AIIDE 08 Post-mortem

The best thing about AIIDE has to be the industry participation. In my experience, AI researchers are prone to a kind of hubris that expresses itself as “Here is a problem (in games or engineering or medicene) that could be solved using AI. I know all about AI. Therefore, I can solve this problem.” The ‘solutions’ that are thus produced are often laughably innapropriate or otherwise bad when examined by someone who actually works in the field.

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 5:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks to TED

I don’t make a habit of reposting links from other blogs, but when someone as prominent as
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is speaking it’s worth making noise about.

For those of you who don’t know him, Csikszentmihalyi is the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. I have to confess that I haven’t finished reading the book, so I’ll hold off on talking more about it yet.

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Have games will travel

I’m off to the USA next week to attend AIIDE and then visit people at USC. It’s 13 hours flying and I’ve got a great swag of books to take on the plane, so maybe I’ll even get some reviewing done while I’m travelling. And maybe I’ll post a photo or two along the way.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Books: Halting State

Halting State, by Charles Stross.

It is rare that I find a science fiction book which doesn’t ask me to put my expertise on hold and just “trust in the magic”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as fond of indulging in pseudo-scientific technobabble as the next geek, but rarely does it make me think more deeply about the real science I do day to day. Halting state is different. It paints a near-future fictional world in which all the technological and social changes seem not only plausible, but likely.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 4:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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The mailman cometh

Last month, while the Australian dollar was still high, I went crazy on Amazon and ordered a slew of new books. The nice thing about Amazon shopping from Australia is that by the time the books arrive, you can no longer remember what you ordered, and opening the boxes is like Christmas. “Oh thankyou, I’ve wanted that book for ages! How did you know?”

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 4:00 am  Comments (1)  

Why is sex fun?

Ian Schreiber writes on the question of “what is fun”:

When a game designer (or student) first starts trying to define why games are “fun” they have trouble even conceptualizing it beyond “I know it when I see it.” Then they encounter Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and/or Koster’s Theory of Fun and have this huge epiphany: Eureka, all fun comes from learning a new skill! Then after awhile, they enter another stage of questioning this: wait a minute, if all fun comes from skill mastery, why aren’t students driven by the promise of fun to get straight A’s in all their classes (even the poorly taught ones), since that involves mastery of the material? Why is sex fun (by some standards), and yet doesn’t involve mastery (ahem, again by some standards)? At any rate, you could think of this as three stages of evolution of a game designer, and different designers are going to be in different stages, and when they encounter one another there will be chaos when they start discussing the nature of “fun.”

I find that Marc LeBlanc’s 8 kinds of fun is a much more comprehensive answer than Koster’s or Csikszentmihalyi’s. He categorises eight different features of an activity that can make it fun. So to answer the question of “Why is sex fun?”:

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 2:14 am  Comments (7)  
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