Gamers are more aggressive to strangers

According to a recent study of gaming and aggression:

Victorious gamers enjoy a surge of testosterone – but only if their vanquished foe is a stranger. When male gamers beat friends in a shoot-em-up video game, levels of the potent sex hormone plummeted.

This suggests that multiplayer video games tap into the same mechanisms as warfare, where testosterone’s effect on aggression is advantageous.

Against a group of strangers – be it an opposing football team or an opposing army – there is little reason to hold back, so testosterone’s effects on aggression offer an advantage.

“In a serious out-group competition you can kill all your rivals and you’re better for it,” says David Geary, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, who led the study.

However, when competing against friends or relatives to establish social hierarchy, annihilation doesn’t make sense. “You can’t alienate your in-group partners, because you need them,” he says.

Ewen Callaway @ New Scientist

Via Slashdot.

Rational Gambling?

National Lottery (UK)Some interesting observations by Sabik, over at Boing Boing, about rationality and gambling:

… Under some circumstances it is in fact rational to gamble (and to get insurance …). The reason is that the utility of money is not linear.

As one gets more and more rich or further and further into debt, the difference made by an additional pound diminishes. It’s not a symmetrical, simple curve, but overall it’s roughly S-shaped.

Thus, it’s rational to gamble when one is in debt, for a jackpot of not much more than twice the size of the debt; in that case, the pounds won will have bigger marginal utility than the pounds bet.

Of course, one would prefer to play a game that has a good return — UK Lotto’s 50% is not really very good — but even then it may still be rational.

A similar argument would show that it’s rational to insure generally when one is not in debt; however, the curve is not symmetrical and in addition there are the non-monetary costs, so it’s probably rational in a wider range of circumstances.

Sabik @ Boing Boing


Solitaire Stuck

This is a stuck game with very few cards remaining the draw stack.

It doesn’t get much closer than this.

Losing the game with so few hidden cards gave me a lot of pleasure — more pleasure than actually winning.

Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas

Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas
Martin Nerurkar has posted some interesting thoughts about level design and architectural principles:

… Before I get into level design, I’ll first have to talk a bit about architecture. Thousands of years ago, the roman architect Vitruvius identified what he called the three “qualities of architecture”. They are as follows:

  • Firmitas, stability. The building stands stable on it’s own
  • Utilitas, usability. The spaces created by the building are suited for their intended use
  • Venustas, beauty. This building has a beautiful aesthetic

They do make sense, right? Admittedly categorizing things is often arbitrary and can be argued for or against but I kinda liked that setup, where each layer is building on one another. If your building isn’t standing safely, it doesn’t matter much if your kitches is perfectly laid out. And if your doors are too small for people to get in properly, then it doesn’t help that the aesthetics are wonderful – the building itself is still a failure.

Now I tried transporting this divide over to level design, and this is what I got:

  • Firmitas, stability. The level runs well without any technical or performance issues
  • Utilitas, usability. The space does a good job at leveraging the game mechanics
  • Venustas, beauty. The environment creates an atmosphere and provides affordances.

I’ll elaborate a bit on these three qualities and how I think they relate to level design as a discipline ….

Martin Nerurkar: “The three Qualities of Level Design” @ Game Architecture

Via Gamasutra.

Wii helps pitcher improve game

Heath Bell Plays WiiMajor league pitcher Heath Bell uses the Wii to lose weight, improve balance, and get plenty of cardio exercise:

Playing Wii Fit — hula hoop, soccer, skiing slalom and yoga are his favorite games — was the only addition to his regular off-season workout routine, which includes running and lifting.

Mr. Bell says his on-field performance also has reaped the benefits of the videogame, which requires players to maneuver while on a balance board. “My balance is so much better than it used to be,” he says. “It shows on the mound.”

James Wagner @ Wall Street Journal

Heath Bell @ Wikipedia

An example to the others

Cockroach impaled on pikeThis is not game related — it’s about repelling cockroaches — but it’s so interesting that I’m going to post it anyway, in hopes that someone will use it in a game somewhere:

A friend of mine would kill one roach, and stick it on a toothpick (or a “pike” as he called it) and stood it up on a bottle-cork at the entrance to a hole — as an “example to the others!” He swore it worked.

Follier @ SlashDot

Colin Northway on Game Design

Fantastic Contraption

At the Austin Indie Summit, game designer Colin Northway — author of the remarkable Fantastic Contraption — outlined several key principles for aspiring designers:

1. Make your game in Flash

Northway draws a fine distinction between ‘Flash games’ (games where you “launch kitties into a spiky thing”) and ‘games written in Flash’, but he’s an evangelist for the platform more than anything because “the content discovery problem has been solved” compared to consoles, the iPhone, etc. Forums, emails, all pre-existing internet communities will do the work of keeping your game’s name in front of other people, whereas, say, with the iPhone, “making money is hard to do if Apple doesn’t spray the money hose on you.”

2. Make your game “live online”

3. Leverage “pride based marketing”

4. Make a free game that gives players ‘a tote bag’ if they pay

Via Offworld.

Computer Space

Computer Space: first commercially available coin-op video gameNow this is a beautiful thing:

Computer Space, the world’s first commercially-sold coin-operated video game. Recently for sale on Ebay!

Don’t you wish you owned one? I know I do!

Via BoingBoing.

See Computer Space @ Wikipedia.

I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen Computer Space. I suppose it’s possible — I haunted more than a few video arcades, back in the seventies — but I’m certain I never played it.

Like PBS, but with more headshots

“One of the areas that I am super interested in right now is how we can do financing from the community. In other words, ‘Hey, I really like this idea you have. I’ll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I’ll also get a copy of that game.'”

— Gabe Newell

Over at IGN, Rus McLaughlin takes this idea gives it some kick:

The idea of gamer community-funded game development interests me, sort of like PBS with more headshots.

Rus McLaughlin

Salome: Fatale

Salome, by Takayoshi Sato

Salome, as interpreted by artist Takayoshi Sato for Fatale, “an interactive vignette in realtime 3D based on the story of Salome, particularly the play by Oscar Wilde.”

Beautiful work, very much to my taste.

Via Offworld; see also Femme Fatale: Graveyard, Path creators taking on Wilde’s Salomé.

It’s got art — it’s got sex — it’s got death — what more do you want in a game??

Salome, by Gustav Klimt

Also to my taste, the work of Gustav Klimt.

Right: Salome (with the head of John the Baptist) by Klimt.

Salome has been widely interpreted, in various media — painting, sculpture, drama, literature, dance, film, and now interactive computer games — for … how long now? Two millenia, three?

Such is the power of Eternal She!

The eternal things change forms, but the underlying substance remains the same.

Or perhaps the reverse is true …?

Update May 15, 2010:

See also Deus Ex meets Icarus.