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This Month in Academic Research Jul 2013 (it’s about video game research)

I follow video game research via
Here are a few interesting papers I came across this month.

FPS games, what are they good for? Apparently they cure amblyopia aka lazy eye and the researchers in question have created a positive preschool friendly FPS game in order to help deal with it. So yes in a preschool somewhere… Children are being taught FPS mechanics before they can probably even read. Future exports champions beware, Lazy Eye Shooter is getting kids hooked on the genre before most kids even own a game system. Not sure if this pay to access article has screenshots though.

In the seemingly never ending war of video games bad, video games good, this article finds that violent video don’t have a negative effect on social skills at odds with previous research.

There are simply so many articles criticizing and complaining about video games, and a few praising that this over view of the “effects of video games on young people” will help summarize both the negatives (college course work takes a dive) and positives (the usual spatial skills argument). If you’re not familiar with research into the effects of video games on players, this little short, and free paper will help get you up to speed on the concepts.
Battlefield 3, it made war look like really cool CNN footage, in this thesis the author takes apart the way BF3 presents scenes in order to justify or vilify violence. If any of those BF3 moments disturbed you with their pro-Iraq overtones, this paper will at least give you some insight into how the game managed to get you so pumped up for an unpopular war.
Autistic kids they score higher than us, but they have no friends. They also are way more likely to be into video games. Now researchers are trying to give them robot friends to play with, which means they will officially be significantly cooler than you ever will be.

I can’t even access this article from my iPad, but I had no idea there was a theory of comedy much less that a serious ludology had been developed to analysis of it in games. Would love to read this and I think it’s free to access, but can’t take a look in Chrome.
This is a weird one, apparently gamers in the military are less likely to have nightmares than non-gamers. The paper then replicated this experiment on college students to only find that male high end gamers seem to be immune to nightmares. However female gamers are more likely to have nightmares after playing games. Then again just imagine playing a game and identifying with the damsel in distress. Unfortunately you have to pay for the full journal, but the abstract does get you thinking…
Games used to help deaf children in Trinidad communicate and also to chronicle their culture. Results were increased scores in numerous subjects and better social inclusion of deaf students! Way to go games!

In this excerpt from a book The Development and Meaning of Psychological Distance the author summarizes a surprisingly good wealth of information about games and how they develop our sense of space and by extension distance. I found the author’s summaries really rousing and quite fun, I also like the idea of a bunch of researchers sitting around an arcade in the 1980s asking Star Wars fans to take a spatial reasoning test after playing a vector based 3D game. Especially because it was this Star Wars game:

Brain machine interfaces are becoming more common and in this paper a few game designers at a University in the Netherlands ponder what games could be made using these interfaces. Cool idea and one that hopefully will be down out of Academia soon.
The march of A.I. Continues in this paper for arxiv researchers outlay a plan to take a.i. From robots and use it towards games. A.i. Continues to be a field that games don’t excel at…. Except Creatures and the new game by the guy who made Creatures.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, video game players showed up having faster intuitive solutions to moral dilemmas and strangely preferring non-violent solutions. “the contrary, those who played single player games displayed a clear intuition to save people, regardless of the violent means necessary. Regarding multi-player gaming, those who were exposed to such games showed a shared intuition to accept a dilemma involving mid-distanced violence, in the face of saving many lives. Gamers in general, regardless of what games they play most, were found to be more accepting of a non-violent, utilitarian dilemma when compared with the control.”

The Science of Gaming is new open source Brazilian journal of games research. Worth a look especially because the papers are free. The abstracts are in English,but the papers might be in Portuguese.
Computer vision syndrome is when excessive computer use causes headaches, blurred vision, and other eye related problems. This paper covers a few easy remedies for computer vision.
In this rather accessible review of literate on serious games, the author describes several serious games used in military training and the place and problems serious games present to the classroom. Worth a read just for the overview.
Research from India suggests video games harm children’s eye sight decreasing their ability to learn in the classroom. In other words all those kids playing lazy eye shooter might also being getting refractive errors in their sight, a condition curable by wearing glasses, but optometry is not as widely available or affordable in India as it is in the first world.
Many educational games are little more than flash cards and drills in disguise, in this paper several prominent serious games researchers take on the psychological terms flow and motivation and proceed to outline games for the classroom you might want to actually play!

Roger Ebert wrote a blog post about it, this dude wrote an entire book. Are video games art? From legal definitions to more esoteric aspects of aesthetics, Marc Ryan… Has a surprisingly short sample on google books. But regardless, if you need a long arguement for the artistic merit of video games, this book has you covered in more than just title.

July 30, 2013 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

Free Trash or self organizing city services

In Taipei you have to pay for trash bags. Bags are also expensive. It’s potentially possible that someone could make a profit from collecting 32 NT trash bags (the big ones), burning the trash and then reselling the bag. Hence, it could be possible to do away with city wide trash disposal simply by placing the cost of the service on the bag. If each bag was worth such and such an amount, slightly durable, and could be resold, this could create a market where folks would simply go around collecting trash, disposing of it, and reselling the bags for their profit. Of course some people would probably choose to burn or dispose of their trash themselves and also this might be a good incentive for cutting down on waste to begin with. You wouldn’t need to worry about people throwing out garbage in bags that are worthless, no one would want to pick up a shoddy disposable plastic bag because of it’s low resale value. Is it possible that this might be a better method for dealing with trash than the current system where the person throwing away their trash pays a remarkably small amount for a large amount of waste? While many cities employ similar methods as Taipei does (recylcing is free, normal trash costs money), this method has the advantage of being low cost (in theory it provides a city with trash disposal with no cost to the government) and hence perhaps something for the developing world.

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February 12, 2007 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Amnesia in pre-literate societies + Ignorant Invaders

The story is always familar to us in video games (especially Japanese ones). The civilization advances and then finds out that another civilization before it was more advanced. But how does this happen or has it happened? Imagine for a second if only 300 people in the world could make cars and they were to die tomorrow. Would we still be able to make cars? Eventually yes, as we developed the technologies again and extrapolated what we need from preserved specimens, but if we didn’t have writing and hence lost an immense oral tradition of knowledge or if the education gap was so high as to make transference of knowledge (not to mention the perspective and values of a more educated class) hard to do then it’s perfectly possible our society would fall apart. We are not so far from such a society at any moment, after all the number of information theory researchers in the world amounts to maybe 30 to 40k, but these people have left behind writing and we’re all close enough to them to be able to pick up where they left off, but my point being primitivism in a society can easily come after the class driving technological development has been killed off which does happen every once in awhile. If there was no writing and then all the quantum phyiscists died off, how long would it take for even educated folks to figure out the basics of quantum mechanics? We have now arrived at a context similar to that of a pre-literate tribe who has lost their elite to disease.

Let’s say that tomorrow aliens arrive on earth. Back on their home planet they have a naturally occuring energy source that provides them with the ability to fly through space at faster than light speeds. The aliens are not necessarily more advanced than us, they merely had the advantage of geography and context on their side to let them reach us first, but what if the aliens aren’t even advanced enough to know this, what if they lack the critical hindsight to see the wealth of intelligence before them? Then we not only have geographically advantaged invaders, but ignorant ones too and maybe they’ll kill off the mechanics? Now what are you going to do?

Maybe I should write science fiction?

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December 4, 2006 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Neural Stem Cell + Mad Cow Disease

Mad Cow Disaease is caused by a protein that pokes holes in the brain eventually driving the victim insane, neural stem cells (recently cultured by researchers at Fudon University) repair portions of the brain. Hence a neural stem cell treatment would repair damaged portons of the brain, but more interestingly the stem cells can also be used as biomarkers, hence we can literally regrow portions of the brain with biomarkers in them creating one large neuronal structure which could be tagged and studied as it works. If this would help anyone I don’t know, but the idea just occured to me and sounds fun (especially on mice). You could eventually have an entire brain tagged and studyable at one time.

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December 3, 2006 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Singapore quickly

Never forget that the time difference between LAX and Singapore is well over a day as I did and hence missed my Dad who left LAX the 11th U.S. time but arrived in Singapore the 13th while I arrived the 11th Taipei time and left the 12th Singapore time. Ahhh the earth so fickle is your rotation. Anyway, Singapore is obviously more diverse than Hong Kong or Japan, while perhaps traces of localism have dissapeared from Japan and other former confucianists, Singapore is one of those countries that seems to have actively grabbed immigrations by the reins and is taking it in for profit. That said, it’s also the only country I’ve been too that specifically asked if you’d been to Africa or South America in the last 6 days implying that the party is reserved for north of the equator countries only and does further reinforce the disneyland with a death penalty concept used to disparage it. The city itself I spent 12 hours in mostly wondering around malls near city hall with a brief stop in the marina. Surprisingly they have light rail running all the way from the airport making them one of the few Asian metropolises to have actually decide their cabbies and bus lines don’t need the added value of thousands of tourists pouring in per day. Singapore is also notable for having tons of archectual value in a small space that’s both spacious, clean, and surprisingly tastifully decrorated. While Shanghai has a slightly naive feeling to it’s design with a well designed and clean inner city, it still seems to have been made to impress while Singapore seems to have been made to be functional and it’s design more elegant compared to China’s bling it’s more macintosh than ice cream shop chains in other words. Picked up Royston Tan’s Shorts and also walked through a huge pile of garbage in a tunnel proving that things have changed since William Gibson walked through what was probably his own oppression (and I might added Shonen Knife is nothing compared to the subversive humor and creativity of Tan’s films.) a few years back. Singapore did feel like some type of camp for the wealthy though, sitting in a coffee shop I watched a young woman diligently hash out equations from an economics text book which is, next to the bioinformatics babes of Taipei, perhaps is as sexy as nerdism can get in Asia, and on my way out I ended up caught behind a group of Indian entrepenuers who were talking with a British expat who was complaing about having to much work in Dubai and not being able to make it in time (a problem we probably all wish we had). All in all, Singapore is perhaps a flat world oasis, but it also has a remarkably different feel from the rest of Asia, While Seoul for instance stocks English language text books in prodigious numbers and Taipei has anything and everything design related or Shibuya-kui Singapore felt more worldly, it’s populos seems to understand that there’s more to like than just engineering or economics etc. It seems to be a genuine creative economy in which film buffs are just as likely to be bank rolling their obsessions through intellectual means as through I.T. or other well known fields. It’s a consultants type of town in which folks are figuring out the holes in industries rather than trying to compete with them. Regardless, I wanna go back and I also picked up Osamu Tezuka‘s Buddha comics in English which is amazing. p.s. Flickr’s Singapore tag for city hall is nice.

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November 19, 2006 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Bangkok hour 10

No train from new airport (but new airport is nice especially the liquer store behind customs so you can sip while you wait on your luggage). Bangkok has the same problem as middle America, it’s poverty is it’s main charm. Walking down the strip tonight two cab drivers asked me if I wanted a beet. Sat around talking to them for about 20 minutes when one of them suggest I go to a girl bar or a boy bar down the street. Head off down the street and folks take me by the arm and ask if I want to a girl show. Their tactics are slightly less forceful than Shanghai’s prostitutes (and here slightly more legit), but pretty much anyone will be asked. Sex on a motorbike is apparently cool. Was hit by a scooter when I first got here, think I hurt them more than me. 
Tales of these regions (especially Cambodia) are well known (one teacher at my academy says a group of canadain dudes paid some prostitutes in cambodia to suck their cocks while they shot rocket launchers etc.) Bangkok in particular is in the midst of a clean up (trains and buses close early), but the city is still sleazy in an entertaining type of way. A man rummaging through garbage sold me a tortoise for 5 baht etc. What’s advertised as possible here is perhaps more mirage than actuality, but the city is permessive much more so than the other tigers that sorround it.

October 6, 2006 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment


If it happened to be at the Chancellor Dick’s ______  in Wyoma, Utah, that’s where he’d be. Towering over 7 feet tall in the maroon carpeting, dangling tide mendallions on the middle of the day, beer brimming, you could almost here his sound in words, a steady stumble of reel to reel as the men came in and out of theater, the threat of porn washing off their backs and this was only day 2 of the American foot race and already he could feel the stereotypes whistling away to the wind, the winner this year would be amputated, driven by revenge, and ultimately fraile, walking into last place with a smile on his back, knowing that the world’s problems would be solved by place and time and not the actions of men somewhere off in the woods screaming. Simplicity was not brutality anymore, it was a means of churning intelligence to the collective will of the small and simple, and his foot prints left simple statement of elegance in the wake of something so complicated, it could only be understood in simple black or white and maybe a dash of yella.

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October 3, 2006 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

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