Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A GeoGame success story

Back in 2012 I asked where the great location based games were. http://osu-geogames.blogspot.com/2012/03/where-are-great-location-based-games.html, 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.