What is this blog anyway?

October 23, 2008

I keep attaching the word “design” to things, but so far, there hasn’t been a whole lot of blogging here focused on it. What is this blog about, anyway? Here, have a seat and I’ll explain where I’m coming from. (This entry is an example of metacommunication.)

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

First of all, I am exhilerated by the amount of technology that is avalable today that can allow people to participate in society who might never have been able to do so in years past. Stephen Hawking was Time Magazine’s Man of the Millennium with good reason. Nothing about the man or his work would have been familiar to someone centuries ago.

This isn’t to suggest that all our problems are solved. While we have the technology, application and design for its use still sucks.

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October 21, 2008

Jerome Bruner says that one foundation of cognition is the narrative.The mind structures its sense of reality in the form of a story. Abstract mental constructs are derived from these narratives. The basic storytelling structure of a narrative is culturally determined, therefore the mental model of reality that each person abstracts from the narrative varies by culture.

How to structure or design activities and assistive tech to allow for storytelling. How lack of expressive capacity to tell stories influences the cognitive structures of kids who grow up using AAC.


October 20, 2008

New York Times article talks about how ballots can be better designed for individuals with vision impairments or limited literacy skills.

Sample Ballot

WTF are these icons???

WTF are these icons???


October 16, 2008

Been busy. Not much time for getting new ideas down with the level of polish that I am comfortable posting. I am tantalizingly close to having a proposal ready to present to my comps committee, though.

So for now, read about this cool restaurant that Sam found.

The floor is lava!!!

October 15, 2008

Good thing wheelchairs are lavaproof.



Now go play.

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Blurry lines 3

October 10, 2008



Are these children playing football, or pretending to play football?

Nicole Lazzaro is a game designer and founder/CEO of XEODesign. This is a research firm that tests video games (electronic interactive entertainment is the term they use) for player experience.

Unfortunately, her research isn’t published anywhere. And while I appreciate that there is much better money to be made in mercenary science than in academic publishing, it sounds like she is working on the same sorts of things that I’ve been thinking about with play design so I wish I could read it. (I also wonder if she’s hiring.)

Specifically, she has a conceptual model for “4 Types of Fun” and a way of categorizing games more precisely than Piaget. Read on for the model…

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Blurry lines part deux

October 8, 2008

A game is play with rules.

Can you name a type of play without rules?

I think there might not be.

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Strange Attractor updated

October 7, 2008

Strange Attractor is a video game that you can play with a single switch. Strange Attractor 2 is playable with 2 switches or with a single switch.

Strange Attractor 2

Strange Attractor 2

Developer’s website You can get SA1 at this site.

SA2 was Featured by Greenhouse and won an award at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Penny Arcade is pretty serious about games. They wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t completely awesome.

Accessible games do not need to be crappy. A well-thought-out game can be fun for everyone.

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Blurry lines

October 5, 2008

The creators of Magic the Gathering, a fantasy card game, have a scale known as the Melvin-Vorthos axis. Magic is set in a universe of epic fantasy. Game cards have painted illustrations, quotes and identities that fit into a storyline. This story material is referred to as “flavor” and has no actual impact on gameplay, which involves complex strategy with a heavy mathematical component.

Melvin and Vorthos are demographic profiles given to describe the player-base for marketing purposes. Melvin thinks of the game as a straight mathematical exercise in pure abstraction; his play would be unchanged if the cards contained no illustrations or story element at all. Vorthos plays the game for the pretend epic-fantasy elements; he would enjoy the cards without the game rules and statistics. Most players fall somewhere in between these extremes and enjoy both to greater or lesser degrees. What is interesting (and frustrating) is that occasionally, players on opposite ends of the spectrum play each other and have a miscommunication because it turns out they are playing two completely different games… together.

Rahr! My cards eats you!

Rahr! My cards eats you!

All of play falls onto the Melvin-Vorthos axis. Some games reflect reality and some are pure abstraction, with levels of gradation in between. Also, some games cover more of the spectrum than others. Magic covers a wide swath of the abstraction spectrum, while games such as cops-and-robbers or roulette take up a much narrower sliver.

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