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Blogged Out: 'Bring In The Boffins'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging, this time asking for research to see if the last generation of gamers have truly been ruined by their habits, and achievement gaming runni
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: into the cerebral mutterings of gaming university boffins. Thoughts Up The range of academic discussion on gaming and gaming issues ranges from the warmly pragmatic to the distinctly bizarre, and everything in between. It’s easy to feel alienated from many of these discussions, either because the papers they refer to aren’t accessible on the web, or the jargon employed by the authors isn’t accessible to we masters of the vernacular. Nevertheless the academic realm is ripe with insight and interesting observations. One such insightful blog is that of gaming student Nicolas Nova, whose recent post with regards to a paper written on the relationship between modern gadgetry and ‘waiting’ is interesting indeed. He quotes a fragment of the text: “Information technology use plays an important role in contemporary waiting, especially through the mobile telephone, which allows us to act somewhere other than where we are waiting. We have called these technologies (see Perry and Brodie, 2005) Lazarus devices (reviving dead time), although more realistically they should be seen as Zombie devices (only partial reanimation).” Nova goes on to remark about how technology has changed the nature of waiting, an idea that fascinates me. Technology seems to hit home in all kinds of unmapped areas of life: the frequency and relevance of boredom, for example. It's these areas that academics can really help us in: discovering what the technologies we're developing are really for, and how they are to be used. Elsewhere in the academic sphere I uncovered the most excellently named Torill Elvira Mortensen, who suggests some research that she would like to see done, and it’s research I would like to see done too. “Find a group of 30 year olds. Random selection method of their choice. Interview them about their main interests between the age of 12-18. That will be from 1989 - 1995. What did they use the most time on? How much time did they use on their homework? How were their grades in this period? Look at their position in society today, how are they doing? The different types of media have been around for long enough that we can know if youth and children are ruined by their media consumption. Why not check from this end, rather than speculate from the other end?” Exactly. Someone, give Mortensen a research budget, please. Where Gaming Goes By Finally this week we’re not talking academia, so much as criminality. PlayNoEvil, the blog of Steven Davis, who happens to be the CEO of gaming security firm SecurePlay, is filled with commentary on issues that you barely see raise a whisper on most gaming blogs. Davis discusses elements of cheating in games, legality and gaming, parental controls, gaming commerce, virtual theft, and many other topics. As he surveys this terrain Davis also raises some really juicy food for thought in the kinds of side topics of gaming that we often ignore, such as this post on the current trend towards awarding ‘gaming achievements’. “While the marketing potential is enough to make any MBA drool or otherwise embarrass himself, there are several risks. First, the classic risk of turning gaming into gambling. Since virtually every computer game includes a chance element, any company that ties cash or prizes to game play may be at risk of accidentally(?) creating a casino or illegal lottery. A lot of folks are experimenting with aggressive revenue models with both payments and prizes... and the legal risks are real.” And this is a vital point, especially over here in the UK where the marketing of gambling to minors is punishable by all sorts of unpleasantness. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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