Chaos at the arcade

September 4, 2011



A story about Schuyler’s class trip caught my attention.

This story happened to be posted the day after I went to a place similar to the one described* (skee ball, laser tag, mini-golf, etc.) so  I could really visualize it. I spent most of the evening considering how such places could be accessed. It strikes me that the games themselves are highly structured, but the environment as a whole was open and chaotic.

No matter how much communication we give kids, it seems like these environments are not easy nuts to crack. Part of me is thinking of ways to structure to force more interaction (maybe teams see who gets the most tickets or something, then the problem of assigning teams…). The other part of me wonders if forcing it is ultimately counterproductive—that the self-directedness is the mission here and to reduce that

arcadeQuestions: Can you create a meta-game structure in a free-play environment that encourages more interaction for kids who don’t do well in unstructured social environments without the neurotypical kids pushing back against it or squashing the developmental benefits of the chaos?


* It is really weird that this was posted the day after my friend suggested impulsively, “Let’s go play skee ball.”


One-button games

March 9, 2011

Here is a new game for iOS (you know, the platform that Proloquo2Go runs on):

It’s called Tiny Wings

I love the metaphor of having a little, sort-of impaired bird overcoming its limitations and flying with the assistance of the environment and the player.

Some other one-button games:

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I’ve been using Atlas Games’s Once Upon a Time in my speech-language therapy for years.

Once Upon a Time, the card game

Every player is dealt cards with story elements (see also, Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad for an arrangement of these cards by story function), as well as an ending card. Players narrate a story that is constrained by the cards that were randomly dealt to their hand, and win the game by playing their ending (which has to make sense in the context of what has come before).

It would be easy, except that players take turns constructing the story and everyone has different endings they are trying to achieve.

I love this game for a number of reasons. It’s great for teaching story grammar (obviously), but there is also a strong executive function element to it in that you have to plan your moves ahead if your ending is going to make sense. Lately, one of my students has been using it to elicit connected speech from a young client who is working on generalizing speech artic. therapy into conversation. You have to talk a lot to play this game.

Here are some other game-based therapy activities:

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Hans Smith

January 30, 2011

Kotaku reports on Hans Smith, the virtual athlete who is responsible for the Disabled Virtual Athlete Mode in MLB 11 The Show.

Hans Smith

Hans Smith, virtual athlete

Accessible Video Games

January 29, 2011

I’m so happy that some game developers are thinking about making their controls and gameplay modes customizable, because this is what is needed in order to adapt controllers for gamers with disabilities.

Hardcore gamers also frequently ask for customizable controls (hardcore gamers are a notoriously difficult demographic to please). You can accommodate disabled gamers by doing the very thing that the most abled gamers want anyway! It’s a win across the board.

What makes the games in this post exceptional is that they are both console games, not PC games. Video game consoles are traditionally very limited in their flexibility, and unlike a PC, cannot run the user’s custom software to assist with accessibility.

MLB 11 custom Dualshock controller

Two examples listed below.

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August 8, 2010

Blogs are great places to get peer-review on ideas before the ideas are fully formed.

So the big flaw with the model of types of play is that it doesn’t account for differences in types of play by social interaction.There is some progression of social interactive skill in the conference poster (actual paper is Manuscript In Preparation and will be done by the end of the year, I promise), however, this is much more general than I’d like. If it is going to integrate into the model, it needs to be truly play-specific instead of communication-general.

However, I’m having a hard time just making it into a Z-axis because there isn’t a continuous line of progression of development of the types of social interaction in play. I think.

And it is discontinuous, where some types of social interaction just don’t make any sense for certain types of play.

So anyway, let me list the types of social interaction that occur during play as I see it. Let me know if I’ve forgotten any and if you think they go in some specific order or hierarchy.

  • None. Solitary play.
  • Reciprocal emotional sharing (Baby and another smile at each other as in peek-a-boo or hey-look-at-me.)
  • Toleration (parallel play, no direct interaction)
  • Non-play competitive (“gimme that”)
  • Cooperative play with shared goals (“how high can we stack it?”)
  • Collaborative pretend (shared setting of goals and reality-setting)
  • Competitive-collaborative pretend (“I’ll be the princess and you’re the servant” “I’m the superhero and you be the bad-guy”)
  • Competitive, no winner (shared, but mutually exclusive goals, e.g. Tag, Keep-away, King-of-the-Mountain)
  • Competitive, with win condition (most traditional games)

Not all of these are possible in all types of play. I think. Maybe I’m wrong. And they seem to go roughly in a progression from youngest-to-oldest the way I listed them, but some of them all develop in one place (sociodramatic).

A spot on Attack of the Show about designing game controllers for people with disabilities brought the Wii Assist team at University of Delaware to my attention.

University of Delaware

Games make a difference

August 2, 2010

Jane McGonigal has created a game called SuperBetter, which turns the rehabilitation process into a game.

SuperBetter covers an area on the play graph straddling pretend play and games with rules, with a similar footprint to Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft except a little to the left (the pretend setting is self-directed), and larger footprint vertically (the gameplay is highly emergent from real-world experiences, pushing it lower, and it’s goals exist in the real-world and are quite serious, pushing its upper border upwards).

Note to self, perhaps I need a better vocabulary for talking about this.

Anyway, here is Jane talking about the origins of SuperBetter briefly:

and a longer video of her TED talk on the origin and purpose of her “serious” games.

Selected references

April 12, 2010

This is not the full bibliography, however here are the references that I’ve found highly influential.

Selected References

(after the jump.)
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Conference poster

April 9, 2010

The types of play model didn’t quite make the cut in the paper I’m submitting. This poster, however, is essentially Table 1 of that paper and an outline of the structure of it.I’m uploading it here— “submitted for your approval” as Rod Serling would say.


2010 PSHA poster & Bowker (manuscript in preparation)

(Edited 11 April: converted to 150dpi PNG, now less than 8MB file size!)

References coming soon.