You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

The good doctor knows what you’re thinking at this very moment:

OH GAWD! NOT ANOTHER STORY ABOUT STEVE JOBS AND HIS GOSH DARNED TOUCHY FEELY MAGICAL MYSTERY WIRELESS APP THINGY!!!

(Cue: The sound of panic stricken readers screaming in terror as they flee from their monitors).

Once more, the great turtle necked Creator of all things Apple focuses his will and fashions into existence a device of awe and wonder, consternation and controversy, bouquets and brickbats. The geeky multitudes around the world try to discern the mind of Steve and understand the meaning of it all.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Is it an iPhone with a glandular condition?

Is it a Macbook cloning experiment gone horribly wrong?

Perhaps it’s some sort of mutant iPod Touch?

By now, everyone knows this latest creation is called the ‘iPad’, a flat touch screen computer that fits into a perceived product gap between the iPhone and Apple’s Macbook computers. The good doctor won’t go into a blow by blow description of the iPad – I won’t make you suffer through another orgiastic regurgitation of techie facts and figures 🙂

What tweaks the Doctor’s interest about the iPad is how this device is going to affect playing video games. I pointed out in ‘Is Nintendo Losing its ‘Touch’ to Apple?’ that company president Satoru Iwata admitted to game app purchases from the iTunes store having a direct impact on Super Mario’s bottom line. Both the iPhone and iPod Touch use built in accelerometers. During the iPad keynote presentation on January 27th, Electronic Arts showed off Need for Speed: Shift. Gameloft demonstrated their first person shooter Nova. The Doctor’s jaw dropped when I saw both of these three dimensional action video games being played on the iPadwithout a hand held video game controller!

Let me say that one more time…without a hand held video game controller!

The iPad’s release in 2010 sounds the death knell for hand held video game controllers. The era of the bulky controller with massive built in cooling refrigeration systems and ultra tremor inducing vibrations is well and truly finished. By simply touching the screen and physically moving the iPad, players can participate in many different types of game experiences. This is an important step forward in making video games more accessible to everyone. The Nintendo DS stylus and touch screen in 2004 defied everyone’s expectations; the system was a hit. There was much scoffing about the Nintendo Wii and the remote sensor controller technology in 2006 (we all know who got the last laugh). The good doctor can see wireless multi-player iPad games taking place in the same room, or competing with others in different locations.

Another benefit the iPad brings to video games is that it lets budding game developers create their own original titles. There is a low barrier to entry in downloading the software development kit (SDK) from Apple’s website and developing a game app. Ten years ago, it was very difficult to find employment in the video game industry except in large game studios. The evolution of casual online games, mobile games, and the introduction of the Nintendo DS  created new opportunities for talented artists, level designers, musicians, and programmers to strike out on their own and develop a diverse range of game experiences for players of all ages.

From an educational point of view, the iPad shows great promise to assist with learning. Its perception is a  ‘cool’, engaging device. The interface is easy to understand, it’s reasonably priced, and there are many useful game and learning apps available for it. The ability to read books electronically in a way that resembles how we naturally do it (and turn the pages!) is promising. When is that last time you curled up in your favourite chair with a computer monitor in your lap?

The iPad doesn’t require educators to be computer scientists to master its use. It could help to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between teachers and technology. It presents the opportunity for educators and students to collaborate together. You can’t break it or make it explode by touching your finger to the screen.

But then again…maybe there’s an app for that 🙂

Doctor Arkanoid

The Future has arrived!

The future has arrived today!

The future’s alive!

The future is alive today!

The future’s alive, alive as can be.

Just open your eyes; it’s plain to see.

Don’t be afraid, just keep going on,

One step at a time and you can’t go wrong.

(The Future Has Arrived from Walt Disney’s Meet the Robinsons (2007))

When Doctor Arkanoid was just a tiny tot, the year 2010 was an imaginary time far far away. Growing up, the future was the stuff of books, movies, and television shows. I dreamed of all the amazing things that would happen one day!  I dreamed of spaceships, robots, flying cars, moonbases, giant submarines, underwater cities, computers, and time travel! I can’t believe it. I’m actually here, right now, writing about living in the year 2010!

What did I think the future would be like? Allow me to share some early visions from my childhood. One of my favourite television shows back in the early 1960’s was the British program Stingray (1964), which was the early precursor to the classic show The Thunderbirds (1965). Because my father was an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy,  I adored this show. I was also a big fan of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1963).

Another television program that I fell in love with as a child was The Time Tunnel (1966). The idea of travelling through time and visiting the past and the future was totally cool, not to mention the vast underground secret city where the tunnel was located!

If there was one film in my childhood that made a large impression on me, it was that fateful November evening in 1968 when my father decided to take my mother and I to see Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I didn’t know anything about the film, other than being told it was about going to the moon. I was hugely interested in NASA’s space program and the competition between the USA and Russia to land on the moon. From the moment the movie started, there were moments I was totally enthralled and other times I burrowed into my mother’s arms because I was scared stiff by that dratted monolith, the shrieking music that went with it, the strange ten minute multicoloured light show, and that drifting fetus. For days afterwards the image of that unborn space baby with those huge eyes scared me. But I have to say that I developed a lifelong interest in astronomy, cosmology, and space travel from watching that movie when I was very young.

In the 1970’s, it seemed that all the best science fiction television was coming from the United Kingdom. It’s interesting to see how the portrayals of life in the 1980’s and beyond looked from that time. My two favourite series were UFO (1970) and Space 1999 (1975). Of course, their depiction of the future wasn’t anything like what I remembered. Humanity didn’t even manage to build a moonbase for Gawd’s sake!

If you asked the good Doctor to name one more film that presented a plausible vision of the 21st century, I would have to say it was Blade Runner (1982). Its vision of large corporate influence, genetic engineering, replicants, climate change, and massive urbanization seems to me to be a bit disconcertingly close to some of our modern circumstances today. True, we don’t have flying cars or replicants…yet.  But advances in animal genetic engineering and understanding the human genome are the stuff of science fiction. In 1997, Westwood Studios produced a PC version of the movie – the only company that the Blade Runner Partnership allowed to develop the license. Here is the opening cinematic from that game. Considering when the game was released, it was definitely ‘avant garde’ as an adventure action title.

Of course you’re probably wondering by now what any of this discussion has to do with video games. Well, when you look back at where we were when the millennium rolled around in 2000, there have been innovations and trends we couldn’t have imagined. That’s the subject for another article, so stay tuned!

Doctor Arkanoid

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Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum!, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.