Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chick Lit Journal

This is a school assignment for a class I'm taking this quarter.  It's about "what is happening in the game and online space for girls - past, present, and future".  It's a fascinating class and the coolness of our instructor is demonstrated by the fact that we can record our weekly journal assignments ON OUR BLOGS!  How awesome is that?!  

That said, feel free to totally ignore this post unless you have magic powers to give me a grade for it.  But only a good grade, otherwise keep your powers to yourself.

Week 1:

I can't say that I have any deep or meaningful expectations for this class, I am just curious to find out more about the mysterious online world of gaming that my kids are becoming increasingly active in.  Things 1 & 2 play Runescape and are active on a Spore site, many of thei friends (all boys) play WoW but daughter's online presence (and that of her friends) is (as of now) limited to myspace, facebook and her blog.  She is a huge fantasy book fan but hasn't explored any of the fantasy games as of yet and I hope to get a better insight as to why that is in this class.

I'm also hoping to find a way to connect to the Things through gaming and online activities because that is what they are interested in so it will help me to interact and play with them at something they truly love.  They are always thrilled when I play a video game with them or a boardgame so I'm hoping this is another way we can have fun together and I can get to know them better in a fun way instead of just as Mom.

Week 2

Thinking about our class discussions about what is fun and what is a game really made me think.  I never thought out what these words meant to me and about what is different about a game vs. an activity.  One reason I have a hard time connecting with the twins about Dungeons & Dragons, Runescape, Spore or any of the gazillion video games they have is because I'm just not interested in the goal of these types of games.  It doesn't matter to me.  I enjoy board games and if I'm going to play a video-type game I like puzzles like bejeweled or zuma rather than Super Mario Bros.  But honestly, I just can't justify the huge amounts of time the games that they boys enjoy take.  I have so many responsibilities and things to take care of in my life that spending two hours a day on World of Warcraft sounds like a torture sentence.

It's ironic that I feel this way because I easily spend two hours a day - usually in the evening as I'm unwinding and getting ready to go to sleep - on the computer reading friends blogs, blogging and looking at goofy pictures and videos.  Somehow that is more fun to me than playing a game in an imaginary world.  I don't know why because I absolutely love to read and spend hours losing myself in the imaginary world of seems contradictory.

Maybe in trying some of these different games I will be able to plug into my own personal sense of what is fun and understand the draw they have more completely.

Week 3

I really enjoyed the presentation Asta did on design.  I admit I had never thought of design being as all-encompassing as it is.  Like a lot of people, design makes me think of clothes and interior decorating.  But she really made me see how design is incorporated into all aspects of everything we do.  Not just how things look but how they feel and are used by people.

The whole user-experience and player-experience designer concept kind of blew my mind.  I'm not planning on going into the gaming industry but I can easily see how it can be applied to different careers including teaching.  If I can create lesson plans and think of not only what material is covered in them but also how they feel for the students and how the students experience them then I believe they will be much better lesson plans and the students will retain the material better.

I'm excited to apply the information Asta gave us to my own aspiration to be a teacher!

Week 4

Having Mark Boozer (ha!) speak to us about Bella Sarah and what has gone into creating the site was fascinating.  The different horse pictures were fun to critique and I was interested that he took some of the opinions from our class back to the "lab" so to speak.  

I'd never heard of intellectual property in this type of context before, I guess that I'd always thought of IP as music and books, things that are more tangible than just storylines or ideas.  This was really informative and I learned a lot about what IP really is and a little bit about how it works.  I'd like to learn even more and some reading about IP and the legalities would be fabulous.  As it is, I've googled around and am looking at some interesting stuff.

Does IP apply to blogs and original material written on blogs or because it is "out there" on the web is it under copyright laws or are they all the same thing?  I'd really like to know more about this.

Week 5

Working on the iPhone app has been a lot of fun.  Our group is fabulous and I'm learning a lot about creating something for other people instead of creating something for myself.  It seems to use a completely different part of my brain and feels like I'm exercising new brain muscles.  The app we're designing is not something I would ever use in a million years but when I talk to women about it (I'm the marketer) they all seem very excited and say that they would totally use it, enjoy it, and it would would be useful to their lives.

For this project, I'm also learning how important a Project Manager is and I see that a good (or bad) project manager could make or break project development and success in the real world.  We have a FABULOUS project manager for this assignment and the whole thing is going as smooth as clockwork.  My aunt is a project manager at Microsoft and I was always a little puzzled as to what that title meant but now I have a much firmer idea about what the title and job is.  I wish that all group projects assigned in all of my classes had to have a project manager because having one person coordinating all the duties and work makes things much easier to manage!

Week 6

Having a speaker come and talk to us about ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) was a huge eye-opener for me as I had never heard of this type of game before.  I had heard of "The Game" when it was profiled in Parade Magazine awhile back after one player was severely injured in a mine shaft somewhere outside of Las Vegas while playing but the entire make believe world, especially online is a whole new idea for me.

I really enjoyed looking around the website created for Rob Bell's book Jesus Wants to Save Christians and then exploring the "fake" evangelical Christian website created as part of the ARG to promote the book.  It seems so huge and complicated, I cannot even imagine trying to create such a thing.  Its almost like the seven headed hydra in that if you solve one thing then two or three more spring up in its place.  I think trying to create such a thing - or even play one - would be incredibly stressful for me but maybe playing as a group makes it a different type of experience than I imagine when I think of game playing.

The one thing that struck me about ARGs from this speaker was that they seem to be used exclusively as a marketing tool.  Given the huge expense of creating an ARG I can understand why this is but it would be great if a business model could be created so an ARG could be created and enjoyed by millions and still make money as an independent entity from a brand being marketed.

Week 7

This week we had an extremely interesting speaker who talked about transmedia storytelling, the distributed narrative and the HIVE mind.  Transmedia storytelling is telling a story through a variety of mediums such as text, websites, commercials, music and film.  This was presented in the framework of ARGs but he also had an interesting example of a book he created that also used transmedia to tell the narrative, or story of the protagonist.

I bought the book titled Cathy's Book as well as the two sequels for my daughter and she loved them.  It was fun to call the phone numbers and look at websites given in the book and get more of the story.  I just read the book and it was also good just like that.  But my daughter went further and then related to me what she found out.  The whole thing was very cool!

HIVE mind is also a weird phenomenon.  The speaker talked about creating these impossible puzzles that they thought would take weeks for people to solve and instead they were solved in a matter of a couple of hours because of HIVE mind.  The internet allows millions of people all over the world to interact instantly so when creating ARGS you have to assume that they have every single skill-set, every bit of knowledge and access to anywhere in the world.  Pay phones in Tibet were answered at the exact moment they rang because millions of people worked together to solve the puzzle and find out when and where the next call was.  The whole concept was fascinating.  He also told us about a website called a world without oil that uses the HIVE mind idea to solve the energy crisis.  I can see almost unlimited uses for HIVE mind if we can figure out how to motivate people to participate.

Week 8

Talking about narrative and what makes a good story during the exercise of Chess: The Movie made me think about why Pirates of the Caribbean was such a good movie.

Tyler talked about how games made from movies are usually bad because they're produced quickly and the story, or narrative, has been played out already in the movie so players don't have a new story to follow.  I wonder if Pirates of the Caribbean - a movie based on a ride at Disneyland - was such a big hit not only because it was a well made movie but because the original concept, the ride, didn't provide a narrative so it used the concept and ADDED the narrative.  I've learned in this class that good narrative can make or break a game so it seems logical that it can make or break a movie especially when it's based on something with no narrative at all.  They added backstory to the ride and made it better.

A weird little idea but it's been percolating in my head ever since that day of class.

Week 9

WoW Day 1:
Oh. My. God.  World of Warcraft is so far out of my comfort zone and skill sets that it makes me feel like I'm trying to write with my left hand (I'm right handed) when I play it.  It's really boring so far, I'm on a quest to get tough wolf meat so all I'm doing is running around killing wolves.  And I'm totally lost so once I get the 8 wolf meats I don't know where my quest giver guy is so I can return to him and complete my quest.  I can't figure out how to talk to people and the whole thing is making me crazy.

WoW Day 2:
Thank GOD for the twins, they're helping me figure this game out.  The map is a big help.  I don't know how they knew where it was, it must be gamer osmosis, but they did and I managed to finish my first quest.  I still can't chat and play at the same time but at least I know how to chat.  I've asked some NPC's questions but I must be doing something wrong because what they say to me has nothing to do with what I asked them.

WoW Day 3:
Ok, after seeing another player play a super high level character NOW I get why this game is so popular.  The flying around the world is amazing, it's just so beautiful.  I don't know how they've managed to create such a seamless experience but it is super cool!  I think the swimming underwater part was my favorite.  If I continue to play I would like to find the underwater pirate ship quests just so I could explore underwater more.

Week 10:

Our second group project of creating a game is so much fun.  I feel like we're using everything we've learned and applying it.  Our game is sort of a cross between an ARG and How to Host a Murder and it's an absolute blast coming up with all the different pieces to make it a fun game for girls 12-16.  I'm doing marketing and I think we're going to broaden our target markets age a little bit, perhaps to 10-16 but as I talk to girls in that age range I'm getting great feedback that this is a game they'd like to play.  They've all been disappointed that we aren't actually MAKING the game for them to play which has got to be a good sign for our concept!

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