Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: Canada(Page 1 of 3)

ESAC Releases Essential Facts 2015

Every year the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) releases a neat document with the essential facts about Canada’s video game industry. This year’s is similar to previous years in that breaks down the player demographics and provides some serious numbers on how well the games industry in Canada is doing.

ESAC2015

You can see the full Essential Facts About the Canadian Video Game Industry here.

From their press release:

“Canada’s video game industry plays a positive and vital role in our economy,” said Jayson Hilchie, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC). “It’s a highly skilled, highly paid industry that employs young creative people; it’s demonstrating how Canada can create jobs and prosperity, export its creativity around the world and ultimately lead in the new economy of the future,” he added.

The growth experienced in 2014 is partially owed to innovation in the video game industry, including the introduction of a new generation of consoles into the market, but also other factors like huge Canadian blockbusters hitting the market, a continued explosion in popularity of mobile games (which accounted for 65% of all completed projects in 2014) and because of a positive business climate for video game developers in a majority of Canadian provinces.

Companies’ outlook for the future continues to be positive, with several companies expecting the growth rate to continue over the next two years. In fact, it’s estimated that 1377 jobs will need to be filled in technical and creative roles in the next 12-24 months.

Capturing History Using Video Game Technology

Using games to visualize the past is nothing new, but there are good and bad ways of doing so. There is technology for augmented reality historical vexing (which can be problematic); when mainstream games try their hand at history they also run into issues. I’ve tried my hand at making historically-grounded games (read about mine here) it can be a challenge balancing playability with historical accuracy.

Circa 1948 (App Store) is an interactive story for iOS that captures life in the city of Vancouver in 1948. It’s an NFB project examining two communities in Vancouver that no longer exist. The work is noteworthy as it goes beyond being just an interactive story on the iPad.

Gamesuace interviewed the lead designer, Kelly Richard Fenning, about what it was like making the app from a technical and historical perspective. Their development process was haphazard and chaotic, but hey, they shipped!

In order to make the historical aspects engaging for gameplay they had to make some modifications. Nothing out of the ordinary, but in my experience some teachers fail to realize that sometimes accuracy needs to be sacrificed for engagement (it’s very easy to discuss these accuracies after the game).

As for the characters in the app, nearly all of them are fictitious. That being said, we were able to interview many people who were alive in these communities, and they shared stories about some of the more “colorful and notable” people and events of the time. From these stories, Douglas worked with screen-writer Chris Haddock and playwright Kevin Kerr to create some original characters and situations that were amalgams of these stories.

They were able to get funding (which is not an easy thing to do!) by mixing different art projects into one:

In addition to the app, they wanted to create a multi-contextual experience around it, so the Circa 1948 Storyworld is not just the app, but also a historically informative webpage, a Stan Douglas photo series, the immersive projection-map installation (as featured at TriBeCa and touring major cities), and the stage play of Helen Lawrence itself. (Although not a film as originally intended, Helen Lawrence became a ground-breaking play where stage actors were filmed against blue screen and composited and shown to the audience in real-time into the digital environments we developed for the app).

Thanks to Mike!

Simulations Used By Militaries

It is no secret that militaries use simulation software and games to train their troops. And often the video gaming world and the military industrial complex collide to produce some bizarre projects (America’s Army and the ilk). Some other projects are really interesting and can produce some real positive results for people outside of the military too.

Recently some coverage of the Canadian military using virtual reality (VR) tools to treat soldieries who are suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder (PTSD). CTV recently looked at the current state of VR in helping veterans suffering from PTSD. PTSD is treated by trying to make the initial experience less traumatic through “reliving” it.

“We try to re-immerse (soldiers) in the traumatic event that they lived through,” said Vincent. “This allows them to face it, stop avoiding the memories, and process them.”
For MCpl. Neil Macey, who served as a medic in Kandahar, the program takes his mind right back to the warzone.
After strapping on a visor on his head, Macey is taken inside a first-person shooter video game. The platform he stands on shakes during a virtual explosion, and moving images are shown in all directions with sounds of helicopters, screams and sirens in the distance.

The CBC looked at this two years ago and it looks like since then the Canadian armed forces have extended their efforts in treating PTSD. Last Novemeber, the medical show White Coat Black Art examined PTSD treatment from the perspective of caregivers and sufferers. It’s hard to listen to at points.

A 2013 report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that fourteen percent of Canadian Forces who served in Afghanistan were diagnosed with a mental health disorder and eight percent have PTSD.  

One of those is retired Master Corporal Mark Verrall, a forty-one year old medic whose twenty-four year career included stints in Bosnia and Dubai as well as two tours of duty in Afghanistan.  He tells us about his PTSD and the traumatic event that triggered it.  He also tells us that when he first tried to tell his supreriors about his problems the message he got back was “suck it up” and move on.

On the other side of battle, training, the American armed forces created a real world simulation of an Afghani town. It’s located at the National Training Center in California. Troops are required to train there before being sent overseas to the Middle East. It seems like something that Jean Baudrillard would have loved to dissect.

Venue took a tour and have published a photo-filled exploration of the training facility.

A twenty-minute drive later, through relatively featureless desert, our visit to “Afghanistan” began with a casual walk down the main street, where we were greeted by actors trying to sell us plastic loaves of bread and piles of fake meat. Fort Irwin employs more than 350 civilian role-players, many of whom are of Middle Eastern origin, although Ferrell explained that they are still trying to recruit more Afghans, in order “to provide the texture of the culture.”

In other words, at the most basic level, soldiers will use Fort Irwin’s facsimile villages to practice clearing structures and navigating unmapped, roofed alleyways through cities without clear satellite communications links. However, at least in the training activities accessible to public visitors, the architecture is primarily a stage set for the theater of human relations: a backdrop for meeting and befriending locals (again, paid actors), controlling crowds (actors), rescuing casualties (Fort Irwin’s roster of eight amputees are its most highly paid actors, we learned, in recompense for being literally dragged around during simulated combat operations), and, ultimately, locating and eliminating the bad guys (the Blackhorse regiment).

If your interested in following how video games, and other gaming techniques/technologies, are used by the armed forces I’ve collected a few links. I keep up to date on what militaries are up to by following a couple different sources beyond the news:

Training & Simulation Journal
War Is Boring
DefenceTalk
Jane’s

If you know of more please leave a link in the comments.

ESA Canada Releases Essential Facts 2013

Canada has the biggest per captia video game industry in the world! This and many more fun facts about the state of the Canada video games industry can be found in the just released Essential Facts 2013 which has information about Canadian studios, employees and Canadian gamers.

The report has been released by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada and if you work in video games you are going to want to look at their findings.

They go further in detail too. A new research report from Nordicity for ESAC has an in-depth analysis of the Canadian video game industry.

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