Apr 072011

[Note: For those of you getting this link because of your “(baby)alexis” notifications, I couldn’t help not including you. :)] Osy (“Osy Osmosis”), a game cooperatively developed by myself and members of a research team at the University of Georgia hit the App Store late last night. Osy’s development has spanned just about two years now, though actual development time was about three months to vertical slice, which was the deployed widely for preliminary testing throughout schools in Georgia. It is this version of the game featured in the documentary piece found on the Osy website. Little happened with the game after that point until April of 2010, when the UGA OVPR provided a VentureLab seed grant for our freshly created company IS3D, LLC. A portion of this money was used to port Osy to iOS and move the game into full production. It paid for bringing in wonderful folks like Ben Throop in to tell us what we’re doing right and wrong.

What makes Osy special, for me, is that it is my stab at thinking about making games… that just happen to contain concepts that educators are interested in teaching to students. I often say very deliberately that Osy is not “edutainment.” Put more academically, the procedural rhetoric of Osy is the story of osmosis. Too often, educational games ignore the procedural rhetoric and only thinly layer educational images/concepts on top of game mechanics that have nothing to do with the message they hope to deliver. In far too many cases it is actually worse, “gamelike” visuals are layered on top of quiz/test systems and it is referred to as a “game.” In part, this is because testing/quizzing is the primary procedural rhetoric (or game mechanic) of schools. I recall one day during the design of Osy where I said something to the effect, “If you put a quiz in my game, I’m done with it.” This is an approach, that I think is conscientious of the kinds of critiques that some are leveling at the Game-ification of Education.

I’ve also been somewhat worried about many people researching games and education becoming too focused on only the importation of off-the-shelf standard game industry games into the classroom. Isn’t that the equivalent of giving up the ghost? Why not create high quality games with education sitting in the back of your head? Clearly, game developers draw on scientific concepts for the systems within games (physics, evolution, …) though it comes secondary to the overall game. Why not have it as an equal on the field of idea-battles that occur during the development of a game? That I want a player to understand/feel/know X where X includes some scientific knowledge becomes part of the design process.

Go Osy go!

Apr 282010

I’ve seen a couple of emails go out about the event, but I wanted to blog it for my students. The New Media Institute (NMI) Capstone class will be presenting and demoing their projects at the upcoming Personal Media, Public Good conference at the University of Georgia. We’ve designated our twitter hash tag as #DSNMI for the event, which will likely be tweeted primarily with the #PMPG hash. The students have put together some pretty impressive projects this semester. Here they are, in order of appearance beginning at 4PM on May 1 at the UGA Miller Learning Center in room 101:

NMI Capstone Project: point39point39
Point39 has the answer to the magazine industry’s current crisis. Point39 transforms the print version of many publications into interactive, dynamic issues that can be viewed for a cost from the internet or on the iPad. Publishing companies will send their PDFs and magazine requirements to Point39 with which we will then transform their print documents into a new interactive magazine based on their demands and our suggestions.

NMI Capstone Project: MimioMuseMimio Muse
Mimio Muse is a multi-platform collaborative networking system for the use with Mimio interactive boards. It is perfect for intensive and creative professional environments. Mimio Muse offers the synergy of digital collaborative systems such as wikis with the advantages of face to face interaction.

NMI Capstone Project: Uncapped EverywhereSharpie Uncapped Everywhere
Unncapped Everywhere by Sharpie is a branded smartphone application for the iPhone. Through the application, users create and discover virtual art by interacting with Sharpie products. By allowing users to harness their artistic side, they will learn more about Sharpie products and the world around them. In addition to the iPhone application, the Uncapped Everywhere project includes social media, online and retail marketing elements.

NMI Capstone Project: DawgStopDawgStop
DawgStop addresses the common fears and discomforts of new incoming students in order to help them transition with ease. With 47 operating buses and over 31,292 students that board the buses daily, the bus system proves to be an integral part of campus, yet an aspect that students find intimidating. Our goal is to mobilize the students by improving the accessibility of the buses as well as offering up to date information about significant happenings on campus. Take a ride with DawgStop, and be in the know wherever you go!

NMI Capstone Project: paoPao
Pao combines the idea of a personal secretary with the convenience of a digital ID, capable of simplifying product purchases, event and facilities access. Pao is currently being marketed at UGA and has the potential to expand to many other universities all over the world. It can also expand to the business sector; Pao’s features can adapt to fit the needs of businesses and organizations. Companies could benefit from Pao, using its unique technology to pass through checkpoints and make purchases.

NMI Capstone Project: GradyfestGradyfest
The GradyFest website incorporates all aspects of the event. The website encompasses news updates, event and student information, video clips with ratings and comments, an interactive game, and connectivity to other multiple social media platforms.

Sep 282009

No, not that baby. At least not yet. No, this was a very fun talk presented at the University of Georgia‘s Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) “Gaming Seminar” last Tuesday evening. All in all it was an excellent seminar, connecting me with all sorts of interesting new folks at UGA who I’ve not yet really had a chance to meet. This included John Kundert-Gibbs and Brion Kennedy of Bit Brigade. Similar to my talk at the University of Utah, I used my new presentation system to deliver my talk, which you can view below.

Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) Presentation – Casey O’Donnell – 09/22/2009 from Casey O’Donnell on Vimeo.

May 212009
Osy Osmosis

Osy Osmosis

Well, it looks like I’ll be headed to the Game Education Summit this year, thanks to the NIH SEPA grant that I’m doing game design work for this summer. I’ll be bringing the latest build of Osy Osmosis [an early prototype build to the left] along with me. We should have our vertical slice completed by then and with any luck a build working on the iPhone and iPod Touch. It is my hope to submit an NSF grant this summer to support my ongoing work on the project.

Work on the project is progressing well thus far thanks in large part to the artist and part time engineer working on the project. I’ve had to put my money where my mouth is as far as design goes, so we’ll see how that goes over the next couple of weeks and months. I think our vertical slice represents a pretty good sample of everything we’re attempting to put together for this game that happens to contain educational elements. I think it is a good example of what games with educational content could be. I shy away from calling it an educational game, because so often those games aren’t all that much fun. What I’ve attempted to do with this project is make the underlying game mechanics match up with real-world scientific processes. Instead of quizzing students though, we design the game such that “winning” requires that the player find and recognize that underlying model. We should be rolling this out to some teachers and students very soon as things move forward.

I suspect that in the end this particular component of the SEPA grant will hit a kind of 1St Playable state and remain there, as going into production and producing several levels for the game may not make sense. Perhaps it is an economic opportunity to take these kinds of 1st Playable pieces and flush them out, though I’m not sure who has time for that. 😉

Apr 232009

Ok, it has now been removed from the front page of UGA.edu, so I feel a bit more comfortable posting about it. About a week and a half ago I was featured in the UGA Faculty Newspaper, Columns. This was then turned into a lead story on the UGA Website. What this meant was that for a brief moment (about 4 days) I was on the front page of the UGA website. Eeek! Well, I’ve finally been cycled off in favor of something about Second Life, which I don’t mind in the least. For those interested, however, I’ve posted a PDF here of the site while I was on it. I’m sure everyone is dying to see more photos of me, so I must not disapoint… That was sarcasm.

UGA Front Page Archive

Apr 082009

So I feel compelled to blog it when it happens, but Georgia Trend recently published an article about the growing industry in Georgia. You can read the particular quote from me after the break. But what I’ve been screaming about since arriving here is that the real opportunity for Georgia is the opportunity to make a different kind of industry. This is why I’m so interested in independent game development. Rather than importing existing large companies, Georgia has an opportunity to really forge their own industry. Ian Bogost’s comments seem to capture this far better than mine did, but at their heart are close to my own:

“Most graduates go off to California or Seattle or wherever the industry is thriving. A lot of them would happily stay here if there was more of an industry to graduate into,” says Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost, researcher, critic, designer and author of the recently published Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System. “We’re not going to be viewed as a serious player in the industry until we see some successful products released, with critical acclaim and all that stuff.”

“Georgia doesn’t need to create an industry. It needs to create a unique industry,” he says. “We should be looking at what a regional games industry would look like. Every state is looking for ways to capitalize on this new form of entertainment, but the opportunity we haven’t cashed in on is the specific voice of Atlanta or Georgia or the Southeast.

Continue reading »

Dec 212008

Several folks from the Grady College at UGA pulled together a fantastic assortment of student work Thursday of this last week called “Gradyfest.” I went in with very little in the way of expectations, but I was simply blown away. Not only was I blown away, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the evening. What perhaps impressed me the most was just how indicative many of the Grady creations were so indicative of Fan/Remix Culture in ways that are simply indescribable. One creation in particular caught my eye and ear. I cannot for the life of me remember the title of it, though the production “company” “Level 84” certainly sticks in my head considering something about 8 and 4 sticks out at me from writing my dissertation, or perhaps it was playing a game released in 1985 in the United States on a little grey box. Continue reading »