Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are you ready for a totally new type of Gaming?

Shameless promotion of commercial products time. Last spring, a tiny little company showed up at some international game software thing. Folks like Blizzard and Microsoft have erected small buildings; it's a massive show. Way off in the economic Siberia of the hall, there is this little company (according to the journalists) that has something that looks like an old Sinclair and a half-dismantled pc on a stack of old fruit crates... they have built a Better Mousetrap, and everyone is going to see this game.

The guys at the "trash heap" are showing what could be the coolest bit of technology of the Decade, designed for the Nintendo DS. The game is called ScribbleNauts. To spare the impatient with the rest of my diatribe, I have only 3 words for you:

Don't own a DS? Buy one of those, too. (There. Now you don't have to read on. )

Recalling that it was going to be released in November, I popped on by my local $$$-mart and found it before the Holiday rush got rid of it. I brought it home, promised my son extra allowance to use his DS, and cut loose.

While the journalists who reviewed it were ebullient and lavish with their praise, they undersold the game, which employs quite possibly the best overall implementation of semantic web technology ever seen. Not only does the computer know about 10,000 words and objects, it actually knows what to do with them.

Game object. The game presents you with "puzzles" that you have to solve in order to win "stars," not entirely unlike Mario stars. My daughter got a cat down from the roof of a house with:
  • a ladder
  • a fireman (who went into the house, out the window, and saved the cat)
  • shooting water at it with a hose
  • she created a Roc and flew up to get it, but the Roc ATE THE KITTEN
  • she tried to lure it down with steak, but the lady who owned it ate the steak
  • she knocked it off of the roof with a football

Are you beginning to get the picture? For you tech types, it has the objects, it knows what the objects can do (you can hold a hammer, but you drive a convertible; you can ride a Roc, but you cannot ride a robin or a wren), and it lets you do whatever you can do with them, but they never wrote the story around any of the "puzzles." When you play the game, you write the stories.

For the Sci-Fi literati among you, it is the first iteration of the learning computer game that Ender Wiggins played at the Battle School.

Ages 10 - 60. For edutainment, it passes the Mom test here in FX land. Kid has to know and spell the words when she wants to 'wish' for an object to solve the problem. She needs to know that a shovel will dig dirt but it won't cut down a tree. Neither will scissors.

Are you still here? Just go and get the doggoned thing.

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