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Why the Check Mii Out Channel is a complete sham

With the recent release of the Check Mii Out Channel (or Mii Contest Channel), I thought it might be a good time to voice some of my criticisms of the new channel and of the prospect of holding Mii contests in general. To get right to the point, the Check Mii Out Channel—both as a vehicle for hosting Mii contests and as a forum for recognizing talented Mii artists—is fundamentally useless and doomed to failure. In short, this latest Wii channel is too little, too late. Here's why.

Videogame violence revisited

The latest issue of the highly respected journal Psychiatric Quarterly contains a meta-analysis of all peer-reviewed studies published in the last twelve years concerning the relationship between violent videogames and aggressive behavior. The conclusion? While the analysis found some evidence that videogames improve visuospatial cognition, it found zero evidence linking videogames with violent behavior.

Scariness in videogames

Can videogames produce scares as effectively as movies? When did scariness become a viable element of game design? Is scariness in videogames relative? What are the scariest videogames ever made? What makes them scary? How does scariness interact with gameplay?

Reflections on The King of Kong

I finally got around to watching The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters at the local theater pub. The movie is a documentary about the efforts of a man named Steve Wiebe to break the decades-old world record on Donkey Kong. Seeing King of Kong was particularly meaningful for me because, in addition to being an avid videogame player, I have been extensively involved in competitive arcade gaming.

The future of conversation in videogames

A recent article in the journal Computers in Human Behavior describes a study in which a group of college students chatted with a conversation bot (i.e., a computer program capable of engaging in a conversation). Even though the students knew they were talking to a computer, they actually showed general agreement in their perception of the bots personality traits (e.g., friendliness, thoughtfulness, neuroticism, etc.).

What do gamers and lab rats have in common?

It seems that an increasing number of videogames these days are using one or more forms of operant conditioning, and in particular positive reinforcement. Although reward systems have long been a mainstay of the role-playing game genre, their use has been gradually spreading. Why might that be?

Could a videogame help kids fight cancer?

The September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health unveils the results of a large research study on the effects of playing Re-Mission, a third-person shooter designed to help young cancer patients improve their knowledge of cancer and boost their confidence in managing the disease. Now that the results are in, how does Re-Mission fare?

The theory of videogame relativity

Compared to the more beautiful and elaborate next-generation experiences currently available, most of the games I loved as a kid (Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, etc.) seem like mere trifles by comparison. In absolute terms, BioShock is certainly a much better game than Wolfenstein 3D (one of the earliest first-person shooters). Does it follow then that modern gamers get more enjoyment from their videogames than gamers of previous generations did from theirs?

Computers and the stories they tell

The June issue of Cognitive Systems Research contains a curious article entitled "Employing emotions to drive plot generation in a computer-based storyteller." Using a computer program built on the premise that “a story can be represented as a cluster or group of emotional links and tensions between characters…[and] story-actions work as operators that modify such clusters,” the author took several computer-generated stories along with one that he wrote himself and had them independently rated. The results are intriguing.

Researchers create computer game that can sense player frustration

What if a videogame could automatically sense when a player is starting to get frustrated? What if, before the player decides to throw down his or her controller in disgust, a game could detect emerging feelings of impatience and provide just enough support to induce the player to continue? Last month’s issue of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies details the results of a collaborative study between Microsoft Research and MIT in which researchers created a computer program that could successfully predict player frustration (with nearly 80% accuracy) based on purely non-verbal physical data.
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