than user-friendly camera system within Second Life-style virtual worlds. Is a fully 3D virtual world perhaps unnecessary for the purpose of displaying 2D artworks? I can imagine an application more in common visually with the 2D Club Penguin that would allow users to view artworks without the extra complication of navigating a 3D space.

Silent Conversation – text platformer

weirGregory Weir of Ludus Novus has released a game called Silent Conversation on Armor Games. The game involves guiding a letter ‘I’ avatar to move over the words in extracts from poetry and prose, including William Carlos Williams and H P Lovecraft. The typography (Silent Conversation is as much a lovingly typeset treatment of fiction as it is a videogame) is is often arranged in Mario-esque platforms and the challenge is to hit as many words as possible whilst avoiding words highlighted in red.

In his own words:

This game grew out of an idea that I had in childhood. I was a voracious reader, and occasionally, late at night, I would see the structure of the words on the page as something physical: the end of a paragraph was a fissure in a cliff edge, and each indentation was a handhold. I could visualize a little person running along the lines, exploring every crevice of the story. This is an attempt to realize that concept.

In terms of scoring and the function of the game, there’s no explicit need to read the extracts, but progress through the levels inevitably means that the player reads and absorbs the text. Could this game-led approach be used to encourage unenthusiastic readers, or could elements that require the player to read the text be added to a similar text-platforming game?

Kodu game creator on Xbox Live

Microsoft Research’s Kodu on Xbox 360 allows users to create their own games using a visual programming interface. Through a series of ‘if…then’ commands it’s possible to create complex interactions such as ‘if player presses R trigger then unicycle jumps and changes to random colour’.

While the resultant games are likely to be small in scale, the developers rightly claim that the fun is as much in the creation as in the finished product. Many LittleBigPlanet uers found that the level designer mode derailed ideas with fiddly placement of onscreen elements, whereas Kodu’s emphasis on logical AI behavior may mean that developing interactions and behaviours becomes a satisfying puzzle in itself. Perhaps most importantly, Kodu seems a great way to introduce young people to the basics of computer programming and abstract logical thinking.

Kodu is available now on the Xbox Live Community Games channel for just 400 Microsoft Points (£3.40).

Nintendo DS Classroom unveiled for Japan

2132382504_viewToday Nintendo and Sharp System Products unveiled DS Classroom, allowing DS consoles to be linked to a central computer and used with specialised educational software.

Known as “Nintendo DS Kyoushitsu” in its native Japanese, the new system pairs up the DS with a PC. Teachers make use of software on the PC to interact via Wi-Fi with students through their individual DS, DS Lite or DSi units that have been equipped with a Nintendo DS Classroom cartridge. The system allows a single PC to interact with up to 50 DS units. Everything is handled locally, so no internet connection is required.

Examples of classroom uses are multiple choice tests and quizzes requiring free response questions to be answered using the DS stylus, with student responses reflected in real time on the teacher’s PC.

The system will be available in Japan from February 2010.