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The 4 Most Influential People in Video Games

Curing hunger with... FarmVille

'Videojogos 2011' Conference

The Eye Tracking Laptop Video Presentation

Eye Tracking comes to the laptop

Portugal's Political Crisis

'Strenghts' and 'Weaknesses' of Eye Tracking

How men...look at men: the unspoken truth

SBGames 2010 [Day 3]

SBGames 2010 [Day 2]

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Quarta-feira, 19 de Outubro de 2011
The 4 Most Influential People in Video Games

I found this interesting article on some - actually 4 - of the most important/influential people in the history of video games.


Clearly video games have evolved so much and so many titles are so important that resuming the list to four is clearly a complicated task. Nevertheless, here they are:





Source: MakeUseOf


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published by sja às 10:38

Quinta-feira, 29 de Setembro de 2011
Curing hunger with... FarmVille

Well here's a neat story.


Apparently, 'Zynga' - you know, the gaming team that's responsible for some of the most 'addictive' games you've benn playing - has teamed up with 'Pizza Hut' to help cure hunger.


It seems that if you play one of their games, you can buy certain products for $5 and the profit goes to the 'World Food Programme'.


So, if you're a 'hardcore' Zynga games gamer, why not help out?


Source: Mashable

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published by sja às 15:51

Sexta-feira, 22 de Julho de 2011
'Videojogos 2011' Conference

The 4th anual portuguese video game conference - 'Videojogos2011' - will take place this year in December.


During 3 days, 2-4 December, academics, gamers and people from the game industry will get together and share their work on all topics related to gaming and entertainment. 


Long papers can be submitted up to September 15; short papers, WIP and demos can be submitted up to October 1.


Papers can be written on several topics:

In addition to paper presentations, there will also be a conference dinner, a LAN party, a game development competition and a couple of workshops.


If you're a gaming fan, don't miss out!


More information can be found on the official website, here.


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published by sja às 12:16

Quarta-feira, 30 de Março de 2011
The Eye Tracking Laptop Video Presentation

 Yesterday I briefly talked about the Laptop that integrates eye tracking.

Today I found an 'official' video that shows the eye tracking in action. Here it is.



The video certainly is interesting. Some of the things I briefly mentioned in yesterday's post are demonstrated.

I enjoyed the demonstration and I honestly think it has potential. However, I don't know if I could really get used to letting my eyes substitute my hand/mouse movements. The reading/scrolling looked promissing and that certainly would be a valuable tool for all you readers.


So, are you convinced?


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published by sja às 11:57

Terça-feira, 29 de Março de 2011
Eye Tracking comes to the laptop

 Eye tracking has been around for more than 100 years and the technique and technology have come a long way since then.

Soon enough, it will evolve once more.

The idea had been around for a while but it appears that the 'Eye Tracking Laptop' has finally arrived. 


Tobii partnered up with Lenovo and created a laptop with integrated eye tracking control capabilities. They believe that the functionality will work hand-in-hand with the traditional keyboard and mouse...without necessarily killing them. 


The eye tracking laptop will be able to track and analyze a person's eye movements and elaborate suggestions based on where the user looks. They exemplify with the possibility that if a person looks to the bottom of the screen, the task bar could appear. Or, if the eye tracker notices that a person is stumbling around a certain word, a definition of that same word could appear. They also sepak of the possibility of interacting with characters in games using eye movements. These are two of the many possible capabilities.


Pricing? Yet to be disclosed. 
Current Tobii Eye Trackers are valued at around €20.000, give or take a couple thousand. Barbara Barclay of Tobii states that the laptop eye tracker could be much cheaper.


In short, this little piece of technology sounds great. One can only wait to launch an FPS and start killing some aliens with their eyes!

 Source: CrunchGear



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published by sja às 14:13

Quinta-feira, 24 de Março de 2011
Portugal's Political Crisis

During the last two weeks, over here on Europe's western frontier, the Portuguese political class has done nothing but talk of the PEC and the PPC.

The 'PEC' - 4th of its kind -, an acronym for 'Programa de Estabilidade e Crescimento' or a 'complicated' translation for 'austerity plan', was rejected yesterday by the portuguese parliament. Keeping his promise, the prime-minister José Sócrates resigned, defending the idea that without the PEC, he wouldn't govern the country. His 'abandoning ship' has opened doors to the PPC - Portugal's Political Crisis.

I could go on and on... and on and on... and on and on some more about what I think of Sócrates' decision; how irresponsible it was for all government opposition to merely reject the austerity plan without proposing any valid solutions; how much the opposition's eyes glowed with the idea that FINALLY they could regain power.

I don't like to think that I support a particular political force. I like to listen, observe, reflect and then decide... as well as criticize if I feel I need to.

I don't want to make a habbit of bringing politics to this little corner but after all, this political crisis affects us all. Well, mostly the Portuguese citizens... but I'm sure there are other countries that do share some interest in what's happening over here.

So why am I reflecting on PPC? Simply put, because it looks like once again, the country is in a mess and as concerned citizen, a student, a researcher, a person who wants to build a life here... things don't look promising.

Unfortunately this isn’t a game where we can hit the reset button and start from the beginning. Too bad, huh? It kind of feels like we’re in the middle of one of those ‘horror’ movies… struggling for air, trying to stay alive. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. But you know what they say: when you’re a pessimistic person, any news is good news.

Do they say that?

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published by sja às 15:11

Quinta-feira, 10 de Março de 2011
'Strenghts' and 'Weaknesses' of Eye Tracking

One of the many sections my thesis will focus on is - as the title indicates – the various ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ of eye tracking.

From my (hopefully) growing experience, all I can really say right now is that eye tracking has both ‘good things’ and ‘bad things’. In an interesting piece of work, Robert Jacob and Keith Karn [1] present a listing of several authors’ views on the ‘value’ of eye tracking. The common idea found: eye tracking is ‘promising’.

My search on the internet in attempt to find a few opinions on the subject was semi-productive. I did find a couple of interesting contributions:

Is Eye Tracking Worth It?’ by Jim Ross

Eye Tracking: Worth the Expense?’ by Jared Spool

Eye Tracking the User Experience’ by Mark McElhaw


Based on my brief analysis of each contribution, I developed this table why summarizes some of the main (not all) ideas that 'stood out'.




Help identify usability problems             

Show hard to articulate behavior

Visualizing data for observers

Provide compelling visualizations of usability problems

Video-based eye tracking equipment is becoming relatively inexpensive

Better visualization and analysis tools are becoming available

Evaluating efficiency of systems where visual-motor reaction time is crucial.

Analysis of tasks where traditional usability testing methods have indicated a problem that eye tracking might clarify




Eye Tracking Can’t Track Peripheral Vision

Fixations don’t represent attention or understanding

Interactions between facilitator and participant change

Eye tracking Can Be Intrusive

Eye tracking Tests Take More Time

Eye tracking Is Expensive

Eye tracking Can Be Difficult to Learn

Eye tracking Is Subject to Technical Problems

Not Every Participant Can Work with an Eye Tracker

Labor-intensive data extractions

Difficulties in data interpretation


Hopefully this will be of some help for those who are working on the same subject.

If you’re just dropping by and happen to know where I (we) can find more valuable information on the subject, please let me (us) know J


Further reading:


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published by sja às 16:06

Quinta-feira, 2 de Dezembro de 2010
How men...look at men: the unspoken truth

The great thing about eye tracking is that it doesn't lie.

You looked where you looked. It's that simple. The motivations behind your visual selections: that's a different and a more complex story.


So, there's this study, originally published on 'Think Eye Tracking' (although I read about it at 'Eye Tracking Update') about how men and women look at their own and opposite gender.


Their starting point: 'people don't always tell the truth'. Well, duhhh :) So, they set out to understand how this happens.


So what did they do? They put up two images, side by side. One image portrayed a man in a tight pair of swim trunks and the other image had a female in a bikini. Using an eye tracker, 30 male and 30 female participants observed the images and were presented their results. Then, using a gaze frequency heat map, they were able to analyze where the participants had looked over the course of a 5 second time span.



What did they find? Some interesting things, that's for sure.

The women (naturally) had a spread out visualization pattern, streching from the man's chest, face, hair, shoulders and biceps. More interesting is the fact that female participants also looked at the man's left hand, where they could find a wedding ring. As for how the female participants analyzed the image with the female persona; there was an even dispersion of visualization as they checked out her neck, chest, breasts, stomach, waist and more intensely, her face.


HOWEVER, the most interesting results came from the men. Why? Because apparently men like to check out other men's 'packages' (really sorry about the expression). Yes!, besides looking at his face, chest, stomach arms; men also checked out the groin area of the man in the 'Speedo'. Interesting, huh? How many of you (male readers) would admit to doing that?

As for their attention on the image with the woman, there was a greater concentration of visualization at the face, chest and breasts, as well as the stomach.


'Think Eye Tracking' came up with a couple of ideas to explain these results. I think its worth a read. After all, how many of you (men) would admit to looking at another bro's 'junk' :)


You can take a look at the the heat map images and read more about the study on 'Think Eye Tracking's' site, over here.


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published by sja às 12:58

Sexta-feira, 19 de Novembro de 2010
SBGames 2010 [Day 3]

Jonathan Blow, keynote speaker of Day 3 of SBGames2010, presented the talk ‘The Perils of Game Design’. Jonathan Blow, former writer for 'Game Developer Magazine' is the man behind the game 'Braid'.

Naturally, he focused on Game Design and offered his input on the area. He referred early on that games are so much more than they were 30 years ago. Take ‘Pac-Man’ for example. What were the chances of finding someone playing ‘Pac-Man’ for more than 30 minutes? Today, we have people playing games during hours, 5 or 6 at a time.

Games have naturally evolved over time, thanks to better game design. Better game design was possible because of trial and error processes, resulting in a set of best game design practices that make games more engaging.



So what are some of these best game design practices? ‘Story’, ‘Eye & Ear Candy’, ‘Next Goal’ and ‘Feeling of Constant Improvement’. Why the latter of the list? Because the ‘human mind wants and needs to feel its improving. How is this possible in a game? Through ‘high-scores’ or ‘special abilities’, for example.

So, as Jonathan Blow exemplified, if we take the example of slot machines, they are in fact an addictive game play experience because they’re flashy (eye candy) and have a reward system. However, if you take away the ‘flashiness’ and the rewards, all you get is a win/lose game… which is boring.

The conversation then moved towards the idea of ‘boredom’. What is ‘boredom’? It’s a ‘healthy response to unproductive situations’… and continued in the direction of reward systems, once again.

Exemplifying with the work of BF Skinner, “reward systems are methods of positive control’ and ‘it is better to be a conscious slave than to be a happy one’. Strong words, huh?!

So what’s this all about? It’s about the fact that many games or systems control people by making them happy. This is a dangerous thing. Why? Because in this state of happiness, a person isn’t aware they’re being ‘controlled’.

Take ‘FarmVille’ or ‘FrontierVille’ for example (yes, these games again). They are, in a sense, systems of slavery. Why? Because they’re a system of planting crops, but they’ll die if you don’t take care of them. So the game/system ‘forces’ you to come back and take care of your farm/land…whatever it is. In a nutshell, ‘FarmVille’s’ game designers simply try to maximize the amount of time this game takes up, whether you’re in front of the monitor playing or not. In theory, this makes your life worse because you’re constantly worried that your crops will die or that you’re not making use of the free land you have to plant other things. The player is, therefore, controlled by the game. Nevertheless, the player will continually feel happy playing the game.


Naturally, these ideas caused a lot of ‘murmurs’ in the crowd… at the moment, and during the rest of the day. It was one of those ideas that really made a person reflect.

Jonathan Blow stated that ‘FarmVille’, or any social game for that matter, destroys our time while we’re away from them. He referred to, as I did in yesterday’s post, the parody game ‘Cow Clicker’ as being a simplified version of ‘FarmVille’. How can a simple click game be so persuasive? And worse yet, the fact that people are constantly publishing things on their walls, things like ‘I just harvested some corn’, ‘I just milked a cow’, and then having someone else click on these posts makes the game go viral.

While, as we’ve seen, reward systems are part of good game design, in ‘FarmVille’, the multiple reward systems are a great way to hide the pointlessness of the game. In the end, the companies that make these games don’t even like the games they make; they won’t even play them. They don’t care if they’re fun or not… they just want your money.

And believe it or not, there is some science to all of this. Tests are done to understand exactly how much rewards should be given to a player for completing a certain task. There are tests that observe player behavior and then optimize the game to make it more ‘appealing’.


To conclude his talk, he focused on some of his personal approaches in game design. He showed concern in the fact that game designers, when developing these games, are making people ‘dumber’. He stated that a game designer has a responsibility to develop good games and to respect the player.


By being aware of manipulative tactics and avoiding them; by optimizing the gameplay and avoiding control techniques.

By developing a game regarding an issue that interests the designer; a game that can impact players’ lives.

And by doing such things, you can still make a reasonable amount of money.


As I mentioned, this was probably the most discussed talk. His ideas on control and slavery generated a lot of talk after the keynote. While in a way I do feel that certain games of the genre are manipulative and do control the player – I do know people that play the game and are returning to it multiple times a day to complete multiple objectives – being controlled is all about how easily you can be controlled and how much you give in to these games. If you’re desperate to be the best, you’ll probably give in a lot easier. If you play, but really don’t care… I don’t think you’ll be easily controlled by the game. This talk and the ideas that were generated can boil up a big conversation… no doubt about it.


And to finish off this post and series of posts related to SBGames, a word for my presentation that occurred on the morning of Day 3. I presented early, 9am, and there was a significant crowd. I think the presentation went well although it didn’t generate many questions.

That’s about it. 2011’s edition will be in Bahia. Only time will tell if I’ll be there!



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published by sja às 15:55

Quinta-feira, 18 de Novembro de 2010
SBGames 2010 [Day 2]

Scot Osterweil presented the main keynote of day 2. Osterweil – creative director of MIT’s Education Arcade – talked of ‘Meaningful Games’.

He began his talk by asking the audience to turn to the person next to them and play the famous ‘tic-tac-toe’. After a couple of minutes of play, everyone stopped and he asked: ‘who actually wanted to win?’ everyone raised their hand. By the audiences’ attitude and behavior – there was lots of smiling and excitement – he concluded that ‘games do matter’… and ‘they have for a very long time’.

He continued his talk by asking a couple of questions for the audience to reflect upon: ‘why are games important?’ & ‘what does play mean?’. He stated, with reason, ‘all vertebrates play’. Exemplifying: even mountain goats, hundreds of meters up in the mountains play too. Some of them will die… but ‘playing is worth the risk

Scot Osterweil continued indicating that ‘playing teaches interaction and is all about creativity’. He referred to ‘4 freedoms of play’: freedom of experiment, freedom to fail, freedom to try on identities and freedom of effort.



Continuing with games, he asked ‘why do people play challenging games’? In a sentence: ‘people like to be challenged’. I think this idea ties in closely with the work of known psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the concept of ‘flow’. Flow is all about balance; it’s about being in a state of total immersion. It’s about doing an activity and finding the right balance between being challenged and having fun.

Osterweil then asked the key question: ‘are all games meaningful?’ He spoke of the very popular ‘FarmVille’, a game many of you know or even play; an online game that a couple of months ago was played by an excess 70 million users.  So is ‘FarmVille’ a meaningful game? His thoughts: ‘while it’s easy and keeps you in touch and interacting with friends, it doesn’t really challenge us’. ‘FarmVille’ at its core is basically a clicking game. Click here, click there, click everywhere. In fact, another known game on Facebook that ‘mocks’ the concept of ‘FarmVille’ is ‘Cow Clicker’; a game where you simply click on cows. It’s as simple as that. It’s not very challenging either.

‘Tetris’, on the other hand, IS a meaningful game. It’s not only about blocks and rotating them. It’s about spatial relations and to an extent, deals with math.


Osterweil then went on to talk about a couple of games he thought were meaningful before he exemplified with a game that had been developed at MIT; a game where the rules weren’t present and where kids had to explore, experiment and fail to understand and win the game. The game was unique because it was never the same. That is, when one player finishes the game, the variables of the game will change and whatever strategy the player might have thought of to resolve the game won’t be applicable a second time.

He finished stating that games that challenge are good and therefore so is failure. With failure comes learning… and learning is all about getting better! Or something like that :)


During day 2 of SBGames 2010 I also had the chance to play Taikodom, a Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) developed by Brazilian game company Hoplon Infotainment. During the event, Hoplon set up a Taikodom tournament and prizes were distributed. Taikodom is currently Brazil's biggest video game project with a cost of around 15 million USD.

I enjoyed playing the game... although I kind of sucked at it :(

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published by sja às 16:48

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