I have added Transpecial by Jennifer R. Povey to my summer reading list and will be sharing my thoughts on the novel here once I have finished it. However, the topic of the book is interesting enough that I wanted to share it up front. Quoted from its site description (link below):
First Contact. With aliens so strange and predatory that humans could only react with revulsion and primal rage. And so, humanity fired first. Now, the ky’iin are raiding the solar system. The potential key to mankind’s salvation? An unlikely pair of diplomats. One, a brilliant young linguist from Mars with a profound social disorder. Through her autism, she sees the beauty within the ky’iin. The other, a ky’iin negotiator who looks beyond humanity’s violent actions to the potential within. Can they serve as the bridge to unite the two species and stop the Contact War? Or will war-mongering saboteurs destroy them before they can act?
As I am familiar with the author’s work, I am quite curious to see how this thought-provoking take on a genre that I have long enjoyed will unfold. The book may be purchased at musapublishing.com.
I recently read A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster, a text that aptly fields, as advertised, a theory of the nature of fun as a cognitive phenomenon. Koster may be most notably recognized by those of my age group as the lead designer for Ultima Online and is now, from what I can tell, associated with Metaplace. Koster’s experience with game development shows through impeccably in his book, which renders a comprehensible-to-the-layman analysis of how games and “fun” work.
In early chapters, Koster offers a light discussion of how the brain makes meaning by forming patterns—“chunking” and “grokking.” He argues that games teach life skills, such as spatial reasoning, taxonomy, odds calculation, memory/recall, and relationship dynamics. From there, he builds a theory around the concept that what we call “fun” is really a specialized form of learning and that video games are a unique and powerful method of teaching to the learner-as-fun-haver within us. Without “spoiling” the work, I will note that he concludes that while video games teach certain skills at present, they could be used to teach much more sophisticated concepts. As an art form, he renders the video game as still just emerging; by his reasoning, we have only barely begun to see what games can teach us.