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Well, better late than never!

When I was attending the Media Jeunes Conference 2010 last November as a guest panelist, I was asked by Dr. Lise Renaud from the Comsante’ Research Centre at the University of Quebec if I would sit down for an interview about videogames. Modest fellow that I am, they had to twist my arm! I recently received the URL for this interview.

Comsante’ hosts a blog at Cestmalade .

I hope you enjoy the interview!

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Bonjour mes amis! Le Docteur est retournee’!

Yes! The Doctor is IN! Honestly! To quote Austin Powers “I’M BACK BABY, YEAH!”. Where have I been? Well, the truth is I took a bit of a hiatus from the blog so I could finish my Master’s thesis and complete my graduate degree. I’m happy to report that after two gruelling years of blood, sweat, and literature reviews,  the thesis is complete at last! I will do a write up for you about the nature of the research later. Today’s post is about the Doctor’s visit last week to the Media – Jeunes 2010 conference that was held at the CBC Radio Canada ‘Mothership’ in Montreal, Quebec on November 18th and 19th.

In early September, my graduate supervisor, Dr. David Kaufman and I were having our usual thesis review coffee klatch. David mentioned to me that the Alliance for Children’s Television (ACT) was holding their annual conference for 2010 in Montreal and were looking for someone who could contribute to a panel discussion about the positive messages provided by digital media, including video games. He felt that I might be a good candidate given my background and experience, so I contacted the conference co-ordinator and made a submission. After several e-mails and phone discussions with Sylvie Lamy from ACT, I was accepted as a panel member. I was very excited because I believe that the positive side of video games does not get enough discussion compared to the frequent media coverage of the ‘AAA’ 3D hyper realistic commercial franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, {insert your favourite ‘M’ rated 3D action/fighting/shooting game here}. I also thought that participating on the panel would give me an opportunity to understand the current state of children’s digital media in Canada. There was one other benefit – ACT would take care of my expenses. This was music to a starving graduate student’s ears!

Preparing for the conference was challenging because I wanted to be relevant to the audience of media and television people in attendance. Another challenge was trying to fit my presentation into a window of 12 minutes! The great thing about discussing video games is that there’s never a lack of useful material. The trick is to find content that is meaningful and relevant. I found a really nice trailer from PBS on Youtube for Video Games Live. I selected a clip from the first two and half minutes.

The members of the panel were an interesting mix. We had an opportunity to have a very scintillating conference call the week before. As the sole member from the Pacific coast, I had to get up on a Friday morning at 7:00 a.m.! But our discussion paved the way for a fascinating session in Montreal. Amy Friedman from Redhead Consulting discussed working with licenses in digital media through her involvement with Nickelodeon. She showed some interesting public service announcements about cyberbullying. Dr. Carla Seal-Wanner from Flickerlab presented interactive film making students did using her company’s software for the Global Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Dr. Judith Gaudet discussed media and health education using the series Ramdam. The moderator was Mathieu Baer, the producer of Zooville for CBC Radio Canada. All of them were very knowledgable digital media professionals. I felt a bit humbled to be sitting alongside these individuals. I also had the challenge of being the last member to speak on the panel. The mission became very straightforward – keep the audience entertained at the end. After all, video games are about fun and excitement, n’est-ce pas?

Tomorrow I’ll give a recap of the interesting issues I learned about at the Media Jeunes 2010 Conference.

Doctor Arkanoid

I LIVE!

Yes, the good doctor, contrary to rumours and the tabloid vultures at TMZ, is still very much alive and kicking! It has been too long since I last posted on the blog, and for that I apologize profusely. I have been greatly pre-occupied with trying to earn a living and complete my M.A. thesis at the same time. The good news is that I have almost completed the research phase of my work; the thesis has taken well over a year of effort so far. Thankfully, I should be completed by the end of April.

A few bits of interesting news. My first academic paper is now officially published! Today I received my copy of Educational Gameplay and Simulation Environments: Case Studies and Lessons Learned, published by IGI Global. My contribution to the textbook is a chapter called Video Games and the Challenge of Engaging the ‘Net’ Generation. It was a great challenge to sit down and write a complete chapter! Having one’s writing reviewed by a panel of editors was also a unique experience.

Last week the good Doctor was invited by CBC Radio to discuss a plan by DigiBC and the Washington Interactive Network (WIN) to collaborate on working together for the benefit of the video game industries in the Pacific Northwest. The industry has a history of being predatory and territorial. The current economic conditions and the increasingly competitive nature of the global game industry are likely catalysts for this situation.

CBC Radio DigiBC WIN Interview

There’s plenty of events and issues to catch up on. If only I had more minions to do my blog bidding!

Doctor Arkanoid

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

Anthony Gurr VancouverThe June 2009 issue of University Affairs Magazine is available and the good doctor is featured in the Opinions section with an article called Faculty Need to ‘Walk the Talk’. The idea for this piece was hatched last September when I spoke to my graduate supervisor over the Internet using Skype. I was doing an online search for essays and papers about health education which I posted to a wiki so he could access them from his comfortable chateau in Chamonix, France,  high in the French Alps.  I mentioned to him how amazing it was to be discussing this project and viewing the materials online from two different parts of the planet at the same time. After a quarter century of working with computers, I still continue to be amazed at what the technology allows people to accomplish. That discussion led to an idea about writing the opinion piece and sending it to the editor at University Affairs Magazine – Canada’s national publication for faculty teaching in the colleges and universities. I submitted it on a Tuesday afternoon and an hour later received a reply from the editor asking if she could use it in an upcoming issue. Several revisions later, the article was finally approved for publishing. It’s my first time writing for a national magazine, so I’m feeling a bit humbled and pleased at the same time.

What? Doctor Arkanoid displays humility? Impossible 🙂

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Greetings and felicitations!

I apologize profusely for not posting anything in the last two months, but like so many other folks, I’ve been wrestling with trying to find some kind, any kind, of paid employment so I can afford groceries, rent, and fund my thesis work at SFU. After a flying start to this blog, I let things slide, which a very wise Internet sage warned me about over lunch in January. Many blogs start out with grand intentions, but die a quick death because you lose interest, get pre-occupied with other things, or let the procrastination hobgoblins get the better of you.

The good Doctor pledges to get back to work and keep you informed with more useful information about the video game world. Much has happened in the past while – there’s so much news out there that needs to be discussed. Thank you to everyone who posted and sent e-mail about this blog.

I have two pieces of news to announce. My first academic paper about video games and education will be published this fall in a new textbook entitled Educational Game Play and Environments: Case Studies and Lessons Learned, by IGI Global Publishing. Getting published is a big feather in the cap for a graduate student. The title of my paper is Video Games and the Challenge of Engaging the ‘Net’ Generation. It discusses the prevalence of video games in the lives of students public education and what this situation means for classroom instruction.

My second bit of news also involves an article I recently wrote about the need for post secondary faculty to make more use of Internet applications when interacting with their students. The article is called Faculty Need to Walk the Talk and it will hopefully appear in the May 2009 issue of University Affairs Magazine.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Doctor ArkanoidWelcome to the Inner Sanctum! I’m glad you decided to drop in.

I’m sure you’re wondering who is Doctor Arkanoid and what this blog is about. Allow me to enlighten you 🙂

First of all, Doctor Arkanoid is me! My name is Anthony Gurr and I’ve been involved with the video game industry for 25 years. I’m also a professional technology writer, and I’ve taught at the post-secondary level. I received my Master’s degree in Technology and Learning Design in June, 2011, from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. I started my career in video games in 1988 by working as a game tester for a Japanese company in Vancouver called Taito Software. Perhaps you’ve heard of Taito; they made a modestly successful arcade game named ‘Space Invaders‘! I was known inside Taito Software as ‘Doctor Arkanoid’ – the resident game guru and writer of a marketing newsletter we sent out that featured game hints and information.

Some of the titles I worked on at Taito Software include Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble, Chase HQ, Operation Wolf,Rastan, Renegade, and Wrath of the Black Manta. I also worked for Taito Corporation in Tokyo, Japan, from 1991 to 1994, where I helped develop Arkanoid: Doh it Again, Lufia & The Fortess of Doom, Operation Thunderbolt, Super Chase HQ, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and The Ninja Warriors.

The Inner Sanctum is all about helping people make sense of the wild virtual frontier that is the video game world. By ‘video games’, I’m talking about the whole spectrum of personal computer games, handheld video games, mobile games, and video game consoles. The purpose of this blog is to help explain the nature of video games and the industry to the mainstream world and encourage an open dialogue.

This blog isn’t about cheat codes, gamer gossip, or the latest marketing hype. There are plenty of other folks in the blogosphere doing an excellent job of that! The Inner Sanctum is about helping make sense of video games and their influence in today’s world. If you’re an academic, a parent, a teacher, a media reporter, a student, or someone looking for thoughtful advice and information, I hope you’ll find this blog to be useful.

The TyeeDoctor 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.