October 9 2015 edition

Thanks to James Collins, Erin Hoffman, Laurence Raine, Ben Sawyer, and Brian Schmidt for contributions to this issue!

Games

Microsoft HoloLensMicrosoft held an impressive event to launch new Windows 10 hardware devices: the Surface Pro 4 tablet, the Surface Book laptop, new Lumia phones, and the Microsoft Band 2. Also announced was the timeline for launching the HoloLens Developer Edition (Q1 2016), that’s Microsoft’s augmented reality headset. Check out the on-stage demo!

MacArthur Foundation announced the launch of Collective Shift this week, a new nonprofit that will expand on MacArthur’s vast digital media and learning (DML) work. With $25 million in seed funding, Collective Shift’s first project focuses around Connected Learning, bringing together formal and informal learning opportunities and making them more accessible to all. View the launch video.

The United Nations recently released a report denouncing cyber violence against women and girls, and invited Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian to address the U.N. Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender. Unfortunately the report itself seems to have been rushed and not well fact-checked, including for example a reference to disputed research reporting that violent video games turn children into “killing zombies”. A number of individuals and groups came out against it, including Zoe Quinn and the Entertainment Software Association. The U.N. has pulled the report and posted that it is in revision.

An article published in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences argues that video games have a variety of impacts on the brain based on their individual content, dynamics, and mechanics. The authors write that action video games have particularly positive cognitive impacts.

The Gates Foundation held a two-day event this past week to examine its investments in education and to discuss the future. I only caught Bill Gates’ keynote, but it cleared up some misconceptions that I had and helped me understand the current direction. Highly recommended viewing!

View-MasterMattel is launching an updated View-Master, designed for Virtual Reality and based on the Google Cardboard. The kid-friendly design also accepts reels, like the old one!

The RAND Corporation published an assessment of a beta version of SimCoach, an impressive project from USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies to help military veterans take the first step toward seeking healthcare and personal welfare advice by utilizing a virtual human. The report is an interesting if long read. . . for a faster dive, go check out ICT’s website or introductory videos.

The Indonesian Society for Animal Welfare recently partnered with Dicoding.com to launch a mobile games competition promoting wildlife conservation. Check out ESA’s coverage of the winners!

Coding and Making

Europe Code WeekCodeWeek EU starts October 10! What’s Europe Code Week? Why, a week to celebrate coding and digital literacy of course. Why not try some coding this week to celebrate? See their resources page.

The littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit launched last week. It’s a toolbox with motors, wheels, lights, servos, switches. . . all the fun things you might need to create your DIY electronics and robot projects!

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that all the city’s public schools will offer computer science within 10 years. Jonathan Rothwell, a fellow at Brookings, argues that knowledge of how computers and software function is becoming an essential aspect of cultural fluency.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for the federal government to make computer science classes a requirement for high school graduation. Chicago Public Schools is currently implementing a five-year “Computer Science for All” plan, integrating computer science into all K-12 schools.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison wants you. . . to fill out this survey about using games to teach computer science. If you like games, or computer science, or both, please take this quick survey.

The latest version of the Raspberry Pi operating system (Raspbian) is coming with a new 3x to 10x faster version of Scratch. Wow! It also includes a new GPIO server so you can interface with other devices plugged into the Raspberry Pi’s pins. Oooooo, blinky shiny LEDs anyone?

Brown University researchers landed a three-year $1.5 million NSF grant to improve their Bootstrap curriculum. Bootstrap is a 10-week curriculum for kids age 12-16 designed to teach algebraic and geometric concepts through the creation of video games.

Playables

Shooty SkiesShooty Skies (iOS) – Inspired by Crossy Road, Shooty Skies is a pixelated “shmup”, a shoot ’em up that pits you against an advancing horde of strange objects and characters. Delightfully engaging! Video.

Screeps (web) – A curious coding game that asks you to write JavaScript to control units that mine resources, establish your territory etc. It’s a massively multiplayer online coding game. Video.

In Between (PC, Mac) – A puzzly platform game that tells the story of a man dying of cancer. The game design utilizes the five stages of grief as the character seeks to come to terms with his mortality. Video.

The Beginner’s Guide (PC, Mac) – A narrative game about games by the creator of The Stanley Parable. It is difficult to describe without spoiling it. Even the trailer feels a little spoilery. Watch it though. Video.

Videos

RoBoHoNRoBoHoN – It’s the first android smartphone! No, really, it’s a smartphone shaped like a robot. I only put it first on this list so I’d have an excuse to use a cute picture of it. But it seems like a wonderful vision.

Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings – Disney Research is working on ways to bring traditional 2D coloring books to life using 3D animated characters in augmented reality.

Melanie Stegman presents learning with video games – The owner of Molecular Jig Games (creator of Immune Defense) talked about her research on using games for education at Koshland Science Museum.

Wonder: the Newest Coding App For Dash & Dot – Wonder is a creative visual programming app for the Dash & Dot robots, for kids age 8 and up. This accessible programming tool looks like a lot of fun!

Conferences

SIEGE – Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo. Atlanta, GA. October 9-11.

GamesBeat – Game industry leadership/business conference. Redwood City, CA. October 12-13.

Sandbox West – Exploring the landscape of interconnected play. Los Angeles, CA. October 12-13.

Grace Hopper Conference – A celebration of women in computing. Houston, TX. October 14-16.

IEEE Games Entertainment Media – How games transform edu and culture. Toronto, ON. October 14-16.

IndieCade 2015 – Largest celebration of independent games in the U.S. Los Angeles, CA. October 22-25.

GameCity Festival – Exploring and celebrating the art of videogames. Nottingham, UK. October 22-31.

GameSoundCon – The art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. November 3-4.

Mozilla Festival – Forging the future of the web. London, UK. November 6-8.

Practice – High-quality game design conference for pro designers. New York, NY. November 13-15.

Resources

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Send your news, games, videos, and great article links to Mark DeLoura via mark@levelupreport.com for inclusion in the report!

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