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Archive for March, 2010

The feature “Decoding Gaming” looks deeper into the relationship between video games and society.

Last fall saw the launch of the first U.S. public school curriculum based entirely on video games and the learning inspired by it. The sixth grade Quest to Learn class plays knowledge-based games such as Little Big Planet and Civilization in order to feel more engaged in their learning and to actually enjoy it!

Could video games be the future of education in America? I asked this and other questions to Michelle Lincoln, a Rowan Elementary-Education graduate.

With newer generations being more exposed to a faster lifestyle, do you think the education system will suffer because of it? 

No, I don’t think the education system will suffer due to the fact that this generation is more accustomed to a faster lifestyle. Throughout every generation, the education system has had to adapt and make significant changes to match students’ needs. I think that the education system may actually benefit from this fast-paced lifestyle because technology is the basis of society today and in order for students to survive in the real world, they are going to need to have a lot of technological experience. 

At some point in the future do you think video games could have a major place in education? If so, do you think this could occur sooner than later? 

Because so many students today need that hands-on aspect when learning, I think video games may eventually play a major role in education. There are so many educational video games already for preschool and kindergarten aged children that are being highly praised that I think video games may be adopted for older students as well. Because of the advances in technology, many students need to learn hands-on and become actively involved in lessons to understand. I think this change may happen sooner rather than later, especially with the US trying to up national test scores. 

With new technology being used in video games—namely the motion controlling, would video games provide an easier way for students to gain hands on experience? 

I really think it will, and I think it will keep students actively involved in the learning process. Too often, students are being lectured at for 6 hours a day, and they think school is boring and a waste of time. If they could incorporate hands-on educational video games into daily lessons, I think students will all want to be involved. I think this would also help younger students with fine motor skills as well. 

Michelle Lincoln

Do you think video games in the classroom would be universally accepted by all types of students? Parents? 

I definitely think students will embrace the change and maybe some parents; however, I think many parents may not realize how beneficial educational video games can be. I think that it is going to take some time for it to be universally accepted by parents. 

Do you think newer generations are more accustomed to gravitate towards the short term goals as opposed to long term goals? If so, do you think video games could help solve that problem with immediate feedback after a “level?” 

I think newer generations are more accustomed to gravitate toward short term goals rather than the long term. Children/Adolescents today are so used to the fast-pace of technology. They don’t want to wait for anything, and I think video games will accommodate this need for fast-paced feedback. If these video games offer immediate feedback, the students are going to know right away what they are strong in and what areas they may need a little extra help in…as opposed to waiting for their teacher to mark a paper in a week to two week span. Offering these students immediate feedback will definitely be a positive aspect of the whole educational video game. 

As a teacher, would you be willing to incorporate video games into your lesson plan and would others be willing to do it as well? 

I would definitely incorporate video games into my lesson plans if given the proper technology. I think a lot of the newer teachers will be all for this change in the education system because it gives them something different to bring into their classroom and spark interest. I am not really too sure about veteran teachers because many of them believe in the whole listen and lecture learning atmosphere.

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Nintendo is readying the release of the Nintendo DSi XL, an updated version of the company’s popular handheld system but they’re are already dropping hints on their next update, the Nintendo 3DS.

According to Nintendo, the 3DS will feature 3D graphics without the glasses usually required to experience 3D.

Nintendo’s aiming for a 2011 release. More details will be available at this years E3.

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A Counter-Strike gamer who was accused of using a “wallhack” in a Chinese net café was violently stabbed in the brain by an upset gamer.

The victim survived the attack and the knife was removed from the head but he is still being observed because the blade was rusty, possibly leaving behind pieces in the brain.

The blade missed major arteries and managed to not affect motor skills. The chances of survival were one in ten thousand according to the physician who worked on the gamer.

This particular café was popular because it didn’t require ID.

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Rhode Island has a bill in its legislature that calls for up to $1000 in fines and a year in jail for selling Mature or Adult-Only games to minors.

Key people like anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson believe the bill is “unconstitutional” and will not pass.

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Sony revealed their new motion controller, the PlayStation Move this week at the Game Developers Conference.

Using the already released PlayStation Eye, the Move follows a few guidelines set by the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls but also sets itself apart with a few key details.

The PlayStation Move is set to be released in the Fall with pricing falling around $99 for the Move/Eye bundle.

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In this new feature that I will update every other week, I will tell the history of the major franchises in video games.

For the first part of this new feature, I will highlight the “other” big Nintendo franchise, Metroid. Super Mario Bros. may be the biggest franchise in the world and Zelda may be the best but we can’t forget about the beloved Metroid series. This history will only cover the main games so the spin-off Metroid Prime Pinball and the remake Metroid: Zero Mission are not covered.

1986 – Metroid (NES)

After Nintendo released the genre-defining Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, they set out to re-define another one: the action game. With the original Metroid, Nintendo took the free-form exploration of the Zelda world, applied it to a side-scroller and mixed it with the creep factor of the movie Alien to deliver a fresh new experience in video games. Exploration was the key to the game: the player had to traverse the dangerous world of Zebes to find power-ups and defeat bosses to gain access to deeper parts of the world. The game (and the series in general) is notorious for backtracking: you’d hit an inaccessible part of the world but you would have to come back to it later with a new power-up to continue through it. The game is famous for its female protagonist Samus Aran, the face-sucking alien it’s named after, and of course, it’s gameplay which influenced other classics such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It also laid ground-work for it’s coming sequels, most importantly the solitary feeling one experiences while on these unexplored planets.

1991: Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy)

Already laying down new grown-work for the series (the large chunks of time between releases), Metroid II: Return of Samus was released in 1991 and was a major game for the new handheld system Game Boy. Metroid II pushed the handheld to its limits with a large one level map and graphics that competed with the best on the NES. The game saw Samus Aran going to the Metroid home world to exterminate the race as they were deemed too dangerous to live. Though not as highly praised as the classic original, Metroid II received fairly good critical reception. Still, it is arguably the weakest entry in the series.

1994: Super Metroid (SNES)

For the beginning of the series at least, Metroid was a lot like The Legend of Zelda franchise. The first games were instant classics, the second ones were oddballs that split opinions, and the third entries, both released for the SNES, are among the greatest games ever made. Super Metroid is a masterpiece. Like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid took the foundations of the original and created something out of this world. To further take it back to the original, the game takes place in Zebes, the planet introduced in Metroid. Everything from the simple yet touching story, the unsettling and incredibly memorable soundtrack, the detailed and often frightening graphics, the world map which is still one of the most complex and well-made in gaming history and the one-of-a-kind gameplay all helped to get Super Metroid named the best game of all time by Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2003. In 2010, that title could still (easily) be given to Super Metroid. If you have any interest in video games, get up and download on the Wii and play NOW!

2002: Metroid Prime/Metroid Fusion (GameCube/Game Boy Advance)

Nintendo is a special company when it comes to its major games. Unlike a company like Activision who pumps out sequel after sequel in a small amount of time, Nintendo waits for the right moments to strike with their first-party games. Unfortunately for Metroid, that time didn’t come until eight years after the classic Super Metroid. And funny enough, fans actually weren’t too happy about it after seeing the previews for Metroid Prime. Metroid Prime was to be a first-person shooter and not only that, but it was also being developed by an unknown company in Texas called Retro Studios. Upon the initial previews for the game, there was major backlash from fans but once the game was released in 2002, the complaining quickly ceased.

Metroid Prime, like its predecessors, re-defined a genre. Dubbing Metroid Prime as a first-person shooter was not accurate; it was later known as a first-person adventure. The world of Prime was a revelation and was easily the most detailed ever seen in a first-person shooter. Metroid is known for its minimalistic story and Metroid Prime, staying faithful to the series, introduced a new way to experience story in games. There are so many stories and history to be learned in Prime but you had the choice of learning about it through the games scanner. You could scan just about everything in the games vast world to learn about it but if you didn’t want to, then the game wasn’t going to force you to do it. This storytelling element has crossed over into many games, most notably Bioshock, another first-person adventure game. The game was the 3D Super Metroid and is a Metroid game through-and-through. Metroid Prime continued revolutionizing the gaming world and secured Metroid as one of the top franchises of all-time.

At the same time of Metroid Prime’s release, Metroid Fusion was released on the Game Boy Advance. This game took a more traditional route than Metroid Prime, using a re-fined Super Metroid engine. Like Super Metroid, the game felt amazing and even topped Super Metroid in the creep factor. Like Metroid Prime, it was a definitive Metroid title and further pushed the franchise to new heights. Both games received critical praise and are among the best games of all time.

2004: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube)

Metroid Prime was not going to be easy to top but neither was Super Metroid. Metroid Prime 2 was released two years after the original Prime and further pushed the limits of the GameCube with a bigger world, better presentation, and more elements from the classic Super Metroid. To differentiate itself from the first Prime, Retro decided to put more focus on the storyline and to introduce a few new features. The games major feature was its light and dark worlds. Players had to traverse a light and dark version of the games already gigantic world to progress through the game. Like the rest of the series, it received very high praise from critics and many believed it was just as good as Metroid Prime. It must also be noted that this was the first Metroid with a multiplayer option. The multiplayer further proved that certain video games do NOT need multiplayer.

2006 – Metroid Prime: Hunters (Nintendo DS)

Metroid Prime: Hunters was a first-person developed for the brand new Nintendo DS. Players were able to control the action using the newly introduced touch screen. It also had the first successful multiplayer option in the series history. Though the control scheme was something of a hassle, critics still gave the game very good reviews and many honors including the Best Action Game on the DS for 2006. Still, it wasn’t the memorable and high impact game fans expected from the series so it unfortunately ranks below around Metroid II.

2007 – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

To wrap up Retro Studios now infamous Metroid Prime trilogy, the studio made the jump to the Nintendo Wii and, like the rest of the series, revolutionized first-person shooters again! The game has one of the best control schemes of any console first-person shooter before it. Using the Wii’s unique controllers and a targeting system similar to the Zelda’s “Z-Targeting,” console gamers are given control of the protagonist not unlike the unprecedented control PC gamers are given with their mouse. The game is also noted for its multiple levels (usually Metroid games are centered on a single, large level), voice-acting, and one of the creepiest levels in the games history. Continue the trend of the rest of the series, Metroid Prime 3 garnered high marks from critics and established Metroid Prime as one of the greatest trilogies in gaming history.

2010 – Metroid: Other M (Wii)

As gamers saw when Metroid Prime was released, Nintendo is willing to take big risks with their franchise. This game looks to be no different. Other M is a collaborative effort between Team Ninja (known for their big franchise’s Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive) and Nintendo. Little is known about the game but it is soon to be released on June 27th. The early trailer for the game shows that this game will be a huge departure from the rest of the series (I mean come on, Samus talks and she’s apparently “young and naive?”). Fans, including myself, are already worried about it but Nintendo has put us in this uncomfortable position before and have only impressed us with what it’s come up with. Whether it is a success or not, Metroid can still be deemed one of the best franchises of all time.

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Research at the San Diego School of Medicine shows that “exergames” such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports may be able to combat symptoms of subsyndromal depression (SSD), a more common and milder form of depression in older adults.

Though SSD is essentially minor depression, it is very common among seniors and it makes patients more susceptible to major depression. Physical activity lowers depression but fewer than five percent of seniors meet physical activity recommendations.

The study was small, involving only 19 seniors with SSD. The participants played Wii Sports in 35-minute sessions three times a week. According to Dilip V. Jeste, MD, one of the professors leading the study, “More than one-third of the participants had a 50-percent or greater reduction of depressive symptoms. Many had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation.”

Jeste continued, “The participants thought the exergames were fun, they felt challenged to do better and saw progress in their game play. Having a high level of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a choice among activities, exergames may lead to sustained exercise in older adults.”

This is a further extension of the Nintendo Wii’s rehabilitation capabilities. Since the consoles release, there have been numerous reports about the usefulness of the Wii in rehabilitation centers and retirement homes. Physical therapy becomes something patients can actually look forward too.

Say what you will about the Wii not being a home for hardcore Nintendo fans (well, looking at the game schedule for 2010, you might have to reconsider that statement), this is a great technology to have and definitely something developers should build on for the future.

By the way, Fred is an absolute monster at Wii Bowling! He would easily destroy me in a two-player match-up.

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