Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All the world's a game

Big thanks to James Baginski who alerted me to a special report in The Economist before the holidays. It is called "All the world's a game" and is a collection of up-to-date observations about the game industry that most people would benefit from knowing. Debunking some myths, the article explains that the average gamer is not a nerdy, teenage boy. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the average age of the U.S. gamer is 37 years and 42% of gamers are female. If you didn't already know, games are big business these days. Last year's release of "Call of Duty: Black Ops" brought in $650,000,000 in the first five days. Compare to the last Harry Potter film who brought in mere $169,000,000 in its first 3 days. There are also some interesting tidbits about markets for virtual goods and how the Chinese government is looking into taxing the supposedly $1.5 billion-a-year virtual-goods market. And how about those gamers that go pro and can win tens of thousands of dollars in game tournaments, watched by millions of people over the web, and pulling in big name sponsors like Coca Cola and Intel? And then there's the ongoing debate about linking aggression to violent video games, or the risk of addiction, where there is still no credible evidence for such causation. It actually seems the correlation is the opposite if anything. Maybe you can take out your rage in the virtual world instead?

Clearly, these things matter, but more important in my opinion is the way games have shifted away from the traditional video game console or PC-based system to hand-held devices and into web applications. This is partly responsible for opening the games to a broader audience, when your phone or a web browser on a library computer can be your point of access. And it also provides opportunities for constant, real-time access, making games an integral part of our daily lives.

The Economist then beg to answer "What video-game technology can do in the real world". Military simulation games are increasingly using real-world satellite and other geographic data to create game worlds that mimic our own. Other examples provide compelling evidence that games can solve real world problems and needs in a variety of areas; medicine, genetics, city planning (think SimCity), and increasingly companies are trying to find ways to 'gamify' their products and services. Obviously, turning the world into a game is an interesting prospect with many potential benefits as well as dangers. Our own GeoGames project hope to do one contribution to the understanding of how we can learn things about our world, geography, through games. Hopefully it is possible to combine the human desire to play with some bit of learning too :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AGS Geographic Knowledge and Values Survey

The American Geographical Society (AGS) needs your help in a matter of vital importance.  We are conducting a nationwide survey of public attitudes toward geography and knowledge about geography.  This is our part in a major study funded by the National Science Foundation.  This “Roadmap” project is a joint effort of the National Geographic Society, the National Council for Geographic Education, the Association of American Geographers, and AGS.  The overall topic is geographic literacy, a matter of serious concern in America today.  We invite all U. S. citizens and long term residents of the United States to take the survey.  The only eligibility requirement is that you must be age 18 or older.  The results will help guide Federal and state policies regarding geographic education. 

You may access the survey online by clicking the following link:  AGS Geographic Knowledge and Values Survey  (If the link does not take you directly to the survey, please copy and paste this URL into your web browser: ).  Based on trial runs, we estimate the survey will take 12 to 18 minutes of your time. 

Please help us spread the word by forwarding this invitation by every possible means:  email, Internet, listserves, newspaper, radio, TV, social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), and personal appearances (clubs, local to national groups, public events, etc.).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The 13 percent technology

Despite its wide penetration and multi-billion dollar industry status GIS is still arguably only serving a small fraction of our needs. Mike Goodchild talks about this in terms of the 13 percent technology, meaning that GIS generally deal with outdoor spaces and the average American spends only 13 percent of their time outdoors. This leaves 87% of our time not really addressed by the geospatial technology. While this thesis depends on the scale at which you want 'coverage' (being inside my office still will pinpoint my location as 40°00'02N, 83°00'44W and enable many interesting geospatial services), it is interesting to think about the possibilities offered by full coverage inside houses, department stores, etc. Google now introduces "Take Google Maps Indoors" - the ability to navigate some of these indoor spaces on your Android phone. My favorite example is obviously the IKEA possibilities (have no idea what's with the Spanish musical theme!) but it also got me wondering if store owners really want their customers to be able to navigate the store labyrinths easier. I know of some really clever shortcut in the IKEA stores I frequent and it certainly helps me to not be exposed to all the great things I could buy. Airports, certainly a win-win for all, but apart from that?? Why would mall owners want to help customers to be more effective and spend shorter time in the mall? Anyway, GIS seems to be slated for a quick run to become a 99% technology. That last percent would be some unnamed private spaces where I would prefer a total dead zone.