Do you have a problem that might be solved by a game?

I am looking for experts(relative experts welcome) to work with a development team to create a game prototype to further their research or to help solve a problem. I am leading a summer course and have one or two slots remaining to work with student developers as part of the CSU Summer Arts Game Development Studio.

What does this mean?

I would ask you to come to Fresno on Tuesday June 27 (I can pay a small stipend to cover mileage and a hotel room) and work with a development team to create a paper prototype. We have found that paper prototypes can be very expressive and surface key systems. Provide your expertise and help the development team understand your priorities for the prototype.

Be available via Skype to communicate with your team about the problem and how the solution can be used, advise the team on tasks as digital development proceeds.

Get the prototype at the end.

This is not something to be commercially monetized (without your teams permission of course), but something to further your research, non-profit work or work within an educational context.

The risk is that it will take some of your time and attention, you may not get what you expect out of it, the the reward is that you will have a chance to work with some bright developers on a prototype that could enhance your work.

If you are interested send an email to and include a basic overview of your problem (or message me), let me know your availability on June 27 and we can go from here. Needless to say, time is short.

Feel free to reach out if this is not a perfect fit, I am looking for the most interesting problems to challenge us.


Games and Stats from Rockage SJ

Screenshot 2015-02-26 18.05.47

The data is not glamorous, and at times not complete, but I am reasonably confident that these represent actual plays and actual play times. The team on site was very good about resetting games that were abandoned and getting the cabinets back to the launcher. So here is my initial analysis:

Totals: Across the four cabinets that our games were on, there were 1246 plays for 4104 minutes. This comes out to 68.4 hours of play in a 23 hour event.  The breakdown per cabinet is equally as exciting (all data is linked at the bottom of this post).

The top five played games were Prismic Shift, Bako Ikimashou, Spellcraft, LaserCat y LaserDog and Recyclegame. Prismic Shift had nearly 10 hours of play by itself and Bako Ikimashou ended up having the longest average game play at nearly 8 minutes.

Spellcraft, LaserCat and Recycle were all brand new on the cabinet with Spellcraft and Recycle having been developed by club teams in Fall 2014 and LaserCat being from Global Game Jam 2015.

I was going to make a clever graphic visualization, but I don’t think I care enough.  If anyone comes up with one I’ll put it here:


Raw Data is here:

and an initial swipe at processing it is here:

Analysis is all mine and I will try to post data along with any assumptions. None of this would be possible without our new game launcher by Henry Tran.

Most of the analysis is done by hand here, which is something I want to iron out a little for the future, and also to shift from a running total to include actual data along the way as I think it will make it easier to work with and more meaningful.

CS185 (M)C – Virtual Environments


I am looking for students for a special topics course in Fall 2014 in the Computer Science department at SJSU. The course will focus on Virtual Environments and the interconnected systems, layers, art, communication with servers, programming and dealing with players.  We shall be running Minecraft both locally and on public servers. It is also my hope that we can begin to do basic research in Virtual Environments (with the possibility of a research partner).

I have been running a Minecraft server for several years and have used it to host international art exhibitions, performances and residencies. We shall work to modify the base system through programming in Java and possibly Scala. The course focus will be to understand these systems and create a project within the live environment.

(from my initial posting) CS185c section 3 – will focus on understanding and coding the complex overlapping systems that create a robust virtual environment. We shall build plugins & mods, map cultural systems, leverage emergent game properties with an eye towards player experience and system performance. This course will “eat its own dogfood” and meet on Thursdays in a live Minecraft environment.

Instructor: James Morgan is a founding member of Ars Virtua, and has taught this class twice at UCSD in their Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts program as Virtual Environments in Second Life and World of Warcraft. He also teaches the CS108/Art 108 Game Studies course at SJSU.

The course is primarily for programmers, but could easily accomodate a few artists or folks interested in the social systems within virtual environments.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at: james -dot- morgan -at- sjsu -dot- edu

Prerequisite: Java programming or instructor consent.

un pistolet

Ceci n’est pas un pistolet.

Not because it is art.

Not because the material is fragile and will explode when discharged.

Not because we are not gunmakers.

This Liberator is  a work of high art, it is a thing of beauty with functioning mechanics, springs, latches, handles and interlocking pieces that are a wonder of engineering, made out of a single “produce on demand” material.

A zip gun is actually a gun. The ease of fabrication combined with the practical function makes it the winner in a gun fight. The crude zip gun is cheaper, more effective, more stealthy and  more dangerous both as a weapon and a toy. For $20 and a trip to the hardware store, the enthusiast can make a gun in a matter of an hour or so that can fire a bullet, and be reloaded.

As a printed 3D object the Liberator is a challenge to our community, a rallying point for ignorance and a frightening piece of equipment. It is so full of fearful potential that it may have a negative impact on laws regarding 3D printing.  This is the greatest tragedy. The disruptive and transformative potential of 3D printing is not to be taken lightly. We have seen these technological revolutions happen with publishing, video, telephony and the network. The technology must remain unencumbered to reach its fullest potential, to truly experience innovation in the space and to be able to grow naturally. Other advances including shifts in fundamental intellectual property mean this will be profound.

As a file it challenges to both the first an second amendments of the constitution. What is the right to keep arms if the arms are plans?  What is the right to expression and free speech if the file/plans cannot be published or sent across international lines?

As speech the data needs to be protected. There does not exist currently a lot of DRM on files and data related to printing. This stands to liberate our things, to free manufacturing from carbon intensive transportation. There will always be room for craft, even if a thing can be duplicated perfectly it is desirable to have one that is full of the imperfections left by the craftsman.

As an object, the Liberator has been donated to Works/SJ for their charity auction.

Ceci n’est pas un pistolet, ceci est le futur.

Heading off to study GAMBIT Game Lab

I fly out tomorrow morning to Boston to spend some time at the GAMBIT Game Lab at MIT.

I am excited for this opportunity because of several things, the first is that MIT does not have a games degree, and second because GAMBIT is firmly housed in the humanities.

The first point is interesting because at SJSU we really don’t have the time, nor does the CSU have the drive to create a whole new program. (with the exception of self supporting programs under special sessions) GAMBIT thrives by being a connector and a focus for research.  They maintain a list of interesting classes across all of the colleges and then provide undergraduate (and graduate) research opportunities. The way this works is that a researcher has a problem or a question that they are interested in investigating through games, and students end up building pieces or even whole systems/games that explore these issues. Additionally they have been hosting a summer program (which I am going to observe) that creates teams from Singapore schools and local university students. These teams are then given a product owner and a researcher who they then create a game and work with to satisfy. From what I have seen, the questions are diverse as are the games.  The teams have eight weeks (40 hour weeks, no crunch time) for development and refining, including research and paper prototyping.

JP Bruneau is teaching a projects class for the Learning and Games Initiative in the Fall, and we hope to be able to model some of this.  Our teams will likely not be as refined as the GAMBIT teams, but I am expecting there to be a lot of systems and strategies that will benefit our teams dealing with their research questions.

It has bothered me that in such difficult financial times our art department has been so standoffish about the idea of working with games, to the point that there has been no real attempt on their part to connect with the Learning and Games Initiative.

The GAMBIT program is placed in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) and I am interested in understanding this relationship more closely.  It is apparent that Digital Humanities, 21st Century Literacies, and creativity are already important, our provost has more or less made a commitment to these and High Impact Learning practices. Strangely (or not) I see all of this coming together in the classes we are starting to offer.  I need to see how they fit / function in the scope of a larger university environment.

I meant to link to all of the reading and videos that I have been watching to prepare for this, but that will have to wait for another time.

Here is a brief introduction:

Visozky Tower

(Note: this post is full of opinion and assumption, please do not take offense at anything presented here, but rather help me to correct the errors. This post is meant to be more of an emotional, humanistic apprehension of my visit to Ekaterinburg and Salda in light of several conversations about the V2V project.)

Yekaterinburg is a wonderful city with an amazing connection to its industrial heritage and to the history of Russia. I had the distinct pleasure of spending almost a week there in March as part of the symposium for the intellectual platform for the 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. I am a terrible tourist, but managed to visit the Uralmash (enormous factory complex just on the edge of the city), the State University, the Titanium Valley (proposed site) and the villages near the Salda River.

The proposal to make a special economic zone focused around the manufacturing of titanium materials is very exciting, billions of Rubles will be invested in the valley and consequently a lot of changes will be felt by the people of Salda.  Not the least of these changes is the influx of a lot of foreigners, and potentially changes in the standard of living.

Salda is home to one of the oldest titanium manufacturing plants, which is expect dominates the local economy. From one visit there I saw clean streets, bucolic houses, and what came off as a pretty simple and straight forward way of life. The attitude in the city focuses more on the idea that these folks are poor, and there is a sense of the provincial whenever people talk about life outside the big city. This surprised me. Being from a smaller town in a more rural part of a post-industrial state growing up I never questioned our level of sophistication. And though I am severe when I talk about that place, it seems to be more of a reflection on things that have not changed rather than things that have, and much more about the people I knew than the level of sophistication (which actually seems to be on the rise).

That brings me back to one of my major impressions from Yekaterinburg, Visozky Tower. Visozky Tower is this enormous glass and steel construct that is visible from most of the city.  Visozky Tower is out of place in the landscape and is reviled by the residents.  Hated for its style, height, positioning, it becomes a central landmark about which people are passionate. What does it represent? The disconnect of the business world from that of the resident population? The challenge of aesthetics that are not in context and not democratically considered?

I can read it another way too, this is about the march of progress.  Visozky Tower represents the future which does NOT connect directly to the past, it is a divergence and a disruption.  The way the architecture brutalizes the entire city, visually, represents both the challenge and blazes a trail towards the future.

Either way I cannot emphasize the importance of this building. When I return to Yekaterinburg I want to visit it. For me it is a cultural anchor, and I think it is kind of humorous, but it also is a potent parable of things to come.