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The ants pick the food, the ants eat the food, and the grasshoppers leave.

“Universities have been bashed over quality, relevance and value of computer games courses for too long. Like complaining that a cafe’s food is disgusting and the portion’s too small, now even schools appear to Gove, Livingstone, Hope and Braben et al to be failing. By turns it’s either too many or too few games, not enough programming, etc, that is to blame for the lack of a stream of compliant, skilled workers streaming from HE into the dark Satanic Mill of game development. Well, Education’s had enough. We aren’t training sweatshops. We don’t teach skills, we teach people. Now bog off and let us do our job!”

This is the summary and abstract for a talk I will be giving at Brains Eden in Cambridge on Monday 11th July.

The title is a quote from “A Bug’s Life”, but few know it was based not only on Kursowa’s “The Seven Samurai” (aka “The Magnificent Seven”) but also on one of my favourite Aesop’s Fables, The Ant and the Grasshopper, where an individual of a playful nature does little to sustain his existence, then expects to long serving collective to support him with resources.

The analogy should be clear. Ok, yes, this IS meant to be controverial. Deliberately so, as the organisers have asked me to be. For the past couple of years Games Eden have organised ‘Brains Eden’, a gaming festival designed to bring together industry, academia and students. This year it will revolve around a 48-hour Game Jam hosted at Anglia Ruskin University, with representatives from the local companies speaking on Monday on a range of subjects. However, what the schedule seemed to be missing was someone from academia to do a 15 minute talk; “the livelier and more controversial the subject matter the better.”

It’s a double edged sword, this “rocking the boat” malarkey. Not one I am unfamiliar with, even outside of games, having singlehandedly destroyed Higher Education on at least one occasion – according to the Daily Mail
and the Telegraph, though (sadly) not the News of the World – or started a revolution in 21st century university assessment – according to the Times Higher Ed Supplement (THES) and the Guardian – it’s cleary time to don the asbestos suit again. However, this time it has been planned. There is much that is right, or potentially so, with Industry getting involved with HE, although why anyone would think that some form of company sponsored national curriculum was a good idea I don’t know, or even with computer games revolutionising Education generally. So this blog post is more about airing the subject for debate. A proto rant. Do you think the Brabens, Livingstones and Hopes of this World are right? That we should return to an 80s (Thatcherite) approach to teaching programming in schools, in the forelorn hope it will ignite a new generation of bedroom coders – just like it didn’t in the actual 80s? Or that HE has been doing such a bad job of fitting the loyalty chips in the necks of serfs bound for indentured servitude at the nearest Triple-A studio that Industry, which has little or no pedagogical expertise or interest beyond easing the recruitment/staff turnover (burnout?) problem, should step in and “well and truly sort us out!” If so, comment here. It’ll all be good ammunition or target practice for me, when next week I’m thrown to the Lionheads; see what I did there?

It’s not just about Games, it’s far less serious than that.

Playing Devil’s advocate to the R4 ban

MCV has an article describing the recent ban on R4 cards – devices that allow backed up, or more likely illegally copied games on the DS handheld console – here:

And why I don’t think that the ban will make much difference at all.

Sites still selling R4 cards which even tells you that illegal games will be pre-loaded for you!

“The genuine Kingston’s microSD cards filled with latest games pre-loaded in the micro card for instant use on any game cards that we are selling. 2/4/8GB available.
please confirm the game card that you are using from the drop down menu
Games include :
–Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Mobilized
–Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle
–Mario & Sonic at The Olympic Winter Games
–Astro Boy: The Video Game
–Need for Speed: Nitro
view more games in the product detail”

What was the legal judgement?
OK, I have read the summary judgement now – thanks for to JS in the comments section of this story:

for the link:

which I might not have otherwise found – and a couple of things spring to mind.
1) the judgement refers to devices that fit in one slot
2) flashing the DS seems again a real possibility; the NLDF would then not be needed, if indeed the argument for one breaching copyright, etc, stands up.
3) Section 25 refers to copyright protection applied to data that is not a computer program, refering to art assets, sound, etc, and that it is these that are key to the argument.

Also, I am intrigued over the “partial settlement” mentioned in the early paragraphs…

How about making a device that doesn’t fit into only one slot, but both (DS Phat and Lite only); a whole new legal case might be needed to then include these, as each individual component might not entirely allow all the required clauses to be confirmed. Or a device that allows programs to be run, but not data to be copied; really little use for playing backup games. Or a device that doesn’t do one of the required things in the judgement; i.e. contain the NLDF, etc. For example, a GBA slot device that stores backup game files, which can be legal to create, with a flashed DS to enable play. These was the original route prior to the more convenient Slot 1 devices. These GBA devices also had the purpose of allowing MP3 files etc to be played, so weren’t primarily for game copying, and didn’t need the NLDF files.

Flashing devices could be provided free (no commercial purposes) to enable these other devices to then allow game copies. Also, it would be interesting to see if there were issues related to an individual consumer being prevented from making backups, which they have a legal right to do…

Hey, if the defendant hadn’t actually been selling these devices, but giving them away… Who’s up for predicting how quickly some bright spark putting up all the schematics, etc, and a “how to” to build your own R4 card for free – i.e. not for commercial purposes –  now that they cannot legally be sold. Both approaches could, ironically, get round the judgement.

The ultimate effect of this judgement will be almost negligible for determined tech-savvy users, but will reduce dramatically the “casual” copier, and probably provide a very small increase in purchased games. This is probably the best effect, really, as I don’t want piracy any more than anyone in the Industry. Those that know how to flash their DSs are more likely to be the ones who are genuinely interested in hacking and homebrew. Interesting to note, though, that I know quite a few professional game developers who have these devices. And not all of them are as stringent as I in not having illegal roms installed.

WHY you do something is WHY you succeed.

This article is quite short, but touches on possibly an obvious truth once stated that why you do something is why you succeed. Something that I feel I’ve taken for granted until now. am I alone, I wonder.

Well worth checking the TEDx video link half way down. 🙂

Exams v Coursework

In this article, private schools are described as wanting to move away  from modular A-Levels towards “traditional” assessment by exam at the  end of two years. In HE there has been an emphasis on coursework that  parallels the intake experience; in the case of degrees that I teach  on, very few exams at all. I suspect that other awards in NBS might be  towards the other extreme.

At our recent revalidation event for the games degree, the status of  formative assessment and diversity of assessment styles was raised.  This, and keeping a close eye on developments in Secondary Education  (being a former school teacher you can never give it up completely),  has made me wonder whether a similar swing towards examinations might  be possible/desirable/predictable at Newport.

Personally, I believe the form of assessment should fit the form of  the learning, or for more vocational awards the form in which  application of the knowledge will take place. I’d be interested in  just how often colleagues review assesment strategies at award and module level. I suspect it is and should be far more frequently than  quinquennial revalidations.

My morning coffee wbnetz reading today is… Why your game idea sucks!

An entertaining read on The Escapist, fast becoming a personal favourite web site; not at all because they’ve started giving out “Achievement Badges” for viewing content!!!

A close second today is a look at the history of Guitar Hero:


Captured comments from the original post:

Matthew wrote re: My morning coffee wbnetz reading today is… Why your game idea sucks!
on 10-02-2009 4:41 PM

“I have this great idea. It’s brilliant and will sell millions of copies.” Exactly what i said yesterday when discussing my board game with the other Matt…..

Found the article amusing tho! Erin Hoffman ftw!

Let’s make sure we are worth £23K details how students will be at least £23K in debt due to studying for a degree.

Last year, I (and I know others) had students stating “I pay £… a year for this.” before starting to dictate what and how I should teach. This was difficult to manage, and reflects the financial stress that students are under. I had one student suspend studies this week, citing the cost implications in his reason for withdrawing. This is regrettable, but understandable. While we are not in a consumer product service industry, seeing articles like that above is likely to make this attitude of “service in a restaurant” more prevalent; we might not mind so much if there were tips!

Learning is a mutual activity. I think that this more than anything else should be on our lips and in their minds in September/October. Would welcome suggestions for how that can be done.

Driven to distraction – or How to get an XBOX Live Vision Camera working on XP

Trying to get your XBox 360 Live Vision Camera working on your PC. Well, of course it SHOULD be Plug’n’Play…

I have found the hack to get the XP SP3 PC in my office to finally recognise it, and you may have the same problem. If you go to the Device Manager and look under USB devices and DON’T see “Security Method 3” after “Microsoft Live Vision Camera” then it is likely that the camera will not be recognised by XP. Trying to uninstall or update will give you the message that drivers are up to date. However, if you look at the properties for the camera it will tell you “No drivers are installed for this device” while also telling you that everything is fine!

What I did was to choose update, but not to automatically search. This then gives you the option to search locally, or to tell the wizard that you will choose. Given that it is impossible to download the driver as an install from Microsoft – Hey! It WAS meant to be Plug’n’Play remember! So, why would you WANT to download it manually? – what I did was to choose the bottom option, then choose the only option available “USB Composite Device”. Doing this, then miraculously allowed XP to then do the Plug’n’Play magic. Now in the Device Manager window, “Security Method 3” is appended to the camera, and everything “just works”.

My guess is a problem of certification with the 360 peripheral, as there is heavy handed protection certification in place to stop people using their own cheap peripherals on the console. This seems to have been confirmed by searches. Now all I want is for Microsoft to finally produce a driver for the ChatPad, which has been out for 2 years now. Here’s hoping.

Can you catch a cold off Twitter?

Ok this is a quick and dirty experiment: if you came here from my tweet – a tweet is a micro blog post from Twitter – then reblog the link to your followers; the twitter equivalent of sneezing. THEN when you see people you are following “sneezing” make a count for 1-7 days and email me at or tweet or leave a comment here. For those of you who have no idea what Twitter is, Michael Webb blogged on it a while back. My Twitter account is: