ESports High – just a click away?

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Occasionally, I muse over the potential of  E-Sports High Schools. Not fake ones that do a bit of coding and Minecraft – but one that actually develops talent to play pro, or to work in the industry – player, developer, media, cosplayer – the REAL world that swirls around ESports. For example, why not ENCOURAGE kids to stream an find the media success that their streaming and YouTube hero’s have found? Why can’t someone such as LoserFruit not get a high school start?. There is no real barrier aside from culture. There is plenty of evidence that Australia can create new schools – and models – especially high schools – so to have an Esports focus is also proven possible in the eyes of NESA and the all important government funding. So anyone who’s sniggering at the idea – simply fails to understand the shift in youth culture – and what kids actually want to learn about every day. There’s nothing to suggest that studying ESports every day would be BAD.

“Interactive games are woven into the fabric of our culture – a culture more nuanced and capable of enjoying the benefits of the digital economy than ever before.” – Digital Australia Report 2018

I have four essential arguments for a ESports High School Academy.

  1. There is sufficiently low-cost digital technology to deliver a full (high qualigy) high school program online as: fully online, blended, block or campus mode, and plenty of subject teacher talent to do it – not just well, but exceptionally well.
  2. The ESports industry is a well established growing one that is not served by current educational models. 92% of people play games with OTHER HUMAN BEINGS which make ESports not just viable, but attractive to people which very high cognitive processing and dedication. The myth of the fat-slacker-loner is long since dead.
  3. 93% of Australian households have had gaming devices since 2013 which places games as being as more culturally accepted in Australia than ANY sport.
  4. The ‘for implementation’ digital technologies curriculum in 2019 is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the gaming industry (coding, playing, producing, broadcasting etc.,) as an elective from year 9 onwards.
  5. Yeah, I know +1 right – THIS IS HOW YOU DEVELOP ‘Digital Nutrician” in kids by GIVING them what they want … the solution to too much gaming is, in fact, more gaming.

I’m not here to argue the benefits of gaming – these are well documented. Unless you’re so ingrained in a micro-belief that MINECRAFT is the apex of gaming – it’s easy to see the vast number of careers and media related opportunities there are for ESports High School. Not everyone will be as great as “IEATYOUUP”, but there are thousands, if not millions that are playing. Consider that ESport Pro player and broadcasters are POST SCHOOL AGE – is this not an industry that is “of the future” that educators on Twitter bang on about endlessly – but never do anything about.

In addition, I’m just going to say that the road to making this happen is both short and low cost – if the industry gets’s behind it, even to a token degree. Of course not every edumactor who’ s been mainlining EdTech for the last decade could do this – but there are some that can – me included. And no, I’m not going to road map it for you.

I’m just a dude researching games, working in eLearning for a decade plus and know exactly how this gets turned into a REAL EDUCATION. But I’m also super realistic that “games based learning” isn’t really understood in the context of school culture. But if parents want to deal with ‘screen time’, media culture and get the most from the millions of kids who LOVE gaming … or if Australian education REALLY AND TRUELY wants to tap into the multi billion dollar ESports media industry – I can totally assure you that pissing about with Minecraft and Hour of Code is amateur hour.

Xbox Live: What do parents need to know about Party Chat

If you own and Xbox or PS4, the chances are your child is playing online with a headset. In the past, the online-stranger-danger centred on so-called ‘internet chat rooms’. These things died ten years ago in reality, but TV and movies tend to talk about them still. Today, it’s not likely your child is live-chatting because there are so many better options such as Snap Chat and Xbox Live.

This post talks about ‘party chat’ as distinct from in-game chat. I am therefore not talking about in-game commands, co-ordination and instructions that players might do to win – I’m talking about the social chat that sits above that. The difference between game chat and party chat.

Should you be concerned about voice chat in a game? Yes. Most parents never sit in party chats and play games, so have no experience of what is going on. It’s like saying you can visit a different culture and apply your own culture’s norm to it and expect it to be the same. It’s not a case of it being bad or good – but to understand that party chat is a pervasive communication layer that defies geography and allows kids to maintain a semi-permanent tie to people they like and share values with. I hesitate to use the term ‘friends’ here as this term is illusory and yet used constantly in games to signal relationships. This post therefore tries to give you some background on party-chat: who uses it, what it is, how it’s used and so forth – you could ‘ban’ it, but that doesn’t actually create more harmony or stronger ties in the family or outside of it.

I’m also saying you (the parent) need to listen and understand it as a layer of communication between kids and not as an extension of a video game at all. So let me get into it.

Party chat is wide ranging. It is more of a hang-out than a tool to improve game performance. The second use is to say “I am here”. This is deeply connected with growing up. I’m not talking about the latter here – it’s too complex for a blog post. But be aware that kids use to tell the illusory world beyond your house – I am here and I’m connected.

Kids are often in a party chat but playing DIFFERENT games or even watching Netflix. On the upside, these tend to be tight-friend based parties in which the same kids come and go. Party chat is a communication layer, much like Skype. It sits over the game. The more sophisticated version being Twitch, where kids broadcast to the web and an audience forms online as a party. Most kids are watching Twitch (lots of F-Bombs) and not broadcasting – but they do mimic what they see in party charts. Little Jonny is probably going to try an F-Bomb in party chat – because, at the dinner table, that would have consequences! This doesn’t make them a bad kid!

Is my kid playing with online F-Bomb weirdos then?

Strangers are not likely and kids don’t leave the party ‘open’ to random joiners. The downside is that kids use this space to ‘shit-talk’ each other. This is complex, but many parents might be shocked to hear the projected persona of their own child. It’s just ONE identity they are experimenting with – don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean they are going one percent biker.

Don’t assume this is teenager issue either. Primary aged kids are among the biggest users as they can connect without needing mum or dad to take them to a friends house. The language in some of these parties can be quite alarming. This is about boundary testing and other developmental reasons – not as they are bad kids – but be aware, kids do swear a lot. They also don’t listen to each other too much. Unlike a real world interchange – shit talking – is almost part of the competitiveness of the game – as kids comment on others, testing relationships and figuring out where they are in the overall scheme of things.

Party Chat‘ allow kids select who they want to talk to. Who is in and out. There are squabbles here, as kids rage-quit the party or group ditches a kid for some reason. In my observation this is not long-lasting and they don’t seem to hold grudges. The party is likely to be a mix of in real life (IRL) and met online friends. Don’t expect this to the same IRL friend group from school. They may party chat online with kids they would not talk to at school. This appear very normal.

This is likely to be a mix of in real life (IRL) and met online friends. Don’t expect this to the same IRL friend group from school. They may plan online with kids they would not talk to at school.

Party chat is wide ranging. It is more of a hangout than a tool to improve game play. It’s mostly about ‘being present’ and socialising and a very casual basis. You teen might be in the party all day and only say three words. The important thing is that want to be connected – and the good news is that party chat is almost always a closed network and the core group quickly vet anyone joining – usually through an invite from someone already in the party.

A note here about ‘friends’. Kids add other players who didn’t suck, or perhaps compromised and helped in the game – where others didn’t. A ‘friend’ is more a ‘preferred player’ in most cases, but Xbox uses ‘friends’ as part of its taxonomy. It doesn’t mean “friend” in the same way it does IRL. The parent just appear dumb when they quiz kids about ‘real friends’ and ‘have you met them’ – kids think this is a ridiculous line of attack.

Furthermore, kids are often in a party chat playing DIFFERENT games or even watching Netflix. The downside of party groups is that kids use this space to ‘shit-talk’ each other. You might as well learn that term. Don’t freak, if a kid ‘shit-talks’ another, the other one usually doesn’t care or even respond. Telling another player “you’re bad” is far worse in the taxonomy of commentary. I’m not suggesting this is the norm, there are some very sensible and articulate kids in game chat – but there are morons – just as there are everywhere else in life. Kids often mirror what’s going on, they test out new identities – and yes, your otherwise angelic boy has probably heard and used language that won’t be alarming at the dinner table.

The reasons for this are complex. Don’t assume ‘shit-talking’ is teenager only, primary aged kids are among the biggest users as they can connect without needing mum or dad to take them to a friends house. Younger kids are full of bravado and mosy of the time, they provide a running, high-pitched commentary on the game. They verbalise their thoughts – not caring if anyone’s listening. Broadly speaking, older gamers call them mic-squeakers and mute them. Mic-squeakers are prolific trash-talkers to other mic-squeakers. Most of them don’t swear, but plenty does.The language in some of these parties can be quite alarming. This is about boundary testing and other developmental reasons – not as they are bad kids – but be aware, kids do swear a lot. They also don’t listen to each other too much. Unlike a real world interchange – shit talking – is almost part of the competitiveness of the game – as kids comment on others, testing relationships and figuring out where they are in the overall scheme of things.

My point here is that friend based party chat DOES often contain swearing – shit talking – and at the same time, this does NOT MEAN your child would do it outside of the party. Overall, party-chat is well meaning and players can come and go – which they do often. To me, it doesn’t appear a persistent space where systematic bullying might thrive – unlike Snap Chat and Facebook – which are far more permanent in terms of digital footprint.

My suggestion is to get in a party chat – the one your kid uses – and play. Figure out what is going on. You might find your kid is spending time with some GREAT kids and that they are very responsible. You might also discover shit-talking isn’t an idicator of much more than the advancing media culture in which F-Bombs and slagging off others isn’t now seen as Taboo.

Either way – Party Chat isnt going away …

Why Minecraft is better than Blues Clues (and school)

There is substantial disagreement and controversy about video games and childhood. Common criticisms of children’s media use is that it displaces other activities believed to be beneficial such as outdoor play; homework and leisure reading. Video games are subjected to claims made about television such as they lower academic achievement, to which scholars have plausibly argued academically challenged children are drawn to television and as a leisure time activity in the first place. In addition the correlation between TV and achievement has also been shown to include another significant variable – household income. Lower income households tend to watch more TV and also score lower of tests compared to higher income counter-parts.

Media has been used to address this before and it works. I’ll use the example of Blue Clues as most parents will recognise it. The creators’ and producers’ goals were to “empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers”. Admittedly Minecraft didn’t set out to do this, or even be played by pre-schoolers — but I’d argue it is achieving exactly the same goal though it’s enthusiastic media-based community. At the same time, there are more paths to follow than the MinecraftEdu one (not that it’s a bad path). I’m amazed that Mojang hasn’t called me, but hey I totally get why. They stand in a unique position to do some serious social good here, as well as make even more money. Call me fellas, seriously.

Video games are routinely associated with television as though these devices are comparable because of ‘time spent’ in front of the screen. I’m arguing that time-spent with screens promoting learning and improving childrens’ creativity and computational thinking is never a waste of time or resources. It just dry minds that consider fun and entertainment as separate from learning and school. Parents don’t — that has been shown over and over into research about parent belief towards what is ‘good for kids’ – Blue Clues certainly — and Minecraft … well maybe … if parents understand how to regulate it and put it to work and not use it to babysit. Using Minecraft to babysit is a really BAD idea by the way — and not bad addictive bad, bad because it creates high levels of the stuff Blues Clues aims for in a matter of weeks.

Minecraft discussions cannot overlook that many kids from lower-income families are using it instead of television — and if we are to maintain that TV and Games are the two big uses of screen time, then like watching Blues Clues has shown these pre-schoolers may well have higher levels of school readiness than those who do not — and those who only watch Blue Clues or other TV material. Are you with me here Mr Robertson?

When TV when is being used to deliberately to teach though fun and entertainment has positive effects on kids. It been shown that this positive effect is MOST beneficial to kids from lower-income backgrounds. Access to TV has been seen as a cheap and effective way to ‘educate’ those who are at most disadvantage.

When pre-schoolers are playing Minecraft and not watching Blues Clues, Dora or other TV-edu-material — do you think it is making them less or more ready for school? And what about our own ABC? What are they doing in the Minecraft (or other commercial game) space … well aside from Good Game Spawn Point MC maps — not a lot which is shame, all be it a temporary one I hope.

Now here’s the kicker Mr Robertson. Those kids arriving in school at the age of 5, from low income and media poor families can get an accelerant from Minecraft that they wont get from Blues Clues or other edu-watch-me media. They don’t need to have the cognitive and kinaesthetic skills needed to operate network (I can’t log in! Where’s the start-menu! I cant read the letters!) computers Just put an Xbox in the room and a set of well thought out activities and suddenly those kids are capable of rising to the levels of literacy, design and computational thinking that we’d normally attribute (though the literature) to high quality educational programs enjoyed by the better off in society. Not developing Xbox (or other) programs for kids (especially poor kids is brain-missing. Tapping into cultural literacy which is fun, entertaining and cheap makes a cubic world of sense.

The problem is that school culture continue sto connect media-research with gaming effectively and buy-into over simplistic (and unproven) rhetoric around ‘app culture’. The price of one fly-in-fly out powerpoint jockey to tell us about blah blah apps would seed some serious funding for development and research. Oh yes we want video games in schools … because so far the other option hasn’t worked for those kids who are at most risk.

Yes I’ll move to Dundee.

Simple XBONE advice for Xmas Morning you need to know

This post is for those planning to buy planning to buy an XBONE to open on Christmas morning — and how to avoid the disappointment that will occur. The XBONE has already seen many changes to it’s operating environment since it went it the box. It will want to PATCH immediately. That’s 500mb right there. It will want to connect to the wireless to do it — so make sure you know the name of it and the password – and what kind of security your network uses.

Patching is not as slow as I expected, however it’s going to take a lot longer than kids have patience. Then there are the games. They too want to patch – and I’m talking GIGABYTES of patching which is also quite slow.

On Xmas morning, if your plan is to open the box and play — then it will be Boxing Day before you get going if you let it patch.

If you don’t want to deal with XBONES updates then you can skip it’s demands for WIRELESS on set-up. The downside is that you won’t be able to sign into XBOX LIVE to play the games or get to other media. So be prepared to either get patched or staff off the Internet on Christmas Day.

You also need to buy the rechargeable battery and charger. Despite the controller having Duracells, it chews them in no time. No the 360 won’t work — so that’s about $25.00 you’ll need to pay.

I was pleased to see XBONE did have a decent HDMI cable in the box — but you might want to think about getting a cheap HDMI selector box if you’re planning to keep your Xbox 360 running. A decent one will auto switch and save you a lot of TV-Input switching too.

Xbox one installing help.

Plenty of social media reports have said how problematic Xbox one installs have been. I’ve picked mine up and fought with it most of the afternoon. Here’s my advice … I’m two frustrating hours into ownership at the time I tapped this out.  There’s seemed no real help online, just trolls in forums … So if your here because you googled for help … this is just me, telling you what I did to get playing.

First of all, don’t freak out when it demand you type in your Wi-Fi name. If it can’t find it … then it shows you those it can see. Yeah I know right? So off the bat, connect the Wi-Fi, so i can do it’s Xbox Live thing.

1. Let it install the 500mb system patch after you connect to your Wi-Fi. It’s pretty slow and took me about 30 mins (given I’m on a crappy 2mbps link).

2. Turn off your Wi-Fi before installing your game. You can’t play off the disc like you can on the 360. I don’t know why – probably because I haven’t been following all the Mashable tidbits.

Let it install the game from the disc you paid for. Feroza wanted 6gig update, Black Flag 500mb. Either way, with the Wi-Fi on, it will sit at 1% seemingly forever.

Note that the install progress can only be seen from the tiny green line that grows vertically from the “you games and apps page”. It’s tiny!. After a while, maybe 12% it will say you can play the game and the install bar now runs horizontally. It is slow. Like really slow.

3. If you turn on the Wi-Fi, you can’t do anything other than wait for the patch. Welcome to the future, there is no other option. So if you want to play, and why not as most of us handed over $800 to play … keep that Wi-Fi disconnected, while you install the discs. Of course you can’t go online at the same time.

Other issues.

Really long boot time. Yes. Especially when first running the system. Limited information. Minimal options and system feedback is annoying. As the update window is simply a numeral, it’s hard to know if it’s doing anything. If you are getting no where. Remove the game from the my games and apps list, turn of fir ten seconds, re boot and disconnect the Wi-Fi. Once it starts, it wants to pause the download and will refuse to move on.

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.