Friday, April 29, 2011

How To Write For Gamers

We don't read
We don't read for pleasure. At least not online. Or, at the very least not when we're playing or working. We have been bombarded with information since the past era of information and knowledge. Now that the Relationship Era has begun, we are looking for meaning and purpose.

We skim, scan and select
We do a bunch of other things that you might consider reading. Since we have tasks to be done, we rely on Google to point us in the right direction. Once there, we look at signs and posts that you might call headlines. If we realize we are in the right place, we might look around to check the landscape. It is pretty much like shopping in a department store. We select and choose the right stuff that serves our needs. And, then, use them.

Write for us
It's easy. Make sure the signs and posts are clear. Get straight to the point and tell me what I need to know. Give me a sense that you have some sort of authority. The only reason I'm not in Wikipedia or or Yahoo Answers or the forums is that I need something that was not there. Give me value and not some rephrased copy-pasted collage from your teacher's notes.

Control Freak
Jakob Nielsen's group found out that Internet readers follow an F pattern. Like DUH! Of course it's an F. Headline, scan down, subheading, skim and select. That's an F right? F could also stand for fast. BUT, more importantly, it stands for Find. Ctrl-F gets us there quick. I use Chrome and Firefox, I don't know about the other browsers.

To Copy or To Write a Copy
Write well. It is okay to write long formal stuff. It's also okay to write short, casual and personal stuff. It's also okay to write in bullet points. Gamers aren't stupid, and we don't really have ADD. It's just that there's a lot going on. But, when we do find time to read, we CAN read for pleasure and we can read slow.

Build Trust
In this new era, connection is king. It's no longer about content. It's about fulfilling needs and achieving goals. If we can find a mall that can trust to give us what we want most of the time, then we become loyal. We subscribe. We eventually transact. But, we need your consistency and your integrity. In short, we need to build a relationship.

Overview of Character Classes

If you haven't done so, determine your character class here. It's hard to go about The Game not knowing your behavioral tendencies, your powers and your weaknesses. To start off, you have to know what you live for and what it is that can help you find your true self. To be sure, you are more than your initial class. As an adventurer you will continue to develop yourself until you can join one of two factions. For now, you have to decide who you are now. Your journey starts here.

As a Rogue Ranger, you live for the greater good. Just like Robin Hood, you fight for what is right even if it means that you have to do it your own way. You may find clarity in contemplating on society's norms. Think about why Pop is popular.

As a Tank Healer, you live to support others. You are the ultimate companion, always in service to those you care for. You might even over exert yourself at times. Find strength in self love. Even fire fighters know to save themselves first, before they can save others.

As a Champion Warrior, you live to fight and win. You enjoy achievement and success. You are driven, energetic and ambitious. You might overlook the successes of those around you. It would be good for you to show weakness once in a while, admit your mistakes and realize that everything is okay. Find value in the pleasures of life and worth in the mundane.

As an Empath Mage, you live to express your own individuality. Your powers of empathy extend your senses from within to those around you. Feelings and emotions may overwhelm you, and you might even shy away from crowds or society itself. Some Empaths are known to live as hermits. Find growth in accepting your powers as well as your faults without judgment.

As a Seer Alchemist, you live to observe, understand and know things. You are a genie kept in a bottle because it is difficult for you to bring to reality some of the most awesome ideas. You know the difference between looking and seeing, between hearing and listening, and between feeling and knowing. You have to work hard to find enjoyment in the wonders of the real world.

As a Ninja Chevalier, you live for the security of your family, guild and empire. Once you have pledged your loyalty to your sovereign, you will fight against all its enemies. You have a deep sense of honor. Your greatest challenge is to find courage in the goodness of life.

As a Bard Explorer, you live to discover and experience everything life has to offer. Existence to you is a great adventure and you can't wait for next moment to start. Take a moment to enjoy the present and find happiness in simple joys.

As a Barbarian Chief, you live to be a strong voice for the weak. Your robust personality is legendary and sometimes evoke fear and criticism. You deflect your detractors with ease. Build on your strengths and find trust in leading others towards a shared goal.

As a Monk Druid, you live to balance Life's forces. You come close to the term True Neutral. You sit on the fence with comfort. You are uncomfortable when the only choices are black and white. You find peace in resolving conflicts.

If you would be so kind as to tell me how the descriptions relate to you in real life. I would like to know how similar the descriptions are to your personality. I have found that they are fairly accurate offline. Our adventures will start once we have a party going on. Meanwhile, it is time for you to quantify your attribute scores.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Your Character Class in the Game of Life

You have been chosen worthy.

You have decided to become aware and to play the game of Real Life. You are objective. You are reality-based. You observe the world with kind judgment and practical optimism. You always smile because you are good enough. You accept failure and your weaknesses wholeheartedly because you learn from them. You continue to develop your strengths for the good. You act with compassion because you are thankful for life, the universe and everything. You greet, praise and celebrate everyone with deep sincerity. You live in the present and that is your gift. You will share this gift to anyone who accepts it. You claim ownership of unconditional happiness.

And, YOU will help me save the world.

The chosen are required to have an initial character class. Let's find out yours. Choose one from the uncolored traits and one from the colored traits that describe you most of the time. The convergence of those two traits will determine your initial character class. This is your first quest as an Adventurer in the Hero's Journey.

For a short overview of your character class, click here.

The longer descriptions are in the Learning Guild forums.

Side Quest: Show your vulnerability to at least one person and start knowing who you really are.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Educational Revolution

Richard Riley popularized the notion that "the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn't exist in 2004." He said this to push the idea that the most important thing a student can do today is to learn how to learn.

Moreover, although we can't predict future problems of future technologies that require new job descriptions, we can anticipate. By getting involved in actual practices in the industry, students can get the sense of the trends and can therefore adapt to the chaotic flux of change. In this kind of environment, students need the skill of creative solutions providing rather than prescriptive problem analysis. Education, then, needs to be informal and organic rather than formal and linear.

The current system forces companies to train entry level personnel to achieve minimum competence. This is done from a few weeks to a few months. Something that colleges and universities should have been doing for two to four years. If we take out the focus on diplomas, we will just have training centers. These schools of actual learning are partnered with companies to provide the exact skills that these companies are looking for in job candidates. In a sense, the companies are outsourcing their training department. It's totally a win-win-win situation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Connectivism & the Relationship Era

Connectivism is an emergent theory for learning that aptly came out in the relationship era.

During the information age going into the knowledge era, about a decade ago, finding the right information as well as finding the right knowledge assets was key. That's why Google came out as the primary technology that enabled the world to go about their business.

Facebook wins
Now that information is handy, available and readily shared, the new imperative was to find the right people to share it with. Facebook came out as the winner. As we build on the relationships we are continuously developing, we now search for meaning. The early winner, not surprisingly, is FarmVille. But, going beyond virtual produce, we find that learning as a process is being revolutionized. Learning is something we need and learning is something we seem to be needing more and more of. This is just a logical step resulting from the ease of knowledge acquisition and breaking of the barriers of relationship initiation.

Supermodel work
This is where Connectivism comes in. We need a model and not necessarily a theory to work with. The comparison with other learning theories is well and good and necessary to elaborate the details. But, as can be seen in the ongoing theoretical debates, we generally want to have a model we can use. There is a sense of impatience among the practitioners. And, this is explained by Connectivism itself.

Ends and means
In the connectivist learning model, the flow of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself. In other words, the process is more important than the content. The main reason for this is that there is a constant need for quick adaptation. In this era, knowledge must be directed quickly to where it is needed to be applied. Once it has served its purpose, it is archived and momentarily forgotten. Notice that discarding information is now practically unheard of because once the connection has been made (i.e. something is learned), it will be stored somewhere. The additional task is mere retrieval or recollection.

Let's talk
Going into the connectivist layers, the initial requirement for learning is the communication of two nodes. This connection could even be one-way. Of course, it would be better if the communication cycle is completed via a feedback loop.

ASL pls
In the first layer, we are concerned with the type of communication channels that are being used. It can be physical, conceptual or virtual. Physical channels include electromagnetic fields like line-of-sight, infrared, microwave, radio waves, talking, other physical forces like gravity and even neuronal, endocrine processes and other biological communication. Conceptual channels include friendship, marriage, imagination, ideation, multi-level marketing, governments, social clubs and any other form of organization. The virtual channel was made to delineate connections that are mediated on the Internet. They could be argued as both physical and conceptual, but the main purpose is to be able to look into the distinct processes that can only be facilitated in the cloud. Virtual channels include mailing lists, forums, YouTube subscriptions and other lists, online courses, online games, IRC, BBC, and (I just realized now!) practically every element in the virtual universe, currently dominated by Facebook and Google.

Other concerns in the communication layer are the attributes that allow, improve or hinder the communication process. These would be the amount of traffic that flows through the channel, the quality of the transmission and noise, the integrity of the feedback, the type of feedback mechanisms, and the speed.

Trust Me
The 2nd layer of connectivity is determining the type of relationship of two nodes. It is postulated in Connectivity that stronger bonds produce better learning. A good currency of this bond is trust. This is defined and differentiated on both sides. Aside from the trust given by one node to the other, we also look at the level of commitment of that node to the given trust. Again, it works both ways. Trust is then supported by time and consistency. Relationships are also supported by entrainment. This is the level of similarity, compatibility and synchronicity of purpose of both nodes for maintaining the relationship.

Let's dance
For instance, the nodes of gaming and problem solving initially have different goals. When they are connected the resulting relationship has a high level of entrainment in that having fun facilitates finding solutions and the process creates a utilitarian dimension for having fun. Essentially, one node feeds on the outcome of the other. Another concept of relational bond is entrenchment. Nodes that are forced to remain connected each other are entrenched either by the interconnectivity of their mutual connections, or by the type of their relationship (e.g. marriage, monopolies, mafia).

1 + N = Infinity
The 3rd Connectivity layer is synergy. It describes the value of the connection. The cost of producing the connection must always be less than the benefits that pass through the connection. Other optimization factors are also included in this layer such as critical paths and efficiency. Processes described from other fields, theories and models such as Neuroscience, Connectionism, Distributed Cognition and Artificial Intelligence are included in this layer. Other activities that enhance the outcome of the relationship or learning are also part of the synergy layer. A few examples are promotion, gratitude and play.

The 4th layer posits that learning and knowledge can exist without the awareness of the actual connection of the nodes. We are looking at probability and potentiality. Consider yourself and a stranger in Facebook with 50 mutual friends. You haven't met each other in person, but every time you both login you see each other on the side bar under friend suggestions. At some point, both of you at separate times will click on each other's profiles, and find some point of connection. If one of you sends a request and the other approves, learning will have occurred. These would be like the times when you hear something that is so logical you wonder, "Now, why haven't I thought of that?" And, now you have.

Context is of extreme importance in Connectivism. The environment and circumstances surrounding connections defines the actual value of the information that is communicated through the channels. Some contextual factors are compatibility of all layers, shared resources among nodes and patterns, and productivity of the network and sub-networks.

Let's play a game
The Connectivist model basically allows us to talk under a common framework where we could understand each other more by playing the same language game. Now that we have initiated the conversation, where do we go from here? What do we do? The new generation has already started to answer it for us. The theorizing has come expectedly in the heels of the sprinting era and there is a lot of catching up to be done.

Because, this "relationship era" is no longer a child, but a very young parent. The gaming era is now being born from the connected minds of the kids who either just dropped out of the dysfunctional educational system or got their PhD's in their mid-20s. In the coming years, more and more people will be playing games not just for fun but for work.

Thank you for reading. How time flies when your having fun. Please leave a comment or a question. I'd really appreciate it. :)

3 Reasons I Like Playing Games

[Preblog: The moment I asked the magical question, "Why?" a flood of ideas clogged my thoughts and couldn't decide which one to start with. The biggest bubble that floated fastest was another question, "Why not?" Ugh, it annoys me when people do that. Answer a question with another answer. BUT, there is something to this technique that can be very useful. Just remember to use it only on special and very specific situations.]

1. It's Freakin' Fun!
Everyone loves to play games. If they say they don't, it only means they're sad creatures. Cheer them up and then invite them to play. But, don't force them. It's not fun to play with sad people. Although, if you're up for the challenge you might get them to play with a bit of blackmail and coercion. Then, maybe you'll cheer them up in the process.

It's fun to win. But, I find that it's more fun trying to win. The process of doing your best to get that score or cheering on your teammates gets to me more than the climax of getting the score. Of course, a lot of my friends just play to win, but that's exactly where frustration begins. So, I just play to play. Win or lose, I had my fun! I think this comes from my childhood days when the bigger kids won't let me play along. So, getting to play is already a major win in my books.

It's fun to play with friends and strangers. You will see how different personalities unfold and loosen up when they are just playing. You can even observe your own inhibitions just fly away as you try to guess that word in charades or try not to be at the top of the pile in 1-2-3-pass. Laughter is possibly the best addiction.

Talking about addiction, it is fun to escape from the real world. Games have set rules, and players seemingly have greater control of the outcome. But, I personally think and feel that it is only the perception of control that matters. In real life, there is no direct and immediate feedback mechanism that games have. We do not see our health points go down every time we overeat. We do not see our XP increase every time we read a book. We don't get a rare item once we defeat the Boss of Procrastination. I think maybe it's time that we do.

2. It's Safe.
I find games comforting because it's an alternative venue to validate my abilities. I can show off. I can prove to myself or my friends I am good at something. And, it's okay to brag about your gaming skills because they're not real skills. But, I feel proud and confident about them.

Games make my life easier. Decisions in playing games are not as complex or as difficult as in real life. The limits have been set and the choices have been laid out for me. My main job is to show up and play.

Real life is dangerous. The pain of suffering and the humiliation of failure is all too real. But, games expect you to fail or die at some point and that is perfectly okay. They have made it easy for you to start again with little or no penalty. Our real life identities are too personal to us for us to take "those" kinds of risks that we can only do if we could in fact save our current status, then load and restart if we didn't like the outcome. In games, if we do it enough number of times, we'll get to the next level. Still, I'm saying now that maybe it's time to do it in real life. If we take the life- and ego-threatening dangers out and mitigate all the perceived and actual risks, we can do it in real life.

3. I Get Better & Better
I like challenging myself as much as I enjoy taking personality quizzes. There is some existential desire to become aware of my innate characteristics, abilities and limitations. There is also a greater desire to become better than my current self. Playing games allow me to fulfill both these desires.

You will notice that the casual games designers have me figured out. All casual games will have different levels of difficulty. The best casual games allow practice in tutorials or trainer modes. All engaging casual games require a learning curve that pits me not just against the game but against myself. The most engaging ones will pit me against all the other players segregated in various categories. It is a challenge to find a recent casual game that do not track your game achievements to give its players additional source of rewards and that happy dopamine kick.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Coolest Gadget (So Far)

My friends call it "iPadPaper" with great enthusiasm. I call it functional. The recent release of iPad 2 has nothing on myPadPaper. It's easily a winner in the mass market. This particular crowd pleaser has absolutely no need for charging, its "advance" OS runs 100% on its user's mechanical energy. 3rd party input devices like the classic Mongol 2.0 is available everywhere.

This model comes with 500 pp memory and is resistant to falls of up to 10 meters. I accidentally dropped this one from our building's 3rd floor with just a teeny-tiny bit of scratch, but all my data are still intact. Just be careful, this thing of beauty is still not weather- or coffee-proof. So, don't jump into the pool or the sea with it just yet.
It has the best contrast ratio I have used under the direct rays of the sun. The down side is that its visual display is very traditional without an active matrix for illumination. Don't fret, mods are available for your convenience. This add-on is useful on camping trips where you won't find a socket on a wall (or a wall for that matter).
One thing about myPadPaper is that it's sometimes hard to do a topic search. So, I easily googled a hack and found something I should have figured out for myself. A folding hack!
A friend also suggested a particular upgraded model with actual bookmarks on the pages and a leatherette binding.

Wow! I love the idea. I should get mine upgraded soon.
The best feature I love about myPadPaper is the instantaneous downloading of apps. When you find a game you want to play with a friend or more, just go ahead and do it. It has the most intuitive multiplayer interface I have ever seen. Moreover, all apps are backward and forward compatible with any OS version, including mods, hacks and even warez.
myPadPaper comes in a variety of models. It can be customized for a particular group or organization. No malware can ever get into the built-in security features. Just watch out for silverfis.h that can creep into the pages after several years of storage.
And, this last photo is one of the earliest pocket-sized models that is still being used to this day, myTickler.
PROS: Cheap, robust, functional, personalized font support
CONS: Not water-resistant, limited search capabilities
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 sweet grapes