Spark 126 - November 7 & 10, 2010

On this episode of Spark: Games, Games, Games! We take a look at how games affect our culture, our time, and our lives.

To listen to the whole show, download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

Reward for Repetition

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Photo by dailyinvention

World of Warcraft is an on-line multi-player role-playing game. It can suck up a lot of your time, but it's also a place where people make friendships and connections.  And then there's the "grinding".  Now, take your mind out of the gutter, "grinding" in WoW refers to repetitive tasks that are done to increase your character's power in the game. Or, something like that.  To find out, Nora spoke with Michelle Hoyle, a cybertechnologist & educator at the Open University (UK), and an avid WoW player. Michelle's PhD research (with the School of Informatics at The University of Sussex) is in looking at WoW as a learning environment, so we went to her first to find out why some games are such a grind. (Runs 7:59)

Games and Girls

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Photo by Patrick Hosely

When it comes to games in the 21st C, we still haven't come that long a way, baby. Women are still underrepresented in the gaming community - both as players and as designers. Nora spoke with Jennifer Jenson, a game designer and a Professor at York University in Toronto. She recently completed a 3-year study of gender and digital gameplay. (Runs 12:11)

Games as Art

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Photo courtesy of The Way of the Ninja

One of the biggest debates about gaming is: can a video game be a piece of art? Earlier this year, film reviewer Roger Ebert got himself a lot of attention when he pronounced that video games can never be art. But some people in Canada's thriving indie game scene beg to differ. Jim Munroe is an indie game community organizer and game developer in Toronto. And Mare Sheppard is a game developer from Toronto, who currently lives in Tokyo. She's also the co-creator of "N." (Runs 7:26)

The Gamification of Our Lives

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Photo by Fabian Bromann

As gaming evolves in both theory and practice, a fascinating new trend is emerging. Now more than ever we are seeing the real world and game experiences combined. It's The Game of Life - for real this time.  Games have proven to be powerful motivators in influencing the choices we as humans make.  Something in video games seems to touch a primal need in our psyche to achieve. Nora spoke with Seth Priebatsch, the "Chief Ninja" at Scvngr - a gaming company that is building a network that intertwines real world experiences with game dynamics. (Runs 9:09)

Putting the Fun Back in Games

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Photo by Mykl Roventine

So we've heard a lot about intertwining our real lives with game mechanics, and how sometimes games give us tasks that are repetitive, boring, and suck time like there's no tomorrow. Dan Hon has another request: keep gaming fun. Dan is a senior member of Wieden + Kennedy's creative team where he specializes in games, play, and new ways of storytelling. Dan's concern is that pretty soon everything from brushing your teeth to filling out your income tax return will be an opportunity to score. This could make gaming about the grinding chore of collecting points instead of true enjoyment. (Runs 8:00)

Additional Information

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