Friday, January 4, 2019

New book on GeoGames and GeoPlay

Long time no posts, but my sabbatical in 2017 allowed for finalizing our new book GeoGames and GeoPlay. Hope it will be a good read for everyone. Do let me know if you would like re-prints of specific chapters.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A GeoGame success story

Back in 2012 I asked where the great location based games were., and I could only the speculate about how such a game would change things. Then last year when I first heard about the coming of Pokemon Go, I told friends that this would be a smash hit. Not just because of the popularity of the game, but because the nice fit of the game mechanics with geolocation, mobility and motion-detection, now supported by most cellphones. Now, despite a launch riddled by unresponsive/overloaded game servers, it is clear to me that this will help the general public realize what GeoGames can offer in terms of entertainment, and maybe also as a way of discovering and learning about the real world. Remember, Pokemon Go hails from Ingress and uses much of the same data such as portal locations. Seeing that my own neighborhood gyms was right at the Ingress portals peaked my interest for how those portal locations were determined (never really played Ingress), so I found this great information on the Ingress support pages. So don't be surprised if you find yourself training your Pokemons at cool/popular local spots with educational/historical value! Behold the power of GeoGames as educational.
We now learn from this WSJ article that a pizza place in NYC saw a big uptick in business after providing some in-game power-ups at their location, which apparently attracted a lot of players to their restaurant. Clearly this business opportunity will not be squandered by Niantic, who will soon be introducing sponsored locations rather than just those generated from the old Ingress map. This is yet another example of how current day mapping is as much about real world representation as it is about buying a place on the map.
As for the game mechanics, I must say that I was a bit disappointed that I was not supposed to use my phone's motion detection ability to gesture an actual throw to capture a Pokemon. I was also hoping for more P2P interactions beyond the portals and other hubs. It would be cool to be notified of another trainer I your vicinity ready to fight, pull up your phone and see their avatar overlaid on their actual persona, and engage in a exchange. Oh well, maybe that's for v.2. For now, big thanks to Niantic/Google and Nintendo for bringing GeoGames to the public!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Designing games of science - a meandering and complex path

A short yet insightful look into the complex task of designing good science learning games is provided by Elizabeth Pennisi in this recent working life piece for Science . She describes her own meandering path of to become a scientist and game designer, driven by an urge to help students learn biology. I can relate to the difficulties she describes of having to navigate a very interdisciplinary environment where you need at least four radically different lines of expertise in subject matter, game design, technology, and learning science.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 Feature – Epic Win: Using GIS and Gaming to Save the World

I feel a certain sense of accomplishment today. I read through this piece about GIS and gaming by Troy Lambert that caught my eye as interesting, only to find the work of our GeoGames group featured in the middle! Very cool. I am happy to see the potential of GIS as a gaming platform featured, especially as I reflect on how we might be able to mitigate the "...mass exodus to virtual worlds" by infusing GeoGames and GeoPlay with a deeper sense of mission, community and reinforcing feedback.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thanks for this pointer by National Geographic Education Blogger Sarah Zeglin. Another production from Filament Games that looks really nice. What I find particularly helpful about their games catalog is that they provide educators with more specific learning goals/standards that are supposedly targeted by each game, and a detailed curriculum that can be used together with the game.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Alliance megagame - a huge board in-person GeoGame

Here's a great example of a map-based, almost realistic, geopolitics/economy multiplayer game. It is interesting to think of how this game could be implemented online. Clearly the video illustrates the animated interactions that can happen when you gather 60+ players in the same room around one big game for a 4-hr play session. Can those interactions be as rich and nuanced when you can only hear a voice or see persons through video? Probably not, looking at the body language in some of those scenes. How much does that contribute to player engagement? Not clear, and certainly an interesting thing to look into.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Importance of Spatial and Visual Thinking

Kirk Goldsberry, professor of Geography at Michigan State University, makes a nice argument in this Harvard Business Review online post about the importance of spatial and visual literacy. I think each day about how well (or not) we manage to prepare all students (not just geography and associated areas) for critical consumption and use of spatial information. Unfortunately, most of the time, I come to say 'not very well'. Taking my own University's general education curriculum as an example, there are requirements in place to foster literacy in the written word, in science, in foreign language, in the arts and humanities, but very little if anything around spatial and visual literacy. Yet, pretty much any subject matter is spatially situated and modern culture is saturated by visual media. One of the comments on Kirk's posting came from Jack Dangermond, president of Esri, who added an observation that spatial thinking has found its way into the public mind through other avenues than academics. Clearly, every-day technology brings the power of maps and spatial data to more people than ever, and I hope all geographers celebrate that. I also side with Kirk that P-16 education need to recognize spatial and visual literacy as a main foundation for a well rounded individual. Reading, math, science, and art skills are great. Understanding their visual expression in space and time makes them even greater.