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Inside Demiurge: Albert Reed, co-founder and CEO

Posted by Timothy Loew March 14, 2014 09:03 AM

Recently, Monty Sharma, MassDiGI's managing director, spent some time chatting with Albert Reed, co-founder and CEO of Cambridge-based video game developer Demiurge Studios. They talked about Reed's career, the studio's work on big intellectual properties like Mass Effect, Rock Band and Borderlands as well as Demiurge's current hit game Marvel Puzzle Quest.

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Boston's best in play: Contest showcases game developers

Posted by Timothy Loew March 11, 2014 02:24 PM

By Timothy Loew

This past weekend, Little Worlds Interactive, a Boston-based independent educational game development studio, won the overall Grand Prize as well as Serious Game Prototype category honors in the third annual MassDiGI Game Challenge for The Counting Kingdom. The Counting Kingdom is a game for kids aged seven and up that encourages players to practice their arithmetic skills in a charmingly playful and engaging way.

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Inside Harmonix: An interview with Annette Gonzalez, community manager

Posted by Timothy Loew March 6, 2014 10:11 AM

By Matt Akers

Annette Gonzalez spends most of her work day in the public eye. As part of the community management team at Harmonix, the Cambridge-based game studio known for franchises like Rock Band, Dance Central, and Guitar Hero, it’s her job to publicly represent some of the most recognizable brands in gaming. She absolutely loves it. Between testing unreleased games, traveling to consumer shows, and being the go-to expert on Harmonix’s upcoming Fantasia: Music Evolved, she’s the first to admit to having one of the best jobs around.

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Going mobile: Games, virtual pets and healthcare

Posted by Timothy Loew March 3, 2014 12:21 PM

By Alexander Ryu, CEO and co-founder, LifeGuard Games

Meet Carlos. Carlos is 8 years old, lives in Brookline and, like of all his friends, loves mobile games. Carlos also has asthma.

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Boston rising: Esports, tournaments and 'Infinite Crisis'

Posted by Timothy Loew February 25, 2014 08:19 AM

By Benjamin Cavallari, founder, ARC

What do sold out arenas, tens of millions of viewers and P-1 travel visas have to do with video games? Esports, of course. Video game competitions have been a part of gaming culture for years. But recently, a dramatic rise in the popularity of amateur and professional esports tournaments has attracted a huge new generation of players and teams. .

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The great video game moral panic

Posted by Timothy Loew February 6, 2014 09:06 AM

By Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair, Stetson University

For years, some scholars argued there are problems with arguments linking violent video games and other media to acts of violence in society. The concern is that attempts to blame societal violence on video games is a moral panic; an emotional distraction akin to a witch hunt. From comic books to rock music, media have often been the target of such moral panics. In the recent, tragic case of Adam Lanza, we had the opportunity to watch a moral panic unfold in real time.

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Mind games: New adventures in learning

Posted by Timothy Loew February 3, 2014 10:37 AM

By Jason Haas, game designer and research assistant, The Education Arcade and the MIT Media Lab

While running my undead rogue across the plains of Mulgore in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft, I noticed something remarkable. As I ran by, a mountain lion pounced on a passing rabbit, killing it. I had to stop my avatar’s sinister jog in awe – clearly, the game’s developers were sweating the small stuff.

The game’s world is filled with creatures great and small, all wandering computationally pre-determined paths, most waiting to jump off those paths to murder incautious players that wander too close. Here though, the developers had made an effort to implement the merest hint of actual ecosystem behavior.

Working as I do in a laboratory dedicated to building compelling learning games, I couldn’t help but think, “What could we do with a virtual world in which ecosystems actually work?”

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Developers get serious: Expanding how video games are used

Posted by Timothy Loew January 16, 2014 09:55 AM

By Chris Parsons, product manager, Muzzy Lane Software

More people in more places are playing games created for serious purposes. These non-entertainment types of games are loosely categorized as “serious games.” They have actually been around for some time, mainly limited to specific business or military simulations, or education titles for children. However, within the last few years serious games have gone mainstream and are being used ever more frequently for business training, as teaching tools in schools and universities, and now in healthcare.

Some serious games use the simplest of gameplay elements while others are as deep and complex as any entertainment game. Meanwhile, more serious elements are appearing in entertainment titles. This trend - blurred lines between game-based learning and entertainment games - is accelerating. It is having a growing impact on how we play and on how we learn.

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Where video games meet literature: Lightness and 'The Walking Dead'

Posted by Timothy Loew January 8, 2014 08:50 AM

By Abigail Joslin

The late Italo Calvino, one of the great Italian writers of the 20th century, dedicated what proved to be his last energies into a series of essays paying homage to the values he prized above all in the written word. He believed these traits were keys to the future of literature: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity.Thumbnail image for Italo-Calvino.jpg

While literature has a long history, most if not all of these virtues have great relevance to a newer form of media: video games.

Lightness in particular is almost deceptively easy to identify. Calvino defined it as the opposite of weight, and it is worth noting that his definition differentiates between the "lightness of frivolity" and the "lightness of thoughtfulness." For him, lightness incorporated energy, precision, and a certain amount of determination.

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Champions of play: Boston-area libraries get in the game

Posted by Timothy Loew December 16, 2013 10:21 AM

By Matt Akers

For some, the image of the public library is one of quiet spaces and dusty hardback books, but for a handful of Massachusetts librarians, the term evokes something quite different: The preservation of video games.

Four such librarians work within the Minuteman Library Network, a consortium of 43 public and college libraries in Metrowest. Their respective philosophies are unique, but they all agree that one of a library's most sacred tasks is to archive cultural artifacts and video games - just like books, music, and film - fit that bill.

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Lessons in the new age of crowdfunding

Posted by Michael Warshaw November 19, 2013 12:24 PM

By Alex Schwartz, chief scientist, Owlchemy Labs

The tech industry is abuzz with the latest way to raise capital for creative projects: Crowdfunding. It’s become an increasingly viable option for developers in the past years, maturing into not only a venue for fundraising but also a powerful promotional tool for increasing awareness.

discourse.pngWhile crowdfunding is likely here to stay, creators shouldn’t assume it’s a magic bullet. The rules of Kickstarter and others like it have changed dramatically, and creators need to be aware of them before jumping in.

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The real Call of Duty: Video gamers for veterans

Posted by Timothy Loew November 11, 2013 11:11 AM

By Lt. Col. Vincent J. Perrone (USAF, retired), president & CEO, Veterans Inc.

On Veterans Day, Americans come together to reflect on the heroism of all those who have answered the call of duty. We take time during the day to honor our veterans in many ways from lining parade routes, attending ceremonies and volunteering in our communities to running in road races, playing games and visiting with family and friends.

At Veterans Inc., every day is for veterans. We are the region’s leading provider of support services to veterans and their families. Since 1991, Veterans Inc., based in Worcester, has helped more than 55,000 veterans and their dependents in need. Today, we operate offices and programs in Boston and all six New England states.

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Playing to win: The value of a video game design degree

Posted by Michael Warshaw November 7, 2013 03:00 PM

By Paul D. Cotnoir, Ph.D., director of design programs, Becker College

It was the fall of 2005. My oldest son came to me and said, “Dad, I want to go to college and study video game design!”

That was heart attack number one. That was well before Becker College established the video game design program that I now direct. At the time, video game design was not widely regarded as a bona fide major worthy of academic study.

Even so, my son started the program, did well, and graduated with honors. Then came heart attack number two. After graduation, he said, “Dad, I really don’t want to work in the video game industry!”

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Inside Turbine: An interview with Craig Alexander, VP of product development

Posted by Michael Warshaw November 5, 2013 03:40 PM

Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) Managing Director Monty Sharma spent some time recently talking with Craig Alexander, vice president of product development at Needham-based video game company Turbine Inc. They discussed Alexander's experiences in the game industry, the company's massive hit Lord of the Rings Online, free-to-play business models, and more.

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Northern exposure: The Boston - Montreal video game connection

Posted by Michael Warshaw October 22, 2013 11:11 AM

By Timothy Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

When most people mention Boston and Montreal together, they’re talking hockey. Yet over the centuries, the two cities -- and more broadly, Massachusetts and Quebec -- have consistently grown commercial, educational and cultural ties.

To highlight those connections and prompt the development of new relationships, members of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) team -- including board chair and Becker College President Robert E. Johnson, MassDiGI Managing Director Monty Sharma, and I -- were honored to join Governor Deval Patrick, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Chief Executive Pamela Goldberg, and other members of the administration on the Montreal leg of the Massachusetts–Canada Innovation Partnership Mission. The trade mission, which we joined on October 10 and 11, focused on several key areas of innovation such as life sciences, clean energy, e-health, information technology and digital games.

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Video gamers, changing the world

Posted by Michael Warshaw October 4, 2013 11:17 AM

By Jeromy Adams, Team Extra Life, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals

extra life.jpgBeing classified as a gamer no longer carries the stigma of playing ninth-string in society’s orchestra. As video games have risen to become the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, so too have the fans of these games outgrown the stereotype of being the sunlight-deprived kid living out their early years in their parents’ basement. We're cool now.

Through above-average tech knowledge, we are incredibly connected with our friends. Through online venues, playing games has become an extremely social experience and as such, gamers are now among the most social creatures in the known universe.

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Those who can play, teach: Video games in the classroom

Posted by Michael Warshaw September 23, 2013 11:46 AM

By Pernian Faheem, lead organizer, iGame Conference

Consider this: If American students scored just 40 points higher on international math tests, the US would generate $16 trillion of additional GDP income over their lifetime, according to a recent study out of Harvard. It seems like such a small gain for such a huge reward, but the question is: How do we get there?

One potential solution is to disrupt the 18th century factory model of mass-produced education that is the norm in our country, and tap into the power of technology and social media to tailor education to the needs of every child. The idea? Make the learning process more effective and a lot more fun.

We can do that now, simply by using educational games in the classroom. Our kids are growing up playing online games already. Rather than fighting it, let’s make sure they’re learning something useful in the process.

The Institute of Game Accelerated Multidisciplinary Education, or iGAME, is a nonprofit founded in Boston and focused on developing innovative educational games for schools. According to founders Naureen Meraj and Imran Sayeed, the goal is simple: bridge the gap between educational institutions and students by providing an engaging and meaningful learning experience.

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Can video games build better children?

Posted by Michael Warshaw September 10, 2013 09:33 AM

By Scot Osterweil, creative director, MIT’s Education Arcade

How do you teach schoolchildren to navigate ethical minefields?

One way is through games.

Quandary, a game we created at Learning Games Network with our Boston-based development partner Fablevision, was named game of the year at the 2013 Games for Change Festival in New York. Aimed at upper elementary and middle school students, Quandary addresses a fundamental issue in a child’s ethical development: the need to understand the perspectives of others when making ethical choices. The game is web-served and freely available at this link.

quandary-screen1.jpgThe premise is that you, the player, are the captain of a space colony on the planet Braxos (think Plymouth Plantation, but 35 light-years away). While the colony has contact with earth, the small group of settlers are largely responsible for working together to solve their problems, and you step in to referee things only when the going gets tough. Your job is to learn the dimensions of any dispute by talking to interested parties. In the process, you must begin to separate facts from opinions, and figure out which points of argument might move people toward agreement. You eventually propose your solution to a council of elders on Earth; they make the final decision, but it will be very much influenced by the information you provide.

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Invasion of the independent games: BostonFIG opens on 9/14

Posted by Michael Warshaw August 29, 2013 11:03 AM

By Elicia Basoli

You can’t claim to be the home of anything as unpredictable, fast-moving, and downright cool as independent games unless you have a celebration. Thus, the second annual incarnation of the Boston Festival of Indie Games (BostonFIG) is being held on Saturday, September 14.

_MG_1831.JPGA celebration of independent game development in a variety of media and genres, the 2nd annual Boston Festival of Indie Games promises to be bigger and better than the first, partly because a year has helped to grow and mature the independent games movement. “BostonFIG puts Massachusetts right at the forefront of the indie game scene. We’re really excited to be a part of it," said Seth Sivak, chief executive of Cambridge start-up Proletariat Inc.

Greater Boston is an area where innovation in technology, education, health, and the arts meet as one. Video games intersect all of these disciplines; one of the goals of BostonFIG is to showcase the local talent shaping the future of the game industry. Despite the name, the event – or more to the point, events – take place across the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

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From Boston, with love: New mobile game has license to play

Posted by Timothy Loew August 16, 2013 11:29 AM

Recently, the State of Play had a chance to sit down with Jonathon Myers, one of the co-founders along with Matthew Albrecht and Bruno Batarelo, of Boston-based mobile game startup Reactive Studios to talk about his hot new game Codename Cygnus.

Thumbnail image for Jonathon Myers and Codename Cynus

Jonathon Myers and Codename Cygnus

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Playing games with the future

Posted by Michael Warshaw August 7, 2013 03:25 PM

By Timothy Loew, executive director, Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI)

There were no careers in video game development 20 years ago; not in the way we understand gamedev today. The idea that thousands and thousands of students would dedicate their academic careers - and their futures - to studying game-making would have been viewed as farfetched.

Hampshire College and Berklee College of Music students with Elicia Basoli, game industry PR mentor. Photo: MassDiGI

massdigi image.jpg

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Game on: Exploring new content and player retention theory

Posted by Timothy Loew July 23, 2013 11:33 AM

By Alex Engel, associate producer, Disruptor Beam

This blog originally appeared here on DisruptorBeam.com.

In one of my other lives, I am a writer. Many nights I sit down on my laptop and bang away at the keyboard, writing about video games and whatever else comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll be up late at night writing, annoying my wife with the clacking, when I’ll have a burst of inspiration and start clacking even faster, much to her dismay. I got on this topic today and, since our players like when we go into the details of how we make games (like Game of Thrones Ascent), I decided to share it with everyone.

The question I was thinking about was, how do you compare the benefits of retaining new players versus creating content for older players? Please note that the rest of the blog post is theory-crafting, and doesn’t necessarily reflect how we (or any other game company) operates.

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Our Town: Giant Bomb, Ryan Davis, and the video game community

Posted by Michael Warshaw July 18, 2013 09:55 AM

By William Brierly

On July 3, Ryan Davis of the video game industry website Giant Bomb passed away. I didn't know him all that well, yet he had an incredible impact on my life. And judging by the amazing folks in the Giant Bomb community, I'm positive that I'm not the only person who had a similar experience with Ryan. The gaming world lost a great person this month. It was truly an honor to have met him, so I thought I'd share this story about my experience.

It was a Friday evening. I was just finishing up a late dinner when I started to notice an unusually large amount of traffic on the website for my game, Soda Drinker Pro.

Whenever someone downloads my game, they have the option to send me a little note. More than 250,000 folks have downloaded it so far, and I have read every single note. They’re often pretty funny, but on this particular night, they were really funny; like, really funny.

When I see a spike in traffic, it's usually because someone wrote about the game somewhere, or it's featured on a YouTube channel, or something along those lines. But this time, I couldn't see where it was coming from. Eventually, someone sent a note saying where they saw it: on Giant Bomb.

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Murder by death: How to kill bad ideas before they kill you

Posted by Michael Warshaw June 24, 2013 10:58 AM

By Tom Lin, co-founder and creative director of Demiurge Studios, Cambridge

If you've been working in the video game industry, chances are you've heard this before: "Hey! I've got a great idea for a game."

Ideas! You've got 'em. Your co-workers have 'em. Heck, even the guy at that party last weekend had 'em. The problem is, most of your ideas probably aren’t very good; at least, not yet. Actually, they may never be good. How do you know when to stop chasing a bad idea, and just kill the thing?

Here at Demiurge, we've had to learn the hard way how to put down ideas, and we’ve developed an approach to making that kill-or-keep decision.

From a full-blown game pitch to teeny opinions on how a character jumps, it’s natural to want to protect your idea. It came from your head, and it's a unique shard of your gaming intuition/experience. A precious, precious baby of an idea. Right?

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The Playstation War: Conflict minerals in video games

Posted by Michael Warshaw June 17, 2013 10:57 AM

By Barbara A. Jones, Esq., Greenberg Traurig LLP

conflict minerals.jpg

Associated Press

In this May 17, 2012, file photo, a Congolese government army soldier displays a mortar round after his unit returned from fighting against rebel forces.


What are video games made of?

The games themselves are software; electronic pulses and magnetic charges. But the consoles they’re played on, like a lot of other electronic equipment, are composed of plastic, metal, and often, minerals like tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, or 3TGs.

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MassDiGI 8-24 287w872.jpgThe State of Play, organized by MassDiGI, features stories by digital and video game developers and business insiders. Follow along @mass_digi.

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