The Guggenheim of gaming

This article was recently published in The Age’s Green Guide. Anyone remotely interested in gaming (or who have children who are) and are/or will be in Melbourne some time should consider visiting the exhibition mentioned. It is permanent and free.


October 8, 2009


Part of the Screen Worlds exhibition.

From Pong to PlayStations, this exhibition covers the console evolution. By Jason Hill.

After a year-long renovation, the “new” Australian Centre for the Moving Image has opened its doors to the public with a free exhibition that prominently features video games.

The new permanent Screen Worlds exhibition charts the history of screen-based entertainment, from cinema’s early beginnings to the rise of television, games, the internet, new media and the digital age.

ACMI has been exploring games culture since 2002 and enjoyed great success last year with the Game On exhibition, which attracted more than 150,000 visitors.

The head of exhibitions, Conrad Bodman, says games are “really embedded in what we do at ACMI. It is accepted that it is part of the creative practice that we’re looking at.”

He believes institutions such as ACMI can help legitimise games as an art form and a cultural force. “I kind of feel that games have already got a certain legitimacy at ACMI having done shows like Game On, which have underpinned the enthusiasm that games have cultural value,” Bodman says.

In the “Emergence” section of the new exhibition, visitors can get hands-on with the first ever console, the Magnavox Odyssey, as well as classic games such as Space Invaders, Tempest, Super Mario Bros 3, Tomb Raider and the pioneering Melbourne-made fighting game, The Way of the Exploding Fist.

The new Games Lab situated within the Screen Worlds exhibition also includes 14 computers and a selection of playable games for solo or multiplayer action, including Quake, Tetris, Lemmings, Sensible Soccer, Pro Evolution Soccer, Civilization, Spore, Project Gotham Racing, LittleBigPlanet, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Kart. Bodman says choosing the featured games was a significant challenge.

“That’s been quite tough because we’ve had to be very selective,” he says. “Part of it is about the development of the genre, looking at past and present, and part of that is a technology story about how the technology has improved.

“We felt that it was important to add historical dimensions so people can understand where games have come from and also specifically look within the Games Lab at the game genre and how they have developed over a period of time.”

Games are presented on their original hardware wherever possible, despite the technical challenges of keeping 30-year-old machines running every day.

ACMI has also assembled a “significant collection” of Australian games, Bodman says. “Although that material is not going to be available to everyone who comes in, if you are a researcher and you are doing some specific work and looking at Australian games, you can borrow that material and view it within our research area that is part of the Mediatheque. There aren’t many repositories around for Australian games [and] it can be really difficult to find games in their original format. It’s important that ACMI represents that area.”

Another highlight is the Pong v Tennis game commissioned for the exhibition. One player uses a retro-style paddle and the other a modern wireless controller in a single game that Bodman hopes can showcase the “historical trajectory” of gaming.

Attendees should also look for the spotlight on Australia’s Krome Studios, one of the world’s largest independent video game developers.

Active Video Games A Good Alternative To Moderate Exercise For Kids, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily reports on a study that games such as Wii Sports are good for health:

ScienceDaily (July 17, 2009) — Scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found that playing active video games can be as effective for children as moderate exercise. The findings appear this week in the journal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While OU pediatricians don’t recommend children stop playing outside or exercising, the research shows that active video games offer a great alternative to moderate exercise for many children of today’s generation who are sedentary and at high risk for obesity and diabetes.

“These exer-games are no substitute for ‘real’ sports activities, but if kids play them as designed and stay engaged, they can burn several calories per hour above their sedentary level. We view any increase in energy expenditure (calories burned) as a good thing, especially in our overly-sedentary society,” said Kevin Short, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project.

To test the idea, researchers measured the heart rate, energy expenditure and self-reported exertion in children between ages 10-13 while they watched television, played active video games and walked on the treadmill at three different speeds.

Compared to watching television, the calories burned while gaming or walking increased 2- to 3-fold. Similarly, high rates of energy expenditure, heart rate and perceived exertion were elicited from playing Wii boxing, Dance Dance Revolution Level 2 or walking at 3.5 mph.

Wii bowling and beginner level DDR elicited a 2-fold increase in energy expenditure compared to television watching.

Overall, the energy expenditure during active video game play was comparable to moderate-intensity walking. Thus, for children who spend considerable time playing electronic screen games for entertainment, OU researchers found that substituting that time with physically active games can be a safe, fun and valuable means of promoting energy expenditure.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Children’s Medical Research Institute.

Journal reference:

  1. Graf, Diana L., Pratt, Lauren V., Hester, Casey N., Short, Kevin R. Playing Active Video Games Increases Energy Expenditure in Children. Pediatrics, 2009 0: peds.2008-2851 DOI: 10.1542/10.1542/peds.2008-2851

Adapted from materials provided by University of Oklahoma.

Games for learning wiki

Victorian Northern Metropolitan Region Ultranet Coach Anesti Anestis has provided Bright Ideas with information about a Games for Learning wiki.


Anesti explains, ‘It is a site to find, make and play games.  Teachers involved in gaming can share their experiences and findings in applying games in the classroom.’

Getting started
Getting started

With information on

  • Free stuff
  • Gamemaking software
  • Gaming sites
  • Getting Started
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo Edu Titles
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Presentation and Resources
  • XBOX
  • XNA Game creators
  • there is plenty of support for schools that are considering introducing gaming for learning.

    Gaming @ State Library of Victoria

    Xperience XBOX
    FRI 17 JULY, 6.30 – 9PM
    Come in and experience some of the best XBOX 360 games with an evening of modern, multiplayer, and online XBOX 360 games, such as Guitar Hero: World Tour, Halo 3, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Street Fighter IV, and Sacred 2. There’ll also be giveaways and opportunities to win major prizes*, including an XBOX 360 & games pack. All funds raised on the night will be going to benefit the Royal Children’s Hospital. So engage with XBOX 360 gaming and help others at the same time! Presented in association with OzBoxLive.
    State Library of Victoria
    FREE [Bookings required] *$5 payable per ticket for the prize raffle
    Phone: 03 8664 7099
    Online (via Eventbrite):

    Stormwatchers : a cyclone awareness game for children

    The Bureau of Meteorology has copies (CD format) of the “Stormwatchers : a cyclone awareness game for children” available to give away. The game and further details can be found at: . If any school library would like a copy of the CD, please get in contact with Trevor Wakely by emailing  and he’ll send you a free copy.


    Rob Mercer, the ICT Outreach – Project Officer for the Faculty of Information & Communication Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology has sent out the following information which may be of interest.

     I would like to announce that the SwinGame 09  games design competition is open again this year.  The competition ran for the first time last year and our senior academic staff from the Computer Science and Software Engineering academic area were impressed with the quality of the entries.  The winning games from last year can be seen at 

    This year’s competition now includes two different categories (Arcade and Open) to encourage all secondary school students to enter and participate (visit the website for category details).

    Once again, the website will have the following supporting programs and materials to help students:
    –  The creation of Game Development Kits available in VB.NET, Delphi, Pascal, VB6 and C# to give students a range of tools and examples to assist in the creation of their game;
    –  Sample games which include tutorials with videos on how to create games;
    –  A forum where participants can ask questions, get help and post ideas about their games;
    –  A teacher only forum for teachers to discuss ideas and ask questions.

    Swingames poster

    Swingames poster

    Similar to last year, the 2009 competition is:
    – Free to enter
    – Open to individual students and teams of up to three
    – Open to all secondary school students in Australia

    Prizes for the Arcade Category (team or individual):
    1st Prize – $2,500
    2nd Prize – $1,000
    3rd Prize  – $500

    Prizes for Open Category (team or individual):
    1st prize – $1,000

    The competition is currently open and entries must be submitted by 7 August 2009 (see website).  All entries will be judged by a panel of experts and winners will be announced on 16 August at Swinburne’s Open Day.  This is a good way to get students from your school excited about software and games development, which will hopefully encourage younger students to choose IT as a subject.

    A class presentation is available for your students on the SwinGame 09 competition which can help them get started.  If you would like a Swinburne staff member to visit your class to present SwinGame, please contact me on the number/email below.

    All information on the competition is available here:

    If you have any questions feel free to contact Rob.


    Bright Ideas recently came across this gaming program for students in years 9 -11 developed by Swinburne University of Technology. From their website comes the following information:

    VBugs homepage
    VBugs homepage

    VBugs – Games Programming using VB.Net and SwinGame

    Click here to access the online form.

         What is VBugs?

    VBugs is a resource for creating a game using the SwinGame Software Development Kit (SDK) and VB.NET.  Its aim is to teach students the steps involved in programming in a fun but non-superficial manner.

    What is in the resource?

    The downloaded resource has a teacher and a student folder. The student resource consists of self paced tutorials with exercise sheets for the student to fill in by hand as they progress. The exercise sheets have been designed as a way of assessing student knowledge and understanding of the topic as they progress.  The teacher folder contains solutions to both the worksheets and the project chapter by chapter as well as lesson plans for using VBugs in class.

    Who is it suitable for?

    The resource is suitable for students from Year 9 – 11. The resource takes students through the very basics of games programming through to the development of a fully interactive game with levels, scores, music, sound effects, keyboard and mouse input and animated sprites. Students who are keen and progress well, can go on to develop another SwinGame and can enter in the SwinGame 09 competition. This competition is to open to all secondary school students in Australia. Visit the SwinGame 09 website for more details.

    How much does it cost?

    No charge. As part of Swinburne’s effort to support secondary schools and enhance the profile of ICT, this resource has been developed for all secondary schools to use for free. Simply register (see below) and we will send you the password and the link to download the resource in full. Along with this link we can send out a hard copy of the book for the teacher’s reference.

    How long does it take to complete?

    This will depend on your class to some extent. VBugs has 9 chapters. Some chapters would take approximately 1 period to complete and others about 3. The final chapter is open ended so if some students finish faster than others they can keep working on improving their game for as long as you like. We recommend allowing about 16 classes. A run down of the chapters can be found below:

    • Chapter 1 – Hello World               
    • Chapter 2 – Images, Fonts and Colours 
    • Chapter 3 – Movement 
    • Chapter 4 – Sound and Keyboard  
    • Chapter 5 – Mouse input and Animation
    • Chapter 6 – Methods in VB.NET
    • Chapter 7 – Objects and Classes
    • Chapter 8 – Level and Score
    • Chapter 9 – Extensions and Additions    

    How to request the VBug resources?

    Click here to access the online form.

    After filling out the form, you will be emailed a username and password to access VBugs.

    Who wants to be a MillionHeir?

    For anyone who is still unsure about the educational worth of videogames, here is a personal example of just some of the things I learned in a few days from a ‘G’ rated Nintendo DS game called Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir  (showing in a Wordle word cloud).

    This is not an advertisement for the game (Bright Ideasdoes not accept sponsorship or products), I purchased it with my own hard-earned dollars (approx. A$35 from JB HiFi). However, it is a lesson in how children (and adults) can be engaged in their favourite pass time and still learn many things that we would normally teach them in a more traditional manor. It is also a great activity to share with the family.

    This game also has the ability for up to four players to either compete against each other or work cooperatively by using one Nintendo DS each, but only one copy of the game is needed. You can set time limits for tasks, set the number of hints for each player and the number of locations used in the game. In a nutshell, you can set the game to whatever level suits you or your students.

    Using Case Files: MillionHeir in an English class, students could study the crime genre by writing back stories for the characters in MillionHeir, watching classic movies, read crime fiction, write their own crime stories, explain features of the genre, developed plans of the MillionHeir’s house, etc.

    Games ‘valuable learning tool’

    A very interesting article has been published in today’s edition of The Age Green Guide entitled Games ‘valuable learning tool’.  Written by Jason Hill, the article says, ‘Education experts say computer games boost a range of skills in children’.

    April 9, 2009

    Education experts say computer games boost a range of skills in children, writes Jason Hill.

    Computer games can be a positive learning tool for children as young as three, according to Australian education experts.

    Patricia and Don Edgar, authorities on children’s media, education and social trends, recently wrote a paper for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in which they argue that there is growing evidence that games are effective and valuable learning tools.

    Skills developed from games include comprehension, decision making, multitasking, collaboration, concentration, leadership and communication.

    Dr Patricia Edgar says it is not surprising some parents fear the impact of games on their kids, because many “fear the unknown” or are concerned about violence.

    “Anyone with children knows how absorbed and passionate about games kids can become,” Dr Edgar says. “Parents worry about something that takes over their kids’ lives as games do – games which they can’t see much point to.”

    Dr Edgar, whose latest book is titled The New Child: in search of smarter grown-ups, encourages parents to “sit with kids, let them explore and learn”.

    “Parents have to put in the time. Then they will know the content of the games, and their involvement will help the kids to learn.”

    Dr Edgar believes games can also have an important role in the classroom, although more research and investment is needed to produce educational games that enable kids to learn at their own pace and collaborate with others. The games also need to be fun, she argues.

    “Kids always learn best when they are entertained. Entertainment should not preclude education, but somehow we have this notion that if something is educational it has to be serious and can’t be fun.”

    Dr Edgar says some educators have had their distrust of new media vindicated over the past decade as “the entertainment industry has commercialised childhood and turned kids into consumers producing material for its merchandising potential”.

    “(But) I think we are about ready for a change in these values, which could lead to some healthy, profitable, educational entertainment to bridge the divide.”

    She believes it is a positive step that libraries are now offering computer games, both for their learning potential and for attracting children to the institutions.

    Lalor Library in north-eastern Melbourne has enjoyed success through introducing consoles such as the Xbox and Wii into the library, as well as networked PC games. Branch manager Felicity Macchion says her priority in introducing gaming three years ago was to offer disadvantaged community members access to new technology, and she has been thrilled with the results. “Implementing video-gaming into the library environment has increased memberships, borrowings and has created an enjoyable atmosphere for all ages.”

    Earlier this week, the State Library of Victoria hosted an event enabling gaming newcomers to get hands-on with the latest releases and discuss how the games can be used positively in public institutions such as libraries and schools.

    For several years the library’s Experimedia section has featured locally developed games.

    For the latest gaming news, visit

    As per previous Bright Ideas posts on the State Library’s Press Play initiative, Getting video games on the school agenda and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s video games trial games are well worth investigating as part of a total pedagogy that caters for today’s children and encourages engagement and attendance.

    Press play review

    On Tuesday 7 April, the State Library of Victoria hosted “Press Play: a get into video games” event. It gave attendees access to award winning games like Little Big Planet as well as Guitar Hero, Wii fit and Brain Training. Offering a range of consoles such as Wii, Playstation 3 and Nintendo DS, there was something for every one.

    A further event is planned for later in the year, so if you are curious about how gaming can be used in schools and libraries, please consider attending. It is highly recommended for taking games for a test drive and thinking about how they could be used in educational contexts as well as having a chat with experts in their fields. 

    On the topic of gaming and libraries, Christine Mackenzie, the CEO of Yarra Plenty Regional Library wrote this on her blog on 6 April.

    Installing screens, games and tvs is our way of showing that education, learning, recreation and culture can come in all different kinds of media and are all equally appropriate in a public library. We hope you agree!

    Christine has outlined the idea that learning can encompass many formats and many educators agree with her, yet so many still violently disagree with the idea that learning should progress as society has.

    If you think about the changes to society, industry and communications over the past 200 years, why is there such a resistance by some people for education to keep pace with these changes? It is true that there are some very violent and inappropriate games on the market that may make some people shy away from this particular media as a learning tool. But as teachers, we would no more consider using such games as we would showing inappropriate films to our students. 

    Congratulations to the State Library of Victoria and Hamish Curry and his team for a fun and interesting evening.