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Archive for the ‘games’ Category

mapping Fighting Fantasies

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I found a folder down the back of a bookshelf. It was the shelf full of Fighting Fantasy books.


The first Fighting Fantasy book that Catherine & I bought was The Forest of Doom from the church jumble sale. I wonder if anyone raised an eyebrow at two little girls buying this?

I was thrilled by it. A book and a maze. A book that was a maze! So I bought more, one by one from the WHSmiths in Enfield shopping centre. I remember being appalled when Black Vein Prophecy cost £3.50. I thought they would always cost £1.95 or maybe £2.50 for a really hefty one. My first introduction to inflation.

The folder is full of maps. Maps of those book mazes.

Some are scrappy, works in progress, tools to help you along.


But some are too perfect and must have been redrawn once the book was completed. As a record, knowledge to be stored away.

chasms warlock caverns

There’s a stack on kids’ art paper but one map is drawn on the back of this.


And there’s a great deal of complex figuring out on the back of these green bar computer printouts.


This set is from “Imperial Chemical Industries” so must be stuff that Dad brought home. I remember narrower green bar printouts that Mum would bring home from the Broxbourne council IT department but there is none of that here.

The computer paper records the great frustration of my Fighting Fantasy stage. The Creature of Havoc.

I got stuck with The Creature, every option on every page seemed to lead to death. The map didn’t help. Decoding the encrypted bits in the text didn’t either. I went through the book page by page and found the end point that was about dying horribly. And then tried unsuccessfully to backtrack.

Today, with the internet, it took a few minutes to find out (as I had believed in 1988) the book was broken. But back then I just had to trust to the map.

Written by Karen

August 5th, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Posted in books,games,maps

the text size game

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RNIB training seems to include lots of gentle games and quizzes. Our sight loss training included a game that went as follows:

  • Give participants the same information printed in different fonts sizes.
  • Ask them to answer a question about the information
  • Give the first person to answer correctly a metaphorical pat on the back (they need sweets here)

(it was more interesting than it sounds)

The idea being that you very quickly get what font sizes are easy to read. And therefore understand why all RNIB information is printed in 14 point and at first looks screamingly ‘loud’.

Written by Karen

November 7th, 2008 at 6:29 am

recruiting with games

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Corporations are increasingly using online games to recruit and train new employees, and just to better keep people in touch.If you’re thinking that maybe you should hide the video game controller from your kids because they’re spending too much time in front of the TV or computer, don’t. What you think is slacking may just be preparing them to become productive members of the workforce when they get older. Their future offices are likely to be heavily digital—especially if they work remotely—and their work may resemble the online games that many now spend hours playing.

The Name of the Game is Work

Written by Karen

June 9th, 2008 at 8:07 am

Posted in games,work

the Byron child safety review

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I wrote in October about the announcement of Tanya Byron’s review into the impact of violent video games on children.

Mind Hacks were recently a good deal more generous than me about Tanya Byron heading up the review:

“Tanya Byron is great. She came to prominence as the resident psychologist on several UK TV parenting programmes but used evidence-based interventions, essentially demonstrating what a clinical psychologist would do if your child got referred for behaviour problems.

Most notably, she obviously knew her shit and is widely respected among clinical psychologists. Despite often being described as a ‘TV psychologist’ she remained working in the NHS at the coal face of clinical work.”

The report is out now and is mostly sensible and balanced which makes me feel like I was unnecessarily skeptical, for example the report says:

Just like in the offline world, no amount of effort to reduce potential risks to children will
eliminate those risks completely. We cannot make the internet completely safe. Because of
this, we must also build children’s resilience to the material to which they may be exposed
so that they have the confidence and skills to navigate these new media waters more


There are new risks presented in online gaming, many of which are similar to the potential
risks to children of other internet use. These games offer new opportunities for social
interaction between children and there are a number of potential benefits for children and
young people from playing video games, including cognitive and educational gains and
simply having fun. Interestingly the evidence to prove these benefits can be as contested
as the evidence of negative effects.

Full report: Safer Children in a Digital World

Written by Karen

April 5th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

war in rio

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Fabio Lopez has created a version of Risk, War in Rio , where the world is replaced with Rio de Janeiro, and the armies are police squads and gangs.

The goal of the project is to generate serious discussion through “cynical entertainment”. It is gorgeously executed, in-spite of the subject matter.

via Bruno

Written by Karen

January 12th, 2008 at 2:47 am

Posted in cards,games

games violence study is launched – yawn

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There’s a story this morning that the government has asked for a study into the impact of ‘violent’ video games on children. I’m a little bit dubious about the decision to have Tanya Byron to head up the study. As the news coverage (but not the DCMS press releases) make clear Bryon is best known to the public as the resident expert on The House of Tiny Tearaways. Is it necessary to have a recognised TV presenter lead this sort of study?

Oddly it appears the same story was covered in September but with the focus more on the impact of the internet and porn.

Part of the study will “commission a literature review and analysis of current evidence on the effects of exposure to such material on children’s wellbeing and behaviour” but mostly the study will look at the effectiveness of regulations, parents concerns and childrens opinions so I’m not expecting any new evidence. Instead we can probably expect press releases in March that will pick which of conflicting existing research conclusions to focus on and use anedoctal evidence from parents to ‘give colour’ to the story.

(I’m also curious what they really mean by violence. Are they worried by my childhood destruction of robot after robot in Sonic the Hedgehog? Is this the same as picking up a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto, having (off-screen) sex with the her, and then beating her up and stealing her money? Actually, I don’t know the answer to this. Does it matter how ‘abstract’ the violence is?)

Written by Karen

October 9th, 2007 at 12:13 am

Posted in games

cardsorting – IA game No#1

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Today the lovely Jane Murison, our in-house expert on card-sorting amongst many other things, ran peer trainng for us on card-sorting.

One of the things Jane mentioned was how much more enjoyable and less stressful participants find card-sorting than research like task-based testing. She felt this was partly due to a (British?) reticence to criticise a seemingly finished product but we also discussed the game-like properties of card-sorting versus the test/assessment properties of task-based testing.

There are comfortable and familiar echoes in card-sorting of Snap and more so of Happy Families, and even formal card games like Bridge that on one level rely on grouping ‘like with like’ e.g Hearts with Hearts or Kings with Kings.

I guess this a theme explored by Rashmi Sinha’s research and her work with game-like elicitation methods (GEMs) and particularly OpenSort.

With the MindCanvas GEMs I kind of feel that some of the game resonance is lost (and more of the test resonance introduced) by removing the physical/tactile cards. Maybe that’s just my obsession with trading cards and a sign of not enough time spend playing Solitaire on my PC.

(related card-sorting thought -  looking forward to Donna Maurer’s book dedicated to card sorting)

Written by Karen

October 3rd, 2007 at 6:16 am

Posted in games,work

UX methods – the trading card game

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o I just loved the trading card game that Jess McMullin came up with for the IA Summit. It wasn’t just because I won something.

The concept was “Every Summit attendee gets a starter pack of trading cards when they register. You’ll get 16 identical cards, and need to trade to get the complete set of 16 cards. People new to the Summit can also use a Wildcard to complete their set. When you get the entire set, you can go to the prize desk and enter your name in our fabulous prize draw.”

It works on so many levels. It is educational. If you didn’t know what a Page Description Diagram was, well now you had a handy pocket-sized description. There’s competition to motivate you, both in the form of the prizes and just in wanting to beat the smug guy at lunch to the full set. The cards are pretty and tactile. You can shuffle them randomly in boring conference sessions. There are tactics to challenge your brain. Moral choices to be made when you don’t need the card from the girl sitting next to you but she still has 15 wire-frames.

It was a great ice-breaker. It provided an easy way to start conversations (you wouldn’t happen to have’Kano Analysis‘, would you?) and a reason to do so. That said, the social value of the cards deteriorated as people got more ruthless. On the final day I overheard a number of interactions that were pretty much limited to “I can trade you a 9 or a 5, for a 2. I don’t need a 7”. I don’t think those involved even got to the exchanging of names.

I got a pack of ‘Design the Box‘, which might not be on everyone’s list of UX methods but is another one of nForm’s babies. My room-mate and I immediately traded half our packs so I ended up half ‘Design the Box’ and half ‘Usability Testing‘. The advantage of teaching a pre-conference tutorial immediately became clear, as I had a class of 20 to trade with before the conference proper had even started. It still took me most of the conference to get my hands on ‘Swimlanes‘. Many others got stuck looking for their elusive final card and everyone was convinced that the one they were looking for was ‘Rare’. No-one ever conclusively proved that there were less of any particular card.

Written by Karen

April 23rd, 2007 at 6:45 am

Posted in cards,games