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Quickie: Meaningful Play 2008 conference proceedings online

Last month, the Meaningful Play conference was held at Michigan State University, sponsored by MSU's Serious Games department. Papers from the proceedings are available online, including John Richardson's paper "The Social Construction Model of Interactive Gaming for Disabled Users." The abstract states:

"Though some pragmatic thought has been put into making computer and video games as accessible to the disabled as such media as film and music, there has been a paucity of research and discourse on the social construction model as it applies to interactive games. With this model, such media impacts the self-identity, social spheres, and coping mechanisms of users with mobility, orientation, and/or neurological challenges. I explain how, on a high-level and conceptual basis, this model emerges out of the generative experiences and inherent feedback components of the interactive game medium, and attempt to frame both the importance of and challenges in implementing greater accessibility from a development perspective. The intent is not to merely state how the industry is overlooking an important demographic, but also to explain how interactive games can play a supportive role in the enrichment of the lives of those within it."

Eye-gaze software for people with disabilities demonstrated using World of Warcraft, Second Life

PhD candidate Stephen Vickers and his team at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK are designing software for people with disabilities who use eye-gaze control to be better able to play video games. Here are videos of Stephen demonstrating the software, called Snap Clutch, in World of Warcraft and Second Life.

In a paper Vickers co-authored for the 4th Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology ("Gaze Interaction with Virtual On-Line Communities: Levelling the Playing Field for Disabled Users"—available in his list of publications), eye gaze was compared to mouse control in the game Second Life. While eye-gaze performed comparably in moving the avatar from place to place and in manipulating objects, it didn't do well for using applications within the game (thanks to the applications' tiny buttons) or communicating in-game via an on-screen keyboard.

Fanboys exacting console vengence through MetaCritic reviews

Anyone with a gaming magazine, website or blog knows the wrath of fanboys. No opinion, no matter how well thought out, matters except their own and damn anyone who thinks otherwise. We have had our share of "negative reaction" from the occasional negative or overly critical review, but thankfully, have never witnessed the pathetic lengths MetaCritic users have stooped to. 

'We contacted (MetaCritic games editor Marc) Doyle for clarification, and he told us that the issue of unbalanced user reviews "hasn't been a systematic problem" on the site. According to Doyle, it's only really popped up recently and mostly for console-exclusive titles. Two other strong examples exist: Resistance 2 has a Metascore of 89 with a user score of 5.3/10, and Little Big Planet has a Metascore of 95 with a user score of 6.1/10.

Doyle says the issue stems from the site's foundation. User reviews were allowed to be entered before a game's release because they "wanted people who had legitimately played the game ahead of its release to post them." Stacked on top of that was a desire for an easy sign-up process. "The founders were really interested in not having people sign up for a really huge registration process just so they can participate on the site," Doyle said, adding, "Obviously that's been exploited."'

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 2

It's the stunning second episode of the GameCritics.com Podcast!
This week's topics include:

  • Impressions of Fallout 3 and World of Goo
  • The unknown N64 origin of Gears of War's duck-and-cover gameplay
  • Post-Halloween discussion of our favorite scary games

Download: Right click here and select "Save Target As..."
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Please send mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

Show notes:

High school students design a virtual disability simulation with a game engine

This is video of a virtual disability simulation; its object is to get a character who uses a wheelchair from one end of a city to the other. The simulation uses the Cube 2 engine. It was designed in the summer of 2007 by Project Beta, a team of Philadelphia high school students involved in the Building Information Technology Skills (bITS) program. bITS is sponsored by the Information Technology and Society Research Group (ITSRG) at Temple University.

My first experience as a playtester

Playtest Lab

Back when I was a little kid in the late 1980s, I had this idealized vision of how awesome it must be to play video games for a living. I knew that there were people out there who played games for the purpose of quality testing and so on, and for whatever reason, my little kid brain thought it must be the greatest job in the world. I probably saw it as at least on par to working at a candy factory. It all comes down to that fact that I had no understanding of the law of diminishing returns and therefore believed that being able to do a thing that I like all day every day must be nothing short of bliss.

Heidi Klum unleashes her inner Tom Cruise from Risky Business

Guitar Hero: World Tour - 1
Rock Band 2 - 0

The Horror Geek presents: Left 4 Dead intro movie

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of game previews or watching pre-release footage online. I guess, as a reviewer, I've always felt it was better to come into a game cold and experience it fresh on my first playthrough. Even when I'd attend E3 in years past, I was hesitant to spend too much time playing pre-release builds of games because I didn't want anything to spoil my experience with the full version.

That being said, I've broken my rule (albeit slightly) with Valve's Left 4 Dead. I don't think I've been this excited for a zombie game since Resident Evil 2—so when the intro movie appeared online on Halloween, I fought the urge to watch it. I made it through the weekend before finally caving. So, here it is—a few days late, but still very cool—the opening cinematic for Left 4 Dead.

Start practicing your headshots—the game hits retailers on November 18th.

Interview with World of Goo developer, 2D Boy

So after being completely impressed with WiiWare's World of Goo, I hit up the developers for a brief word. Quite friendly and accommodating, this is what 2D Boy's Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel had to say...

Disabled gamer case study: Why I like the games I like

A lot of games I like are about running around finding things. Although I only know where a few places are in my town and go everywhere else with my mother or a friend, I've remembered the layout of Hyrule in A Link to the Past without having played it for years. While I have a lot of trouble navigating 3-dimensional space that I'm physically in, it's much easier to find my way around a 2D expanse on a screen.

A lot of games I like are about running around finding things. Although I only know where a few places are in my town and go everywhere else with my mother or a friend, I've remembered the layout of Hyrule in A Link to the Past without having played it for years. While I have a lot of trouble navigating 3-dimensional space that I'm physically in, it's much easier to find my way around a 2D expanse on a screen.

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