Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Fourth Wall: A cautionary tale…⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

As a big fan of sci-fi I have always been particularly taken with some stories but particularly those that depict a dystopian vision. Particular ones that struck me form my school days were The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury and The Fun They Had by Issac Asimov as well as the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still with the classic, "Klaatu, barada nikto!" call to Gort the intergalactic policeman.

My exposure to sci-fi stories was enhanced in the late seventies when I and many many 2000adothers became seduced by the magical sci-fi stories that featured in the 2000AD comic. Featuring favourites such as Judge Dredd, Flesh and Strontium Dog I would get totally lost in the amazing future worlds that were beautifully depicted in this comic but the one theme that always used to make me think was Tharg's Future Shocks. Tharg was the alien editor of the comic and he would occasionally throw in a story that always had a quirk or that would kick you right in the backside and make you think.

This blogpost is about one such 'Future Shock' called The Fourth Wall. Published in Prog 85 in October 1978 this cautionary tale warns of the inexorable march of advancements in technology, and in particular technologies for entertainment. In the story we see the young boy, Chris, very excited about nis new TV experience. The Fourth Wall is an experimental televisual experience and works only when you close the door. It then immerses the viewer in a very 'lifelike world' with terrible consequences...

The Fourth Wall from Derek Robertson on Vimeo.

I remember a few years ago when the NIntendo Wii first came out that I couldn't help thinking just how prescient Tharg was. Here, 30 years ago was a short story predicting immersive technologies so lifelike and involving that you didn't just consume the visuals, you participated in them.

Now with the PS3 Move and the Kinect system from Microsoft coming out the future of immersive gaming is getting very to close to The Fourth Wall. However, I am very excited about the prospect of what both these technologies will have to offer and how they can enhance game play but I do have some concerns too. For example, imagine a system that measures the player's body movements and efficiency to score, for example, how well you placed the plastic bag over the hoodlums head  in Manhunt and held it just so and just tight enough to dispatch him! Now that would be immersive gaming but with some sensationally dubious outcomes....maybe not as severe as the boy in the Fourth Wall's but one for us to carefully consider...

Dancing Games: Dance on Broadway is (almost) Jazz hands-tastic 2/2⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

After reaching the heady heights of the high score/performance domain in Just Dance we have now moved on the the more theatrical dance world of Dance on Broadway. This dancing game for the NIntendo Wii is set in the world of musical theatre and requires that you perform routines as perfect as possible....

For those of you that might wish to emulate John Barrowman, Denise van Outen or even Michael Ball then this game might be right up your street. 

Still thinking about it's educational application but already I have managed to make my young daughters aware of a range of muscial theatre shows and their underpinning storylines as a result of their developing interest in some of the songs that they enjoy playing/performing.

Only problem with this game is that the proper jazz hand technique is compromised when holding the Wiimote ;-)

Fail whale⤴


There’s something about Twitter…

What is going on with Twitter?  I know there are huge benefits to tweeting: I get so much out of it, by way of contacts, links, ideas, support and sometimes just a good old laugh! BUT the problems the site has been having recently have been driving me nuts!

Tweetdeck failed to show anything in my columns for most of the day yesterday (despite functioning normally).  Sometimes you tweet once and end up showing your message 3 or 4 times as it ‘pretends’ not to show.  More frequently, tweets are sent to you in the wrong order, making it difficult to follow conversations.  And then there is the dreaded Fail Whale, that looks at you smugly when things go wrong.

I guess my question is, at what point does the bad outway the good?  How long are people going to put up with the overcapacity and the capped API rates? When do you say, “actually you have had long enough to sort this out and I’m going to stop using your service”?

I don’t know the answer to those questions.  I can’t think of another Internet service that consistently performs so poorly that people stick with.  Having said that I think I’ll stick with it a wee bit longer.  It is, after all, a great thing.  Phew, nearly talked myself out of Twitter there…

Leading Learning and Teaching⤴


Have now completed this latest module in my MSc/SQH course. The final assignment involved writing a critical review of Frank Furedi’s latest book Wasted: Why Education Isn’t Working. I’ve now submitted this and just need to wait now to see if its a pass!

This has been an interesting module and has really made me think about why we teach what we do in schools. I have also found the current research being done in the field of neuroscience really fascinating especially involving dyslexia and dyscalulia.

Have a great summer!

Dancing Games: Just Dance even if you still say disco! 1/2⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Earlier in the week I was chatting with my neighbour's 23 yr old son about music. Somehow we got on to the subject of nightclubs and when I mentioned the fact that i hadn't been to a disco for at least 6 years the young whippersnapper sniggered and took great pleasure in telling me that, "No-one calls them discos anymore!" Sheesh, the ever marching nature of time and how it dates one (even when you don't think it isn't doing so) will catch up on, it so appears, it has with me!

Well, if like me you don't get to go to discos now but still would like to 'get down' (dated disco reference from 1970/80s for younger readers) but in the privacy of your own home then you must get your hands on Just Dance for the Wii. You will be digging out the flares and dusting down your your old Tavares and Earth Wind and Fire records before you know it and show the younger members of your household that you can still do The Hustle!

This game is a huge load of fun and a really good way to exercise too. There are a number of really decent tracks in the game that accompany a choreographed programme of moves that you need to copy in real time in order to dance along with the on-screen dancer. The more accurate the moves the bigger your dance star power build (as with Guitar Hero) and then you can score extra points. Today we must have played this for at least 3 hours with Ring My Bell by Anita Ward and Pump up the Jam by Technotronic my particular favourites ;-)

Have a look at the game trailer:

This game does get the heart rate up let there be no doubt about that. Great exercise with proper movements required in order to score decent points. Check out this game play video. Apart from the engaging game play one does wonder as to the appeal that this may have with younger and pre-early teens/learners particularly in relation to the health and well-being agenda. Two things that have made me reflect on this are:

  • I have continually seen children in many primary and secondary school using games such as Singstar and Guitar Hero and technologies such as Crazy Talk in such a fashion that any aspect of shyness or embarrassment about 'performing' seems to disappear when these resources are used. I've often discussed with colleagues whether this technology creates an interface between the player, their self-image and their viewing audience that allows them to suspend disbelief and do their best. I think it does...
  • I recently listened to some research about Girl Gamers from Sherbert Research (will blog and tweet link as soon as I have it). It seems that 10-13 yr old girls really go for this type of game. Now we know that research indicates that this is the age group that sees the biggest move of girls away from sports and exercise so is this one, affordable and culturally appealing, way in which we can encourage and entice girls of this age to stay active?

What about boys? Well I have seen 12 yr olds on stage dancing to their own choreographed moves as part of a Guitar Hero project. Not only were they swinging arms and legs but they had the serious face on too! They really meant it so I wonder if this might work for them...

There have been and are a number of exertainment games that require some degree of physical activity. These have worked to varying degrees for me but the fact that I spent so long playing this today and can't wait to get on it again tomorrow night must say something about its engaging game play. Or maybe it's just that I need a night out at a disco ;-)