Archive for the ‘Off-topic’ Category

Non-game-related rant.

I have been amazed about the US series revolving around lie detection such as Lie to Me and The Moment of Truth. In those, the truth-by-science fetishism bothers me; the idea that one can detect a lie without errors is suspicious using machines or just watching facial expressions and body language.

Even when this premise (that one can detect lies without error) is contested in an episode of  In Lie to Me, the way this is done is interesting. In that episode, the main character cannot spot lying of other character. The main character concludes that the lying character is psychopathic, because he did not react normal ways to the pictures (this is plausible hypothesis). After this, the main character assumes that this psychopath must be a serial killer (this suspicion turns out to be true later in the episode).

But, if all the people having psychopathic disorder would be serial killers, the world would be full of serial killers; it has been estimated that 1% of the whole population have psychopathic disorder (using  Wikipedia as reference here, but I remember seeing the same figure in Grossman’s book On Killing).

Lie detection may work with average population, but how the lie detection work with certain pathologies? Do they have similar psychophysiology as a normal person?  It seems that psychopaths have decreased fear responses. How about pathological liars (cf. people with gambling addiction do not have similar fear reactions to risky bets that average people; see Damasio, Descartes’s Error)?

Now as my university is building a reward system, I need to voice my concerns on reward systems.

First, how do you judge what is good research? One might not be able to comprehend the value of research beforehand. As an example, could anyone at George Boole’s time predict the importance of his work on mathematical logic? Moreover, if the criteria for the rewards is likely to guide the research. What if the criteria is such that it does not courage for the novel research?

Second, it seems that external rewards can have demotivating  effect. Jesper Juul (in a different context) writes:

A famous 1973 experiment (“Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward“) showed that when nursery school children consistently received external rewards for drawing, they lost interest in drawing and started drawing less.

Are adults different from children regarding this?

Third, other studies indicate that rewards are good in simple tasks, but the performance drastically drop when a reward is introduced if the task requires reasoning (I cannot find the references now, but some are mentioned in Dan Pink’s talk).

I hope I am wrong here, because if these concerns are valid we are misdirecting our scarce resources.

Frans Mäyrä and I wrote a chapter, Play in Hybrid Reality: Alternative Approaches to Game Design, to the book Digital Cityscapes: Merging Digital and Urban Playspaces (Peter Lang Publishing) edited by Souza e Silva & Sutko. The book seems to be already available at

After promising to point some references for masters thesis at goth party some time ago. I got thesis couple of days ago, in which Arttu Reinikainen looks at a role-playing game system,  from the perspective of usability. The perspective is fresh and welcomed.

While I am not really buying the immersion and flow link to role-playing experience (I have presented some objections against the concept of immersion at Playing Roles seminar), the took on usability heuristics and focus groups seems mainly to be sound (I must note that haven’t played D&D 3.5, only briefly browsed the rules).

Reinikainen, A. (2008). Role-Playing Games and Usability. Masters Thesis. University of Tampere,

A story about an unreleased sequel to Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at Waxy.Org.

This is totally off-topic rant on Finnish censorship, written sometimes ago, but I haven’t had time to finish it up.

Our government, especially certain ministers, such as Suvi Linden, and Anne Holmlund (and ministers from previous government who were in charge of preparing the law) seem to thing that the end justifies means in fighting against crimes, in this case child pornography. Moreover, many, including Linden, Holmlund, and Pelastakaa lapset ry are taking stance, which can be described as if we do no not see it, it does not happen.

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Off-topic; January 9th, 2008

My blog has been inaccessible due to issues of domain name change at TAIK a few days. Now, the blog is back online, and hopefully remains so.

Audio Mostly Conference proceedings is available at

The proceedings contains Inger Ekman’s paper on sound design for our The Song of North game.

There are also at least two other papers on games that I need to check:

  • Farnell, Andy James. Procudural game audio using Pure Data;
  • Berndt, Axel; Hartmann, Knut. Strategies for Narrative and Adaptive Game Scoring.

A Report Media effects on minors – review of international research and practices of media education and regulation (Salokoski & Mustonen) has been recently published.

Sonja Kangas has already made some insightful comments on it. I choose to comment the report from the other point view, as I find some premises and facts in the report problematic.

Salokoski and Mustonen, e.g., allege that the children learns the grammar of pictorial media between 3 and 6. As an example they mention that children starts to understand that when camera zooms to a target, the target does not grow (Salokoski & Mustonen, 2007).

Why the children would have that kind of conception of zooming? Their everyday experiences does not support that: in everyday life when something grows suddenly, that thing gets closer. There are multitude of research that argue, and present evidence for support the argument, that presentations (schemas, or scripts) of the possible actions (e.g., touching the target) influence the perception and judgments. (See, e.g., Niedhental et al, 2005; Noë, 2004; Gallagher, 2005). Is there any empirical support for the claims posited by Salokoski & Mustonen on the grammar of visual media?

In addition, Salokoski & Mustonen (2007) seems to assume that understanding requires concepts: e.g., understanding that things are persistent (something exists even it is hidden) requires understanding the concept of persistence that is developed around the age of two according to Salokoski and Mustonen (2007). This is very problematic if I assume that Sthey use the term concept to refer to linguistic constructs. Again, I think that is no reason to assume that one require a concept persistent to understand persistence. Moreover, Meltzoff & Moore (1995) discuss experiments where an object moves and in the middle it is a short while hidden. They repost that 5-month old infants trace moving objects with their gaze and respond violations, such as object that the object is a ball before occlusion and square after occlusion, differently than without a violation. They also assert that 9-month old children responds to violations of permanence (Melzoff & Moore, 1995). This research contest the timeline of the children’s development asserted by Salokoski & Mustonen.

Above mentioned assumptions (by Salokoski & Mustonen, 2007) seem to be invalid. Thus, arguments presented in the report may also (at least partially) be invalid.


  • Gallagher, S. How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Melzoff, A. & Moore, M. (1995) Infants’ understanding of people and things: From body imitation to folk psychology. In Bermúdez, J. Marcel, A. & Eilan, N. (eds.). The Body and the Self. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 43–69.
  • Niedenthal, P., Barsalou, L. Winkielman, P., Gruber, S. & Ric, F. Embodiment in attitudes, social perception, and emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Review 9(3), 184–211.
  • Noë, A. Action in perception. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
  • Salokoski, T. & Mustonen, A. (2007). Median vaikutukset lapsiin ja nuoriin – katsaus tutkimuksiin sekä kansainvälisiin mediakasvatuksen ja -säätelyn käytäntöihin [Media effects on minors - review of international research and practices of media education and regulation]. Available

There is a new journal International Journal of Role-Playing and they have a call for papers out for the first number (deadline January 1st, 2008).