When we were in highschool we had a very small courtyard in which to vent our excess energies. So we used to invite all kinds of games which would involve moving relatively slowly at significant effort. Mainly variants of tag. That was until we discovered smoking, and took up rolling as a sport.
My son's school is dominated by the 'wizard's game' that one kid invented. All the boys are into it. They spend their days casting elaborate spells at each other in 1:1 wizard combat. The beauty of it is that it allows them to play-fight with articulate physical gestures but without actually touching each other. Sort of like Capoeira..
There's also the gamemaster, who is the kid that invented the game, and he has tyrannic power: he is the sole judge of all challenges, and the assigner of grades and honours. This is an interesting social exercise, because he can use the power he gains by designing a game to manipulate his status, e.g. by rewarding his friends unfair advantages. However, he can only stretch it so far. After all, as one of my son's friends said, "he doesn't have a copyright on it. we can always start our own game".
Which brigs me to the inherent open-source nature of physical games. No wonder our consumerized, corporatized culture doesn't promote them: you can't make big money off something you can't control. Or maybe not, maybe there's a world of games2.0 around the corner?
Siobhan Thomas has recently asked the londongamesresearch group for people's definition-in-use of games. Being too lazy, vain and arrogant to do a serious search of the literature, I will make up my own definition and post it on my blog:
An activity is a game to the extent it emulates life with controlled risk.
And just to pre-empt the inevitable post-Wittgensteinien argument, this isn't the definition of game. This isn't even a definition of game. It's my definition of game, a language game that I'm playing with you.
The Milgram experiment
always sends a shiver down my spine. I say it should be a part of any
national curriculum. A reminder of what we're all capable of. Luckily,
you can't do that kind of thing any more. Well, at least not to humans.
A new study
replicated the Milgram experiment with Avatars. The results are..
creepy. Sorry, I can't find any better word. Just look at the videos.
(I shouldn't say that, you should read the paper). What gives me the
creeps is not the fact that people relate to Avatars in much the same
way they react to humans, although I'll get back to that soon. It's
just watching a human administer the electric shock, even if he's
sending it to an avatar. The Horror. The Horror.
This sheds a new light on the potential of interactive narrative environments (such as 'Façade') for learning.
If we react to avatars as if they were humans, then their influence on
us - for good and for bad - could be similar. We would pay attention
more to an avatar we trust and respect, be offended by their insults,
and reflect on moral dilemmas they present us.
But this also puts ideas such as human rights for robots in a new perspective. No, I haven't gone bonkers. I'm not anthropomorphizing
Aibo and Sonic the hedgehog. Its us humans I'm worried about. Our
experiences have a conditioning effect. If you get used to being cruel
to avatars, and, at some subliminal level, you do not differentiate
emotionally between avatars and humans, do you risk loosing your
sensitivity to human suffering?