Powering Up published by Wiley
“A very informative and thorough scholarly work in a very attractive package.”
My first book was described as ‘a breath of fresh air… offering often overlooked insights into what gaming can indeed be about’. Powering up: are computer games changing our lives? was published by Wiley in May 2008 and is still available from bookshops. I’ve also been glad to find it on library shelves as far afield as Singapore.
The book sifts the latest scientific research and presents what we really know about how games are changing how we think and learn, our health and identity, our propensity for addiction, violence and brainwashing, and our future. I’d love to give it an update, continuing to go beyond the usual headlines, and see if I still find much more that’s positive than negative about games’ potential.
“Unlike other books in this field, “Powering Up” relies more on research than on anecdotal evidence to present a point.”
The book had a wonderful launch at the Dana Centre in London’s Science Museum. I chaired an evening in which expert speakers introduced five projects at the cutting edge of game-think. In the ground floor bar area, Mary Matthews then at Blitz Games was showing the bloody imagery and game-inspired action that’s sharpening the skills of medics in triage situations. Simon Lucas and Jonathan Gibbon from Spiral Productions demonstrated their unique blend of game and graphics that get messages across in museums. Upstairs, artist Tristam Sparks was explaining the thinking behind xBlocks – a computer game that jumps off the screen and into 3-D. And if you went upstairs again (we did kind of take over the building) you’d find Caroline Pelletier giving classes in MissionMaker, a game-authoring package she’s developed for secondary school children, while next door, Gianna Cassidy of Glasgow Caledonian University sought to demonstrate that music can make your in-game driving much more accurate – as long as you choose it yourself.
Later, I was also invited to speak at an Open University conference – ReLIVE11 – Researching Learning in Virtual Environments, where I was part of a panel Q&A with the great-haired Bill Thompson of the BBC, Focus etc, and metaverse evangelist (and ITV technowizard) Ian Hughes. We had a lot of fun discussing why there’s still opposition to virtual worlds, how they may change, what they’re currently best and worst at, how virtual museum archives might be a good trend, and whether social worlds actually make us less sociable.
Our identity in virtual worlds was the topic of the academic volume freshly published at the conference: Reinventing Ourselves: Contemporary Concepts of Identity in Virtual Worlds, has fascinating contributions and is edited by Anna Peachey, who chaired the conference and directs the company that manages The Open University’s own presence in virtual worlds. How does appearance affect authority? What happens if a student chooses to look like a giraffe? If you tell students in virtual worlds that they are brilliant, do they become brilliant? Do virtual worlds increase a sense of ‘flow’ in learning, or does the technology get in the way of flow?
Read my Livejournal blogs from around the time of the launch.