Why Pass University When You Can Play A Game About It

As we get further into BCM 300 Game Making we have sorted ourselves into groups and begun working on prototyping our own games. This seemed like a daunting task at first and as me and the three other members of my group were throwing around ideas somebody made a joke about designing a game around passing University. At first we laughed off the idea and continued brainstorming but every now and then you would hear “I know we aren’t doing it, but you could have X in a game about University.” After the 5th or 6th time this happened, combined with the fact brainstorming hadn’t gotten us anything else, we decided to just run with it seeing how far we could push the concept, and whether it could be a viable game for our major assignment.

Game of University (GoU), is (currently) shaping up to be a turned based card game where the goal is to achieve the maximum possible amount of win conditions within a set amount of turns. Currently we are talking about game length (number of turns per person) being dictated by which ‘degree’ you choose to start at the beginning of the game (difficulty level) along with the possibility of adding unique characters, with individual perks and choices available to them to spice up the game. Every turn each player will draw a card from one (or more) piles of cards that can then be played for energy/action points and have an effect, either positive or negative (potentially very positive with a drawback of some sort), that help progress the player towards one of the win conditions. For example a card drawn from the main pile may be for coffee, cost 2 energy to play and give the player 4 extra energy (only on their next turn). Since I personally believe the game will become much to complicated with a lot of different win conditions and no real way to keep track or be sure of how to achieve them I hope to implement a system where each player draws two cards on their turn. One from the standard pile (and would have things like the coffee card) and then one from a win condition specific pile which pushes you towards meeting one of the conditions for victory.

The only real way to lose the game would be if you haven’t reached a certain percentage score in the semesters/years University assessments which means that assuming every player makes it to the end of the game they all will have met the knowledge/study/P’s get degrees condition. The narrative of the game, although still a game you are trying to win at, is not necessarily just about beating everybody else, but rather strategising your own game plan to win (you don’t need to worry about what other people are doing, after you hit a certain breakpoint you achieve the win condition). I believe this lack of interaction between players can also make the game quite dry, so another suggestion I plan to make would be to allow cards that grant interactions between more than one players potentially helping both yourself and them in either the same or different areas (conditions for victory). This also has the possibility of feeding into the idea of unique characters and how different types of people at uni could help each other.

Apart from helping come up with the concept of our game and some of the mechanics, I suggested the card based system that allows actions for each turn, which everyone else then picked up and ran with. I was also given the task of coming up with some loose character concepts. After coming up with a strong list of more potential characters than we would ever need I realised that what I was doing would be useless without any kind of character specific mechanics. Essentially, why would we bother to create characters in a game where you can play as yourself. It would be a waste of our time, paper (to make the cards) and the players time in selecting them. After bringing this up with my group earlier on today we decided to file away the concept of using characters for the time being and use the initial prototype currently being made to see if it is possible to add more complexity to the game without having to create a rule book that has a similar page count as a law textbook.

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Teamwork Makes The Dream Work – Codenames

When you think tertiary education spending three weeks worth of classes playing board games is probably not the first thing that would come to mind, at least it wasn’t for me. But as my cousin likes to say “we don’t hate that”. The only real board games i had ever played before this class were monopoly and chess and since starting the subject that number has tripled. Codenames is a board game (although I would argue it can also be considered a card game) based on word association, where players pair up to find certain cards that belong to their team by having one player, who knows which cards are their teams cards, tell the other player words that are associated with the correct choices. Of all the games I played in my group of 4 in the first 3 weeks of this subject, Codenames was definitely the most exciting, which is why I have chosen to do some further research into the people behind the making of the game for my first assessment.

First up comes the publisher of Codenames. Although there is a list 28 strong of publishers from all over the world for this game as it has become a global sensation since its release in 2015, the original publishers were a Czech publishing company called Czech Games Edition (CGE). CGE is a major player in the board game industry, not only locally, but also around the world with over 40 titles to their name, 5 of which, are different versions of Codenames. Founded in 2006 the company published their first board game in 2007 and are continuing to publish board games today while also branching out into digital board games which can be played online with a digital version of Codenames also on its way.

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Source: Twitter

 

The games designer, Vladimír (Vlaada) Chvátil, is a 47 year old game designer who made a splash in the board game scene with his work on “Through The Ages: A Story Of Civilisation” (2006) and gained a lot of attention after its release. Many of his games have been released using CGE as a publisher and his games have developed a relatively distinct style over his years as a designer. His two major design styles are thematic games (mechanics and rules are well integrated and feed into a strong story) and Euros games (major emphasis on strategy rather than luck) which makes him all the more impressive since these two designs are widely considered opposites. Codenames has a very strong theme based around the idea of identifying spies and agents while trying to avoid an assassin which builds a strong, even if not all-important, story. It is also a euros game, the strategy to try and group multiple options with one associated word, or select a word that won’t cause confusion with another, incorrect, card on the board are important strategy elements in Codenames.

There were three illustrators involved in creating the original version of Codenames and although it is not a game that relies heavily on the art (being a word association game and all) the illustrators did an exceptional job in capturing the theme of the game with distinct character cards (for each teams agents, civilians and the assassin) and a name-tag motif on all the word cards which helps feed into the theme of trying to identify people.

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Source: Google Images

 

The rules of the game are relatively simple, a gird of name-tag cards are laid out on a table with no real common theme (seen above). Players split into two group (red and blue) and select a player as the ‘supporter/spymaster’ (knows where your teams agents are based on a separate card only the supporters can see) and the ‘player’ (has to associate the words given by the supporter with the correct word on the table). Each time a player successfully selects one of their team agents a coloured agent card is put over that word and the game continues until one team has found all of their agents. But there is a bit of a twist. White tiles represent civilians and are placed on top of a word card if somebody selects a word that is not an agent (or the assassin… I’m getting to it) for either team. You do not lose anything other than your turn for selecting a civilian, but you also don’t gain anything. Finally, the black card, representing the assassin. If a player accidentally picks the card that is the assassin then the round is over and the team who selects it automatically losses.

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Source: Google Images

 

I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game, over the 6 rounds we played I only one once, but still had a heap of fun (which is really saying something because I am not a gracious loser). The simplistic and easy to grasp nature of the game, combined with a solid story and the emphasis on strategy put it right up my alley. Whether you played the slow game or the fast and risky game, whether you gave words that required outside of the box thinking or even when you just go for broke and guess when a loss is imminent and only luck will save you. There were so many different ways to play this game giving it incredible replay value and with its simple set up and rules it makes for a great party game to play with friends or family over food and/or drinks.

 

The Robot

Choosing a research topic can be hard, it is made even harder when you are given broad topics such as poverty, the animal, the robot, the politician, the future of work and the planet and then told to do anything you find interesting. After much consideration and four spur of the moment changes to my choice I have finally settled on (I hope) looking into the robot. Going into my third year at university doing a Bachelor of Communications and Media the use of devices and media in all aspects of life (social, workplace, leisure, etc.) is a central concept to most of the work I do. Currently I plan to look into how the use of digital media and the use of robots is leading to a digital workforce and identify the prevalence of the digital workforce in business, its growth and some of the pros and cons of having a digital workforce.

Essentially, the research I am currently planning to do revolves around answering the question of “the growth and applications of the digital workforce in modern business”. I also planned to analyse the effects of automating jobs in the workplace and the consequences of doing so but I am currently somewhat reluctant to include it in the actual research because this question is one that, although has plenty of research already done into it, is still very opinionated and I hope to avoid speculation to the highest possible extent while doing my research unless it is forecasting results based on current and past trends.

Before going into the importance/relevance of my chosen topic it is important to understand the definition of the digital workforce and the major components that make it up. The digital workforce can seem somewhat confusing at first but is actually a simple concept, it is the term used to describe the use of automated processes/robots to complete tasks that would otherwise of been done by humans in a work environment (White and Grueger, 2017). There are many different types of software and robots that do various jobs and make up the digital workforce and are made up of everything from cloud computing and virtual customer assistants, to quantum computing (don’t worry this is the for dummies super-easy to understand link) and general purpose machine learning (Link to an article on machine learning, general purpose describes how it can be used for a large variety of things (your iPhone is a general purpose piece of tech, although it doesn’t have the capacity to learn… yet)). All aspects of the digital workforce can currently be put into three categories or evolutions (with an evolution being a level of implementation by business), these categories are:

Robotic Process Automation is the most widely implemented level of the digital workforce and is seen in most businesses as it includes the most mature solutions. Things like simple chat bots that follow a predefined set of actions and processes allow them to follow specific courses of action and provide highly reliable solutions to well defined issues. But, on the down side, are limited to whatever restraints the business has put on them. Take for example a chat bot on messenger (Facebook) for a travel company which may suggest travel destinations and packages based on questions and answers that have already been pre-determined by the organisation.

Cognitive computing, as the name suggests, is the recreation of human thought processes in a robot or piece of software. Most people use the functions of cognitive computing on a daily basis when interacting with their phones through the use of predictive text, live traffic data, live weather reports and interact with digital assistants such as Siri on Apple products. Returning to Deloitte’s 2017 study it states that cognitive computing is on track to affect/transform the lives of individuals and businesses the most the most in the next 20 years. Furthermore stating that by 2020 95% of the biggest 100 software companies (based on revenue) will be making use of cognitive computing (White and Grueger, 2017).

Artificial intelligence refers to a decision making process made by machines which takes into account multiple environmental factors and then takes action/makes decisions that maximises its chances at success for a certain goal. Artificial intelligence in machines takes long periods of time to develop because unlike with RPA where predefined variables have been entered artificial intelligence learns from previous experiences (failures, success, other environmental factors, etc.) to create a more reliable database of solutions. Although it is widely believed that we will never be able to create a machine with “perfect” human intelligence it is undeniable that we are making rapid progress in the realm of AI so to rule out the possibility entirely seems ridiculous.

Most people have heard stories about how “machines are taking our jobs” or “putting people out of work” and although in many cases this is somewhat true, jobs are always changing and evolving and the people working them must be able to as well to remain relevant in a business. The best way to do this, is to understand the ideas and processes behind the digital workforce and adapt accordingly. But even with a large amount of jobs being made redundant due to machines the idea that robots are going to take over all jobs in the near future is not feasible, and even if it was there is plenty of research being done into the new types of jobs that will be required to either work with, teach, or maintain these robots (Autor, 2015). Therefore I think this study, although already done by others, is important because there is still a lot of fear around the digital workforce, a lot of which seems to come from a lack of understanding. Fear, that I hope to do my part in reducing through my research project.

References

Autor, D. (2015). Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation. Journal of Economic Perspectives, [online] 29(3), pp.3-30. Available at: https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.29.3.3.

Azure.microsoft.com. (n.d.). What is cloud computing? A beginner’s guide | Microsoft Azure. [online] Available at: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-in/overview/what-is-cloud-computing/ [Accessed 17 Mar. 2019].

Borowski, C. (n.d.). Guide: How SMB’s Can Improve Customer Service With Virtual Customer Assistants. [Blog] Software Advice. Available at: https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/beginners-guide-to-virtual-customer-assistants/ [Accessed 17 Mar. 2019].

Boulton, C. (2018). What is RPA? A revolution in business process automation. [online] CIO. Available at: https://www.cio.com/article/3236451/what-is-rpa-robotic-process-automation-explained.html.

Broadsoft.com. (2016). 5 steps to Build a Digital Workforce. [online] Available at: https://www.broadsoft.com/work-it/how-to-build-a-digital-workforce.

Chui, M., Manyika, J. and Miremadi, M. (2015). Four fundamentals of workplace automation. [ebook] McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://roubler.com/au/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2016/11/Four-fundamentals-of-workplace-automation.pdf.

Dorsey, B. (2017). Machine Learning: A Journey Towards General-Purpose Algorithms. [Blog] Branger_Briz. Available at: https://brangerbriz.com/blog/machine-learning-a-journey-towards-general-purpose-algorithms/.

Marr, B. (2016). What Everyone Should Know About Cognitive Computing. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/03/23/what-everyone-should-know-about-cognitive-computing/#24fdbc105088.

Marr, B. (2017). What Is Quantum Computing? A Super-Easy Explanation For Anyone. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/07/04/what-is-quantum-computing-a-super-easy-explanation-for-anyone/#3369e6b61d3b.

Sas.com. (n.d.). Artificial Intelligence – What it is and why it matters. [online] Available at: https://www.sas.com/en_au/insights/analytics/what-is-artificial-intelligence.html [Accessed 17 Mar. 2019].

White, N. and Grueger, D. (2017). Managing The Digital Workforce. [ebook] Deloitte. Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/human-capital/deloitte-au-hc-managing-digital-workforce-131017.pdf.

Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want. ASTD Best Practices Series: Training for a Changing Work Force. (1990). 1st ed. [ebook] San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED319979.

Japanese Architecture

Almost 15 weeks have passed since I started my second semester of second year in university doing BCM320 (Digital Asia), a subject which is based on autoethnography. Although I would certainly say my understanding of the topic is significantly better than it was before I started, I believe there is a lot more that I need to learn before I can consider myself at all proficient at it. With that being said I tried my hand at autoethnography, specifically researching Japanese architecture, for my major assignment in the subject. I have always been fascinated with architecture and it was something I had planned to do in university back in my high school days, until the reality of my complete lack of ability in the area came crashing down on me. The video, although 13 minutes long, is quite brief on each topic because after getting started I realised how much there was that needed to be talked about in order to get the full image on architecture and development in Japan and after cutting out almost half of my total material I was still only able to get it down to its current size. The topics in the video below include; regulations on development in Japan, the Japanese aesthetic (not only in architecture but also in general) and some information on the use of traditional and modern Japanese architecture and the influence of Western themes in Japanese homes.

Apologies in advance for the terrible video quality, the camera decided to focus on the paintings behind me rather than me…

References

edX. (2018). Modern Japanese Architecture: From Meiji Restoration to Today. [online] Available at: https://www.edx.org/course/modern-japanese-architecture-meiji-tokyotechx-arch101x-0 [Accessed Oct. 2018].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Qualitative-research.net. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 2018].

Essley, J. (n.d.). Japan Houses – A Look at Current and Traditional Japanese Homes. [online] House Design Coffee. Available at: https://www.house-design-coffee.com/japan-houses.html.

Lombardi, L. (2013). Japanese Architecture: What Makes It Different?. [online] Tofugu. Available at: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/japanese-architecture/.

Townsend, A. (2013). Understanding Japanese Building Law | AlaTown. [online] Alatown.com. Available at: http://www.alatown.com/japanese-building-law/.

DON’T COPY ME!!!!! Oh, Wait…. You Didn’t?

Personally I believe that people who think they need to have their own individual niche for every little thing are ridiculous, but after going through week 5’s content for Future Networks I am able to appreciate why people might think they need one, especially on the internet. With the exception of news and new product releases I highly doubt you would be able to find anything on the internet that has not been done before, heck, you could probably at least 5-10 other blogs from this subject talking about exactly the same thing as I am. Although people tend to bang on about how there are so many duplicates of everything on the internet I think it is silly to be talking about it as if it is some kind of serious issue. Having two or more options for everything is ideal as far as I’m concerned and having multiple copies of the same things can make it easier to find and grasp concepts or buy products etc. online.

The example I want to use to show the proliferation of data, often identical copies, is through the Twitter hashtag we use in this subject. Since Tweeting is a component of an assessment in this subject (find relevant content relating to the weeks lecture to start conversation/exchange ideas) you will almost always find that two people have made links to the same articles and you might say that this is because the person who reposts the article has just scrolled down, found one far enough back and then feigned ignorance as if they had no idea somebody else had already put it there, and although that may be true, I feel as though in 9/10 cases it is a complete coincidence.

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Anonymous – a Global Hacktivist Group

Hacktivism is the process of using computers and computer networks to promote a political agenda or a social change. The hacktivist group, Anonymous, is one ‘organisation’ (more of a collective) that has achieved a lot in the sphere of hacktivism. Formed in 2004 the symbol of the group is the use of Guy Fawkes masks to cover their faces and today the use of these masks is commonly associated with hackers.

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The group started out as a “joke” between like minded people online with their first major action being against the church of Scientology in 2008 after they had a video removed from YouTube that spoke about the church. The group quickly grew from there becoming an international symbol which eventually began targeting governments around the world such as the U.S, Turkey and Uganda as well as multiple large corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Sony and Visa exposing various information on these groups practices.

“If my cause is more important than the law or company policy — hacking for the data I want is fine.”

 

The London Riots and the Consequences for Social Media

I posted two links on my classes hashtag #bcm206 today talking about the London riots back in 2011 and how there was a massive call to have social media regulated by police to prevent future similar crimes. In fact I enjoyed reading it so much that I have decided to dedicate a whole 150 words to talk about it, maybe even 200 if I want to push my luck with whoever is marking this.

Following the London riots in 2011 the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, spoke about his feelings on the use of Social Media in being used to orchestrate/organise the attacks saying, “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.” and said he wanted to, “… (work) with the police, the intelligence services and the industry (Social media) … To stop people communicating via these websites (with the intention of inciting violence).”

After talks went ahead on this topic a conclusion was come to that all involved parties were happy with. In the agreement both Facebook and Twitter are helping teach police on the best methods of monitoring social network for signs of public violence without having to breach user privacy. After the initial hype of calls being made to have these services shut down or to allow unrestricted access to data on social media by police many officials, and users, of the social media companies were glad that no restrictions were being posed on the platform, with a spokesperson from Facebook saying: “We welcome the fact that this was a dialogue about working together … rather than imposing new restrictions on Internet services.”

As an Australian citizen who has lived in the country my whole life it makes me think about examples closer to home, the Cronulla riots in 2005 were organised mostly through circulating text messages and the turnout for that was huge. It just makes me wonder how big it could of been if each and every attack was being coordinated on social media.