Return of the DS

Ever keen to find way’s to create ‘shared environments’ I’ve recently revisited the Nintendo DS.(Duel Screen). These were HUGE around 2005ish, and for many kids they were the thing to have BEFORE the launch of the iPhone and iPad — which really changed how we experienced and conceptualised hand-held gaming.

Nintendo DS was educational! – Derek Robinson was at the vanguard of this and in my view set the scene for the rest of us. The Captain Crunch on video gaming in school. Of course some quango of short-sighted suits in Scottish Education failed to recognise this for what it was — the tragedy that many pioneering ‘game’ innovators know too well. If you want to hear this from the man himself – watch this video on YouTube in which he sets out the opportunity and passion which is still waiting to be tapped into.

So back to DS 2015. A group of Year 8’s (13-14) have started playing their DS’s in ‘genius’ hour (and other times as I’m pretty lax on gaming). More and more have joined it, and it’s great to see them stroll down memory lane. They are busy discussing games and much more, sharing social-history. Any time I see ‘connecting’ happening, I encourage it … and no I don’t really know where this is going … but at my school – that’s just fine.

Sony homes in PS3 based Social Power

 

It might not be news to some, but Sony has been inviting the hardcore faithful into Beta tests of ‘Home’. 

Sony claims Home is comparable to Second Life, as a virtual community of PS3 owners living together in both public and private environments.

Users will be able to login, chat with both text and speech and play casual games together such as pool, bowling and even embedded arcade machines. And when the old stand-bys grow stale, users can invite one another into other PlayStation Network titles outside of PlayStation Home.

Every user will have their own virtual apartment to decorate with furniture, their trophies from various games (see: achievements) and content from their own PS3s. Since the initial limited showings, but a fair amount of talk, this ‘world’ is certainly aimed at ‘pull’ technologies. The user has some ability to decorate and move around, however unlike Second Life, Sony decides what is in, out and what you can do with it at this stage.

The proposed interface for navigation is not suprisingly a virtual PSP. Sony claim to be selling 280,000PS3s  a month. At this point Home is supposedly ‘free’ for PS3 customers.

The gamer hardcore (who hnd out in forums) are however a little unconvinced, as recent ‘sneek’ peeks still don’t allow gamers to meet in themed areas. So if you are into Call Of Duty, then your ‘sim’ is not likley to be themed as per the game. Instead, a central plaza offers bollwing and pool.

Jack Buser from Sony commented

“The real reason for the game space being there is to give you an excuse to do something to meet people,” he said. “Take pool. It’s just like playing pool in real life. You do it to hang out with friends. Maybe one out of 10 times you play pool it’s actually to get better at your game.” 

 

The graphics are going to be slick – the PS3 is a very powerful machine, but how much ‘free’ content will exisit and how much ‘paid’ content remains a mystery. How and financial system works is not clear, nor any mention of connection speed – and the curse of Second Life – lag.

Right now the limted Beta testing is leading Sony Forum types to talk about Home as ‘vapourware’ – as there is little more than a few screen shots and a promotional video to go by – and that has been around for a while – there seems no rush to announce a date. But that is not common in this sector of the market.

Given the endless console wars – this is however an area that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are all exploring. However, content – as Linden Labs know, is king.

Developing an experience that adds to the gaming experience is the product to be sold here – and that is directly linked to commercial interests or not just Sony Playstation and it’s developers – but also it’s wider interests in music, film etc.,

It ‘s not clear how Home will be rated in terms of ‘age’ and ‘safety’ so again hard to suggest where it might fit into the spectrum of virtual worlds right now. Once again, this is very much the challenge of all online communities right now.

PSPs and PS3s are very powerful machines, and have a solid following. This further illustrates how ‘big entertainment’ (Sony pulled out of buying Club Penguin, leaving Disney to do so) – are actively hiring bright thinkers, gamers and social networkers to talk about and develop their product.

The media age is creating new opportunities – and game developers learn about social aspects of gaming – over and above providing a 2D web portal to ‘join a game’. We can’t really tell kids anymore that ‘you can’t make a living out of video games – as quite clearly – you can, and a very good one.

As one forum post commented on Home’s dribble feed of information

Among my worries- people generally don’t “behave”. If you’ve played WoW, Second Life, or to an extent XBox Live you probably know what I mean. Also, ads? This looks like a *very* expensive system to maintain, and if it’s (mostly) free, that means I foresee a lot of ads, possibly to the point of pushing users away. Only way to avoid that would be really expensive add-ons, like the clothes and furniture, and then you don’t get as many buyers, and you’re back to square one. So we’ll see about that.

Commercial advertising or click throughs are the lifeblood of the internet. One advantage I think Second Life has always had is that the user owns the IP, and in that regard to choose to take or leave anything they see, and in that regard you can make a living out of Second Life. Perhaps more significantly for students, they can break into Second Life Development – far easier than they can Sony – and on their own terms.

Nintendo is rumoured to be getting social. Animal Crossing for the Wii will be an MMO/social networking title. It’s no great surprise – in a few short years, Animal Crossing has become one of Nintendo’s most-loved and top selling franchises (over seven million copies sold) – mostly sold in Japan. And Nintendo is quick to talk about it as a ‘communications game’ – will pull technology being used to draw users to it.

The cross-over between console, mobile computing, mobile phone, laptop, desktop, plush toys, action toys has happened.

 Its a convergence that has been made possible by read/write technology over TCP/IP – and is spilling over into all devices that can push out a wifi signal. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how much’ and ‘where’ these things will be accessible from. Everything and everywhere seems to be a reasonable assumption at this point, But there is a snag for society. As Beth commented on an earlier post -“ it further divides the have/have nots – the tech savvy and the not.”

Consoles are pervasive with Australian school age children.

While PS3 is expensive, XBOX360 is also another LIVE console – and as supply issues get sorted out towards the Christmas season – both Sony and Microsoft will wage further price and feature wars – inching ever closer to the console being a ‘social’ experience – as the price point falls.

As we debate – media literacy  and global citizenship s – I think that running a private Teen Second Life Island looks like very simple thing to do in light of what is fast arriving from the commercial sectors. Developing re-useable ‘teen’ content in online spaces has to happen – as teens will be using these spaces after school.

But as many adults don’t play games – and are not used to putting out personal information with ‘strangers’, then there is a huge void between what ‘we’ think and what ‘they’ think. Adults often have no idea of using a 3D Graphical User Interface full stop, and when using a computer – monotask. Kids don’t.

Music, social trends, social networks, video games, movies and fashion have blended into ‘life’ – and that life is online – in a continual conversation – that can be remixed, re-packed and re-used.

If schools and teacher think that some ‘tenure of authoriity’ based on decades of autocratic classroom management will maintain ‘school values’ then I see a very worrying time ahead – for students as their classroom ‘learning’ drifts further and further from their social learning – but at the same time, access to this is based on having, as Beth said, Tech-savvy parents that can afford it.

A Nintendo Learning Story

A friend came over this week, with her 5 year old.

He was proudly showing me his new Nintendo DS. He’d done a leaflet run with his dad and bought it a week or so earlier. *Note to self – stop giving own kids gadgets too easily. I was amazed that he had a game, but had found a better use for it – as he explained.

He showed me a collection of writing that he’d done in the car on the journey over. He’d been copying down letters and numbers from road signs. But, and here’s the kicker, he used the drawings to tell me about the trip over, where they can gone, what he saw etc.,

Being ever the teacher, I back tracked a few times and asked him to explain things he’d said – such as where did you see the sign for 110 – ‘oh on the motorway’ he said, then showed me another one that said ‘exit speed’. He wanted to know what happened if you didn’t leave the motorway at that speed. I didn’t have an answer for that, but that didn’t put him off.

I’ve had no success in getting anyone at my school to take interest in hand held devices. A few PSPs around the place, but they are not ‘in the swim’ of learning.

I continue to read great things about Nintendos, not least from Ewan ‘Mr Channel 4’ McIntosh … and wonder what the problem is, why do administrators think about computing as either laptop or desktop, mac or PC? –

Even the Rudd funding application explicitly asks that question. Surely there is enough evidence now to at least consider trialing the DS in schools. I’d put my hand up for it – after all, Rudd is funding 9-12 computing, is there even a plan for K-6 or are we just going to leave it until 9th grade?