Thursday, March 31, 2005

"novels corrupt women"

"There was a real fear that reading novels would disrupt the woman’s duties by giving them false ideas of life and particularly made women unsuited for and unhappy with the domestic roles for which society destined them. A woman's mind was considered weaker than the male's and therefore some people felt that these novels would also affect their morality. Novels, it was thought, made immoral actions seem more interesting than virtuous ones"

History of the Novel, Kristan Whipple, Studies in the Novel, 1740-1900, Department of English, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Tony Forster traces the history of resistance to new forms of self expression powered by new technologies, from printing press to the novel to comic books to film, radio, TV and most recently computer games at his new Game Maker webpage.

Maybe a future historian will see the current resistance to games in education as ridiculous as the above quote about novels corrupting women.

amaya web editor

I've been searching for a long time for a good open source and / or
free HTML editor that also has features to incorporate style and SVG
(scalable vector graphics)

I think Amaya might do the job.

The current releases, Amaya 8.7.2 (old User Interface) and Amaya 9.1 (new User Interface), supports HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, XHTML Basic, XHTML 1.1, HTTP 1.1, MathML 2.0, many CSS 2 features, and includes SVG support (transformation, transparency, and SMIL animation on OpenGL platforms). You can display and partially edit XML documents. It's an internationalized application.

So far I've only checked out 8.7 but I like it a lot (first impressions)

it's produced by W3C, world wide web consortium, the standards body led by Tim Berners-Lee - the trouble with a lot of the other web editors I looked at is that they haven't bothered to keep up to date with W3C standards (which has implications down the track even though the web pages initially still "work")

W3C keeps a fairly low profile, which is my current hypothesis of why this editor hasn't been talked about on teachers lists, to my knowledge, up until now.

software meets politics

There was a long discussion at the Victorian Information Systems (IS) teachers list recently about open source software.

Towards the end of that discussion I put the position that software choice was connected to political questions, democracy and ideology. Peter Ruwoldt was in agreement but apart from that there wasn't much discussion about the points I raised. I'm blogging these thoughts here because I want a permanent record, I'd like to develop these thoughts further. There are some references to earlier parts of the discussion on the Vic list which I haven't edited out, the overall argument is still clear enough IMO.

Here's what I said on the Vic teachers IS list:

at times through this discussion in this thread and the .NET thread it has been said by some that, "we live in a democracy, so we will choose what we want to choose"

I've been thinking and some of Michael's comments reinforce this, that teacher / school democracy is very limited, Con has already made the point that the playing field is not level due to the MS cut price agreement, other contributors have indicated that they are going to be pragmatic about software choice, the agreement exists so use it

I remember deciding to learn UNIX about 20 years ago, putting a few things in place to facilitate this but eventually abandoning the effort because it was too hard using one system at school and another at home - what sort of democratic choice was that?

here is something Michael said that reinforces the point:

> Con, with the greatest respect to you and the teachers in our schools, if you ask them what their greatest limitations in teaching are, one of the biggest is lack of time. This is expressed in many ways such as discussing the crowded nature of the curriculum, the burden of administration that goes with the job now, and a whole range of other things. To impose upon them the need to learn new software merely because you and I may not like the fact that Microsoft have market dominance and we'd like to challenge that, would be far worse an imposition of our views than the suggestion that forcing use of MS Office on students causes them to pirate software.


> To summarise, I will use whichever product best and most expediently suits the needs of our staff and our students. Our staff will do much the same within the limitations of knowledge, time and support. Unfortunately, the hurdle for most staff in this respect is significant given high workloads unless there is a significant demonstrated benefit. This is no different for IT than any other subject too.

So, we have a situation where the choices may seem insignificant (both products of comparable quality and / or not worth the time and effort to check out in detail), combined with lack of teacher time (extreme problem), ageing teacher workforce (generational issues), limited access to computer rooms for many teachers (perhaps partly due to money being wasted as Con has documented) combined with an infrastructure in which MS and governments have colluded in a cut price agreement on schools which favours an already existing monopoly

How is that democracy, when to break out of the mould being imposed requires such extreme effort and sacrifices in time and energy to develop the awareness and skills to make the change?

I also wanted to respond to the point about "not being pressured to change or make choices for ideological or political reasons"

This has come from both side of the argument, for instance Con has said:

> >Ahh, once again, let's invoke the 'ideological dislike of Microsoft' claim. ;-)
> >Sorry, this is about money. This is about industry competition. This is about pushing open standards. This is _not_ an argument relating to an 'ideological dislike of Microsoft'. If you've read such an argument anywhere in _any_ of my statements, please point it out.

What do these words mean?

An ideology to me is a *set* of intertwined beliefs made up of smaller beliefs such as it's a good idea to save money, it's a good idea to have real competition (not monopoly), it's a good idea to have open standards, it's a good idea to publish and not hide the source code, it's a good idea to have thousands of people working collaboratively on the internet to produce software and its a bad idea for governments to lock teachers into one platform. Taken together those ideas to me make up an ideology.

Bill Gates understands this when he calls the open source movement "communist", earlier this year, and the open source leaders on boing-boing understand it when they respond by publishing red flags with the creative commons license on it in response.

When teachers go along with the pragmatic decision of using MS / proprietary software because they are more or less forced to for the reasons outlined above then why is that not an ideological choice? My understanding of ideology is that to just go with the flow, not stand on soap boxes, to be an ordinary joe is making a choice to support the status quo, a status quo which I believe has been demonstrated and not refuted to be in favour of MS / proprietary software.

This is what I've been doing for the last 20 years when I've used proprietary software after regretfully abandoning efforts to learn UNIX / Linux and just dabbling in open source or using it in another environment where it is dominant, such as the internet.

I always believed that I was making an ideological decision (regretfully) because it just seemed too hard to go down the path I wanted to go down. Things have now changed, we have the intenet, we have teachers lists, we have the opportunity for more collaboration and communication amongst ourselves. The free software movement has split and morphed into the open source movement. The o/s software is improving further in leaps and bounds. Whole countries and states in Australia (ACT) look seriously at open source tenders.

I'm suggesting that it is ideological / political, for those on the soap boxes supporting a position and also for those who claim not to be on soap boxes.

OK, you may not see it like that but tell me where I'm wrong.
Do we have real democracy in software choice?
What does ideological / political mean?

I also wanted to say something about the use of the word "piracy" - it's a grey area IMO - breaking software copyright should not be put in the same category as stealing ships on the high seas - the American lawyer Lawrence Lessig, creator of Creative Commons has written at length about this - but I would need to research it more to present an alternative argument - my current position is that there is a need for copyright law to change for a variety of reasons, in particular with regard to digital media

Sunday, March 27, 2005

web presence

The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, always envisaged that the Web would be something that users would write to and that it should be easy to write to. He wanted users to be active participants not just passive readers and surfers.

It's important for student's to be able to publish their web pages out there on the Web so they can look them up, show them off and work on them outside of school hours. Conceptually and psychologically there is a quantum leap difference between publishing on the Web compared to just preparing something for the teacher, which never makes it to the wider world.

I've discovered a way to enable students to do this which develops naturally and hopefully would be a first step along the path of them establishing a more permanent web presence that they will continue with in their own time.

The first step is to create a flickr account and publish some pictures you like on it.

Then you need to learn a little HTML. This is not too hard and there are advantages of starting with HTML compared with visual design tools such as Dreamweaver. HTML is fundamental and there are lots of web applications, such as webnote and blogger, that you can do a lot more with if you know HTML.

Finally, you can create a webnote space and quickly create a web presence. To publish a picture on webnote you look up the URL of the picture on flickr and use the img tag and src attribute to access the graphic.

Through this exercise my students create a web presence at flickr and webnote, they have become web publishers. They have found out that HTML is useful and can be quickly applied to publish a simple web site which they can look up and work on outside of school hours. The whole process is relatively quick and simple.

I asked my students (year 10) for permission to share their work, here are some examples of what they created:

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

programming languages

According to Philip Armour's laws of ignorance sometimes the problem is lack of awareness: I do not know that I do not know something

Hence, I did not know the right question to ask until I stumbled across the answer to it. The question that I discovered through finding the answer was:

Why are there so many programming languages to choose from these days?

Ten years ago to be a real programmer you had to be good at C / C++ but things have changed. Here are some figures based on O'Reilly book sales, June 2003-June 2004, which gives the rough picture:

Java 25% dropping
Visual Basic 18% dropping
C / C++ 17%
PHP 13% rising
C# 12% rising
Perl 7%
.NET languages 4%
Python 2-3%

The answer to the question was provided by Paul Graham and here it is:

You Can Use Whatever Language You Want.

Writing application programs used to mean writing desktop software. And in desktop software there is a big bias toward writing the application in the same language as the operating system. And so ten years ago, writing software pretty much meant writing software in C. Eventually a tradition evolved: application programs must not be written in unusual languages. And this tradition had so long to develop that nontechnical people like managers and venture capitalists also learned it.

Server-based software blows away this whole model. With server-based software you can use any language you want. Almost nobody understands this yet (especially not managers and venture capitalists). A few hackers understand it, and that's why we even hear about new, indy languages like Perl and Python. We're not hearing about Perl and Python because people are using them to write Windows apps.

What this means for us, as people interested in designing programming languages, is that there is now potentially an actual audience for our work.

That means I can go off and learn python without the need to be worried about the dominant operating system or traditions that have become outdated.

non linear design

previously I've asked students to use storyboards for their game design but I read a criticism of storyboards for games because they encouraged linear design

I found an alternative in a Gamasutra article by Ernest Adams, which recommended designing with gameplay modes and flowboards

A flowboard is a combination of flowchart, which is non linear, and a storyboard, which is an annotated picture

flowboard = flowchart + storyboard

I'm currently trialling this with year 11's and 12's and it seems to be working - today the student's were discussing different games they knew, one student said platform games were linear, another said more modern games like Warcraft branched - previously we talked about the movie Sliding Doors and the students corrected me when I said books were linear - we were in the library at the time and one student went and fetched a Goosebumps book of the shelves to correct my assertion!

one reason I'm mentioning this is that I'm still stuck in pencil and paper mode for representing this - although the flowchart part can be well represented with Inspiration or CMap I think it's still easier to represent the storyboard part with pencil and paper - it's quicker to draw a picture of game room challenges and action with pencil and paper

So, for the time being at least, even though it feels old fashioned I'm still using pencil and paper

One disadvantage of this is that I can't show you a picture here of what I am talking about, but I'll work on that and see what I can do

Clark Aldrich talks about 3 types of learning in his book about simulations - linear, cyclical and open-ended. What I'm talking about here is providing design tools for students to encourage open-ended game design. I don't like those games that have 25 levels of linear game play. I'm trying to encourage my students to develop games where there are alternative pathways from beginning to end, or failing that, at least some branching or ability to jump around levels in a non linear fashion.

Schools are mainly about linear (step by step) and cyclical (repeating, revising the same thing) content. I'm hoping that by planting the seed of how to do open-ended content that something interesting will emerge. (I'll write about game play modes some other time)

Thursday, March 17, 2005


The other day I was given a lesson in motivation by my Year 12 students. I gave them a Game Maker program I had written called Clickball_interactive. The purpose of the exercise was to teach them a new technique, how to draw a flowboard, a non linear design tool for games. I set them the task of reverse engineering my game to produce a flowboard out of it.

Instead of getting on with that some of the students critically analysed my game design from their perspective. It was light hearted but many of the features were described as "crap".

For instance, I had given the player a configuring option where they could set their own background colour or alternatively a tiled image. But once they had set an image, they couldn't go back and reset the colour, the image wouldn't go away. Also if they set the background colour to red then the red writing on the page could no longer be seen.

All of this is happening because I am using Game Maker and games are a medium with which these students feel confident and more or less expert. They are engaged.

From my perspective, I found their light hearted but vigorous criticisms very motivating. That night I spent a fair bit of time going through all their criticisms (I identified seven) and improved the game significantly.

This made me think that if I could help create a similar environment for my students later in the year where they could critically analyse their own games then it's likely that this would be a growth experience for them as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

monkey variations


I've spent a few hours putting a picture of a monkey through GIMP filters and scripts and then putting the final images into a webpage called monkey variations. The webpage includes three animations, which are also easy to do with GIMP. They take a while to load so you need to be patient.

This shows the power of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is an open source package.

I've prepared a worksheet about how to do this - both the GIMP manipulations and the styling of the webpage - and am happy to share it with anyone who asks.

Wara blogged last year about the idea of exposing students to free software first, that first impressions are important. Admittedly, the GIMP user interface is clunky compared to PhotoShop but what is under the hood is comparable, which is a great achievement given that GIMP is free and can be given to students to take home.

With respect to the filters and scripts I've heard that GIMP has more to offer because a variety of developers are happy to give something back to the community.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

learning theory

I've reread Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens and some notes about it sent to me by Keith Richardson. I've also discovered that George Siemens has a blog.

I'd prefer to take some time to evaluate George Siemen's claim that we need a new learning theory - and that connectivism is it - due to rapid advances in communications technology, networks, chaos theory, complexity and self organising systems.

My first goal would be to revisit the established theories of behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism and freshen up there, because I am rusty.

I feel I have a working knowledge of behaviourism and constructivism and I think all educators and parents use both. We give rewards such as praise for responses we like to see. We provide enriched learning environments that allow for exploration when we can. I think it's absurd to suggest there isn't a need for both but as far as I know no one is actually seriously suggesting that.

However, I feel unclear about cognitivism - what is it exactly and how to educators use it? That's one of the things I'm looking into at the moment.

Another question that arose for me in reading Siemen's paper was how do we define learning. There are a few different definitions of learning in that paper, such as:

"learning must be a way of being - an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast of the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events ..." (quoting Vaill, p. 1)

"a persisting change in human performance or performance potential ... [which] must come about as a result of the learner's experience and interaction with the world" (quoting Driscoll, p.2)

"Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organisation or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing" (p. 5)
I'm not sure that looking for a definition is the way to go because learning is one of those words that Marvin Minsky refers to as suitcase words, words that have lots of different meanings when you look at them closely. Or as Minsky says in Society of Mind:

Learning. An omnibus word for all the processes that lead to long term changes in our minds (p. 329)
Anyway, the Siemen's phrase that "learning can reside outside of ourselves" is part of what is radical about his theory - the idea that in our new networked environment learning can reside outside of the individual. That idea has practical implications for educators.

It also reminds me of the final scene in Terminator where the super computer launched a nuclear strike against the human race.

Monday, March 07, 2005


How would you like to travel through space and time to look over the shoulder of (the worlds experts, damn no strike through), oops, diligent enthusiasts, at their up to date personal reference library. They are currently researching the same topic as you. As a bonus each time you look at one of these references you will magically be told how many other diligent enthusiasts also regard it as important enough to place in their own personal, but not private, reference libary.

Join and you can achieve this and more. It's a new frontier.

My social bookmarks are at

I'm blogging too!

Bill has given me authorship priveleges, so this is my first try at blogging. Thanks Bill.
I'll introduce myself: my name is Tony Forster and I run a Computer Club in Melbourne for years 4 to 8.

While I'm blogging, I might as well talk about what I'm thinking about now. Computer Club runs on Papert's Constructionist/Constructivist principles, the kids are free to create whatever they want with Gamemaker software. The idea is that if they are placed in an educationally enriched environment (Microworld), they will select what information they need to construct their own understanding of computers, maths etc.

I start them with a blank screen and show them how to program, bottom up. If you go to you'll see Al Upton's templates. He starts his kids with a template. Similar age kids, different style.

My first thought was what works for him works for him and what works for me works for me. But now I'm thinking, that the decision to start or not start with a template might make a fundimental difference to how a child will relate to their "Microworld"

There are various Microworld defining features in but try "A Microworld is extensible (so tools and objects can be combined to build new ones), but also transparent (so its workings are visible) and rich in various representations"

So how does a childs initial entry into their Microworld define their ongoing relationship with that world? I don't know. I'm thinking. Enough for a first blog.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

why do people love pong?

Game design is still being theorised by the experts. I was impressed by the simplicity and parsimony of this explanation of why people love pong by two such experts, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, authors of Rules of Play:

It is simple to play. The one-line instructions and intuitive knob interface makes Pong approachable and easy to understand. There are no hidden features to unlock or special moves to learn.

Every game is unique. Because the ball can travel anywhere on the screen. Pong is an open ended game with endless possibilities. Pong rewards dedicated play: it is easy to learn but difficult to master.

It is an elegant representation. Pong is, after all, a depiction of another game: Table Tennis. The abstracted nature of Pong, where your avatar is reduced to a single white line, creates an immediately satisfying physical and perceptual relationship to the game.

It is social. It takes two to play Pong. Through playing the game, you interact with another human being. Pong's social circle also extends beyong two players: it makes a great spectator sport.

It is fun. Simple though it may seem, it is genuinely fun to interact with Pong. Players derive pleasure from the game for many different reasons, from the pleasure of competition and winning to the satisfying tactile manipulations of the knob.

It is cool. As a cultural artifact, Pong is a poster child for the hip, low-fi graphics of the classic arcade game. It evokes nostalgia for afternoons spent in the living room with friends, huddled around the TV playing video games, eating Cheetos and swigging Mountain Dew.
Go here to see the full outline of the contents of Rules of Play and some sample pdf chapters.

who speaks for learning?

I'm republishing a section of an article I wrote in 1997 below. It was a response to a critique of the uses of computers in schools by a self confessed neo-Luddite, Theodore Roszak (Roszak, 1996). I've republished the full article, Invitation to Immersion, on my website.

After intensively studying various learning theories in the 90s I sort of lost interest after writing this article. It didn't seem to be going anywhere and more importantly, I realise now, that I moved over to the view that learning theories in the future (meaning now) would actually be embedded in software and so it was more important to study and learn software, with that background realisation in mind.

Without abandoning that insight, I'm now being drawn into discussion of learning theory following recent discussions with Tony Forster, Jacob Habgood and Keith Richardson as well as reading some articles and books by James Paul Gee and Clark Aldrich. Nothing stands still and learning theory has moved on, I need to keep up.

My views have changed too over the past seven years but neverthless I offer the following as a worthwhile starting point for discussion, even though I'm no longer in full agreement with my former self. More on that later.

who speaks for learning

Successful learning invariably occurs when a child is immersed into a healthy learning environment from a young age. What are the blocks? Well, clearly many families do not create healthy learning environments at home. Few disagree with this.

I also believe that many Schools do not create healthy learning environments either. This idea may be more controversial but it boils down to the government obsession with power and measurement, which filters down through the hierarchy to teachers and then to students. It's really quite simple. When people are made powerless, when they are given little or no say over what, how, when or why they should learn something and then threatened with measurement of their performance, real or deep learning does not occur. What are the alternatives?

Developmental theorists who have studied how children's minds evolve (Papert, 1993) or who are attempting to grow artificial minds (Emergent artificial intelligence theorists like Minsky, 1988) or who have studied how biological evolution works (Eldredge, 1996) are among those who speak for learning. In these models new things emerge spontaneously from favourable environments. There is no central plan, outcomes are often unpredictable and measurement is irrelevant. In what follows I attempt to outline some of the principles of constructionist learning that emerge from these models and how they can be applied to learning with computers.

Computers are such great tools that even neo-Luddites use them to redraft their critiques of computer cultures. While School and neo-Luddites continue to conceptualise the computer as a logical machine then the computer and the curriculum will continue to evolve in harmony, but at the expense of learning.

It is more forward thinking to use non-logical metaphors of the computer. One of my favourites is the rorschach. Different people will use the computer in their own way, to explore their own interests. Another favourite is the mirror. Every now and again you catch a glimpse of yourself in the computer, especially if you are using it creatively.(Turkle, 1996)

Non logical metaphors of the computer create a tension between the computer and the curriculum whereby the computer becomes the medium that carries the quality and the curriculum becomes the technical instrument. The computers becomes an evocative, flexible medium that invites immersion. Computer games are addictive and fun (as the neo-Luddites point out). It needs to be added, however, that some of the best computing software is an invitation to immerse yourself into a microworld where significant learning is likely to occur, provided you have a teacher who understands how the software is meant to be used. Counterposed to the neo-Luddite critique of mindless play is the constructionist idea of hard play.

Play is OK. We should take a hint from children who learn more by play before they get to school than they learn at school. Play is the enemy of the government model of power and measurement. Play laughs at power and defies measurement. Play is a favourite of bored or rebellious students. But what is the Educational utility of play? Difficult question but a real problem for School at the moment is that its environment makes it virtually impossible to even seriously pose that question.

The emotional precedes the cognitive. Many kids say they dislike school and dislike many of their teachers. How can real learning occur for these kids in these classes? Perhaps personal appropriation, making something your own, is the single most crucial point of successful learning. Deep learning will not occur unless there is that feeling of intimate engagement or falling in love with the subject. Real knowledge is personal knowledge. Any learning regime that neglects the motivational aspect will end in disappointment.

Our knowledge is like our relationships with other people
, full of subtle nuances and never ending contradictions. We learn new things by becoming good at making connections and discerning healthy relationships. This is a much healthier way of looking at knowledge than the hierarchical checklists suggested by centralised curriculum like Statements and Profiles.

Trust your intuition
. Frankly, logic is over-rated. Logic doesn't give us insights in the first place. It just lets us formalise and rationalise our thoughts after the event.

Take risks!
This goes beyond the passive truisms, 'that we all make mistakes' and that 'mistakes are a natural part of learning.' Everyone agrees with these truisms in a disconnected theoretical sense separated from real life situations where we have to admit that we were wrong. How many teachers actually say to their students, 'I was wrong' or 'I don't know'.

'Take risks' encompasses more of the spirit that it is good to make lots of mistakes and make them quickly as part of getting on with learning. The faster we fail the better it is because then we will get onto something worthwhile quicker. Risk taking is an active virtue.

Can you imagine an Education System adopting a policy of fast failure? How would that fit with a model of Standards and Accountability which engenders low risk activity?

Take your time. I am now convinced that learning how to learn techniques that advocate heuristics such as concept mapping, Gowin's knowledge Vee (Novak and Gowin, 1984) or mind mapping mainly work because the process of using the heuristic means the learner spends more time with the problem. A common reaction of students to failure, boredom or disempowerment is to use an endless variety of techniques to spend less time on the task. It follows that anything that bores or disempowers students is bad for their learning. At School (particularly Secondary) we teach kids that specific subjects should be studied for fixed time intervals at certain times of the day and then suddenly stopped, when the bell rings.

A good discussion promotes learning. Good plants won't grow in poor soil. A rich soil for intellectual growth can only come about through active discussion, negotiation, argument and exploration.


Eldredge, Niles (1996). Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate. London: Phoenix

Minsky, Marvin (1988). The Society of Mind. London: Picador.

Novak, Joseph and Gowin, Bob (1984). Learning how to Learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Papert, Seymour (1993). The Childrens Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York: Basic Books.

Roszak, Theodore (1996). Dumbing us Down. New Internationalist, Dec. 1996, 12-14

Turkle, Sherry (1996). Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Friday, March 04, 2005

game design


This was initially a synthesis of Mark Overmars article and I've been thinking about it and refining it for a couple of years now. It's not too hard to work out what a bad game is - it's got 20 levels and the game play is much the same in every level, not that I ever finish those games so I might be wrong :-)

But what is a good game and how can we explicitly teach the principles of a good game design?

I have a goodGames2005 folder and restrict the students to choosing one of those and then evaluating it against the design concepts and focus questions below.

I then hope and pray that some of this will stick when the time comes for students to design and make their own games.

Some things in this sheet are not explained (webnote and flowboard), sorry, I'll explain them in subsequent posts to prevent this one becoming too long.


File type: MUST be editable or GMD (same thing):
Game file size:
Provide a link to the site where others can download the game: (both here and on webnote)

Design concepts

For each of the design concepts, 1-10, below:
a) Describe existing game
b) For some of the design concepts imagine variation or improvement (you are expected to show critical and creative thought in this section)

1) Game Information and / or tutoria1
How helpful / extensive is the initial information about how to play the game?

2) Configuration:
Can the player configure the game to suit themselves – such as alter the backgrounds, music, difficulty, character?
Is there a choice between single player and multiplayer? Explain.

3) Goals or Mission:
What is the main goal and describe any subgoals?

4) Emotions, mood, immersion:
What emotions does the game produce? (eg. happiness, fear, joy, satisfaction, frustration, anger)
How are these emotions evoked?
Do the emotions change at different points in the game?
If the emotions change then how is that achieved?

5) Ideas:
Do you just need reflex skills to be successful or do you have to think as well?
If you have to think as well then describe the idea(s) that the designer has used to make you think

6) Control, Balance, Game Play:
Is there a good balance between the players strengths and either the enemies strengths or the decision making required by the game?
Is there any AI? If so describe it.
(for this section, as well as description … include an annotated screen shot required to illustrate balance or lack of balance)

7) Punishment:
How are you punished for making mistakes?
Are you punished too much / not enough / about right for making mistakes? Explain

8) Rewards:
The best reward is more knowledge about the game. Describe the rewards in this game and do they meet the criteria in the first sentence for best reward?

9) Decisions:
Are the decisions trivial or interesting? Are there interesting decisions that make a real difference to how the game turns out? (eg. like a choice of weapon might make a real difference)
(for this section, as well as description … draw a flowboard as part of this section showing a part of the game where different pathways can be taken)

10) Special
Are there any special features of the game that deserve a mention?

Provide at least two annotated screen shots of the game, both here and on webnote – make sure they are fully annotated!

What is a Good Game? by Mark Overmars

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

game maker demo

I've just written a new Game Maker file which demonstrates how to
configure a game. You can download a copy from my Game Maker site:

The player is given the option at the start of choosing a character name, music, background colour or background image and difficulty level of the game. A number of functions in Game Maker provide pop up messages, a menu with choices, or a dialogue in which the player can enter a number, a string or indicate a colour. These functions are demonstrated.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

chess enthusiast

Originally uploaded by Bill Kerr.
Here's a picture of Alan Goldsmith who has been a tireless organiser of Junior Chess for many years. Last Saturday he was at it again, organising a tournament for some young Rookies at the SA Chess Centre.

connecting new arrivals

A Liberian student has approached me and asked for assistance in getting connected to the internet at home

I'm thinking, yes, I should help out

I'm also thinking that wouldn't it be a great idea if the government funded such a service for new arrivals in Australia - a programme that gave arrivals from the Third World some assistance in getting startedwith complex technology

I'm about to make some phone calls along these lines but then, I suspect it would be more painless if I just went and did it myself

I'd be curious to hear from anyone else who has been down this path before me or sees the need for this sort of thing increasing