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Submitted by robin on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 2:29pm
Code for America Fellow Ruthie BenDor visited the IFOG speaker series today to talk about her work with Code for America here in Santa Cruz. It's easy to default to the preconceived notion that government is all bureaucracy, and no action, but this does not need to be true (and is often not!). Ruthie and Code for America have been able to effectively work with local governments since there has become a niche for such collaboration. Budget cuts and a common lack of tech-savvy government workers has meant that the better, faster, smarter, and cheaper work done by CFA is extremely valuable and embraced. Code for America does not set policy, but instead illuminates and makes more accessible what government can provide for its citizens.
Perhaps most interesting about Ruthie's talk was how obviously games could contribute to Code for America's efforts. Examples thrown out today included vocational job training, driver's education tools, and serious games - such as games for health, etc. Center Director Michael Mateas even pointed out that when only thinking of examples for the briefest amount of time, the possibilities that came to mind just kept coming and coming. Games are not just a cool thing for play, but instead a useful tool that encourages participation.
A prevalent theme of Ruthie's talk was innovation. The game program here at UCSC prides itself on the creation of innovative games and systems. And to use games as educational and functional tools of government is innovation in the civic process. As far as Ruthie was aware, of the developers, designers, and usability experts currently with Code for America, none of the current fellows had a background in game design. So for the civic-minded, get engaged! Code for America.
Submitted by aareed on Wed, 02/22/2012 - 4:22pm
Interactive story author Emily Short spoke at UC Santa Cruz on Wednesday, as part of the ongoing Inventing the Future of Games speaker series. Emily, best known for her work on groundbreaking interactive fictions such as Galatea and Savoir-Faire, spoke about her recent work with Richard Evans (AI Lead on The Sims 3) developing an interactive story system centered around character and conversation in Jane Austen's universe. (Emily and Richard's company, Little Text People, has recently been acquired by Linden Lab; Emily stressed that the ideas presented in the talk represent work done before the acquisition.)
The problem Emily tackles is one familiar to storytellers in interactive media: how is it possible to have meaningful interactions with other characters without creating an impossible authorial burden of endless branching conversation trees? In other words, how can we build a system that replicates something of the experience of interacting with other people, rather than authoring every possible interaction by hand in advance? The approach taken here is based on "social practice modeling," tying NPC behavior to an expressive AI engine that understands interactions in a specific social milieu.
Submitted by robin on Wed, 02/15/2012 - 3:20pm
Ben Samuel (at far right), a PhD graduate student in the Expressive Intelligence Studio, premiered last night in HULU's first original series - Battleground.
Check out the following reviews, and don't miss out on our own local star!
From the New York Times:
"Our point of view, however, is courtesy of the comically naïve volunteer Ben (Ben Samuel), who shows up to ask for a place on the staff carrying a scroll of recommendations from his job at a Renaissance fair. Mr. Samuel, who in addition to acting is working toward a doctorate in computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, combines elements of the “Harry Potter” Daniel Radcliffe and Matthew Gray Gubler’s Dr. Reid on “Criminal Minds,” and he’s the best reason so far to watch “Battleground.”'
From Community Voices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"Eager intern Ben Werner (Ben Samuel) helps bring viewers into this political world and it's hard to imagine a better guide. Nerdy, smart and bearing some resemblance to a dorkier Daniel Radcliffe, Ben is both the butt of jokes but also an endearing character who quickly becomes more important to the campaign than a mere intern usually is."
Submitted by agrow on Wed, 02/15/2012 - 11:05am
Social Chocolate game designer and Farmville veteran Chelsea Howe shared her passion for powerful games during her discussion of affective design. Howe asks: for all that games capture our attention, why aren't they better? When we look at a piece of art, we say “What does that mean?” and “How does it make me feel?” but games generally evoke discussions such as “Nice combo!” and “These graphics are insane!” As game designers capturing the attention of players, we should make games that move people and change their world. Games should give something back to their players.
Howe dissected and analyzed Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow, finding that it constructs an excellent theoretical environment for gameplay but specifically abandons consciousness. Howe states, “We cannot feel when we flow.” In response, Howe explores John McCarthy's theory of Enchantment and finds it much more suitable for affective design.
Enchantment gives the player a sense of being in play by challenging familiar categories and values in a compelling environment that stimulates our senses. A sense of openness and ambiguity invites us to try and figure out the game, rather than just passively flowing through it. Finally, abstraction allows us to project ourselves and our circumstances onto the game, providing a personal touch to the whole experience and making it exceptionally meaningful.
Howe says: “Feel Deeper. Mean Better. Make Powerful Games.”
Submitted by jpinckard on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 10:33am
Hooray! Prom Week is now live and playable on Facebook! Celebrate this Valentine's Day by manipulating the love lives of hapless high schoolers. Hook up, break up, and make up -- create your own love story!
Prom Week is on Facebook here: http://apps.facebook.com/promweek/
The official game site: http://promweek.soe.ucsc.edu/
The press release: http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/02/prom-week.html
Congratulations to the team! And, please take a moment to vote for Prom Week for the Independent Games Festival: http://igf.com/audience.php
UCSC researchers build computer game simulating the joys and travails of teen romance
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Prom Week's release featured on Inside Higher Ed - "Model Romance"
'Prom Week' breaks new ground in computer game design
Monday, February 13, 2012