Crossing the road towards the venue I was looking for I stopped at stared at the building in the distance. It was looking rather sorry for itself, broken windows, graffiti and a tired concrete look. Outside, a woman in a grey boiler suit directed me to the press/guest list queue. This rather odd venue is the “Old Sorting Office” in the heart of London and the location of Thursday's (March 31st) launch of Sony Ericsson’s much anticipated “Playstation phone” officially named the Xperia Play. Inside was a party venue that was a complete contrast to the outside of the building, a location inspired by computer games and the sights of the far east. It might have been a sorting office once, but for that day only it was the "Xperia Play Rooms". This was going to be an interesting evening.
I am alone on a small island that is about the size of a roundabout in the middle of a vast ocean. With my ghostly body I look up at the night sky and contemplate what to do next. Maybe I will make the sun rise, build some more land or just read some more of the wiki. I've just installed OpenSimulator (a.k.a. OpenSim), a "3D Application Server". What this means is that it can be used to host "virtual worlds", a bit like SecondLife. In fact you can use the SecondLife Viewer as a client for it. After hearing about at various points for quite a while and finding a really good set of instructions on how to set it up, I couldn't resist having a go, even though creating virtual worlds is a bit of an excursion for me.
If I was to walk into a mobile phone shop and demand a full size skateboard controller for my mobile or an interface to control an Etch-A-Sketch I wonder what they would do? Maybe they would laugh or insist that no normal person would want to do that or claim it can't be done. Yet last Thursday night in an unassuming corner of the east end of London, UK, I found people who were experimenting with these ideas and more. The event was the Push N900 Showcase, organised by Nokia, and I was delighted to be invited along. I even had a go at a bit of live video broadcasting with my trial Nokia N900 while I was there.
This week I have been off work using up a bit of leave, but the weather has been rather autumnal, so it has been perfect conditions to stay in, take a break from work stuff and play some computer games. I thought it would be nice to explore a bit open source gaming on my Ubuntu powered Acer Aspire Revo nettop, not the most powerful machine, but it does feature the Nvidia ION chipset so should theoretically be capable of outputting some decent graphics. Putting open source and gaming together might seem an odd concept, after all modern computer games take vast teams and big budgets to produce, but there are some decent games out there. Additionally, for those interested in games development, open source games provide a unique opportunity to learn from existing code and adapt games to new uses.
I was really lucky this week to be able to attend the Game Based Learning Conference 2009 in London, one and half days of presentations that never failed to be thought provoking and very interesting with the latest ideas and practice surrounding the use of computer games to assist learning. It is a topic which can immediate provoke scepticism, many people associate games with having fun and few people associate having fun with education, so how can games help in education? The answers could be found in this conference, with teachers and researchers finding out how to use games to make a real difference and use them to build up all sorts of skills such as numeracy, literacy, business acumen, military skills and many others. I mention military skills as it is a good reminder that using games in learning is not actually a very new concept, e.g. in the Middle Ages, Chess was used to teach war strategy.
Whilst reading On The Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore I found myself getting quite nostalgic for the computer games of the 1980s. In those days it was common to make a trip to the local amusement arcade to play on the latest games machines and marvel at the sound and graphics they possessed. Those large arcade machines of yesterday were fun to play on but rather large and possessed very computational power by today's standards. You might be wondering what this has to do with the EEE?