GAMIFICATION: Steampunk & Gaming Trends in Education

I find gaming trends (specifically, gamification) hugely interesting. But before I go any further, it's important not to think of gaming as mindless blood & guts violence, or as the pixelated TV games from the 1980s (apart from the greats), but rather as breathtaking imagery such as this:

Gamification: Screenshot of the fantasy, medieval game, Skyrim

Screenshot of the fantasy, medieval game, Skyrim

Gamification: Bioshock Infinite: A popular steampunk game set in the late 1800s ... in the skies! (image: pcgamer.com)

Bioshock Infinite: A popular steampunk game set in the late 1800s ... in the skies! (image: pcgamer.com)

Gaming is currently the fastest growing entertainment industry in the world. It has influenced music, films, art, education and popular culture in general. To me, gaming is the height of entertainment. I like to think of it as watching a great, immersive film, but playing an active role in how the story pans out. It is edutainment at its best.

I firmly believe that gaming is what will prevent me from getting Alzheimer’s one day too – in all seriousness. It encourages lateral thinking, logic, multitasking, good hand-eye co-ordination; in short, it keeps the brain active, engaged, rewarded and excited. It is literally reshaping industries and the way we learn.

Gamification: Fallout 3: A popular post-apocalyptic game that offers an experience of what a post-Word War 3 world might be like ...

Fallout 3: A popular post-apocalyptic game that offers an experience of what a post-Word War 3 world might be like ...

Gaming Trends in Education

I mentioned how gaming trends are influencing formal education too. Gamification (as it is called) has started being implemented by several schools around the world. Because the younger generation can relate to gaming, school-work and learning can be made genuinely fun through gamifying education, and there is much evidence to point to its benefits. Check out "7 ways games reward the brain" by Tom Chatfield, or the below TED video.

Gabe Zichermann on Gamification: How Games Make Kids Smarter

A lot can be learned from several tasteful games themselves. Gaming trends in recent years have brought a lot of history to our PCs and consoles. A popular genre in gaming trends at the moment is steampunk – which adds a beautiful and atmospheric science-fiction twist to history.

Many steampunk games offer an alternative look at history – i.e. a look at how things may have panned out differently, but also insight into the minds of those who lived through the Industrial Revolution.

“Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.” - Wikipedia

Gamification: Popular steampunk game, Dishonoured (image: forbes.com)

Popular steampunk game, Dishonoured (image: forbes.com)

There is no doubt that steampunk has had a profound effect on contemporary society. It has influenced literature – such as the works of H.G. Wells and Philip Pullman. It has influenced the genres of fantasy, horror and historical fiction – specifically Victorian-era fiction. A number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

I could never seem to justify the number of hours spent gaming in my youth to my parents – arguing that I was genuinely learning and loving the process. I can only suggest that parents today take an active interest in the games their children play. As Gabe Zichermann suggests, "enter into the game with your kids". Watch how they engage and help them choose the educational masterpieces over mindless blood and gore.

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HUMOUR: Once upon a time in Italy ...

SEVERAL centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal.

He'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise, learned rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

www.toonpool.comNext, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy!

Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.

The Pope said: "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He then pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue."

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won.

"I haven't a clue!" said the rabbi. "First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger.
Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here."
"And then what?" asked a woman.
"Who knows?" said the rabbi. "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."

Best Happy Friday post yet: If historic people had Facebook :D

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PVP: New Gaming experience opens at Liberty Midlands Mall

AN exciting new entertainment venue has opened in Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall. PVP Digital Arena (short for Player Versus Player) allows gamers to at last take advantage of some built-in features of the Xbox 360 that they have been denied up until now.

Previously Xbox owners have only been able to take advantage of around 30% of the capabilities of the Xbox, says Brendon Holder, who together with Paul Gilliver is responsible for dreaming up the idea for this ground-breaking store.

PvP Digital ArenaPVP is, apparently, the first of its kind in the country and the only electronic game specialist store in Pietermaritzburg. The store also retails a range of the best and latest games for Xbox, Playstation, PC and Nintendo consoles and Holder and Gilliver are available to give expert advice.

PVP will give gamers access to 20 networked  Xbox 360s connected to high definition LCD monitors, to play the latest games that include first person shooters such as Halo: Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Call of Duty; third person shooters like Gears of War 2; real time strategy games such as Halo Wars; car racing and rally games that include Dirt 2, and car simulators like Forza 3; as well as a variety of “beat-em-up” games, and sports games like Fifa 10, rugby and golf.

The real X-factor with PVP, however, is the fact that players can play against other players in the same room, giving the already convincingly rendered games, enhanced reality. Slow internet speeds in South Africa have meant that unlike other places in the world, live multiplayer gaming has not been a real option for gamers in SA. This has meant that possibly the most exciting aspect of electronic multiplayer games has yet to be experienced by locals.

“Playing Call of Duty is so much more real when you and your squad are in the same room, discussing strategy, while your opponents are on the other side of the room planning how to ambush you. The line between real and virtual is blurred.” - Holder

To further enhance the experience, PVP will hold competitions, elite tournaments for pro gamers, and in-store events, including the possibility of “moments of madness” where they will randomly give away PVP-branded gear and other prizes to players.

The eagerly anticipated store has already created a stir on PVP’s facebook page (PVP Digital Arena) and Liberty Midlands Mall centre manager Cassie Fourie says that there has been a lot of interest shown.

“Customers have been asking when PVP is opening and are extremely excited”, she said, “We welcome this new addition to the mall, which caters to the entertainment element.”

The best news though is that to get in on the action, it will cost players less than a ride in one of those peddle boats at the seaside, with prices starting at a mere R20 per 30 minutes.

Costs to play at PVP Digital Arena
- R20 per 30 minutes
- R35 per one hour
- R60 per two hours

Games store events planned
After-hour “lock ins” will be organised for groups of 16 or more on request.
Competitions for rankings, with prizes, to be held every month.
Elite tournaments for pro gamers to be held at PVP.
Various events to be held weekly, including “moments of madness”

Other goods on offer at PVP games store
PVP is also a retailer of the best electronic console games for Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Wii and PC. Buyers can try games before they buy and get expert advice on game choices. There will be a game swopping facility available too.

Membership options are planned for the future, with loyalty cards that earn members points that can be redeemed for playing time, games or PVP merchandise.

PVP games store equipment
Twenty networked Xbox 360s linked to HDMI.
23” LCD monitors, with headphones and comfortable tub chairs.
PVP will keep their equipment current and in future will even change to another console platform if a better one is released.

PVP Digital Arena is at Shop 93A at Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall. Don’t miss their grand opening at 9am this Saturday, October 24. Get there early to claim your place. For inquiries call PVP at 033 342 6420 or email Brendon Holder: brendon@pvp-arena.co.za

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NATIONAL ARTS FEST: The National Arts Festival

ATTENDANCE at this year’s National Arts Festival was dismal in comparison to previous years. It seems that the recession really is affecting people’s annual trips and touristy activities. There were, however, far more foreign festival goers than before, which created a nice multi-national vibe.

Village Green vendors selling the same stuffThe Village Green stalls were pretty much the same as they’ve always been
– a lot of vendors selling the same stuff. Besides relocating closer to campus, the same array of colourful clothing, prickly pot plants, interesting art, fast food, musical instruments and CDs could be found. The most popular items this year: brightly coloured beanies.

Overall people seemed very reluctant to buy anything and not a lot of collectables seemed to be selling. One actually had to be careful not to look too interested in anything for fear of being pounced upon by a desperate vendor.

The notorious Eggman

The notorious Eggman

Other daily sightings included clowns on stilts, magic sideshow tricks, freaky street mimes, an annoying guy walking around blowing a bird whistle, and the notorious Eggman.

The shows on the other hand were a sell-out, at least in the case of the main festival programme. I saw one play on the fringe which was somewhat embarrassing to watch as it was so appalling. I won’t mention any names.

Apart from these regular festivities, there was one place that grabbed everyone’s attention. A new enterprise called Pirates Pizza has fast become the new most popular hangout for Rhodents. The man behind the establishment started off by selling pizza from his res room back when I was still a student. Well let’s just say that he turned things up a notch and is doing pretty well for himself.

The business is thriving, especially since the addition of a bar, a dance floor and a stripper pole. The founders could quite easily retire before they hit thirty. Pirates Pizza could very well be the student entrepreneur endeavour of the decade. Unfortunately their website is still under construction, but you really have to head down there yourself to experience its omnipotence.

Pirates Pizza at National Arts Festival

Pirates Pizza - the new no.1 hangout at Rhodes

Pirates Pizza - the new no.1 hangout at Rhodes

So make your bookings for next year’s Grahamstown Festival now as 2010 and the much anticipated end of the economic crisis promises to result in the biggest National Arts Festival in South African history.

PS: I didn’t take my camera this year as I was on holiday this time round, but there is a great collection of videos and photo-slideshows on the Cue website.

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DANCING FOR HUMANITY: Where the hell is Matt video

THE dancing video "Where the Hell is Matt?" has seen over 21 million views to date, so you're likely to have seen it before, but if you haven't, you should give it a watch. It takes you to a place of magic and joy and wonder - a place where all the bad in the world is forgotten for 4mins 29secs. It is one of the most viewed viral videos of its time and one of my top dancing videos.

"14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands. Thanks to everyone who danced with me" - Matt Harding

Dancing for Humanity

Thanks Matt. You Rock.

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