On Monday, April 8th, 2013, Cologne Game Lab hosted the official kickoff of the Games for Change Europe initiative, in partnership with the FMX Conference, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Autodesk, ENJMIN, CNAM, Ubisoft, Cap Digital and Futur en Seine.
The conference featured a series of presentations and a panel discussion on the current state of social impact games as well as a strategic discussion among all participants on future actions in the initial phase of the Games for Change Europe initiative.
The day started with an address of welcome by the directors of Cologne Game Lab, Björn Bartholdy and Gundolf S. Freyermuth. The latter contextualized the Games for Change movement in media history. He argued that the idea of Games for Change stands in a long tradition of approaches using media for the purpose of change. As he emphasized, already the German poet Friedrich Schiller saw the theatre as a moral institution.
Afterwards, the Co-Presidents of Games for Change Europe, Jean-Michel Blottière and Katharina Tillmanns, outlined the idea of Games for Change Europe. For Blottière one of the conditions for the launch of Games for Change Europe is the coming of age of digital games in recent years. Among other things, he pointed to the numerous awards (including “game of the year”) the indie game “Journey” received at the Game Developers Choice Awards at the GDC 2013. Tillmanns stressed the importance of social activism and called upon the community “to get a little bit more public, to create a common platform and to make games for change visible”.
The first keynote “Good Games: New Games for Social Impact need new Business Model” was held by Guido Doublet, CEO of takomat. Doubled shared the history of his company from the beginnings in 2005, when the founders were frustrated about the current state of e-learning and initiated an interdisciplinary research initiative on learning with games, to the development of games such as “Energetika”, in which players face the challenges of Germany’s energy landscape for the coming 40 years on the basis of real data. Based on a profound calculation, he argued that games such as “Energetika” (which was played by 110.300 students in German schools) could save a lot of money compared to classical classroom lessons, while being very efficient.
Gaël Seydoux, New Business Development Director at Ubisoft Paris, held the second keynote. His talk “Game Mechanics for A better Life” outlined Ubisoft’s approach to the development of serious games which is not only seen as corporate social responsibility, but also as a new business field. As a first sector of serious games, Ubisoft took the health sector – to fight, as Seydoux explains, against irrational behavior and to legitimate serious games as pedagogy. In the main part of his presentation, Seydoux talked about the development and the mechanics of “Bipolife” which is a psychological tool for bipolar patients. The game intends to help bipolar patients to understand their illness and to manage their lifestyles in order to avoid full-blown episodes. In the game, players can also choose risky behaviors and perceive its negative consequences. Future plans of Ubisoft in the field of serious games include the conduction of a scientific study on “Bipolife” as well as the development of other serious games in the health sector. During the Q&A, there was an interesting discussion on the in-game possibility to commit suicide, which is in fact possible, but not viewable in the game.
The subsequent panel discussion, hosted by Katharina Tillmanns, featured Guido Doublet, Gaël Seydoux, Gundolf S. Freyermuth and Till Hardy, a representative of “Film- und Medienstiftung NRW”, a foundation in the field of film and media. Starting with the question why the foundation has recently embraced games, the panel discussed topics such as games as location factor, games as transmedia, games as art, and games as education.
After lunch there were three short presentations: Marion Février (Cap Digital) introduced “Futur en Seine 2013”, the “digital world festival”. Jörg Hofstätter (ovos) presented a couple of “Purposeful Video Games from Austria”. And Marcus Bösch (the Good Evil) explained “why and how and for whom we are developing games for impact”, and showed the portfolio of his recently founded start-up “the Good Evil”.
Afterwards, the participants of the conference discussed possible future actions in the initial phase of the Games for Change Europe initiative. The discussion was based on the following two questions: What can Games for Change Europe do for you? What can you do for Games for Change Europe? During the discussion, the participants defined a variety of possible future actions. The most popular ideas were the creation of specific award shows as well as the development of a professional public relations/media strategy.
Subsequently, Michelle Byrd, Co-President of Games for Change, was interviewed via Skype. She reported, from New York City, about the evolution of Games for Change in the last two years (since she and Asi Burak took up its presidency). Above all, she emphasized the development and launch of the Zynga supported Facebook game “Half the Sky Movement: The Game”, which aims to draw attention to women’s issues. Furthermore, she pointed to the 10th Games for Change Festival which will take place in June in New York City.
Finally, Susana Ruiz, media artist, scholar and co-founder of take action games, held the closing keynote “crafting creative intersections between game design and social justice impact” via Skype from Los Angeles. She briefly outlined her stance on the possibilities of social impact games and gave an overview of her game projects, such as “Darfur is Dying”, “RePlay: Finding Zoe“, and “Say No-Unite”. In her opinion, games for change work best when they are part of a broader campaign, when people have multiple possibilities to learn that a certain game exists. In the end of her presentation, she talked about the future of the Games for Change movement and emphasized that social justice work is collective work. She concluded her talk and the conference with the following statement: “Don’t forget it is nothing less than Games for Change!”
For the first time this year´s Game Developer´s Conference featured a card and board game lounge to showcase physical games from notable video game developers. The collection was curated by Eric Zimmerman and, amongst others featured the strategy card game Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space from IGF finalists Santa Ragione (MirrorMoon), the fighting card game Flash Duel from veteran designer/balancer David Sirlin (Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix) and the one-of-a-kind physical game Train by Brenda Romero (Wizardry).
Romero who has just received the Lifetime Achievement award for making significant contributions to the game industry throughout her career, talked to us about her design approach for Train and the uncharted territory when tackeling a real-world topic in game design.
Another 48 exciting hours of brainstorming, scribbling, concepting, designing, programming and not-sleeping are behind us. With 67 registered participants in Cologne and 13 playable games the 4th Global Game Jam hosted by us at CGL has highly exceeded all our expectations. The amount of creativity and enthusiasm that we saw throughout the GGJ weekend again shows the high potential of games being an expressive medium and the designers being ready to overcome our common understanding of games as it is today.
This year´s theme was revealed with an audiofile that presented a human heartbeat. Whereas some partcipants directly adapted the theme as topic into their games, there where some exciting representations and interpretatations as well. In some games the heartbeat served as rhythmic pacing-element to create suspense, some games used it as gameplay mechanics in a fitness app and one game even established a heart mode where players could navigate a character through a story that was unvisible to the eye in standard mode.
Also this years diversifiers helped a lot to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. As our site was one of the official Games for Change related locations it was great to see that so many jammer were being so enthusiastig about making their game in the context of social impact.
Around the world this year´s edition of the Global Game Jam united more than 16.00 jammers in 319 sites over 63 countries in creating total of 3128 playable games.
Head over to the globalgamejam.org to check our all Cologne games.
In a joint project with students from the Zurich University of the Arts, Specialization Game Design, our Master students were facing an intense game design week throughout this year´s Next Level Conference in Cologne.
In the Social Sound Workshop that was dedicated to music in a public context, the group experimented with topics such as performance, simplicity of gameplay and interface.
One great challenge of the project was the extraordinary location in which the games should be presented and played: A catholic church in the heart of Cologne.
AHHHP lets multiple players control a simple character by humming into a microphone. The character rises when a constant volume is held up. A loud "buuuh" defends the character from approaching enemies. The game becomes more fun with multiple players, that support each other.
Chakalaka is a funny social game for 4 or more players. One player acts as a director and assigns rhythm- and melody-cards. The players create an A cappella song together, while the director defines volume and instruments. When he likes the music, he ends the game. The player, who got the fewest cards from the conductor, and therefore did the best job, wins the game.
Zodiac Shit is an interactive visualisation and storytelling experience of the song 'Zodiac Shit' by Flying Lotus, and was produced by Jack Hoefnagel, Aurelio Lucchesi and Samuel Vonäsch.Inspired by interactive music videos like Chris Milk's "3 Dreams of Black", "Zodiac Shit" emulates the atmosphere while visualizing the groove, intensity and complexity of the Flying Lotus song.
Shining Sounds is an interactive experience for one to five players. The players can define the volume and the pitch of music by moving the Playstation Motion Controller. They can experiment with different instruments and try to create a relaxing atmosphere. Here people can be social and come together for a spontaneous Jam sessions. The glow of the controllers creates an especially nice atmosphere in the dark.
This semester we will graduate our first Master’s class at the Cologne Game Lab. All students will introduce their projects in this blog. Today: Marcus Boesch
Marcus Boesch graduated from the University of Cologne with an MA in political science and information technology. He has been working as a journalist and lecturer for Germany´s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The concept for his Master project TERRORHUNTER has been commissioned by the State Center for Political Education North Rhine-Westphalia.
My Master thesis revolves around the topics terror, security and surveillance. Therefore I am interested in a bunch of „What ifs“.
What if more technology becomes so easy to use that private individuals can solve complex tasks with the help of computer-based automation and simple user interfaces? What if we then bring together all currently available surveillance technologies with the possibilities of interconnected smartphones and put these in the hands of people?
What if homeland security, danger defense and the war on terror will not only include private players on one side but on the other side as well? What if we then combine the private usage of drones with the private usage of weapons?
Well, maybe all hell breaks loose here ...
Games and simulations are powerful tools to provide a glimpse into possible future scenarios. That is why the military has been using them for training, tactical analysis and mission preparations for centuries. The growing power of personal computers allowed some of the military simulations to migrate from larger institutions to individual hobbyists. In turn military mission training can nowadays be completed on an off-the-shelf smartphone.
That is why I am designing a game-like trainings-app that allows the player to experience modern means of seek-and-destroy technology in the palm of their hands. TERRORHUNTER allows you to kill terrorists in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderland with your smartphone while sitting on the tram thousands of kilometers away. Actually, all that is necessary to enable such a dystopian scenario is to combine already existing trends and technologies.
The goal of my game is to strengthen a critical discourse. In order to criticize one needs to know and to understand. Games or game-like experiences play a crucial role here because they provide a powerful experience - at least if they are good. The most powerful experiences are always bound to strong myth, says Jesse Schell. The myth of good and bad might be one of the strongest myth around. I tried to link that myth to actual events in the post-911-world.
All „future-technologies“ used in the game are out there. We just have to wait for proper microdrones with light weapons. While waiting we should not forget that it is possible right here and right now to earn money live-monitoring shops in the UK via Internet, stalking CCTV-suspects with an app published by Scotland Yard and that automatic face detection gets better and better every single day. Right now hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles are patrolling the skies. Time to strike back?!
Marcus Bösch recommends spending 49 Minutes and 35 seconds with the documentary Remote Control War now!
This semester we will graduate our first Master’s class at the Cologne Game Lab. All students will introduce their projects in this blog starting today with Linda Kruse.
Linda Kruse graduated from ifs international film school Cologne with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Producing and has been working as producer, web designer and conceptor. Her Master project
SQUIRREL&BÄR has been nominated for the prestigious Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2012.
My Master project is an adventurous serious game for children age three to six years. Its focus is on learning an additional language through the use of touchscreen devices like smart phones and tablet PCs (iOS, Android).
So I am designing a Serious Game. What does that mean?
Serious Games are supposed to solve a problem. Though their main purpose is to train or to teach, they also aim to be entertaining. Unlike other digital games, Serious Games are not classified by gameplay or genre. They are instead categorized by their purpose. Serious Games include, among others, educational, political, and news games. The category of serious games for training is also known as “game-learning”. That’s what I am concentrating on.
Learning an Additional Language
Research shows that it is important to be exposed to a second or third language early on in life. This leads not only to more effortless learning of new languages, but also improves proficiency in the first language. My game tries to accomplish just that.
The Story of the Game
SQUIRREL&BÄR are devastated: Their beloved forest is in danger; the bees are sick. The only cure is a magic plant, which grows in the mountains. Unfortunately an evil lynx is standing guard over the plant. And, to make matters worse, the inhabitants of the mountains speak a foreign language that the main characters (and the players) don’t understand.
That’s where the journey of SQUIRREL&BÄR begins. The players guide the main characters through five different worlds. With the help of friendly animals players learn the foreign language that the inhabitants of the mountains speak so that the bees can eventually be healed.
Players are immersed in the world of SQUIRREL&BÄR. Each part of the journey features a different animal as companion to our main characters. Social behavior is a very important aspect of the gameplay; speaking and living along with the characters is a core element. Only by working together as a team the players of SQUIRREL&BÄR can master the quests and save the bees and the forest.
Players acquire the most important sentences and vocabulary of the new language as the journey progresses. Learning is so easy, that it feels like a side effect of the game. New vocabulary is also discovered through mini-games. Learning is fun with SQUIRREL&BÄR.
As it is designed specifically for use with touchscreen devices, children can access the game with ease and start playing without adult instructions.
The adventure is structured in chapters, which can be paused anytime. Every chapter can be accessed directly and played again. The game also features a vocabulary book to study newly learnt words and phrases. Moreover the player collects animal cards telling the players more about the animals that have already appeared in the game.
Two difficulty levels serve to entertain older and younger children while also creating a different experience when playing the game a second time. New elements and more vocabulary are introduced when selecting a higher difficulty level. Extensive help and fallback functions are available and prevent frustration.
Last but not least, the dialogue of the animals can be subtitled if an older child is playing the game or if a parent wants to read along.
SQUIRREL&BÄR will differ from other currently available games on the market by having an extensive narrative part, and thus also more playtime. The game allows children to learn without pressure. It leaves room for creativity and offers a great experience for exploring new languages. The cute main characters make discovering the language and the nature of the forest as well as beating the game a fun experience.
The natural user interface (NUI) of touch devices allows to target very young players providing them with easy, fun and immersive gameplay.
SQUIRREL&BÄR is currently in development for iOS and Android, with the focus being tablet devices. It will be produced in Cologne and is planned to be released by the end of 2012.
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