MobZombies on and New Kinds of Physical Electronic Play


No, that isn’t an historical photo of children playing MobZombies..but it may as well be. MobZombies is being featured on the web site..that’s pretty cool. I’ve started helping out on the project’s evolution, mostly in the area of lowering the cost of the device. This is important. I think it’s a very simple and pretty brilliant kind of user interface that really strongly suggests one way in which electronic games can get out of the Protozoic and into something much more like traditional playground-style play. I also think it could be a great test-bed for research in that area of physical electronic play or whatever you want to call it. Play that mixes the idioms of the playground and the world of digital screens. This isn’t quite Offline Gaming, but something in between the Wii and Offline Gaming.

Why? Not because I hate regular normal video games. I like to grumble about them, and about 90% of them aren’t particularly interesting to me. But so is about 90% of most media I’d say, so it’s not like I’m hating on games in particular.

No, it’s because there are a kind of electronic game I would really enjoy playing and, like..I figure I may as well think about and build those, if only to sate my ambition to create something that I find fun and that I think would actually produce some real impactful change. Physical play is not only fun, it’s generally agreed by everyone to be important for reasons of social development and to have a healthy, fit body.

So, related — I heard David Elkind on one of LA’s local NPR shows yesterday. He had some things to say that weren’t surprising based on his thorough-going arguments about childhood development. But, still — I found it interesting to hear his emphasis on a balance of activities that are about play in the traditional, skinned-knee variety, as well as those of the new 2nd life world of networked social interaction. His new book is “Power of Play”, which I’m looking forward to reading.

For a recent paper submission, I came across this from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which I thought was long defunct after I stopped hearing about that fitness test we did in 5th grade where you could win a cool patch if you got up in the whatever..95th percentile. (I never made it, although I tried as hard as I could.) It’s called Taking Steps Toward Increased Physical Activity: Using Pedometers To Measure and Motivate (President’s Council on Physical Fitness), which resonates with all of the step-counting programs out there. It’s cool. Step-counting and pedometers still feel a bit like..low res. What are kids going to want, that’s cool and vibes with their sensibilities around high-res electronic games?

By the way, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is committing $500 million over the next five years to fight childhood obesity. Their initial grant calls in the first two years are not quite appropriate to the kinds of projects described here — more instrumented research that gives something to people to try and does measurement of results and such all. But, the topics for which they’re soliciting proposals is still pretty interesting for anyone doing research in this area, such as perception of facilities for fitness and exercise, e.g. playground and recreational facilities.

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