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Radiolab Short: Speedy Beet

Fantastic Radiolab short from a couple weeks ago. I'm continually impressed not only with the way that Jad and Robert are able to find interesting topics, but with their amazing capacity for storytelling. And for more Beethoven fun, they've also posted some videos of Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians playing the Third and Fifth at crazy tempos.

The white space in learning happens in the moment of transition between listening and applying.

Learning is iterative, and a repetitive process. And it’s a process that can’t happen solely in the classroom. It has to happen outside of it, in the negative space.

Learning in the Negative Space

Interestingly, in the very first portion of World 1-1, the developers designed it so that the a newcomer almost always gets a Mushroom. In the first level, there are blocks that the player goes under. A menacing Goomba approaches the player, and instinctively the player jumps over it. By the time the player reaches the Goomba and jumps, they will hit a ? block above that would reveal a mushroom. The mushroom goes to the right, hits a pipe and comes towards the player. Since the mushroom resembles the Goomba, the player thinks to jump over it again. Doing this, however, will almost always lead the player to jump right into the Mushroom since after they jump they hit another block from above which causes them to come back to the ground and hit the mushroom. This was to teach players that Mushrooms were a positive thing in the game.

Level design in Super Mario Bros. (via The Nintendo Wiki)

Forms are hard.

It is good to have a failure while you’re young because it teaches you so much. For one thing it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you’ve lived through the worst, you’re never quite as vulnerable afterward.

— Walt Disney

Tools like Swrve allow the designers themselves to rapidly test hypotheses about their games on just 5% of their users—everything from tweaking level difficulty (by adjusting enemy health or character physics), to seeing if users were more apt to select (and buy) a protagonist with a red or purple headband. Anything with a metadata value is adjustable in real time, all within an app the customer has already downloaded, all without any additional downloads.

Could have some interesting ramifications around how games are designed. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Zynga’s of the world will use it to design games that eke just a little more money out of their users, rather than well-intentioned designers using it to create overall better gaming experiences.

How A/B Testing Could Change Online Gaming Forever

Love that Dark Sky added a notification feature to their latest release. You can set a threshold (from sprinkling all the way to heavy precipitation) and times when you don’t want notifications (“Don’t bug me” - nice copy). More info at their blog