Category Archives: teaching

SOAP: An Alternate Reality Game Engine

I am pleased to announce the release of SOAP v1.0.

The [S]UNY [O]swego [A]RG [P]ackage is an alternate reality game (ARG) engine. Built on the open source platforms WordPress and BuddyPress, it is a bundle of pre-existing plugins and custom modifications that allow anyone who can install and host WordPress to run “what if” simulations and collaborative storytelling exercises.

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SOAP is free software, released under the GPL v.2.0 license.

SOAP was developed with support from a 2012 Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG)  from the State University of New York’s Office of the Provost, plus additional support from SUNY Oswego. The programming was done by Ithaca Content Architecture and Design. Special thanks to Gary Ritzenthaler, Randy Belcher, Lisa Dundon, and Tim Perry.

To learn more, visit the SOAP site: http://soap.ulisesmejias.com/

Grant for Alternate Reality Simulations Project

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I received an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG)  from SUNY’s Office of the Provost. The project is called Osw3go.net: Alternate Reality Simulations as Learning Tools, and the grant amount is $20,000 (plus $5,000 campus matching).

Below is some information about the project from the proposal. [Update: Here’s a Campus Update item about the grant.]

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Osw3go.net: a multiplayer scenario analysis

osw3go-netMy colleague Pat Clark and I are conducting a multiplayer scenario analysis (similar to an Alternate Reality Game) to explore the topic of racism on campus. It’s called osw3go.net. We seek to involve our community (although the rest of you can observe) in a constructive dialogue about what we can do, individually and collectively, to prepare to meet these kinds of challenges. Our focus is on raising awareness, facilitating the generation of solutions, and eliciting action and involvement from members of the community. Additionally, this is a good way to research how new media can be used as a platform for simulation, collective problem solving, and social organizing.

Check it out! It’s going to be active for another couple of weeks.

Open Space: the ARG

Here’s a project for FLEFF I just launched. You are all invited to participate!

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Can you help a bunch of ghosts wage topological war, one Google Map at a time?

Welcome to Open Space, the Alternate Reality Game hosted by the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF).

An Alternate Reality Game (ARG) is an interactive, multiplayer Web-based exercise in collective storytelling and distributed inquiry. Everyone can play, and participants can shape the actions of the characters and the outcome of the story.

The theme for this year’s FLEFF is Open Space. This ARG is intended to help us explore how exactly space is opened — not just physical space, but conceptual and political space as well.

How the Game Works

  • Each month or so, we provide a street-view Google Map, a little window into our modern world.
  • Then we ask our rival teams of dead or imaginary characters (including intellectuals like Marshall McLuhan, revolutionaries like Commander Ramona, or even mythical creatures like Jingwei) to explore the myriad forms and meanings of ‘open space.’
  • Waging a discursive battle (a high-brow flame war), they fight to defend or liberate the Google Map.
  • What does it mean to defend or liberate a Google Map? Well, that’s up to you! Go to our website, get more information, and start playing!

Play the Game

http://openspace.ulisesmejias.com/

More on Alternate Reality Games (ARGS):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_reality_game
http://www.worldwithoutoil.org/

Save Oswego! – An Alternate Reality Game

I’m currently coordinating a second (s)ARG. Here’s the info:

What would you do if you were not able to graduate because of cuts to SUNY Oswego’s budget? Stop panicking…. start acting!

Save Oswego! is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) developed as a class project for the courses Social Networks and the Web and Videogame Theory and Analysis at SUNY Oswego. It could be called an experiment in collective storytelling, a radical new media project, or an internet ‘hoax’ with a social message! Anyone can play, and the whole Internet is the playground (participants interact with the narrative in real-time using a variety of communication technologies such as email, blogs, SMS, video and audio podcasts, etc.). By framing the experience as an ARG, this project seeks to involve various members of the Oswego community in analyzing a real-life problem, collectively articulating a multitude of realistic and possible responses to it, and examining the ethical question of what form action should take after the game.

This ARG is entirely produced by students and is being coordinated by Prof. Ulises Mejias of the Communication Studies department. The project is not officially affiliated with any SUNY organization, and the content does not reflect the views or opinions of anyone other than the authors. You can play the game by going to saveoswego.wordpress.com from April 7 to April 16, 2009. You can also join us for a wrap-up discussion during Quest on April 22 at 4:00 PM.

Gold Farming and the Geopolitics of Trade: The ARG

I’m going to be coordinating a couple of ARGs this Spring. Here’s the announcement for the first one. Please join us!

‘Stop Gold Farming!’ is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) developed for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. It could be called an experiment in collective storytelling, a radical new media project, or an internet ‘hoax’ with a social message! Anyone can play (participants interact with the narrative in real-time using a variety of communication technologies such as email, blogs, SMS, digital video, podcasts, etc.), and therefore anyone can shape the outcome. The game revolves around a fictional controversy unfolding at Ithaca College related to the issue of gold farming, or the practice of selling virtual goods that can be used in massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy. These goods are often produced under sweatshop conditions in developing countries for the consumption of First World clients. ‘Stop Gold Farming!’ is the story of a student organization demanding that an IC student engaged in the distribution of virtual goods be expelled from the college. As part of the ‘Trade’ stream of FLEFF, the goal of this ARG is to engage students and festival participants in an exploration of gold farming as an embodied economic practice in a gaming context characterized by virtuality and disembodiment, and in the context of globalization and trade as a process that reinforces “unequal human relations rather than merely intensifying connectedness” (Biao, 2008). By framing the experience as an ARG, this FLEFF LAB involves various communities in analyzing a real-life problem, collectively articulating a multitude of realistic and possible responses to it, and examining the ethical question of what form action should take after the game. This FLEFF LAB was conceptualized and is being coordinated by Prof. Ulises Mejias from SUNY Oswego, and produced in collaboration with FLEFF interns. You can join the experience by visiting stopgoldfarming.wordpress.com. You can also join us on April 3 from 9:00 to 10:30 AM in the Park soundstage (Ithaca College) for a discussion that will include a gold farming demo and a live conference call with a team of researchers in China.

Attention Economy: The Game

In my course Friend Request Denied: Social Networks and the Web I have my students play a game I developed to let them explore the dynamics of building a reputation online by giving and capturing attention. It’s also a fun way for students to get to know each other. I’m posting the game instructions and materials here (under a Creative Commons license) for anyone who wants to try it. If you make any improvements, please share!

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Attention Economy: The Game

Ulises A. Mejias

 

How do new bloggers gain recognition? Why are some people in MySpace or Facebook more popular than others? Why does one YouTube video get seen by thousands of people, and another by just a few? What does it mean that “on the internet, everyone is famous to 15 people”? Can the subject matter of the content we post to an online network make us more or less popular?

This game is an accelerated simulation of the process of gaining attention online (acquiring more readers, friends, hits, etc.). The goal of the game is to collect the most attention. The game tries to condense a process that can take weeks or months into about an hour. It is intended for people who are new to the study of online social networks, but anyone can play. The game can also be used to teach some basic characteristics of networks, such as the role of hubs or connectors in scale-free networks. Players are asked at the end to critically reflect on the values that drive this Attention Economy.

Number of players: around 10-25

Time for activity: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (depending on number of players)

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