Mathew Kumar on Why Virtual Worlds Miss the Mark

A Scene from Home on PS3Speaking at an International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Ottawa event on February 26, 2009, Gamasutra contributing editor and one of Canada’s most renowned games journalists Mathew Kumar discussed the place of virtual world games in the video game industry.

Not shy to express his dislike for the concept as it has been executed so far, Kumar pointed out some of these games’ essential flaws to an intimate crowd at Ottawa’s bitHeads Studio. The event was organized as part of the Interactive Ontario gTalk game industry speaker series.

Kumar was quick to highlight that virtual worlds, which are usually based on social interaction functions, rarely succeed in their goal of being effective vehicles for social interaction. While their developers and marketers portray them as a great way to meet new people, most players don’t take advantage of these features. Read More...

Teaching that Works the Imagination

Students Playing DimensionMWhen almost all of the teens in today’s schools report playing video games and half of them noting they played “yesterday”, it is no surprise that more educators are looking at the medium to strengthen their curriculums.

This alternate means of conveying information is very promising and allows students who used to lag behind their peers to catch up and excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Putting students in front of educational games creates a hands-on experience, which for many helps develop critical-thinking skills and enhances their understanding.

"Many academically low-performing students do as well as their high-performing peers [in these games]," said Chris Dede, a professor of learning technologies at Harvard Graduate School of Education, quoted in Scientific American. "By stepping out of their real-world identity of poor performer academically, [this] shifts their frame of self reference to successful scientist in the virtual context." Read More...

Overcoming Game Accessibility Barriers with One Switch

One SwitchBarriers to accessibility are numerous for disabled individuals. This is true in many aspects of life, including video gaming, though this medium is sometimes the only escape from the hardship of reality.

OneSwitch.org.uk and its founder Barrie Ellis are focused on providing solutions for disabled gamers, as well as advocating the need for better understanding of the limits video game companies sometimes unknowingly place upon this segment of the market. Inaccessible controllers and game software are a large problem and unfortunately their makers are rarely part of the solution.

Though the idea for one-switch accessibility was not his, Barrie Ellis took it upon himself to actively promote it. He explains that he first came across this concept when working for a small number of severely disabled adults in an early 1990's day centre. Read More...