In the past, many considered mind-wandering a tool used to procrastinate; however, psychologists and neuroscientists today agree it is a vital cognitive tool. Psychologist Jonathan Schooler explained that allowing the mind to wander provides opportunities to explore additional possibilities and often leads to “bursts of creative insight.” This caused me to think about how daydreaming impacts both the process of creating video games and the way individuals experience game play.
Anyone who knows me—family, friends, coworkers—will tell you that I have a playful perspective on food. I love talking about it or even singing—yes, singing—about it, making up original little ditties when something is particularly delicious. I enjoy cooking, perusing magazines for new recipes, and watching television chefs expertly combine flavors to create mouthwatering dishes. Some of my friends have suggested that I would be ideally suited to a job title of “Snacks Coordinator” because I almost always have a stash of snacks close at hand.
Recently, I discovered a game, created by a two-man development team at Hiccup, that made me realize that to be a gamer, one need not be human. In December 2010, Game for Cats debuted on the Apple iPad. Initially a free download, the game purported to provide a world of entertainment for our feline friends. The official tagline bragged, "All the fun of your cat chasing a laser pointer without any of the work!" The game play in the initial free level provided a single dot that flashed across the screen and resembled a laser pointer.
Less than a minute into my scheduled interview with world-renowned sculptor Albert Paley, we knew we had a problem. I wanted to talk about how he played as a child, but Paley wanted to know what I meant by play. And just like that he became the interviewer and I was the one reaching for answers. It’s a great question. I gave the answer most people interested in play can agree with: play is self-initiated, self-regulated, and self-limited. Play has certain characteristics and we know what play is not.
Fun for me is talking with people at the top of their field, finding out how they got there, and hearing them trace the roots of their fascination. I like a good chat about the whys and wherefores of being a person who has fundamentally changed how we think about something.
Music is one of the first forms of play we engage in as infants, noted The Strong’s Vice President for Play Studies, Scott G. Eberle, in his American Journal of Play article, "Playing with the Multiple Intelligences: How Play Helps Them Grow." Music plays a critical role in our development. Our subsequent education practically depends upon it. And, in my experience, so does our health and happiness.
This summer three students provided important assistance to ICHEG. Two Rochester Institute of Technology game design majors, Ned Blakely and Matt Fico, upgraded equipment in our research lab, captured game footage for archival purposes, and created multimedia experiences to include in our eGameRevolution exhibit opening this November. Josh Keaton, a student from the State University of New York at Brockport, assisted with background research for the exhibit.
Recently, my husband and I made our way through the crowded hallways of the Sony Center in Toronto to hear Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy. As we took our seats in the mezzanine, musicians on the stage below tuned instruments and briefly practiced music. I sat back in my seat and watched the crowd stream in—women in evening gowns, men in suits, teenage girls in elaborate Gothic Lolita dresses, and others in full video-game-character cosplay outfits. My crowd-watching ceased as the lights lowered and conductor Arnie Roth took the stage.