July 31 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Metaverse Year: 2009 Rating: 4
Coming soon to your living room: a wild safari in the scorching African savanna starring you, armed with nothing but your camera. Afrika is the next step in a generation of video games that seek to become more than just entertainment and can actually make you smarter.
Afrika, the latest game by Rhino Studios, is set to be released in Japan on the PS3 in late August. You play it from the perspective of a nature photographer and naturalist armed with a Nikon stalking realistic wildlife in painstakingly recreated savannas. The photos you snap are saved like a lexicon, or Africa-pedia, where you can read up all about the real facts of the animal. The PS3’s multi-cored cell processor is being utilized to is fullest potential to recreate the complex AI and behavior of the animals in mirror world fashion, and it’s is just one of many in the increasing trend of video games that are as educational as they are made to be entertaining.
Because the game is not about rifles or grenades, it is perfect for younger children who can learn about Africa’s wildlife in a fully immersive 3D world rather than a bread-and-butter textbook. And what a field trip it is without all the expenses and dangers of being there.
But using video games to teach isn’t a new idea. An all-girls junior high school in Japan have already been using Nintendo DS’s to teach English. The verdict? The students feel right at home with the new devices. Katie Salen, a game designer and director of the graduate Design and Technology program at Parsons School of Design, is leading the way in using video games as a foundation for education for an accelerating world. Her goal is to open a school based on gaming literacy.
Besides being an education tool, games have been gradually blending with “Meatspace” (a term coined in the Oxford English Dictionary to contrast Cyberspace). In the popular online game world Second Life, players assume a virtual representation of themselves and can socialize, participate in group activities, buy and sell virtual property with a working economy, practice religion, and even hold live concerts. Musician Jay-Z had a virtual concert in Second Life at the same time of his real life performance on the Jimmy Kimmel show.
Another trend that’s set to get off big time is the rise of customizable games where user-created content is king. Counter-Strike is the most popular example of that, created in 1999 by a lone programmer at his home, it still holds the record for the most popular online action game now. But user content and community is set to be an even more integral part of upcoming games like Spore and LittleBigPlanet. I can just imagine contests held for the most creatively designed creature. Maybe it can spark a whole generation of young 7-year-old Spore creature celebrities.
Of course, a common criticism of parents and guardians alike is that games encourage sedentary behavior and lead to an inactive life. That is where Nintendo’s Wii fit and Dance Dance Revolution come in. My aunt was an anti-game crusader back when I was a kid, but after my overweight cousin lost a significant amount of weight playing Dance Dance Revolution, her bitter take on video games have since changed. She liked it so much that she even pulled full-grown adults away from the backyard barbecue to play.
Nintendo Wii is leading the way for games that involve more than sitting on the couch, but the technology is also here to add other tactile ways to interact with computers. In an upcoming post, I will detail all the innovations, prototypes, and on-the-market gadgets that would one day make the couch potato and mouse-keyboard obsolete.
It is not just games, but even applications like Google Earth are being updated regularly to become more useful and fun. Zoom down to New York City and you can see fully 3D models of downtown skyscrapers and embedded videos of a crumbling glacier when you click on the Alaskan shoreline.
In the talk about Metaverses, I see great promise in the coming generation of games. Perhaps one day, Afrika, Second Life, and Google Earth would just be rolled into one giant virtual reality where you can come back from a wild safari in Africa and in a millisecond be transported to Buenos Aires where you can take in the sights and sounds. We would be able to take vacations at any time, and traveling to picture-perfect places perhaps impossible in the future with exorbitant gas prices and pollution.