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Playful Cleverness: hackers, games and creativity
 

Playful Cleverness: hackers, games and creativity

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Presentation held at eRuralNet workshop in Pärnu, Estonia, February 3, 2010.

Presentation held at eRuralNet workshop in Pärnu, Estonia, February 3, 2010.

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    Playful Cleverness: hackers, games and creativity Playful Cleverness: hackers, games and creativity Presentation Transcript

    • Playful Cleverness: hackers, games and creativity Kaido Kikkas Estonian IT College *** Tallinn University e-RuralNet Pärnu 03.03.10
    • What are we talking about
      • Main idea: using computer games in teaching – not only computer science but overall creativity
      • A glance into the historical hacker culture
      • The Battle for Wesnoth: one possible tool to bring the hacker model to classroom
      • Note: get the slides at http://www.slideshare.net/UncleOwl
    • A Quote
      • „Hackers are people who enjoy playful cleverness.“ - Richard Matthew Stallman
      • ???
      • Hackers? Aren't they those bad guys who break into computers...?
      • Playful cleverness?
    • Long time ago, in another galaxy...
      • ... OK, this was another universe (but hackers do like sci-fi)
      • A techno-subculture grown out of MIT and Stanford in the 60s (see Hackers by S. Levy) and later forming the backbone of free software and open source movements
      • Playful cleverness: essentially means doing serious work as if it was fun, and taking fun seriously. Some people call it creativity
      • Also see
        • Writings of Eric S. Raymond
        • Hacker Ethic by Pekka Himanen
    • The original MIT hacker code (Levy)
      • Access to computers – and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works – should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!
      • All information should be free
      • Mistrust authority – promote decentralization
      • Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position
      • You can create art and beauty on a computer
      • Computers can change your life for the better
    • A hacker code of the 90s (ESR)
      • The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved
      • No problem should ever have to be solved twice
      • Boredom and drudgery are evil
      • Freedom is good
      • Attitude is no substitute for competence
      • Recognition:
        • Do you identify with the goals and values of the hacker community?
        • Do you speak code, fluently?
        • Has a well-established member of the hacker community ever called you a hacker?
    • Hacker ethic (Himanen)
      • Linus' Law on human motivation
        • survival
        • social life
        • entertainment
      • Ct Maslow! Also Wozniak's formula: H = F 3
      • Friday vs Sunday
      • Excessive speed kills
      • Caring
      • „ Do, or do not. There is no try.“ - Yoda
    • Bringing the hacker way to the classroom
      • Is playful cleverness also applicable in the academic setting?
      • One way to do it is game-based teaching
      • The Battle for Wesnoth open-source strategy game has been successfully used at TLU
    • Basics
      • Played on a hex map with several dozens of terrain types (influence movement and defense)
      • Hundreds of units in various (6 in default era) factions, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses, 2-5 levels (mostly 3), movement...
      • Day and night cycle vs the unit alignment
      • Economy based on gold, generated by villages
      • In campaign mode, surviving units from previous scenarios can be recalled
      • Missions may vary greatly (even if destroying enemies is the most common one)
    • OK, but why is it different?
      • Homo ludens :-)
      • Similar to teaching web design – should give three kinds of skills:
        • Technology: coding (programming)
        • Design: artwork, maps, overall aesthetics
        • Content: scenarios and campaigns
      • Compared to web design:
        • Technology is more prominent – includes event-driven programming in addition to markup
        • Content is more affected by the other two (or vv)
    • Two cases up to now
      • Autumn 2007 – TLU IMKE Master students, mostly with no or very basic programming skills; 6 persons (two teams of 3) participated
      • Spring 2008 – TLU third-year computer science students with adequate to expert propgramming skills; more than 20 people (5 teams of 3-5) completed the course
      • Two rather different sets of people - yet the course worked in both cases
      • The point of the courses was not Wesnoth, but the open-source way of development
    • The ideas behind Open Source
      • Roots in the hacker culture of the 60s
      • Richard M. Stallman, the Father of Free Software
      • Linus Torvalds and Linux
      • Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (Note: he is also an active contributor to Wesnoth)
      • The avalanche grows: LAMP, GNOME/KDE, OpenOffice.org, Moodle ...
      • Not freeware: the zero price is not the point
      • The point is in collaboration, community, peer review and flexibility (and again: creativity)
    • What can be taught with Wesnoth?
      • Storytelling and expression, overall creativity
      • Graphical design
      • Animation
      • Markup (a possible step before moving to XHTML, XML, AJAX etc)
      • Event-driven programming
      • NB! Easier to 'sell' to non-technical students!
      • The good thing is that these can be mixed and balanced according to the audience, allowing a good range of accommodation
    • Campaign building
      • Write the storyline, design major events and divide them into scenarios
      • Choose/build units for main characters
      • For each scenario
        • Design (objectives, events)
        • Draw the map (considering terrain and starting points)
        • Choose units and recruitment scheme
        • Code the scenario
      • Code the campaign summary
      • Test and balance
    • Storyline
      • Wesnoth has its own fictional history ( http://www.wesnoth.org/wiki/History_of_Wesnoth ) as well as geography: http://www.wesnoth.org/wiki/Geography_of_Wesnoth
      • On the other hand, several interesting attempts have been made to base totally different storylines on the Wesnoth engine
      • Eric S. Raymond has written the Wesnoth campaign design How-To: http://www.catb.org/~esr/wesnoth/campaign-design-howto.html
    • Wesnoth map editor
    • Wercator map converter
      • By Brennan Sellner
      • Converts Wesnoth maps to fancy graphical maps
      • A plugin for GIMP as well as an online service
      • Available online at http://www.sellner. org/wercator/
    • Units
      • Several hundreds are available, distributed under different eras (historic sets)
      • At first, choosing among ready-made ones is more than enough. The unit list for v1.8 is at http://www.wesnoth.org/units/1.8/C/mainline.html
      • To create new units, tutorials are available at http://www.wesnoth.org/wiki/Art_Tutorials
      • In the newer versions of Wesnoth, multi-frame animations, shadows, different view angles etc are used, making unit design quite complex
    • Wesnoth Markup Language
      • Rather similar to XML
      • Tags written in the form of [tag]
      • A typical scenario consists of
        • Various metadata in the beginning
        • Storytelling part explaining the situation
        • Map data (can be included, but is typically linked)
        • Day/night cycle and difficulty specifications
        • Prestart part (definitions of sides, objectives etc)
        • Event-based buildup for the scenario
    • WML...
      • Can be very simple, but allows for really complex operations (changing units and terrain on the fly – e.g. a character can be magically turned into a monster or a cave wall may open under a spell or password; events may also depend on if a character from a previous scenario is alive etc etc)
      • Teaches good structure (opening and closing tags, correct use of parameters) as well as 'the big picture' (campaign level)
    • An example
      • A demo campaign I started to develop some time ago
      • A crazy story involving a lot of famous characters from various tales and also some celebrity-based people (including three Danish robbers Caspar, Jesper & Jonathan, Tchapai & Petka, Matti the mage (and former ski-jumper), Chuck Norris, King Toomas Hendrik, Santa Claus, and a very undead Osama)
      • Will gradually feature more complicated techniques, the 2 existing scenarios are quite simple
    • Final words
      • Hackers and playful cleverness fit well into academic settings
      • Wesnoth is a versatile tool for teaching a number of things
      • People can do marvellous things when not hindered by stupid artificial obstacles
      • Taking the fun seriously can result in a serious result without losing the fun factor :)
      • Additional recommended reading: http://wiki.kakupesa.net/index.php/The_Playful_Cleverness_Reading_List
    • Thanks! The slides are available under the Creative Commons BY-SA license at http://www.slideshare.net/UncleOwl