Games are not stable: Is this a problem for teachers?

Following on from my post on Pokemon Go! which contained a few plus and minus points for school use, I thought its worth also raising the issue of ‘versioning’.

Commercial games react to numerous factors in their design. The portability and ease of distribution via online ‘update’ technologies allows them to significantly change features of the game – or delete them entirely with little or no notice to players. For example, Go! removed the ‘tracker’ all together in it’s first update – because it didn’t work. This feature was supposed to let players know how far away the creatures are. There was a backlash from players on Twitter, but never the less, the update removed it. Some players reported being reset to level 1 with no recovery options and the radar of interaction was dropped by some 30 meters.

Decent teachers don’t make up lessons overnight, but develop units of work which are released over a year or more. For those using games, the selection of ‘which game’ should therefore be based on a set of core-archetypes (collecting, organising, sharing etc.) and not designate “features” of the game, as they are likely to change.

I think Go! is a fun game, but also over-rewards players for time-spent rather than any critical thinking. As a game, it doesn’t require high-order thinking. Players are rarely punished, other than being forced to wait or walk. The taxonomy of collecting is simple to learn too, but so far has little hint of inter-player trading or battles away from portals gyms with other players. I hope we get there, but right now, it’s not.

The ‘fun’ factor is important, but so too is the depth of reasoning and critical thinking that is required in a constellation of other titles, many of which require the player to develop the ability to create and organise information and materials in a taxonomy – or battle other players. In many ways, Go! is an oddity in the genre of a casual-game, in that it uses GPRS and looted the Ingress geo-location database, rather than come up with a system in which players could collect and become ‘portal’ makers themselves. Given the volume of players in comparison to Ingress – there doesn’t appear to be a reason not to do allow this in terms of ‘fun’ or ‘leveling’, but rather an experiment in getting players to move to a particular space for a particular time.

The updates do make the game harder, in the sense that less information is available to the player, which means they are likely to spend more time and ‘browse’ the area more than last week. If this was a shopping-reward app, then it’s not hard to see why this would be useful and why allowing players to make ‘portals’ would be far less attractive.

So while many teachers (inc me) have explored the game in class with students, we still have a responsibility to children – over and above fun. Right now, there is very little being said by Nintendo or their partners about the road map and that’s a problem for programming quality learning episodes. Unlike Minecraft, Go! has a much smaller ‘core’ to work with – and zero community involvement (remember Minecraft was built on user-mods and Ingress on user created geo-location portals, using a taxonomy of tools (power-ups, attack and defend, charge and re-charge, with an global ‘chat’ system and a two-faction ‘war. It even allowed ‘missions’ to be created by players for players.

Go! has none of this – but is clearly very popular, and already the Edu Hashtaggers are having outdoor-meet ups (with other teachers) about it- but is that really enough for it to be chosen over other games in the limited time teachers have available for ‘play’ so far?

It seems that the decades of research into games isn’t getting to the teacher-audience at the professional level it needs to and in many ways (to me) Go! is backward move towards the tragedy of EdTech – homogeneity and casualising complex things rather than having — a robust media/technology — evidence based approach to games and muves. But Go! get’s attention and is fun, so for now – it’s worth watching, but personally, it doesn’t warrant 10 hours of my precious class time, because the taxonomy of games-in-learning simply doesn’t support un-cooked and unstable commercial offerings – even if they are popular. Go! has to be part of bigger agenda if it is to be more than the new Google Wave.

 

Pokemon Go re-ignites ‘addiction’ debate – and it’s wrong.

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Saying Pokemon Go is fun – is like saying jogging uses energy. Most people, including me, are pro-fun and play. In this post, I want to look at why you shouldn’t re-subscribe to the ‘addiction’ debate about video games, simply because this game has become VERY popular in a few weeks – and I’ll set out my reasons why parents and kids are enjoying it.

Games rise and games fall. Pokemon Go is no exception to this reality. Nintendo’s current success spells the final-death-nail for toy-games such as Disney’s Infinity. While not connected, the rise of Pokemon Go enphasises changes in consumer reception to digital games. The  once massive toy game market in which parents bought physical plastic Skylanders, LEGO Dimensions and Infinity has paved the way for games like Go!.

I’m injecting this here – because my argument is that Pokemon Go is an evolved version of ‘collecting’ which appeals to a huge numbers of ‘latent’ playing adults and has made a connection between parents-children that other games (toy games, Minecraft etc.,) have achieved – but to a much higher level. As I’ll explain, games which allow children and adults to have a shared taxonomy are seen (by parents) as media worth having and playing.

Nearly all games are designed to be fun and play cannot be separated from  human behavior. Pokemon, like all games, requires the player to engage with a set of  rules which require particular human behavior to be applied to it. Let’s take a simple Pokemon ‘goal’ to be in a Pokemon Gym. Within hours of playing (and talking about) the game, players become attuned to the idea that these locations are split into factional ownership and there are player-elites which have more power than you – right now. In order to become elite requires hours and hours of what MMO players would call ‘grinding’. Repeating simple behaviors – the most significant ones being – spend many hours engaged with it and move to specific locations to for more reward that you might currently be receiving.

Pokestops are not ‘owned’ in the way they were owned in Ingress (the geo-location database created by players 2013-2016 used as the basis of where Pokestops and Gyms are located). Pokestops don’t require any ‘work’ other than to get there are wait around. They don’t defend themselves from new arrivals and your clutch of creatures are not damanged when trying to attain more ‘balls’.  There is not downside to going to a Pokestop and there’s no reason to leave one … because in a few minutes, it will let you have more Pokeballs. So when a parent takes a kid to a Pokestop and kids get what they want – more balls- everyone is happy. Imagine if they didn’t – but the Pokestop killed their best Pokemon or damaged it … less fun right? – Nintendo are not stupid – they are not selling to the same market that plays Ingress – but carefully re-shaping behavior and experience.

Media commentators have become to use the term ‘addiction’ in response. No shock here, as no game recently has managed to generate the level of ‘changed human behaviour’ that Pokemon Go has. Ingress didn’t as it was largely a ‘geek’ game (and still is). The perception, especially among TV new-anchors is that Nintendo have come up with a ‘new phenomenon’ which has magical powers (addition) – by way of them attempting to discuss behaviour which they don’t understand (meaning: haven’t much experience or knowledge of). Let the nodding begin – Pokemon Go is a new opportunity to revisit themes of ‘decaying childhood’, ‘the simple society’ etc., but no one’s interested in a full on media panic – as mobile phone games are largely seen as permissible in society these days.

The original game had just over 150 to collect, which expanded to over 700. There’s no reason to think that Nintendo will not add more – if the game remains popular in this form. The have told us that the current game is about 10% of the final thing (we want to believe it don’t we).

3 Reasons why is it ‘fun’

  1. The games involves taxonomy — the process of naming and classifying things into groups – and that is something humans find enjoyable, so yes kids soon get a handle on this.
  2. Collecting is a rewarding pass time. I am totally guilty of this – I have more cars than I need and obsessively collect parts for them at every opportunity. I don’t drive most of them, I just like to ‘own’ them. It’s irrational to most people, but not to thousands who were in Valla this week for the bi-annual Volkswagen gathering.
  3. The fun is not just in collecting and working to develop knowledge of the taxonomy. Like all successful games in recent times, the fun works around the social-graph of comparing and discussing your collection with others.

The social-graph, who is top and bottom in class, is used in very different ways at school and in society, so Pokemon Go is very much counter-school-culture. No surprise to see those teachers who are fustrated by the generalised-school-image have been quick to show they are using it – in class. You rebels! But imagine if a child’s learning was built around collecting and comparing, not timetables, silos and tests. Now that would be rebellious.

The thrill of the chase is not a sign of addiction

Pokemon turns the thrill of finding rare car-parts Pokemons into a chase. That chase is a personal story – and we love that. Take a look at educator stories in the last two weeks – a high energy story where each teachers sets about ‘showing’ how their class is into Pokemon and how thrilling it is – this is also part of the educator ‘taxonomy’ of collecting EdTech things.

People are not ‘addicted’ in the scientific sense, but in the self-expressive “spending too much time sense” usually shared around a social-graph. So many people tell my wife that I am ‘addicted’ to buying old cars and that I don’t need them (waste of time and money). They generally don’t tell me this directly, but my taxonomy isn’t one they value.

To talk about Pokemon Go as a game, in the way we might discuss Ingress or Tomb Raider isn’t possible, because the leap from screen to augmented reality changes the user-perception of collecting, comparing and competing. Educators needs to ‘see’ the game against the broader context. Think about a friend who collects Disney memorabilia or Hot Wheels cars – this is what is going on, except that the ‘rules’ on how occurs isn’t constructed socially as you’d see at a collectors-meet, but by a corporation (with an agenda) and an immediate connection to the collector/player.

Of course, in extreme cases, collectors put their interest ahead of other things – buying an object and not paying a bill or spending too much time at a meet-up they forget to pick up the kids from swimming – but these are likely to be extreme cases – and so attempts to get a head of steam about Pokemon Go addiction are already tiresome and ignorant.

Parents need to set limits on screen time and take some responsibility for the ‘quality’ of that time. Games (screens) are not digital-childminders – they are portals to media experiences and not all of them are going to meet the expectations or moral standards of parents (and their friends). In school, Pokemon Go will manifest itself though the interaction and cultural production of the children.

Of itself, this game (like any other) needs to be articulated into the curriculum – to address defined purposes. Anyone can ‘tweet’ about how EduPunk they are — rebelling against the stereotyped modernism of the establishment. Big deal, why this game? What is it’s pedagogical imperative which other games don’t have? – aside from popularity, media attention etc.? For example: what other games are use a collecting/taxonomy which can be used around a social graph? – more specifically – which EDUCATIONAL GAMES.

Minecraft managed to achieve much of this, what blocks can you find, what is your best build, can we work together – how close or different are our interests etc., and yet Minecraft Pocket (mobile) hasn’t received much in the way of teacher interest. For example, why not take MCPE mobile and allow kids to ‘build’ while IRL. For example, go to the park – imagine how you could re-design it?

I think the BIG thing, the really BIG thing about Pokemon Go is that it’s taken the idea of ‘collecting’ into a digital form, in the real world at a time where society no longer cares if every single person on a train stares at their screen and disconnects with reality – working on ‘their story’. The question become how much time are people investing in this, and the extent to which ‘sharing’ their story makes them feel happy and more connected to each others – and who is going to miss-out or feel alienated by it.

Here are three ‘concerns’ I have … which to be fair, are true of most commercial games being used towards ‘educational’ time (I’d say purposes, but I don’t think we’ve earned sufficient CP to claim that yet).

  1. We know digital-media is used variously to create internalized constructions of the self. Being ‘digitally popular’ is important to many people. The effort they perceive to be needed or valid is translated into hours-spent as a form of work. We’ve seen issues with this in other social spaces, especially in teens.
  2. So far, research suggests children have variable levels of success in self-regulation of digital media. This game is designed to promote repetitive behaviour and provides consistent rewards for this. Aside from time-spent, the depth of the game remains relatively shallow, focusing on time-spent and simple actions. Given the Google DNA of the game, it’s reasonable to suggest that user-behaviour is ideally suited to rewarding sales-promotion and shopping behaviours, such as coffee-discounts, being in a store for a length of time, or winning a new limited edition creature.
  3. In schools, there are vast differences in location. We know rural schools are at a disadvantage for all sorts of reasons, and the Ingress DNA of user-created portals favours the city – where more portals we’re created over rural ones. So, city educators have more opportunity to use this game than more rural schools. There are limited choices for rural school to engage in this form of commercial game which presents further equity issues.

I’d be interested to hearing your experience and views!

 

 

Should teachers care about Pokémon Go?

[Version 2 – as I rushed the initial post and have added some headings to break it down]

Introduction

The latest craze – sayeth the media – Pokémon Go! has got people out and about. Some apparently unaware of their surroundings and having injuries while others are just of having fun, discovering why ARGs are able to turn fantasy into reality (sort of) even just for a short moment.

People like it and for good reasons. So yes, I think teachers should care and it is rare to be able to jump in at the start of a ‘new thing’ in gaming as kids probably already have the app and are playing it. The game does have issues – rural areas less well supported,  socio-economic factors, cultural differences, social inclusion (read this article) but perhaps this just helps highlight the issue with many games — and education’s obsession with digital gadgets – and people stopped talking about ‘the digital divide’ a long time ago. Now its an awkward reality that some schools have plenty more than others — as to their students.

Mass media has been quick to point out the doubling of Nintendo’s stock price, and that’s not necessarily good for the games entertainment giant – as I’ll explain shortly. Pokémon is loved by adults and kids in popular culture, some will have played Mario and Zelda – but there’s a generation playing Go! who are not playing for nostalgia. This game is aimed at a new generation for whom the smartphone camera, GPS, and data-streaming is primordial. Pokémon Go! has the magical tech-features+brand+enjoyment that they want from their device time – and want to talk to their friends about.

The doubling of Nintendo’s company value suggests an expectation that Nintendo will monetize and leverage this craze. Investors are literally banking on brand power plus ARG to yield a big return. Yes, you will run out of pokeballs, and you have to work for them or buy them. Everyone wants to know how to get more Pokeballs!

Getting a few balls at a Pokéstop every ten minutes or so is tedious. Speed this up with an in-app purchase.  Nintendo is in new territory here, but the clear line of sight to Google and not to Zelda will see significant changes – good, bad and stumbling perhaps in the games roll out. Pokéstops are a significant cultural leap to ‘gamified shopping’ destinations … but surely no one would drive five miles to wait ten minutes for 4 balls to flick at an imaginary creature … and so shopping as you know it is already changed.

Because the game’s Pokéstops are based on the cultural production of Ingress players – many gyms and Pokéstops are buildings and landmarks – including shops. Small business is seeing people at their door – but who knows if they are buying? This may then see people drawn away from ‘the mall visit’ and we might see people back on the high street and parklands.

Playing the game

 

The game is easy in the early days. More and more posts and redditor postings suggest the mechanic makes it hard to progress. As I’ll explain, for kids, this will be a drop-off point, but to that point, there’s a window of opportunity to explore the next generation of gaming – in your local backyard.

Arts Technica writes “While advancing to level 15 only requires a few thousand experience points per level, by the time you hit level 30, it takes a full 500,000 experience points to increase your in-game status”. We know that kids often stop playing games pretty quickly from recent research, and the younger children ‘churn’ games constantly when they feel it get’s too punishing. Overall mobile games have a high ‘pick up and drop’ frequency – especially free-to-play (with micropayment) games. The industry is still learning, so I’m sure Pokémon Go! will teach the whole industry a lot about human behaviour in a short time.

We know too, that hanging around a Pokéstop for a slow refill is the ARG version of the MMO’s ‘grinding quest’, except that you’re stuck in reality — and not in the fantasy you crave. So for teachers – Pokémon Go is a decent enough ‘entry’ for a discussion about ARGs and human behaviour, but I personally would be very wary of promoting in the way we’ve seen some teachers jump on the Microsoft Minecraft jetstream. I predict this game opens a door to what has been a dwindling interest in the ‘games are addictive’ dogma which first appeared in the 1990s. I can imagine the clinical psych’s will be banging out abstracts by the dozen right now about how dangerous this is … and maybe they will more right about ARGs than they have about MMOs and MOBAs so far.

We already hearing ‘news’ reports of Pokémon farming and exploitation, how much it costs to buy Pokéballs, people walking off cliffs, crashing cars etc., all things we didn’t hear about Ingress of course.People have asked me for ages why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the world works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level. Anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect – and again, needs to do something ‘more’ if it is to be sustained. As I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way) – Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go!. One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

People have asked why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the media-world0culture works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. That is why my teenager and his friend had me driving them to an actual parkland (as in out-doors). So if Pokémon Go! can get a hardcore MOBA/MMO player outside … it’s got something going for it. I don’t think it’s the game though – as I’ll explain towards the end of the post – it’s about human behaviour around technology and the fact that outside of media outrage and Trump hate, we do quite like to hang out and have fun IRL.

Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level in a few days. Think about that for a second. It means that anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. If that anyone is a teacher, then we have the accept we have media literacy challenges (but we know that it’s been like this for twenty years or more)

Step outside the Pokémon click-bait and let’s think about established go-to-game for educators. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect. It needs to do something ‘more’that being repacked and sold under the Windows biome if it is to be sustained with genuine interest by kids. Why? Because its what kids say to kids about games and anyone with a ‘real Minecrafter’ in their house knows that the advanced ‘fun’ is in modding and morphing the shared game play experience with friends. I’ve never liked MinecraftEdu because it was a business idea, not a new theory of play or gaming. I acknowledge that it helped get the game into schools – but at no point could anyone seriously argue games and play were not going to zerg-rush into schools – and to me Minecraft is the ‘safe’ option and I reject the ‘better than nothing option’. The fact games are still ‘on request’ tells us all we need to know about the ideology of mass education still.

Is Pokémon Go! impacting education?

I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way). Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go! this week. Teacher’s attention have been tuned this week from Minecraft to Pokemon. Microsoft to Nintendo. That’s a big thing in itself.

One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Why would teachers be interested?

I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. They are probably bored of ‘another Minecraft preso’. I have done once since 2012 in Dundee – and that wasn’t about school – that was about what happens when kids get agency though video games.What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try any. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Many teachers are concerned about the academic value of video games and how to align them with the outcomes school systems use. I get that, I really do – but teaching is not about the material and the outcomes alone, it’s about letting the child being the best that they can be. My attitude is YES, GAMES ARE IMPORTANT – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kids want (and get) from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game. Avoid turning Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as “let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No” (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit)

“What kids want” is connected to computers and human behaviour. We can’t assume a 10-year-old has a 10-year-old media age – as we know, some 40-year-olds don’t have a 10-year old’s media age.  why Pokémon Go is going to be good – aside from the initial network effects.

Teachers should care about Pokémon Go! – after from the initial network effects (craze) as it is a good way for kids to develop socially. It isn’t designed for education and certainly presents the all too common accessibility issues of commercial games – but THIS game leads you to start thinking about why games, play and learning are important – and how they can be connected with helping children deal with saturated media cultures – Great!

Here are the four key things that research is telling us about MMOs, MMORPGs, Networked Gaming, MOBAs etc., and it’s all about humans making sense of their transmedia lives – though pleasurable leisure choices. It’s part of the social history of our time.

What are the key things teachers can observe and learn from this?

  1. Multimodal connectedness is associated with bridging and bonding social capital
  2. Playing with existing offline friends is associated with bonding social capital.
  3. Playing with offline and online friends is associated with bridging social capital.
  4. Multimodal connectedness moderated the relationships between co-players and social capital

What does the research say?

There’s a lot of research around these four things, but so far, when we need much more research about specific MOBAs (LoL, Overwatch etc) and ARGs (Pokémon Go, Ingress, Zombie Run etc. For example, what are children’s attitudes towards the frequency of playing ARGs and how do the interaction and experiences of play vary in group size, cultures, gender etc., But you might be surprised to find very little research is being done – or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., and this research is good ‘beachhead’ reading, but it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

You might be surprised to find very little research is being or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., so far. While this research has developed a good ‘beachhead’ in video games, especially since 2001 – it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the material content or an ability to sandbox build castles. Seeing the child’s developmental curiosity and ability to experiment with these four things – alone and in groups is quite an experience.

Of course, this is just a theory (at best) and part of what I’m interested in.

Families who have high levels of multimodal connectedness and actively apply it to create bridging and bonding capital appear to have ‘the edge’ over parent’s who don’t.  We are raising children who need to be confident and successful in these things – because human behaviour is changing with technology – and what we (as adults) are expected to do or not do with it and though it matters in life.

What does EdTech seem to think?

Sadly EdTech doesn’t see games as important as it could (as a public dialogue). EdTech relies on the network effect to popularise certain products and ignore others. It also uses it to make some people famous/important and others customers, clients and the object of their commentary. So for the most part, Pokémon Go! will not be placed on the high altar of importance – such as Google Classroom or Apple’s wadjamacallit. So this game may well come — and go. It is now competing with  Microsoft Minecraft Eduction, which has a fairly established group of advocates and popular ideas. Let’s not forget, there is alway plenty of people competing for attention in EdTech — and the gamer ‘hackedu’ types are misfits sitting in the corner. But you never know, Sir Ken might visit a Pokéstop near you.

Summing up

So I hope teachers will give it some attention. Pokémon Go! (early levels) is super easy to try and learn from – but when it stops being ‘fun’ – quit – because quitting games can just as enlightening as playing them.

If nothing else, you’ve walked in the half-real world of video games and perhaps taken the dog for an unexpected walk, hatched a few eggs and maybe visited a different kind of gym.

 

The Weekend Pokémon Go Took Over The World..

It didn’t take long for educators to discover Pokemon Go!. I like to curate what educators tag as ‘game based learning’ and in the first weekend, I captured (get it) 46 separate references to the game, all of which dropped straight into the hyper myth that some games (those picked up by the more popular EdTech voices) are going to reform education. I know right, 4th wall break, we’ve been here so many times.

Also interesting is that Pokemon Go! fever has pushed Minecraft – and the new fully endorsed Minecraft: Education Edition (MCEE) off to the side. MCEE has been warmly welcomed by those with commercial ties to Microsoft. Really, before Microsoft, only Joel had the ear or Mojang – so I think it will be interesting to see how (if) the same group of people can find a way to friend Nintendo (or do we mean Niantic Labs.)

At the heart of this fuss is nothing new to those who are interested in games and human behaviour. Amazingly, people do like to go outside and the myth of the isolated teen, sitting in a basement playing Warcraft is one which only works on the ignorant these days. The game is simply a variation on the same thing: using GPS to move to a location. Here the user can interact with a virtual object for a reward – in the case of Pokemon, attempting to flick balls at a cartoon character over laid on the camera view (fun).

Some reports suggest this added $10 billion to Nintendo’s value, as their brand appeals to kids and younger parents. Nintendo may then have succeeded to create a behaviour where people use their GPS “navigate to a location” the holy-grail of mobile-push technology that leads to commercial purchases IRL – not just online.

This game does also feel like a step away from the promising transmedia story telling approach that they began with as a Google internal start-up – ie Ingress and Endgame. Commercially it’s a huge success of course, and that is what drives games – not the research and development of new media as texts or education.

This also extend’s cultural acceptance that play must increasingly be connected to commercial brands and purchasing (though micro payments and real payments) … and therefore to be entertained, we must also be spending money and time on brand derived pathways – ie walking into the right store and out the wrong ones.

Can you catch a bargain at K-Mart this weekend, Catch 20 mall-rats and go in the draw to win a Starbucks — all the time, data is collected, sold and re-sold to ‘help’ people find the products they really want – but in a fun way.

Is it of any value to Education? Well no, of course not yet. Nintendo has dabbled with it’s brands in Education before and didn’t succeed. Now EdTech believes that it can convert just about any popular trend into some form of scholarship, there is, and will continue to be those who’ll claim it has – with little evidence and a whole lot of enthusiasm – which is the story of EdTech itself. The game has succeeded in putting AR into the mainstream media realm – something Ingress didn’t, although it was very popular among the technorati  – and still is. On another level, Pokemon Go represents a further shift way from US Pop Culture being the dominant ‘entertainment’ force it once was. If we look even slightly past the Euro-US-Centric EdTech dialogue, we see Asian mobile culture, games, narratives and play styles growing in western popularity.

Here are just a few of the articles which appeared this week. To me, this adds another layer of complexity to how parent’s regulate video game play – and as ever, if you’d like to add your experiences to my research just head over here

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Pokemon Go! has full access to your data

According to Art’s Technica (a site that passes the C.R.A.P test) consistently, the newest craze Pokemon Go! on iOS has FULL access to your personal data. You might not care, which means you don’t yet see your privacy and data as currency which it now is. Your data is more than likely to be bought and sold.

Blogger Adam Reeve picked this up, saying

Let me be clear – Pokemon Go and Niantic can now:

  • Read all your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them)
  • Look at your search history and your Maps navigation history
  • Access any private photos you may store in Google Photos
  • And a whole lot more

There is a lot more ‘scare’ going on too – as hack-journalists bang on about people walking into the road without being aware of their surroundings and of course the ‘potential’ of malware and viruses hitting your device. This media ’rounding off’ behavior is nothing new and commonly applied as top and tail puff pieces to pad out the word count about games in mainstream media *cough, so I wouldn’t pay much attention to that.

However, privacy is an issue for schools and those using Google apps as their back-bone are ‘potentially’ at risk, but the wider concern is that the ongoing happy clapping over Google products will see this issue ignored completely and resigned to being an ‘at home’ problem, well outside of school. But of course it’s not – Google is a brand and it’s been shown in research that they don’t see a dividing line between Google school and home.

Next term, I’m looking at AR and VR with students and we will in fact be playing Ingress (made by the same company) and one of the main reasons we’re doing this it to think carefully about the future of information that we will supply and collide with in the ‘natural’ environment. Pokemon Go! makes for a nice discussion for me – because while people are out hunting down Pokemons, there are some very big servers collecting your information – whether by accident or not – they are not going to tell you.

STEM games … is that it?

In recent years, access to media has undergone a transformation as mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets) now allow families to provide their child with screen time opportunities throughout the day. One of the biggest concerns around this is the total time children spend doing it with the suggested message that they could/should be doing something else, such as playing sport, reading, homework or walking the dog – which is better for them. This assumes any of us can live in outside the media-machine anymore.

The media has been telling us the media (not theirs, the other guy’s media) is bad for society. Therefore, more screen time means more games, which will make you fat, lazy, anti-social and addicted to [insert seven deadly sins]. No longer can you only throw birds at pigs – or something like – you must also watch a movie about it while eating angry-birds popcorn and cola. It’s only a matter of time before Minecraft gets a movie … I mean, it’s a no brainer in terms of rendering power – and I bet Steve is voiced by that guy who played Lex Luther in Superman vs Batman.

This franchise consumerism becomes the media reality for children who endlessly sample and drop games. So kids are learning not to try harder, try again or get another chance … they are learning to quit and move on because it’s easy.

Rather then worrying about children playing games, parents should be worried about why 40% of children stop playing the game within 24 hours and despite all the micropayment options to ‘buy’ success (see raft of Internet articles about parents losing thousands of dollars on vitual game goodies) – the average ‘value’ of micropayment games is five bucks – ever. Where Jane McGoniswhatsername made a tidy fortune from her obligatory ‘gamification’ TED talk, painting an image of a generation of un-tapped gamers ready to save the world. Nope, the reality is that online games are wireless (app) games are played and rejected all the time. Kids are trying LOTs of games and persisting with FEW. PC games continue to be in decline and consoles need to invent new user experiences (ie – virtual reality headsets etc.,) to remain competitive with the ‘casual gamer’ phenomenon.

So where are we in education this week – still banging on about Minecraft Edumacation. The Australian game industry is expected to increase at a 7.3 percent compound annual rate to $2.4 billion in 2016 and what is the ‘innovation agenda’ – an hour of code, making up some games in OER applications such as Scratch and offering a STEM competition to students. Let’s be clear, Australia is: early adopting; good at making games; great at animation; is a multi-billion dollar part of the estimated $40 billion dollar global industry and we have one competition, for kids – about 4 in a group who will win some yet to be announced prize. At the same time, the government is talking about ‘innovation’ and STEM and politically campaigning on some ‘apply here’ funding for STEM projects — as though schools haven’t thought of it.

And how can I forget, the BIG one – schools are going to teach kids to swim too.

In summary, we have kids who play, but most drop out of in their first or second play session. We have a constallation of games with very little research to know which are good or bad for learning (or anything else) and we’re going to focus on a) making stuff in Minecraft Education (swoon) or doing an hour of code (off the clock) and hoping some teachers with run after school projects to win a (unknown) STEM prize for a game — which will almost certainly be edumacational.

It’s been a frustrating week in my head … or maybe I’m cranky as Overwatch beta closed. It’s time we addressed this — it’s time we stopped pretending and decided whether or not we want students to have a real in-school experience and shot at the interactive entertainment jobs (of the future) or not. Time, money and resources (a three word slogan).

p.s. Overwatch is out on the 23rd and you should buy shares in Blizzard before then (as if I know anything about the share market).

What to expect on day one of a school Minecraft Server

I’ve been around Minecraft Servers with kids for a few years, founding the successful vanguard project “Massively Minecraft” a few years ago. Now I’m ‘back’ so to speak, in a school and have had a couple of terms under my belt, I’ve decided to create two new servers – a PC/Mac server and a Minecraft PE server. In school we don’t really have accessible computers, but every child has an iPad Mini. We’ve already got Minecraft PE on the iPads, so it won’t be too hard to build on that platform.

So yesterday, I “/opt” a few kids to see what happens. Of course I carefully selected the kid I thought would make the best First Op and explained the basics of what is expected etc., That kid then invites other kids who then nag No.1 Op for similar /Op power. Ten minutes later they are playing PvP in their new arena. An hour later, other kids have joined and the number climbs past that magic number seven. At this point … and this is the salient part, the power play between /Op vs Non-Op inevitably results in a few /kicks followed by a /ban.

Why does this happen? Well it’s complicated, but suffice to say that Minecraft is far more tribal than most teachers using it would like to admit. Minecraft doesn’t appear in a classroom as a neutral space where bygones are bygones. The nature of the game-space shifts the power-balance – both actually or perceptually. Another reason is that it provokes a much needed discussion about what makes this server a learning based server rather than a mini-game server (where most kids spend most of their time these days). While the server is booted with essentials, permissions, core-protect, world-guard etc.,  the key move is to make sure you have a resilient and trusted First Op who can manage and report on events that transpire — good and bad.

I am sure that some kids would love /Op power in the classroom to /kick or /ban negative behaviours, but sadly mass education insists no one leaves until they are of an age. I am also sure that no talk about cyber-bullying ever considers children in a situation now where social space is in constant negotiation and power-play. On day one of a school server, it’s not really about whether the kids make something pretty, or whether the levers and ‘teacher powers’ of the Edu version perform the crowd-control which teachers often demand from unfamiliar technological tools in ‘their classroom’. Day one is about understanding the dynamics of your kids — in this space — and how you can then plan for Day 2, where those dynamics play a critical role in the design of the game-space. For example: are you going to have factions? are you going to rank players and give them ranked powers … how are they going to move from map to map etc.,

This is one of the things I recall was important to Wes when he was conceptually designing Skoolaborate (Second Life Based Teen Global Project). Wes often talked about making worlds where kids could explore heuriscs. A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about their next course of action. They can of course lead to bais and habitual behaviours … but really what is important on Day One is to be actively thinking about the heuristics that will be going on (promoted and demoted) in the behaviour of players towards their learning. This comes to a large extent through the design of the space – what’s in the game and what mediation/monitoring is going on outside of it. No teacher can afford to be ‘in-game’ all the time — and it’s a good idea to shut the server at a reasonable time, so kids still get that important sleep and spend time with their family. But … Day One should be a massive learning experience that produces some interesting data from the server log. Going over that data will paint a clear picture of the ‘world’ that exploded into life — and from that you should be able to sit down the First Op and peers to negotiate.