Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oxford Spin-out & Oman's Gaming Business

PEIE Mirror spoke to Tim Price-Walker, Business Development Manager- Schools, Immersive Education Ltd, UK - - a speaker at KOM's ( 2005 e-Games Conference ( a two day Siemens sponsored event - - we talked gaming and education - this is what he had to say:

1. What got you into gaming?
If I think far enough back in my life, my trusty Commodore Vic 20 was the computer that really started me off in gaming, playing all of those hi-tech, magnetic tape loaded games.However, the games that really got me hooked was Manic Miner for the Spectrum 48K and a little more recently the original Doom game there was nothing like pairing up with a gaming partner at night, turning the light out and waiting for something to jump out at you from the screen!

2. If you could be one gaming character who would it be and why?
A Sim in Sim City what an amazing place to be!

3. Do you think that gaming going mainstream has had a positive or negative impact on the industry?
I work for a software company (Immersive Education) that utilises games technology in education gaming going mainstream has helped us as a company to embrace gaming as a tool to learn I have seen the results of some of our games-styled software at work in the classroom with students I have seen it

  • support learning of difficult topics (such as Shakespeare)
  • support special needs education
  • embrace inclusive learning
  • encourage creativity in lessons
  • as well as being extremely motivating!

4. Who's your favourite developer/publisher and why?
I have to support our technical guys at Immersive Education forging the links between education and games technology is no easy challenge what do you leave out to keep teachers happy but what do you put in that motivates students? But then I am biased.

5. Do you feel that gender affects the way we play games? Are there fundamental differences that affect not only what we play, but how we play?
Working at Immersive Education, I have been observing how children use games-styled software in the classroom to learn and I do believe there are subtle differences in how students use our software, but generally both genders see positive improvements in motivation. It's not only gender but also different age groups and ability groups that also provide an insight into how we play games and it's a dynamic state of affairs.Our software was first designed for 11-19 age range in 2001 now one of our best titles using the same software interface is designed for students age 5 and 6. For example, In Sheffield, UK, a school reported that a class of difficult students with poorly behaved boys became so addicted to our Kar2ouche storyboarding software (an English lesson learning Shakespeare) that the teacher had to physically prise them away from the computers at the end of the lesson. In previous lessons it was stated that it was difficult to maintain their presence in the classroom.

6. What are your thoughts on the greater development costs needed to produce even a marginal game and the impact this has on backyard developers?
Mmm.... getting a bit like Hollywood here.I just hope it does not stifle creativity.

7. What is your first gaming memory?
Desperate trying get Manic Miner to load from magnetic tape recorder plugged into my Spectrum 48K using those tape recorders, the first frustratingly attempt never seemed to work!

8. What do you think will be the next revolution in game design? A truly 3D controller? Greater online capabilities? Player created content?
I am someone who always thought that fantastic graphics was the route to addiction in games. Recently my view of this has changed with the advent of on-line gaming. I believe that greater online capabilities will be the way forward for games in the future. From an educational perspective, I perceive that more on-line community learning combined with rich graphic environments really will be the way forward in school learning.

9. Can you foresee a day when the gaming industry as a whole, finally recognizes the female gamer as an equal to her male counterpart and not just a plaything to help sell games?
Yes, definitely and it's going to happen sooner than you think. I have just been training some of those 5 - 6 year olds and half of them are girls.

10. What's your favourite game genre?
Go and see the trailers on then you'll know my favourite game genre.

11. Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
PC my PC is everything.

12. How important is the 'social' aspect in games (not just online games - getting your friends round for a bit of console head-to-head, LAN gaming, or just watching over your shoulder and giving suggestions)? How can this social aspect be encouraged through games design?
Social aspect is really important our educational software works best when children collaborate around a PC - discussing how characters backgrounds or props should look in our Kar2ouche storyboarding software. Some the best storyboards created by children are where more than one student is involved. Therefore, our software design is carefully aware of this need to encourage social interaction. Also, IT resources in many UK schools are still limited few schools have a ratio of one computer to one child. Therefore, our software is designed for lots of different classroom scenarios e.g. Using an interactive whiteboard to teach to whole groups.This shared learning social experience is starting to gain momentum with on-line gaming environments.

13. Will game piracy ever be defeated? Technology supporting 'gaming as a service,' like Valve Software's Steam system is on the rise and is beating back pirates. In the Gulf we've organizations such as the Arabia Anti Piracy Association who are working hard to stamp out piracy. What could be done to further support anti-piracy initiatives?
In schools, our MediaStage software (virtual 3D production studio for teaching Media Studies) sells for RO255 for a single user licence - we operate a system where customers have to contact us by telephone in order to unlock their software this helps us to track our customers and be able to recognise illegal or illegitimate use of our software. Luckily schools.