Sunday, November 7, 2010

Working on a new game now! Codename: "Free The Market"

Now that Brain Seeds has wrapped up, we're going to be moving on to a new project. This time we wanted to make a console game so we're going with XNA to create an Xbox Live Indie game.

I'm still researching XNA engines, but so far TorqueX looks really attractive since it has lots of existing code framework and tools.

In terms of content we're going to be making "Free The Market", an "Anti Crony Capitalism" game where your character grows up making choices about how to combat the corruption in our corporatized state. Players will be able to evolve into Union Leaders, Corporate Whistle Blowers, Progressive Politicians and Stealth Assassin CEOs.

I'm really looking forward to working on this one since I love RPGs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

EPIC Brain Seeds Justification as a "Serious Game"

lol after relaunching Brain Seeds and promoting it on some of the Linked In Groups, I found myself drawn into a discussion on how Brain Seeds should or should not be considered a "Serious Game". I think I did a fair job of justifying why Brain Seeds is a serious game.
Here's the entire thread

Brain Seeds has relaunched with new streamlined game play and new $15 prize emphasis. or Facebook at

Playing Brain Seeds is super simple!
Answer 15 randomly selected questions as fast and accurately as possible and the player with the highest score at the end of the week will win $15 cash.

Brain Seeds is unique because all the questions have been supplied by fellow players on social issues they want others to learn about.

Questions cover Women's Rights, LGBT, Immigration, Slavery, Progressive Media, Environment, Education, History and Civil Rights to name a few.

Educating yourself about social issues can be rewarding to both mind and wallet.

Brain Seeds - Seed, Inspire, Win!

this is a questionnaire with a bit of student style graphics - not a game, so I wouldn't call it one.

I have to respectively disagree. At its core Brain Seeds is a competition between players to achieve a high score and win a prize. The competition method we chose just happens to be in a question and answer form.

I would agree that Brain Seeds would be a questionnaire if it had no scoring or competitive aspect and did not have a way for users to generate their own content. However since it does, calling it a "game" makes sense.

You have a point - I guess I was expecting Brain Trainer - Dr Kawashima style

Having just joined a group called Serious Games Group, I join PERSON 1's perspective. I understand a serious game to have learning objectives or goals (a point to playing the game other than winning), and to involve interaction, either with the game itself, with other players, or both, and to generate learning and insight in the process. It also requires the players to use what has transpired and what they learned earlier in the game later in the game, presumably to their advantage.

I see none of the above in a questionnaire. I would agree with Timothy that it is a competition, just not a serious game.

(My understanding, and assumption, is that this group is about serious games, which is a distinction from other types of games.)

I agree with your serious game definition and it is for those exact reasons that I consider Brain Seeds a serious game.

In terms of learning objectives and goals Brain Seeds was designed to expose and educate players about a wide variety of social issues such as Women's Rights, LGBT, Immigration, Slavery, Progressive Media, Environment, Education, History and Civil Rights to name a few. Brain Seeds is not a pop culture trivia game, so answering questions correctly requires players to actively search out the answer.

In terms of interaction, players interact both with the game and fellow players through the question submission process. Since players have the ability to submit new questions, they actively shape the game's content to fit the community's interest. If a player has strong feelings for or against an issue that was raised by a Brain Seeds question, they have the ability to submit their own question which can support or refute an existing question.

I agree that a simple "questionnaire" would not be considered a serious game because it lacks real user feedback and interaction and does not have a game goal besides completion.

However since Brain Seeds has player/game and player/player interactions and has a educational goal beyond a straight forward competition, I believe it is fair to call it both a "game" and a "serious game".

Admittedly Brain Seeds is not a conventional "serious game" because it would not fit into an education curriculum or military training program because its content is dynamic and driven by the player community. However if you give it a try and allow it time to grow a community, I think you'll see Brain Seeds true potential as a serious game.

I think this is a really interesting debate - the potential for crowdsourced learing is an exciting area. One key question for me, as with any user generated content, is trust; even with user ratings of questions and quizzes and challenges or updates to questions, is there any validation that the content is accurate? If the game aims to inform and educate as well as entertain, I'd suggest it needs some editorial oversight. Do you have moderation or checks in place to ensure that content isn't driven by people with extreme or ill-informed views?

Thanks for the feedback and question.

Preventing inappropriate and questionable content was one of our primary concerns as well.

All question submissions must first be approved by one of our Brain Seeds moderators before the question makes it into the game. In order to help the moderator determine the validity of the question, players must provide at least one source link which the moderator verifies as a legitimate source. If the source is not reputable, the question will be rejected and the submitter will be notified and given a chance to fix the question if possible.

If we find that a player is intentionally submitting inappropriate questions, we will ban their account and disqualify them from winning any prizes.

Although the moderation process will not be 100% effective because it relies on the moderator's discretion and judgement, we thought it would be the best way of keeping the game content accurate.

Timothy, who funds the prizes? Where does the money come from? Specifically, by name, if you would.

Thank you.

Thanks for your interest in Brain Seeds and our prize model.

The $15 weekly prize is paid out of our own organizational funds and the raffle prizes are provided by local community donors. Previous donors have included AB Games Inc (local board game maker) and Plan C Group (Asian American Lifestyle company).

We are always looking for prize donations Bill. Would you be interested in donating any items for our weekly raffle prize, games, books, DVDs or apparel?


Timothy asks if I am willing to donate a prize.

No, thank you.

Would you comment on this review?

I post it here not to be mean spirited but specifically to ask about the ability to read all the questions, write down the correct answers, then play the game for $15. In the context of serious games, could you comment on how that makes Brain Seeds a serious game?

I'm glad that you brought up the Play This Thing! review because it was one of the major reasons why we made some significant changes to Brain Seeds and subsequently relaunched about two weeks ago.

In terms of the review itself here are my main criticisms.

1) The reviewer clearly discloses his bias against 1) Quiz Games, 2) Social Activist and 3) User Generated Content in the first sentence so it's fair to say the review was never meant to be objective and as such I find it less credible.

2) The reviewer only offers up one example question which he personally finds uninteresting and insinuates that the rest of the questions are going to be similar. Since he is already biased against social justice and "political" topics, he might find many of the questions dry, but that does not necessarily mean that other neutral or progressive players will not stumble upon interesting issues or facts that they might not have been exposed to otherwise. We understand that the game will not have universal appeal, but we also know that it will not be universally unappealing to all players.

3) The reviewer mentions that the "competitive aspect of the game [is] irrelevant" because the competition will ultimately boil down to who has the fastest internet connection which is not true. All of the questions are preloaded before the competitive quiz starts so the quality of your net connection will have little impact on your score. To discredit the entire competitive aspect of the game merely because it takes place over the internet is unfair and a gross exaggeration because it assumes there is no skill in actually learning and quickly recalling the answers.

4) Based on the way the review was written, the reviewer, like many others both inside and outside the game industry, seems to believe that creating social change through games is an all or nothing proposition. Either your game creates some major impactful change in the player or your game has no effect what so ever. We believe the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes. We understand that Brain Seeds is not going turn players into social activist alone. However we do believe that by exposing players to new facts and social issues and making their retention beneficial, players will take away something from playing even if it's the fact that there are estimated to be 27 million men, women and children enslaved today.
In terms of your original question, one of the major changes we made to Brain Seeds was to randomize the question selection during both the Free Play(answer all the questions you want) and Prize(answer 15 questions for official score) Games.

Players certainly have the ability to write down the correct answer to each question before taking the Prize Game. However since there are over 300 possible questions so far and the number will only go up, players who want to write down the correct answers and compile an "Answer Guide" will have their work cut out for them. "Answer Guide" players will also have an extremely hard time scoring competitively because it will take them longer to find the answer in the 300+ question guide than it would be to actually learn the right answer and recall it from memory. To score competitively, players will have to become proficient at looking through the question's source link to find the correct answer, similar to a website scavenger hunt. To become one of the top scorers though, players will have to become familar with a large portion of the question set so they don't have to look at the source link because they've already learned the answer.

If a player goes through the trouble of creating an Answer Guide and they've just been exposed to 300+ questions, there's a good chance that they actually learned something during the process.

If a player decides that the best way to win is to quickly search through each question's source link andy they've just read through 15 different websites, there's a good chance they've learned something.

If a player decides that the best way to win is to learn the answer to as many questions as possible, then there's a good chance that they have learned something.

Admittedly, it is hard to accurately quantify how much each player will actually learn by playing Brain Seeds, but we do believe that competitively playing Brain Seeds will yield a net educational benefit for players.

Please let me know if you have more questions about Brain Seeds because it is a good way of discussing the game design concepts that aren't initially obvious.

I please ask though that you try playing Brain Seeds. Based on your previous questions, it seems that you have already made a judgement about the game's validity as a "serious game" without trying it first.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Brain Seeds 2.0

Although Brain Seeds has only been live for a month we've already come up with a bunch of new changes for Brain Seeds 2.0 to make the game more accessible and more enticing to the normal gamer.

We basically took a beating in terms of gamer retention so we know we're doing something wrong. It's bad when you have 46 people play the game in the first week and no one comes back to play the game again.

So here's the list of improvements we want to make to the game more palatable to the general public.

  1. Practice Mode and Competitive Mode are being removed and replaced with Prize Mode
  2. Prize Mode will consist of 15 randomly selected questions - This will shift the game play to be a more frantic scavenger hunt for the correct answer by following the answer links.
  3. The player with the highest score at the end of the week will win $15 for themselves - We believe this is important in attracting a larger audience, one that probably wouldn't play the game otherwise.
  4. If we don't have any sponsored gifts to give out for the Community Prize, players will be able to donate $15 to a charity of their choice.
  5. All players will be able to take the Prize Game once for free, but all subsequent games played require the player to submit a question.
  6. During gameplay the player's score is shown along side the scores of the top 7 scores for that week.
  7. On the score screen we'll tell the player their score and ranking among all the games played so far - i.e You are ranked 9th out of 230
  8. All question submissions will allow the player to immediately play Prize Mode again. However any "bad" question submission will disqualify the player for the entire week.
  9. Questions submitted must fit into one of our preselected categories - By controlling which question categories we offer, we can control what type of questions get submitted which allows us to subtly guide the game direction and content.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Brain Seeds has finally launched!

After a couple years of development and a team that grew from 1 to 8, I'm incredibly proud to say that Brain Seeds has finally launched.

Here's the official blurbed I've been sending around.

Our videogame nonprofit Gamers of Action recently launched Brain Seeds, a community based online trivia game that has all of its questions supplied by players themselves.

Brain Seeds is a community-content-driven weekly quiz that allows players to educate others about issues that they are passionate about.

Since all the questions in the weekly quizzes are supplied by fellow players, Brain Seeds plants "seeds" of information in the hopes that those seeds will grow to (1) motivate quiz-takers to learn more about a particular topic and (2) help players develop an interest in creating positive social change.

To play Brain Seeds and get more information, check out

If you know anyone who might be interested in playing, please forward on this message because we really want to make Brain Seeds a real community driven game.


Founded in 2008, Gamers of Actions is a Los Angeles-based non-profit game development group dedicated to creating and finding gaming opportunities that can bring about positive social change.

Gamers of Action Website –

For more information, please contact us at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ninjacational - Bad ass name for our future game company!

Just soak in all the corny goodness of Ninjacational - Ninja + Educational.  Basically a name for the type of games we want to make.  Both fun and deceptively educational.  Maybe the tagline could be "Did I just learn something?" or "You just got Ninjacaded!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brain Seeds just launched on


We just launched our Brain Seeds project and now we have to start asking for donations and backers.

If you would like to support use with Brain Seeds you can donate through Kickstarter at

We're shooting to raise $1000 by February 20th and I'm confident we can do it.