Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Awesome Resource Alert!!: 'Playtimes: A Century of Children's Game and Rhymes' Website Launches

©2011 The British Library Board

Two of my favourite UK children's scholars, Jackie Marsh and Rebekah Willett, have been collaborating (along with a number of other scholars) on an amazing project for the past couple of years now, examining "Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age." Out of this project, Marsh, Willett and their expanding team of researchers, assistants, educators and child participants have now published several incredibly important and useful documents - articles, literature reviews and reports that are challenging some key assumptions and reshaping our knowledge of contemporary play practices (in the UK specifically, but with implications for many other areas as well). Their findings (to date) are attracting an increasing amount of press coverage, as you may have seen in the recent Guardian articles describing how children still "delight in playground games," using them as a forum for engaging with cultural themes, characters and narratives.

Today, the British Library launched a very cool new website, in conjunction with Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age project, entitled: Playtimes: A Century of Children's Games and Rhymes. The site, along with all the other project initiatives mentioned above, are all well worth checking out. Here's the official announcement (reproduced from the site), including information about the Playground Games/Songs project's upcoming one-day conference (earlier this week):

Playtimes: A Century of Children's Games and Rhymes

Launched today, Playtimes features unique audio recordings and film footage of children's games from 1900 to the present day.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties, folklorists Iona and Peter Opie documented how the games of the time included fragments of advertising jingles, pop songs, theme tunes and soap operas. The British Library has digitized the Opies’ field recordings, making them available alongside older and newer recordings on the Playtimes website.

Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age

Tuesday 15 March 2011, 12.00 – 17.00 (at the British Library Conference Centre)
Please join us for a conference to report on the AHRC funded research project, featuring a keynote address by Professor Michael Rosen, former children’s laureate.
The conference will launch a new British Library website: Playtimes: A Century of Children’s Games and Rhymes. The site contains new material collected during the project, selections from the Library’s ‘Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs’ and films and photographs from other nationwide archives.
This conference is suitable for educationalists and researchers.
To attend, please contact Gyta Nicola (E: T: 020 7763 2164) by 31/01/11.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PAX-East 2011!!!

Over the next couple of days, I'll be checking out new tech, new ideas and generally enjoying massive doses of gamer-y goodness down at PAX-East in Boston. After trying (and failing) to attend one of these  PAX festivals for several years now, I'm beyond excited. Though hoping to catch the keynote by I LOVE BEES/Reality is Broken author Jane McGonigal, I'm going to be dedicating most of my efforts to meeting inspiring indie designers, very cool/important foundation founders, and trying out as much of the available new soft/hard ware as possible. Not sure how much I'll be online, but will try to tweet my progress (if any) at my usual: @smgrimes.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

LBP2: Hansel & Gretelbot Project

©2011 Wexfordian, Comphermc, Morgana25, rtm223, Hilightnotes, xkappax, Catiers, GruntosUK,
CENTURION24, Jaeyden, Cuzfeeshe and steve_big_guns? 
or is it ©2011 SOE/PlayStation???

As part of my ongoing study of LittleBigPlanet (1 & 2), I've been watching a very cool, player-made (Media Molecule driven) initiative unfold over the past few weeks, entitled The Hansel & Gretelbot Project. As described on the official UK PlayStation blog:

Hansel & Gretelbot is the creation of 12 community members, names you may well recognise:
WexfordianComphermcMorgana25rtm223HilightnotesxkappaxCatiersGruntosUK,CENTURION24JaeydenCuzfeeshe and steve_big_guns.

A few months ago the Community Molecule set them a challenge – could they create a full game experience? Their own complete LBP Theme, using the new LBP2 tools to develop all original story, mini-games, bosses, cutscenes, music, and voices.
The team was gathered, designs were drawn up, themes were picked and building began...

The game/levels were launched in late-February as a free download (just like any other player-made level (at least so far)), and I've got to say I'm pretty impressed. The game levels themselves are, well, admittedly a bit buggy at times, but the collaborative aspects, the narrative and the overall creativity more than make up for it. The game pack includes cut-scenes, voice-overs ("acting"!), and a nice diversity in terms of the gameplay. What's particularly interesting about this project, though, is what it represents in terms of Media Molecule's relationship with its emerging "star" player/designers. Add to this a consideration of the ways in which those "beta levels" for LBP2 were released during the months leading up to the game's official launch (with plenty of press coverage at every step along the way) - which really blurred the line between player-made and employee-made - and the result is some pretty fascinating, and potentially quite important, developments in terms of the changing relationships between play/production/consumption/labour taking place within the gaming culture (and industry).