Professor of things graphical, maker of things edible, creator of things beautiful (and functional), mothering, loving, communicating, and having fun while doing it.

Aug 282012

Just Press Play is all shiny and new both inside and outside. We hope you enjoy playing with us. Let us know what you like, and what things might be causing you grief. We’ve implemented FORUMS where you can let us know how it’s going and give us suggestions on how to make your playing experience better, or ideas for achievements and quests. Thanks for being here.

 Posted by at 12:19 pm
Aug 272012

We’re starting anew, and that means if you played last year, you’ll need to create a brand-new account on our shiny new system.

What happened the  old achievements? A few went away. Many new ones have replaced them.

While none of your past achievements will automatically carry over, this is not to say that they are gone for good. For example, those who earned “For the Lawls” by making Professor Lawley laugh (not an easy task), may ask her to give you her achievement again. Ditto “Knock Knock” from the most evil Professor Pietruch. Others? May be negotiable.

For those of you who played last year, we have a special achievement.

You've played the game before Title: Early Adopter

Description: You were a player before it was cool.

  •  Earned at least one achievement in JPPv1 (2011-12)
  •  Have the IGM office staff scan your PlayPass
  • If you can’t make it to campus, email play@rit.edu from your RIT email account.
 Posted by at 12:02 pm
Aug 022012

It’s hard to keep a sustained interest in many things. I think, often there is a tendency to take a plunge, dive in, drink one’s fill and be happy to say, “Been there, done that.”

There have been a bunch of casual games that became a temporary obsession and once over, not revisited. That’s normal. The trick is to find a casual game that has a sustained ability to engage over a long period of time. I don’t think it is possible to have constant obsessive engagement. One burns out. Again — normal.

So my thinking in terms of designing this experience – this Just Press Play thing, is that when we launch in the Fall, I expect there to be a good amount of activity the first week. Then it will taper off significantly after the third. There will be things going on the remaining seven weeks of the Fall quarter, but only the hard core will play.

Our mistake last year was that we didn’t have anything in our back pocket to make the game shiny and new in the successive quarters. I was responsible for organizing “Flash mobs” – essentially, large group ephemeral experiences, which were great. Those were bright and shiny moments, but as I said, ephemeral. Not quite enough a kick in the eyeballs to get people into the game who weren’t already actively engaged.

This is a design problem.

We have a population that do have a sustained interest in playing games. What comes to mind are things like League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. Multiplayer games where they work cooperatively or competitively have an entirely different dynamic. The only reason I dipped my head into WoW last year was because of the people involved. (Granted, even that was not enough to keep me in the grind.)

I am proposing a solution to this. So we roll out Just Press Play in the Fall. Players get collectible cards for every achievement. When Winter rolls around, we provide an expansion pack of achievements, but also a card game that uses the collectible cards. So we have an added game that uses resources from Just Press Play. My thesis is that we snag a different kind of player with this card game, and reenergize those already invested in the game.

When Spring comes, we switch focus a bit and make room for players to design experiences. Some Quests will have an associated card. (Every achievement has a card, Quests – not yet). Perhaps every JPP created quest will have a card. This is me still thinking this through. But the kicker is this — users should be able to group achievements to create their own quest lines. (Some of those may be vetted and earn the ability to have an attached card). Additionally, depending on the success of the card game, perhaps users suggest cards for that as well.

So the long thinking is that we design the game to be pushed in spurts, understanding that a sustained interest is not possible.

 Posted by at 8:55 am
Jul 102012

There is a reason for a beta phase. You see what works; what doesn’t.

The previous designer was told to go light, and playful and colorful. It didn’t quite hit the mark. A mid-year revision reworked the palette and some of the elements, but it didn’t change greatly.

With this new year comes a decisive overhaul of Just Press Play. There is much happening under the hood, but I can speak to the portion that is visible to the outside. The goal is playful, vibrant and alive. With that in mind, the graphics are solid. There is not a gradient to be found. There are no faux bubbles, nor drop shadows. The rework continues.



 Posted by at 11:43 pm
Oct 282011

So we launched with great fanfare on Thursday, October 13.

And we broke.

And we launched again in a much quieter fashion at 2am, Monday the 17th.

Launches come with great fanfare – true. It is also true that they come with nail biting, tears, fantastic levels of adrenaline, euphoria and panic.

It is now the 28th – a little more than two weeks from the beginning and there is a mixture of great success and hobbling along. The successes do outweigh the hobbling bit. We have a good game here. The students are playing. Many are engaged.

After catching up on some sleep, and a modicum of recuperation, it has been a time of reflection for the entire team. The core players that comprise the designated adults of this venture are digesting significant life lessons. Code, media, text and all the attendant bits are interesting to wrangle. Navigating through feelings, process, and agency, discovering when to support and when to kick ass – that’s the tricky bit. I believe I can report as a team and friends, we are closer and have a greater self-awareness than we began this.

 Posted by at 7:09 am
Jun 152011

RIT has officially announced our project!

From the news release:

A team of faculty and students from Rochester Institute of Technology is developing a game system that will help undergraduate college students navigate the barriers to academic and social success.

The Just Press Play project, an experiment that applies game design principles to the undergraduate student experience at RIT, is being funded by Microsoft Research Connections. Microsoft is teaming up with RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media as part of the company’s Games for Learning Institute, whose mission is to study and create games that are fun, educational and effective.

 Posted by at 10:35 am
Mar 202011

My mother believes in ghosts. This is not a bad thing. She believes that the spirits of relatives gone are still with us, watch over us, take care of us. She believes in the power of prayer and holy water.

I do not believe in these things, and in a way, I am diminished.

House of Spirits” by Isabell Allende, “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers have stories infused with spirits, of super humanly beautiful beings, of impossible scents and the imposition over the ordinary with the supernatural. This “Magical Realism” isn’t magic to one whose daily life is infused with belief.

Is it possible to infuse a place with magic? To make one believe? Magical Realism as a genre is serious. It is not fantasy. It is fantastic. These are not light words.

Is it possible to imbue someone with a feeling of agency? of power over their surroundings? To make the ordinary extraordinary?

Conceptually, it would be lovely to give one a lens that allows them to see the world differently, to see the eddies of power and stuff of manipulation – to make magic.

 Posted by at 12:30 pm