Levelling up Leadership with serious games    Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.  So how can we address leadership development using games? Or to put it another way how can a game produce a better leader? Using the lessons Totem Learning learned from the development of a multiplayer leadership game I wanted to share the top tips on how games can help build this critical skill.   The top 3 areas where I believe games can bring real benefit to leadership development are;   To allow skills practice  To observe emerging leadership skills  To evaluate leadership capabilities   Those 3 criteria really became the foundation for a leadership game which I absolutely loved designing and love seeing people play.     



              Early cardboard mock-up of one of the puzzles in the game  



     From my own perspective when I sat down to design a leadership game, it was really important that every person in that game had the opportunity to become the leader during at least one point in the game. I didn’t want to create a game where there was a leader role and the rest of the team were forced into the follower category.  So that was my first challenge. How was I going to create an environment where there were multiple leaders? Well who’s to say that your role in a game stays the same from start to finish? Why can’t it evolve and change? I felt this was a good reflection of reality in that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and our jobs change overtime. So that revelation really set the foundation for the structure and flow of the game moving forward. I knew I wanted to create a scenario where the game changed, roles were fluid and opportunities were aplenty for those willing to grab them.  Provide the raw information about the situation and see what conclusions are drawn  The design incorporated changing the nature of the connections between the team members throughout the experience. They began as single players, isolated from one another, and so there was great individual responsibility. Gradually we built mini teams by introducing players to one another over time, before connecting them all together into one homogenous team.  The benefit this design decision brought was that each player made their own conclusions about the environment, even though every player started off with the same experience. This was a great eye opener into how each of the team members felt about individual working and reading their environments.  Introduce Multiple Goals  As in the real world, leaders have to balance differing priorities and goals. In our game design we represented this through personal and team goals; through setting up an initial competitive environment, where you were in a race against other players to reach the goal. But over time we introduced the concept that the final goal could not be achieved alone. It was very interesting to see how players reacted to sacrificing their personal gain for the benefit of the team.     



              Players need to collaborate  



     Use pressure techniques to explore behaviour in different scenarios  Throughout the game, players were faced with the overarching goal of escape and completion but also a series of challenging puzzles along the way to push their individual coaching, team and leadership skills. We applied time pressure to these situations where the faster the problem was addressed the more points the team received. As well as these pressurised situations we mixed in non-pressure situations where they had time and no consequences to solve problems. Using a mix of these situations we could assess how each player behaved differently.  Make sure you have a solid foundation  Throughout the design we underpinned the game design with a foundation of leadership development strategy crafted by subject matter experts.  Leadership is about getting others to do things by creating the environment where progress is possible. In our game design, progress was not possible unless the player cooperated: setting aside personal gain for the good of the team. We built in situations where innovative responses were required from the players, often under pressure and in non-routine situations. Influencing skills were an essential ability team members required to ensure a high score.  Another critical aspect of leadership is coaching, a method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal or develop specific skills. We built in specific scenarios where users had to coach others through situations. These puzzles involved;     Identifying goals  Removing obstacles  Generating options  Planning actions  Actioning the plan   It was important for us to give everyone an opportunity to coach so we always provided opportunities to repeat skills and practice, but in new contexts therefore reinforcing strategies and behaviours.    Problem solving was a core component to the game. A definition of problem solving is that an individual or a team applies knowledge, skills, and understanding to achieve a desired outcome in an unfamiliar situation. Problem solving is central to many games and underpins many of the design decisions we made.  We wanted our players to objectively identify possible causes of a problem and then proposing potential, often creative, solutions to the team. The great thing about using problem solving in games is that it leads to permanent information retention because you come to the conclusion yourself; you make your own connections rather than being told the correct answer. Problem solving is the opposite of memorization where information is often forgotten after testing.  The final component that was important to our foundation was that we had to make the team feel like a team quickly! We had to give the players a common purpose to (finally) align their efforts to. This was achieved through the use of the storyline, repeating subtly through the game the need to work together, the gradual connection of players into the overall team and the gradual increase in difficulty level, building camaraderie.   And finally give good feedback!     






     A sandbox, experimental environment, is no good without guidance and feedback. Because we wanted this game to be used without the need for a facilitator to be present, we had to make sure the game provided all the feedback that was needed. Through the process of highlighting successes and learning from mistakes we were able to bring about a new level of personal effectiveness.   Read more on Unlock: Leadership  



Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.

So how can we address leadership development using games?


       New leadership game about to launch!       






     A ground-breaking new game for leadership training is being launched at leading L&D exhibition; World of Learning.   The 3D, online, multiplayer game is set on a tropical island, in which players must work together, communicating only by instant messaging to solve puzzles and succeed. Each level challenges players on different leadership skills such as problem solving and negotiation, and switches the lead role between players allowing each a chance to shine.     



              Communicating in Real Time  



     Peer and self-review are integrated into the game and whilst four players must play together simultaneously, their physical location is immaterial. There are similarities to ‘Outward Bound’ experiences, but with added benefits such as reduced cost, more targeted results and re-usability.  The game was created by, and can be purchased from Totem Learning; a serious games studio based in Coventry. It has already been taken up by Management Centre Europe, Europe’s leading management training company, for use in their courses. The two companies have signed an agreement that focuses on promoting and delivering serious games and e-learning programmes to MCE’s clients in the EMEA region. Mr Rudi Plettinx (Managing Director of MCE) says “Serious games are now a crucial element in the learning and development journey and with this new partnership, MCE are pleased to be part of these exciting developments.”     






        Attendees at World of Learning can also catch Totem’s Head of Design and Development, Helen Routledge delivering a presentation on using serious games for leadership training, ahead of the release of her forthcoming book, “Why Serious Games are Good For Business”, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in November this year.  For more information about MCE please go to  www.mce-ama.com . To try out the game visit stand C110, World Of Learning, Birmingham, 29th and 30th September. Register free at  www.learnevents.com/   For more information about Totem Learning call Richard Smith on 02476 555 904. To hear Helen Routledge speak at World of Learning, please go to Theatre 2, from 14.45 – 15.15 on 29th September.



A ground-breaking new game for leadership training is being launched at leading L&D exhibition; World of Learning.

The 3D, online, multiplayer game is set on a tropical island, in which players must work together, communicating only by instant messaging to solve puzzles and succeed. Each level challenges players on different leadership skills such as problem solving and negotiation, and switches the lead role between players allowing each a chance to shine. 


       Serious games for serious growth     Reports show highest growth for game-based learning.   A couple of recent industry reports that I’ll highlight in this blog, have indicated very high growth for the worldwide serious games market over five years, for the period 2014-2019.  One  report, published by Infiniti Research Limited  in July 2015 forecasts that the global game-based learning market will grow at a CAGR of 6.47% over the period 2014-2019 and another for that same period by  Ambient Insight  forecast a 21.9% CAGR.  The disparity may indicate just how diverse this marketplace is and reflect the different approaches the two research organisations have taken on which types of games to include – and what qualifies as ‘serious games’, or ‘games based learning’. But either way this is great news for us at Totem Learning, a serious games and simulations studio based in the UK.  Several of us have been in the industry for over a decade and remember the days when half the battle was explaining what serious games are and why on earth you would use video games for learning and development!  These reports validate our own first-hand experience. Exhibiting at shows such as Learning Technologies in January this year, there was a completely different energy. We no longer had to explain what serious games are – Learning and Development professionals just ‘got it’. Instead conversations were around the best kind of game mechanics to support different learning objectives.  Discussions back at Totem HQ on why this shift had happened, centred round the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, the reduced cost of technology, the maturation of the market and the change in the workforce and their expectations.  I was able to attend a highly informative webinar hosted by  Serious Games Association  and delivered by Sam S Adkins, Chief Research Officer – Ambient Insight. You can  view a video of the webinar on the Serious Games Association’s YouTube  channel, but I’ve picked out a few key points here:  Firstly Ambient Insight are very transparent about the Taxonomy that they use for categorising Serious Games – it can be  downloaded from their website .     






        It’s worth noting that they do not consider game-based learning as a subset of the video games market but rather as a subset of the learning technologies market.  The following slide shows the incredible growth rate of the game-based learning market – compared to other learning technologies. However it must be noted that e-learning still generates more revenues than all other six combined.     






        Next 1999-H1/ 2015 Global Private Investment in Learning Technology Companies. This shows the amount of money flowing into technology companies for game-based learning; $86.3m so far this year, even though we are only in the first half of 2015. This is a phenomenal growth in investment.     






        The report goes on to separate out serious games/ game-based learning and simulations.     






        The next slide looks at the worldwide game-based learning market by region, and predicts that the global market will be worth $4.9 billion by 2019. The emerging markets have the steepest increase, while the established markets will continue to bring the highest revenues. Asia will dominate the market for serious games.     






        The next slide shows a breakdown of the serious games market by buyer segment. Consumers are by far the largest segment but sectors such as tertiary education are set to increase significantly.     






        The following slide demonstrates the impact of tablet and mobile devices on learning technologies and shows that non-mobile serious games are forecast a 12.5% decline by 2019. We would argue at Totem Learning however that not all games are suitable for mobile as you cannot achieve the same level of immersion on a smaller screen.     






        In the next slide – this time looking at the North American market only, Ambient has predicted five year growth rates for the six different types of mobile learning games that they have identified. Augmented Reality (a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data). look set to have a very significant growth rate.     






        In summary, if you’re in learning and development or education and have been wondering whether to make the transition to game-based learning, these reports should give you the confidence that serious games are not a fad, but a serious training medium that has evolved and is gaining momentum and recognition for its effectiveness. For examples or more information about serious games please get in touch on info@totemlearning.com.      



A couple of recent industry reports which I’ll highlight in this blog, have indicated very high growth for the worldwide serious games market over five years, for the period 2014-2019.


       The power of plug-ins    What are they and do we need them? – by Graphical Lead, Chris Chadwick.     






     In the land of computers, plug-ins are software components which ‘plug into’ existing software applications. They add specific features or abilities to existing programs. For illustration, the industry standard software is Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector based drawing application used by digital artists across the world for most areas of graphic design. I have tried multiple Illustrator plug-ins but my personal favourites are in the  Astute Graphics  suite, consisting of 12 very powerful applications.  Astute Graphics plug-ins can be used, not only, to edit illustrations but also make them. I have found they make Illustrator more efficient but also more enjoyable, natural and intuitive to use. Drawing feels smoother and modifying much more dynamic. This set is an invaluable addition to any creative’s arsenal and is used here at Totem Learning.  Critically acclaimed illustrators such as Von Glitschka & Mike Rankin are huge fans of the Astute Graphics range and for good reason. They make life easier.  When trying to do something for the first time most people turn to the internet, searching to find a quick and easy guide for what they are trying to achieve. Chances are, whatever you are trying to do others have tried to do too. This can turn up communities of people searching for the same need and when this need can’t be filled by the stand alone application it creates a demand for a plug-in     






      New comers to Illustrator, already have a lot to learn and may not see the benefits of plug-ins. Thinking; surely a long established Adobe product with a premium price tag, must have everything I need to do my job. Right? And this is true. Illustrator is amazing and I prefer it to all other vector drawing software available today. Remember most plug-ins don’t make the impossible happen*, they take what might be a long and difficult procedure and make it faster, intuitive, more accurate and accessible.  Intimidate + users will have, on more than one occasion, said to themselves;  “I wish illustrator could do X, and do it like Y. This would make creating Z as easy as A,B,C.” - Or something to that effect - creating the desire for a particular plug-in.  Illustrator isn’t perfect, we all just got used to a certain way of working and thinking, and that became the norm. So when something new comes along it’s always worth approaching it with an open mind.  To conclude plug-ins add new functionality to existing software. ColliderScribe for example adds a toolset which allows users to position objects accurately next to another when they touch, or to an assigned distance. This is only one feature of this plug-in. However, it is one of those X,Y,Z questions graphic designers have been saying to themselves for years. So yes, they help. But no, you don’t ‘need’ plug-ins. But then again you don’t ‘need’ a graphics tablet to do graphic design, but it sure makes life easier doesn’t it?  *some do make the impossible happen, using black magic and graphic goblins



What are they and do we need them? – by Graphical Lead, Chris Chadwick.


       Mixing Business and Pleasure: The joy of gaming and the spawning of entrepreneurs     Have you ever been changed by a game?  Whether or not you’re a gamer, you probably have a view on whether games truly have the power to change a person’s attitude or develop their skills. Although using games for learning is becoming more and more accepted, there is still relatively little evidence of its successes.  This blog is a celebration of one such success – the part one game plays every year, in inspiring tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, leaders and change-makers.  The Back Story  Like many a game narrative, this one also starts with a Prince!  Mosaic, A Prince’s Trust Charity, was founded in 2007 to inspire young people from deprived communities to realise their talents and potential. Mosaic’s annual Enterprise Challenge takes students from such communities on a learning journey into business and enterprise, supported by voluntary mentors who are successful business people. The challenge ends in a grand final with a winning team, deemed to have presented the best business idea to a panel of high profile judges, receiving lavish prizes thanks to generous sponsorship.     






     In order to get through to the finals, teams had to compete for highest net profit in Totem Learning’s ‘The Business Game’. The game places the player in the role of an entrepreneur setting up a business. They must choose a product and make decisions on sales channels, quality, marketing spend and price and then trade for three virtual years.  The game is as fast or slow-placed as the player wants and during play, they must react to competitor activity, watch their cash flow, their stock levels etc.  An in-game avatar mentor introduces the game, and characters give the player hints for success, meanwhile in the real world the fantastic Mosaic mentors relate game based scenarios back to their own experiences in business.  Scoring: The Stats  We got some incredible feedback from surveys conducted by Mosaic. Here goes:  94.92% of mentors rate their experience of mentoring on the Enterprise Challenge competition as good, very good or excellent.     






     88.45% of students rate the Business Simulation game as either good, very good or excellent     






     80.74% of students agree or strongly agree that they feel confident that they know the basics about working in business (multiple choice question)     






     The evidence showed that students really rated The Business Game element of the challenge, when asked “What did you enjoy most about the Mosaic Enterprise Challenge Competition?” a few of the many responses were:      
     “ Participating in the game with other peers ” 
     “ The game because it was interactive, challenging, fun ” 
     “ It was like running a real life business, every little thing you did affected the business and the constant alerts told you what you’d achieved allowing you to know what you have done right or wrong ” 
      The Epilogue  There is a real mix of experiences that make up the Mosaic Enterprise Challenge – it’s a blended learning success story!,  but its undeniable that the game has been a powerful tool in changing student’s attitudes towards business. We’ve met Enterprise Challenge Alumni who’ve gone on to start their own businesses and name the game as one of the crucial contributing factors to their entrepreneurialism ( see this Youtube video ).  Richard Smith, MD of Totem Learning says “We’re really proud that our game is a part of the Mosaic Enterprise Challenge, and we’ll continue to sponsor it because we know it makes a difference to young people’s attitudes and aspirations.”  The Feedback Loop  We’d love to hear about any games that have had an impact on your lives so please Tweet us @teamtotem.  If you want to read more about  Mosaic and the great work they're doing click here    Click here to find out more about The Business Game, trial it or purchase it for your school.



Have you ever been changed by a game? 


       Is 'IT' Green?: Optimization for platforms    Now I have the characters completed, the final stage is to optimise the characters to work in game.  I worked at 300 dpi so we can print these characters large and to a high quality, this is useful for the marketing department. As we have huge files it’s easy to alter the image to a lower resolution. BUT keep loads of backups and don't overwrite your original Photoshop file!  You can always make a folder called original files. It doesn’t hurt to have a copied back up, in fact it's advised.  We need lower res files to work in OpenGL. Don't let techy words scare you; it basically means your job is to get your images to fit that program and OpenGL won’t run huge files. The smaller the resolution the quicker the game will run in the scene.  Keeping the resolution down  Go to the task bar, select image and in the settings image resolution needs to be lowered to 72 DPI and 8 Bits. Click on the index in the toolbar as shown below in the diagrams.  Taking the resolution down from 300Dpi to 72Dpi the Bit rate down from 16Bits to 8 Bits lets you select the indexed colour. It takes away the softness from the images but the characters will look small on the screen anyway so people won’t notice as much.   We saved over 10mb of data going through this process, and now the game loads lightning fast!  The visual way in Photoshop to keep the resolution down     












     Balancing of characters with back grounds  Based on research and watching lots of Michael Bay films Orange tones for daylight and Blue tones for night time work well. This is achieved with an ALT link layer solid colour layer with a layer modifier on it. Play around with the opacity, sometimes that in itself is very effective.     






     Final Images for the Is IT Green game with characters in day time and night time scenes.  Thanks for reading and keep drawing people!  Nicky Rhodes over and out…………for now………….  My next series is on environments so watch this space!



Now I have the characters completed the final stage is to optimise the characters to work in game.

I worked at 300 dpi so we can print these characters large and to a high quality, this is useful for the marketing department. As we have huge files it’s easy to alter the image to a lower resolution. BUT keep loads of backups and don't overwrite your original Photoshop file!  You can always make a folder called original files. It doesn’t hurt to have a copied back up, in fact it's advised.


       Is 'IT' green?: Character creation       






     One way to judge if your silhouettes have any major faults is by X flipping your character artwork. Using silhouettes this way will bring you a step closer to perfection.  In silhouette form it’s easier to spot the weakest and strongest character. It helps to judge if any extra tweaks need to be added. The weakest character seems to be the Data Technician. Her silhouette is less defined. Ideally, we want to see more of her glasses and her headset but her hair and lab jacket make up for it. I could have done more to that character but she does work in colour. The strongest seems to be the Janitor. Everything about him stands out; his hat, mop, shorts, even his moustache!     






     final images alongside the style guide     






     Here’s where the influences for my character designs came from. They are easy to see with the final designs alongside the Style guide.  I’ve taken snippets from Ido Yehimoitz, exaggeration techniques with a hint of Scooby Doo. I have kept Pascals light source and ambience influence and used it for the environments, bearing in mind the characters will be affected as they will be in the environment. You can see the end result on the last blog post of this series.



One way to judge if your silhouettes have any major faults is by X flipping your character artwork. Using silhouettes this way will bring you a step closer to perfection.


       Is 'IT' green?: Colouring    We refined the line in the last post so now its time to add some colour! Use layers like this:     






     Photoshop Setup   Start with the wireframe and select the ‘magic wand’ tool. Select the outside of the character and any space between the janitor and the mop. Select 'inverse' and fill white as seen above.  To create an ‘ALT Link layer’ hold down Alt and click between the two layers. The bottom layer becomes a base for the top colour to fit on top of. Add more ALT link layers to the base by using the same process    
       Red Pen Corrections Colour Pass  The red pen is out in force once again, this time there is less red and it’s taking into account colour too. The changes range from quick fixes to big fixes but it’s all workable. It helps if you do this one character at a time.     






     I have taken up the red pen approach PJ introduced to all my work now. I use it to find any defects and fix them. It improves the final quality of the images and acts as a final refinement. It trains your eyes to spot mistakes. You will soon have eyes like a hawk and will be able to spot all kinds of little problems with ease. It will make you a first port of call for critiquing colleague’s work. Tomorrow is the penultimate blog of this series and I'll be looking at final refinements and last minute tweaks - I hope you'll join me!   



Colour using layers organised like this:


       Totem's top 10 serious games    Who doesn’t love a list?!  The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games (not to be confused with Gamification). It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all!  It was very difficult narrowing down our favourite games to just ten. How can you compare a game like ‘Americas Army’, an army simulation game boasting prestigious awards such as “Guinness World Record for ‘Most Downloaded War Game’ 2009” and the eagerly awaited, ‘Code Spells’ which teaches Coding in an immersive magical landscape? They deal with two very different subjects and have different goals. But after lots of ‘umm’s and ‘aah’s we have collated a list together (with no real order) to share with you accompanied with the promise to explore all the genre has to offer in greater depth in the coming weeks.     Re-Mission     A third person shooter developed by HopeLab with direct input from medical staff and young cancer sufferers. It teaches children in remission about their treatments and the importance of their follow up care in a unique and informative way. It’s been a huge success! Achieving its goal with such success a sequel has even been released boasting even further successes such as winning ‘the Parents’ Choice Gold Award’.       












            Free Rice     An incredibly worthwhile game that everybody should play as often as they can. This game educates players on various subjects while simultaneously helping those most vulnerable.  It has accomplished so much since its release, late 2007; over 98,117,454,870 grains of rice have been donated to those in need through this simple multiple choice game.     






       Food Force    A contender for the most downloaded game in the Serious Game genre and a sequel co-developed with Konami; this game teaches the importance of food nutrition.     






           Nightmare: Malaria     Educating players on malaria while simultaneously working towards the end of the, completely preventable, disease; this game is challenging, both in gameplay and emotionally, with an impressively beautiful art style.       












          September 12th      A simple, yet profound game! Straight to the point; Shoot or Don’t. Very few games have achieved the level of impact this game has and none to our knowledge in such a short time frame. If you make the choice to ‘play’ the game you quickly realise how impulsive action only brings you further away from your goal.     






        DragonBox     Secretly teaching children Algebra! DragonBox proudly boasts teaching 83% of children the basics of algebra in under an hour of game play. What results! This game had to make the list. If you check out the reviews on the Play Store adults are raving about the game. There’s been some obvious competition between parents and children to play the app too!     






        The Leadership Game     Shameless Promotion! Our leadership game has been used by all sorts of people in managerial professions, including Football Management teams and CEO’s. It is currently undergoing a complete upgrade with some really interesting and innovative mechanics accompanied by beautiful graphics being included in the new release.       


















          Typing of the Dead       
        Fighting off Zombies while learning to type; an inspired combination! Lovers of the zombie genre will find endless hours of entertainment playing this touch-typing game.     






        Grace’s Diary     Gorgeous graphics, simple gameplay, abusive relationships- this game deals with this sensitive issue effectively, providing players with the necessary skills to recognise abusive relationships (whether their own or a friends') and information on how best approach the situation.     






        The Business Game     More Shameless Promotion! But we believe in our products and we know their merit so no apologies from us! This simulation game teaches great business and enterprising skills regardless of age or experience. The aim is to turn a profit and run a successful business, adjusting constantly to the market for three virtual years. Players will have to be adaptable and forward thinking to beat the game, it’s a real challenge! You can always message us for a free trial and try it for yourself; but be warned the Yellow Robin Reliant!     






     There are so many exceptional games in this innovative and ever-progressing genre; this list is just a taster! Serious Games are used to educate on so many issues it would be folly to think this list is conclusive. It is just a scratch on the surface! In the coming weeks, we will be going into the different applications Serious Games have been used for and feature the top ten of those categories.   In the meantime let us know your favourites! We would love to hear your views too, tweet us @teamtotem or use #TL10


Who doesn’t love a list!

The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games. It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all! 

       Is 'it' green?: Creating early character silhouettes    Use silhouettes to get your mind thinking in a way that strengthens your characters. When posing a character, it’s a good idea to act them out, in your head or physically. Take reference photos; posing helps you understand the stance and personality better. You can always pose a sketching Doll, or a Biped in 3ds Max, to get a better idea of shape and action lines too.  Action lines or ‘lines of action’ is a method used by animators. If these characters had animation: “what would they do?” It’s useful to think this way. It strengthens the character, giving it life, even if it’s not going to be animated.  Proportions take time to get right! Time was against me due to the amount of characters I had to design from scratch. I utilised a time saving method.. or cheated!. Rather than drawing from eye, I printed out and traced over a BiPed model in 3ds Max. I didn't have a light box or a Cintiq, so I used my computer screen as a light source using tape to keep the paper still. Later, I rescanned it with all the changes I’d made.      












     Line work refinement (important Illustrator and Photoshop knowledge)  Once happy with your sketches bring them into Adobe Photoshop and focus on tidying the lines. I added colour, thinking it would make it easier on the eyes, I don't recommend doing this as it didn't help in the long run. The colour pass comes after the line work so it’s best not to jump the gun. Stay focused on the lines for now and nothing else.   Adobe Illustrator Line work  Use the pen tool to draw out your lines. I found the inner lines worked best at 2pt and the outside line at 3pt. The thicker outside line helps the character pop.     






     Red Pen Corrections Line Pass  Always take a step back. Go make yourself a deserved cuppa and come back with fresh eyes. It’s easy to get too close to your work; spending far too long looking at it and not seeing what’s wrong. That’s ok. Step back, ask for someone’s unbiased opinion. My Creative Producer Paul Jennings (PJ), leading the design on this project, has a wealth of knowledge from years of experience managing art teams. He has a super eye for graphic design, alignment and balancing. At this stage I had a form of art blindness and needed his opinion. I couldn’t see what was staring me in the face.  NB: Taking regular brakes can help prevent art blindness.  A Creative Producer red pen pass was just what I needed at this time, highlighting the areas I needed to pay more attention to.     






     Come back tomorrow for a little about adding colour! 



Use silhouettes to get your mind thinking in a way that strengthens your characters. When posing a character, it’s a good idea to act them out, in your head or physically. Take reference photos; posing helps you understand the stance and personality better. You can always pose a sketching Doll, or a Biped in 3ds Max, to get a better idea of shape and action lines too. 


       Totem's Top 10 Serious games for learning languages!    Language Learning Apps  Just a few weeks till the summer holiday season! Where is everyone jetting off to?  Wherever you plan to holiday this year be sure to grab some local phrases before you go! Ordering your dinner or even just drinks is a respectful, confidence-building experience. We’ve pulled together the best games out there to help you learn with ease.   Learning through game play has been proven to engage players, enhancing their learning. There are many  reports  that focus on this aspect of Serious Games, including a report on  'Measuring the effects of Serious Games'  written by our very own Helen Routledge. The Wall Street Journal has even written an  article  on the positive effects of gaming. So what are you waiting for? We’ve got our Top Ten ready to go. You have no excuse to not learn that lingo!    Rosetta Stone Arcade Academy   This is one for everyone jetting off to Spain for some sun this summer. This game features 12 mini games – you can float through space or soar through the night sky, practicing your Spanish as you play. Players are rewarded with 5 free credits and more can be purchased through the game. Unfortunately, it is only available on the   App Store .     






          Mindsnacks   - My personal favourite! The interface was easy to use with excellent graphics. Learning in small segments, building up vocabulary, consolidating terms into memory through gameplay. This really helped me to grasp the language. I used this app alongside a phrasebook, teaching myself basic Italian for the month leading up to my trip. I won’t say I was fluent or could even hold a conversation but I could understand people! Which was endlessly useful!       












         Duolingo  -  The promise of free content forever is a definite hook! Lots of languages are catered for on Duolingo. Whether you’re off on your holidays to Italy or planning an intergalactic trip for some conversational Klingon –  Duolingo  has you covered!     






     While this program is really useful for learning a new language, it needs to be noted that this is not an example of a Serious Game. This is instead an example of Gamification. There are some important differences between Serious Games and Gamification. For more information keep a look out for Helen Routledge’s book ‘ Why Serious Games are Good for Business ’ .    Memrise   - Again, this isn’t a serious game. Memrise teaches through repetition. It ‘plants’ the vocabulary into your memory, using visual cues, even adapting to how you learn. There are a range of courses available and they don’t just teach languages. There’s even Art, Maths, History, Geography and tonnes more courses available to choose from. But be warned these courses are largely created by users, so expect the occasional mention of a new release, book or program.       






       Busuu   - Gamification, I see a common theme occurring! There are big limitations on this if you don’t pay to be a premium member. Online you can work on your Spanish but any other courses will require paying a fee. Busuu is really popular for people learning a new language, their website boasts 50 million users worldwide. It teaches through repetition and quizzing you on what you have just learnt. It tests your pronunciation and listening skills so make sure you are in a quiet place and the microphone on your computer or phone is working.     






       Bubble Bath   – There are a lot of languages available with this game, a lot of languages many others don’t offer, such as: Hindi, Russian, Swahili, Vietnamese and more. I downloaded the Swahili Bubble Bath game, I’m off to climb Kilimanjaro in September and I would like to be able to at least say thank you to the guides. It is a really simple game – bubbles rise, there’s an option on each side of the screen, select the bubble and then the corresponding option. Selecting a bubble prompts the word to play – helping with listening and speaking skills. I like this game because you can just pick it up, spend five minutes and set it down again. It doesn’t matter where you are, you will be able to practice without having to set aside any specific time.       






       Free Rice   – Learn a language while donating rice to those in need! This is a brilliant serious game we have mentioned previously and was featured on our  Top Ten Serious Games for Learning  blog. It is really simple. A word is shown and you click the correct definition from the options. There are a few different languages to play with and there are a lot of other subjects to choose from if you need a change of pace.     






     On a similar note, Studycat have developed a game for the younger generation. Teachers and parents alike have given this game some great reviews. Two lessons and twelve games are included in the game with more unlocked after paying a fee.   Fun English Learning Games    could make a great educational entertainer for your child while on those longer car journeys or bus trips.     






       Code Combat   – Short entertaining lessons teaching people of all ages how to code.  This game is great. There is even the option to choose from a growing list of code languages, all wrapped up in some neat, engaging graphics.  Code.org  is also a great side to use if you’re considering learning some code -and you thought this was all about languages!     






     This list isn’t just all about your holidays! If you read last weeks blog post you will know that learning a second language has a lot of health benefits. It has been proven to help with ‘ m  ental wellness ’, improves memory, communication skills, even builds self-esteem. The benefits are never ending! What are you waiting for?  If you found this list helpful or want to make suggestions for future lists, get in touch! Send us a tweet with #TL10, we’ll be only be too happy to take on suggestions. Same to developers; have you got a great game due to be released? Get in touch and let us know!   



Just a few weeks till the summer holiday season! Where is everyone jet setting off to? 
Where ever you plan to holiday this year be sure to grab some local phrases before you go! Ordering your dinner or even just drinks


       Is 'it' green?: Drawing and researching      
      Draw, Draw and Draw!     












    You have to keep drawing! Even if it’s not going well and you find you just can't draw. Maybe you're having one of ‘those’ days. That's ok. Take a break. Leave your desk and get some fresh air. Have a bite to eat or a nice cool beer. Relax.  Then get back to your desk. Change from a pencil to a ball point pen if you have to, draw! As seen below! I believe you have to draw and draw and then some, if you are going to uncover the gem you're after.   I like using a ball point pen as it makes you focus on creation rather than refinement. I’m looking for the rough beats which I’ll get plenty of time to tweak and refine later.         






        Early sketches for the Data Executive    
    Here I thought I would save time. I jumped straight into illustrator without really thinking, this is what I came up with. Very mediocre, slightly lifeless icon style. The character still had comedic value but it was missing a vital ingredient. My advice is simple: Avoid doing this- work on paper and then scan it in when you are happy.     






        Back to research  I looked back at my research. I focused on some Italian characters that seemed to suit. I finally found a great celebrity to loosely base my character around and I went from there.     



              Green IT. Character Design Process, Nicky Rhodes  



      Now we enter the refinement phase. As you can see above my sketching is a bit ropey and raw due to them still being in the working out stage. Once you are happy with your sketch idea; get feedback! Get as many people as possible to look at it and comment. I let work colleagues look through my final 6 character sketches. They would make passing statements, good and bad. Pick up on comments like: ‘I don't trust that guy’, ‘Is she a ninja?’, ‘he looks like a knight’, chances are these opinions will reflect the masses thoughts too.        






        If you can: adapt or, at least, consider what would happen if you turned the janitor into a knight? It can give character added dimensions. Not everyone has to like your character, just as long as they recognise what it’s supposed to represent then your job is done. Don't take offence if people say "it’s rubbish" or "that could be done better". But do question them, ask for specifics so you can refine it and adapt. Equally, be mindful and question "is their criticism founded and worth pursuing". Also wise to remember; you won’t please everyone you ask. People will see different things and want different tweaks. Don’t try to please them all. Take the ideas that resonate most with what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you’ll end up with something designed by a committee: vanilla and lifeless. 



Draw, Draw and Draw!

You have to keep drawing! Even if it’s not going well and you find you just can't draw. Maybe you're having one of ‘those’ days. . .


       Is 'it' green?: Incorporating character stereotypes            Stereotypes in the Design Process    






      Always reference from real life. I restricted myself to certain nationality groups. My aim was to capture a typical Slovenian/Italian etc   face type; taking into consideration features such as eye shape, skin tone, hair colour, etc. Often determining these traits are big generalisations and not factual. But it is a good exercise to have recognisable traits in your characters. It helps people easily associate your character with the nationality, age group, occupation etc your character belongs too.   A great example of this in practice is Wallace and Gromit. Many of the characters are ‘stereotypical’ British people. They have bad teeth, a fanatical love of tea, an insatiable appetite for biscuits and a dubious taste in clothing!      






      Stereotyping traits can refer to personality, such as a love for tea and biscuits, or physical traits like bad teeth. When considering the latter it is always best to get a wide sample for inspiration, then pick out the most commonly occurring similarities. Take care to be   aware socially when creating characters. My teeth are lovely and straight, by the way, but I can’t resist a cup of tea!     






     This is an example of my influene. I took inspiration from specific people in the limelight so the audience can easily connect with them. It’s always good to base characters on celebrities or actors, loosely. It is a great starting point. You may also find your characters become influenced by family members or work colleagues.        



Always reference from real life: I restricted myself to certain nationality groups. I was aiming to capture a typical Slovenian/Italian etc face type; taking into consideration features such as eye shape, skin tone, hair colour, etc. Often determining these traits are big generalisations and not factual but it is good to have recognisable traits in your characters so people more easily associate with the nationality, age group, occupation etc your character belongs too. 


       Is 'it' green?: decision making with design            



              Nicky Rhodes  



     Step Two - Narrowing it down  So now you have your initial research done. It’s time to break it down into categories. This will help build a clear picture of what to focus on.  With Green IT, I took the styles I thought best appropriate for the brief and split them into similar looking sections. Doing this helps to work out what style I want to achieve. At this stage it’s still ok to not know exactly what you want and you're allowed to get it wrong. This is a good process to narrow down your options to design styles which suit the brief and you are happy to pursue.     












        Decision making time!  I find this stage super tricky. I loathe making decisions. I’d rather merge all the styles and ideas together but this is an ill-advised method. It can become time consuming, messy and often doesn’t work out in the long run.  If you find things are getting tricky- you can't find the style you want and nothing is working out- go back to the previous step and do some more research. You might just stumble on something better.   Looking back, the images I have chosen all seem similar. I had drifted back to my comfort zone without realising, doing exactly what I wanted to avoid.  Back to the initial research stage; this time you know what you're not looking for. You have come a bit closer to the style you want through eliminating those you don’t.        






        Even after the decision making process you can still add or take away pictures that are more in fitting with what kind of style you want to achieve. Styles can be merged together or influence each other too. There is never a right or wrong way as long as you keep all your research in this way you will be ready to work in a clear and focused direction.  Three mega things to take into consideration:  -     What stands out most?  -     What styles connect with each other?  -     Which path is most efficient? (Depending on your project length and budget, you may need to be limit how far you stretch yourself)     Back and forth  There are still a fair few styles on those pages. But narrowing it down, we are starting to see some strong themes emerging. For example: a cut out style with flat defined lines. The only images that are swaying focus are the Monkey Island and Rayman imagery. These indiscretions become easy to spot using a layout like this. It saves time and lessens headaches, allowing your brain to focus on creativity.  Refinement- Last-ish step before we start the design process.  Now you will be able to see that I have taken out loads of images and added Scooby doo character stylings into the equation. I have done this because it’s all part of the refinement process. You can take away images… it doesn't matter how many. As long as you're left with a range of images that help you work towards your desired style, you’re making progress.  As you can see I’m very indecisive and want to pinch bits from different images. This isn’t wrong, if anything, at this stage in the process, it makes your work unique and hopefully best tailored to your brief.   



So now you have your initial research done. It’s time to break it down into categories. This will help build a clear picture of what to focus on.


       Is 'it' green?: Research process    Step One - The Research Process    



              Nicky Rhodes  



     Gather a selection of images from a range of artists, depict an assortment of styles in keeping with your art direction. Eventually, you’ll want to start narrowing them down and categorising.  From these inspirations build your moodboard, keep in mind the purpose of your brief. Be sure to add detailed annotations to your moodboard, this will help keep your work focused and streamlined. The ‘Narrowing’ down process will be discussed in greater detail in tomorrow's section so be sure to check back in then.   Case study:    Research outline for  Green IT .   My brief:         Create 6 characters both male and female in a ‘cartoony’ style.   Remember:  your final result will depend on the research you focused on in the beginning. Important direction decisions are made in these early stages.



Gather a selection of images from a range of artists, depict an assortment of styles in keeping with your art direction. Eventually, you’ll want to start narrowing them down and categorising.


       Is 'it' green?: what is the project and what has it got to do with design?          A couple of weeks ago we mentioned on our  blog  an exciting new project we are working on -   Is IT Green  ?   Our resident 3D/2D Artist Nicky Rhodes has wrote about her experience on this project. In the coming weeks she will be giving tips and advice, discussing her process and more on the creative side of game design!                    



              Nicky Rhodes  



     Hi, Nicky 3D/2D Computer Artist here! Welcome to my Character Creation posts. You might have guessed already, I create 3D and 2D assets, environments and characters. It’s my aim to enlighten you on all things fun and creative, here at Totem Learning.  It’s not often we get the opportunity to work on a creative focused, artistic, stylised project. When the opportunity arose, in the form of the project ‘Green IT’, I jumped right in! I’m sharing all my findings with you lovely artists, I hope this will help on your journey of becoming even more awesome! It’s not extra rules to learn. Simply a collection of guidelines I use that have helped quicken my process and improved my work. I will be posting daily, so watch this space!     Here’s what you can expect over the next couple of weeks:     Introduction Into Research   Starting Out  Gathering Research  Refining your Research  Defining Styles and Stereotypes (Or ‘Choosing a Style?)      Introduction Into Design And Development   Artistic Freedom and when to use it  The Design Process  Silhouettes and Line work  Quick Tips for Illustrator and Photoshop  Optimise                  






        Starting Out: Approaching A Project And An Introduction To Research    At the beginning of a project, it’s often  hard to choose a style you are satisfied with. There is so much choice out there! As an artist we all have our favourite styles we like to use but this can lead to some cosy comfort zones. It’s a good exercise to challenge yourself and try something new.    At this early point in the project, it is important to look at lots of different styles. Don't limit yourself, instead challenge yourself and your range as an artist. Limiting yourself or sticking with that 'one great’ idea which hit you straight away, can lead to mediocre, uninspiring and ultimately stagnant work.  When gathering research, question its merit; ask yourself:   What impact does this style have on you?  How does it make you feel? Does it generate a certain emotional response?  Will this style allow you to improvise, exaggerate or tone down? Essentially, can it be adapted if needs be?   Will this style suit the demographic and purpose of the project?    Will it clearly convey the message required?     Be wary and question…   What specific aspect of this style are you drawn to? Are you attracted to the art style as a whole? Or is it only one aspect you’re drawn to, the appealing colour palette maybe? For example, maybe you like the warmth of a painting and the inner response it provokes. But you have failed to give the art style appropriate attention.   Asking these questions in the early stages will save you from heartache later on. You know that stage when the project is failing to come together and you can’t put your finger on why it’s not working. Setting up mood boards for future reference and adding your own notes to these will help to keep you focused. Moodboards act as important reminders of your goals whilst you work.        






     What is  Green IT ?  Green IT is a short and interactive Serious Game,  developed as part of the Is It Green project . Its purpose is to help improve the capability of IT experts and managers of SMEs across Europe. Encouraging preliminary energy assessments of IT and IS (information systems) infrastructure. Empowering lower energy consumption; enhancing opportunities to save resources and encouraging eco-friendly behaviour.  Dispatched by the government to bring local companies into new eco-friendly regulations, the protagonist is a self-assured individual (a trait that often backfires). He grapples with the realities of being an energy assessor, often dealing with the most tragically incompetent or eccentric cases since getting on the wrong side of his boss. He will have to produce some brilliant results or risks being fired!  Humorous encounters with quirky characters introduce the player to several, beautifully crafted 2D scenes. The player will need to search for items of energy inefficiency in these IT environments, all while being entertained by the protagonist’s remarks and interactions with other characters. He will have to use the knowledge obtained to reason through a logic-based assessment; players complete tasks to progress. Tasks require selecting the right item or using a combination of items to solve more complex problems. However, the process becomes even more involving as environments differ depending on the timing of the visit and equipment being used. This gives greater depth and layers of interaction with each setting.  Now we know the plan come back next week for how to make it happen!                    



A couple of weeks ago we mentioned on our blog an exciting new project we are working on - Is IT Green?. Our resident 3D/2D Artist Nicky Rhodes has wrote about her experience on this project. In the coming weeks she will be giving tips and advice, discussing her process and more on the creative side of game design! 


       Mind games: Totem's top 10 serious games for mental health and well-being    In  2000 , the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on  Mindfulness ; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.  Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year, yet despite its prevalence in society there's still a stigma attached to it. The games featured aim to help understand mental illness better. There are also games featured for individual wellbeing and how to look after it.        






          Depression Quest     This isn't a representation of all people who suffer from depression. Devised to grow awareness of depression and empathy for sufferers.  Depression Quest  has a received a mixed reception. The game is played as a story; the player reads text then chooses a given action. Future choices become blocked off depending on previous choices made.      






     Photographs feature at the top of the text. As the depression worsens static creeps into the photos. This grabbed my attention. A recent study observed that sufferers from depression experience  fuzzy thinking . The static seems to reflect that. I’ve heard there are four endings, I'm confident I can predict at least one of them. One play through proved emotionally taxing enough for me though.  Worth noting: there’s a warning to those who suffer from depression or anxiety NOT to play the game. Serious stuff!       Elude    Similar in focus to ‘Depression Quest’ with gameplay closer to Doodle Jump.  Elude  aims to show users the highs and lows a sufferer of depression experiences. The protagonist is a teenage/young adult male, statistically the highest risk demographics for suicide. The goal is to climb the trees and soar into the sky. Falling can result in a hole too big to climb out of. A simple metaphor for a complicated illness.  There is a summary of your journey that's a befitting addition to the game. How many times did you experience ‘happiness’?     






          Nevermind    Incorporating new technology  Nevermind  is the first on the list to use biofeedback. The gameplay reacts to the player's stress levels. In a stressful situation players must calm their emotions to continue moving forward. Like all great Serious Games, the lesson learned can applied to real life scenarios, resulting in reduced stress and promoting emotional wellbeing.       












       This adventure horror isn't for the faint hearted. A captivating gameplay mixing harsh realities and magical fairytales. Anyone who enjoyed Alice Madness Returns is sure to appreciate the graphics and story of Nevermind!        Super Be     TTER    This is a social online game. It's designed to build up core strengths – mental, physical, emotional and social wellbeing.  Players set their ‘Epic Win’, their ultimate goal which becomes the focus. Smaller activities are also set and once completed equate to ‘power ups’ to use against ‘bad guys’ – emotional stressing events. It’s an interesting game proven to boost a player’s wellbeing and personal growth. I’m a new user to  Super Better  but so far I have found it encouraging and engaging.     






          Lumosity    Developed by neuroscientists, a huge team is involved in monitoring the effectiveness of  Lumosity . The aim is to “improve core brain abilities—and empower users to live better, brighter lives”.  The mini-games are fun and challenging. I’m playing on a limited access version but I’ve already increased my attention levels. This can be played online or on your phone.        









              Lumosity, Fish Game  



         MindLight    This immersive game uses therapeutic techniques to teach children to manage their emotions. The goal is to turn on all the lights in the mansion, overcoming fears and saving Granny. The player wears a neurofeedback device which monitors specific brain waves - relaxation and focused attention. Nominated on  Games For Change  for the Most Significant Impact award this is one to watch. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this game.   Mindlight 's graphics are gorgeously cute too!       












            Skip a Beat     Using your iPhone or iPod touch, this game monitors and incorporates your heart rate. There are four modes to choose from - Zen, Balance, Spicy and Master! The goal is to teach how coffee, a stressful day at work, even posture effects heart rate. This gives the player an insight into their own mind, body and general wellbeing.  This  is an upcoming area in the games industry, expect to see a lot more health games and apps like this soon!       












            Happify       Not a game in itself but there are minigames!  Happify  trains your brain to be healthier. Depending on personality and goals the route differs. Players can focus on all different kinds of tasks. Small positives or re-connecting with an old friend, the aim is to grow self-esteem and wellbeing. There is a Beta App or you can ‘play’ online, the choice is yours.       












            Flowy     This game is specifically for people with anxiety but I think anyone can benefit from playing it if they are stressed and need to relax. Tailored to the players own breathing patterns, the player must concentrate their breathing into regular smaller breaths while collecting items to complete levels.  Flowy  is still in the experimental stages but the developers have done their research. This game is going to help a lot of people!       


















            Mindsnacks    A language learning game! Learning a second language has been proven to increase brain size. The benefits of a second language are plentiful! Obviously there is the added bonus of not ordering a lemon when you actually meant a Citroen at the car hire in a Paris airport. But learning a second language has shown to increase memory abilities, cognitive skills and individuals are generally better mentally flexible.  Mindsnacks  are a great way to start learning a second language. Whatever language you choose there are minigames which teach you vocabulary in an exciting and competitive way – challenging your brain and keeping it active!     






     Now is the perfect time to start learning that second language. Next week's blog will be focused on the best games out there for learning a new language, all in time for your holidays!  There are a couple of games that are worth mentioning but didn’t make the list due to either not being released yet or no longer playable.       Guided Meditation VR    Not so much a game, but it uses gaming technology and deserves a mention. This is a virtual reality application which is due for launch alongside the consumer Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. It enables the user to be transported to a beautiful relaxing environment. Because the virtual reality headset has 360 degree visuals it is completely immersive – the user can escape to meditate in their chosen environment, even in their lunch break at work! At the moment voting is open so you can vote on locations, meditation options and more, or make suggestions of your own.     






     Soar – currently in development by  E-Learning Studio  s , the player is a bird in a world of grey. The object is to bring back colour to the world. The game will work with a heart monitoring device and aims to relieve stress through immersive escapism and breathing exercises.  Neuroracer – I just stumbled onto this game. It’s basically a driving game where the player has to mulit-task, working on the players cognitive, memory and multi-tasking skills. Research was undertaken with a group of individuals of all ages and there were some really positive results. The full study can be read on  Gazzaley .  I have trawled the site for recent news but short of a rumour on a mobile version being released, I haven’t been able to find anything.  Mental Illness is a real issue. A bit cliché, but if you don’t have your health, what have you got? These games deal with a variety of areas of mental health. Whether it's for creating awareness and empathy for sufferers or stimulating the brain, helping work towards a better, happier version of yourself. Appreciate life and be Mindful!  Don't forget to let us know your thoughts using the #TL10 on twitter. 



In 2000, the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on Mindfulness; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.

Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year.


       Totem's top 10 serious games for UK politics    Today’s the day for the 2015 General Election! Have you all been avidly following the news? Keeping informed on the world of Politics? Polling offices close at 22:00 but as long as you are in the queue before then you can still vote – a handy fact I learned from 'Election Game', featured below!  There was no question what the theme for this week’s list would be. Politics, Government, Voting and Party Issues are all covered! Keeping it ‘close to home’ this week to ensure maximum relevance.        






     First off and possibly the most relevant for today:  Election Game  -  Developed by Sponge UK, this short game is packed full of the do’s and don’ts of the voting procedure – from polling station opening times to unacceptable behaviour when carrying out your vote. Signing the ballot paper with kisses or making up your own political figure to vote for just won’t be accepted in this game!          



              Verto -  informing your vote.   









        Verto  – A very useful app for people who are unsure who to vote for. Take the quiz and order issues in priority of importance, the app will then suggest the party that best matches with the answers given. Previously there was a ‘call to action’ button built in so users could easily register to vote; on their website they boast over 500,000 people have registered after using Verto.           












        MP for a Week  – This was a pretty challenging game. It goes in depth to an average week of an MP. Play as the opposition or in Government, both roles prove a challenge. Keeping public opinion and the media on your side while balancing personal and party views, will you make it a week in parliament?        






      Ballot Bots  - A ‘10’ level puzzle game packed with facts and smatterings of questions to answer on current politics. Developed by the BBC, it can be played online or on your phone, be wary of those campaign pitfalls though!        






      Campaign Trail  – Another game brought to you by the same group who created ‘MP for a Week’, ‘catch’ people who will vote in favour of your cause, convince those on the side-lines and avoid those in opposition. This game teaches different practices used to raise awareness while testing your reflexes.  Think you can do better than any of the parties around today? Why not try your hand at running your own country then? See how easy it is, or isn’t! As there aren’t too many non-biased ‘serious’ serious games on the market to finish of this list, delivering the promised ten, the following five games all put you in charge as decision maker.        






      Democracy 3  – Available on Steam, this was recommended to me by a fellow Totemite. It is a very addictive game with the freedom to rule the country how you see fit. Oppress the people or bend to the population’s every whim, it is up to you! In this game you will have no one to blame but yourself for the state of the country. BONUS: it is currently on offer on Steam!        



              Nationstate, Logo, Politics  



      Nation State  – The game that lets the player decide every aspect of their civilisation – the name, money (or ‘the monies’ in the ‘Land of Bored and Unmotivated’), what kind of people live there, when were they discovered, ideologies and religion and so on. I’ve only just started a civilisation but I am looking forward to growing my own personal civilisation and seeing what the Nation State community has to offer!        






      Zeus: Master of Olympus  – A favourite of mine as a child, I recently spent hours trailing the internet to find a copy of this game! Sierra need to bring it back! There are various missions set to Greek mythology, the player builds up their city, balancing wages, taxes, imports, exports and so on. There are other cities who can be allies or rivals; using politics and careful espionage it is possible to change their views but if that sounds like too much effort, war is an option. Many hours spent playing this along with others in the series developed by Impressions Games. This is a game for people who want to run the country but not a modern country, with real issues, instead this is for the player who enjoys reacting to Poseidon attacking your little fishing village or a Hydra randomly appearing in your mine.        






      Civili  z  ation  – Has to be mentioned! A similar but more accurately historical game than ‘Zeus’, it is rich with historical figures. There are multiple ways to win ranging from a unique space program to total domination of the world. This game series produced a generation of dedicated fans; Civilization V was released by 2K in 2010 but the community is still going strong today.        






      Branches of Power  – Developed by Filament Games, the player explores the control different branches of government possess and the limitations attached. There are a lot of aspects to juggle while playing this game, as in real politics, less time taxing than Nation State and Democracy.  Happy voting everyone, exercise your right to vote – or don’t, as is also your right.  Not strictly all serious games in this post but they are relevant for today and hopefully you found them useful and informative. Don't forget to let us know your thoughts using the #TL10 on twitter. 



Today’s the day! Have you all been avidly following the news? Keeping informed? Polling offices close at 22:00 but as long as you are in the queue before then you can still vote – 


       Totem's top 10 serious games for 'Earth Day'    It was Earth Day Wednesday - Who took the Google Quiz and what did you get? Be honest! I got a ‘Woolly Mammoth’, ‘So unique, you're technically extinct. But on the bright side, scientists hope to be able to clone you some day’.  As promised we are bringing you another list collating together ten serious games out there on the market. Last week we brought you the list  Totem’s Top Ten Games for Learning , this week can you guess the theme?  It’s Environmentally Aware Games!  To kick it off we are going to start with a serious game that has a ‘Call to Action’ built in making it (almost) unavoidable to not get involved in the issue of Fracking.     






         Frackman  - Drilling under homes and fracking for gas to make a profit- at times action eat into profits but the costs to the community are a much bigger deal. The game play is limited but if you want to take a second shot at it Team Giraffe have built in a ‘Call to Action’ which sends the player to an online petition calling for the ban of fracking under homes- a hot issue at the moment with Mark Ruffalo publicly calling on the Government to ban all kinds of Fracking. Good intentions and useful links for further reading, but  What the Frack  is the game to play if you are serious about learning more on the issue. It’s very wordy but very informative and you are free to choose the outcome, good or bad.            






                 Rhino Raid  – I really enjoyed this one! A rhino out for revenge on the poachers who have mercilessly taken his beloved. Really captivating graphics coupled with simple but addictive gameplay.  It has entertainment value without compromising on its aim; there’s plenty of information to absorb in just a short period of play. Flint Sky Interactive have even made it really simple to find out more and donate from the game  .           






            Climate Defence  – Not the most captivating or motivational game, it gives the player a brief look at the real struggle of slowing down climate change.  An unbeatable game (unless you cheat), on ‘Real’ mode there is no way to win, driving home the extent of the damage done to our planet. Facts pop up offering further information on climate change and its effective but lacks depth. It is informative but if links to external related sources were incorporated it would make for a better educational experience.                












              Oiligarchy     – On to oil! At first glance (I thought) this game was an easy play through and hadn’t much to offer. But boy was I wrong! It is a really controversial play; weighted choices like ‘prompting a homeland attack’ or ‘declaring war on Iraq’ are easily made, your focus is on profit not people! Environmental issues: from destroying the local wildlife and villages to issues such as the harmful gases speeding up climate change are touched on too. This is a very pointed game despite its simplistic, colourful art style and the initial impression it might give.             












                Human Footprint Interactive    – Better to think of this as an educational tool. Found on the National Geographic site, it offers up some interesting individual information such as the amount of chickens needed to sustain your lifetime egg intake. – Fun Fact, ‘Ireland’s annual harvest supplies a lifetime of potatoes for 91,000 Americans’.  Planet Food  is very similar, awarding players badges for completing different tasks; growing awareness of the food we eat; more interactive and offering a wider range of avenues to discover, a great way to grow individual awareness.          






           Earth Hour    - A really sweet game with a very simple objective; ‘turn off the lights’. It was created for WWF as part of the ‘Earth Hour’ initiative which takes place globally on the last Saturday of March every year. There is a ‘Call to Action’ located below the game which gives the player more information on the effects of climate change and there is also a ‘Donate’ button for WWF.            









               Fraxinus - Played on Facebook   



            Fraxinus –Play this on Facebook and seek revenge on your friends for all those ‘Candy Crush’ and ‘Farmville’ notifications. This game is just as fun and addictive but a heck of a lot more productive! Working out the sequences and ‘stealing’ them from other players all while helping scientists (actual real-life, white coat wearing scientists) develop a cure for the Chalara fungus; a disease that has the potential to wipe-out 90-95% of Britain and Irelands Ash trees, a colossal figure when you consider Ash is the third most common tree in Britain! – If this is a cause you are passionate about then I really recommend looking into  BIFOR    and the work they are doing. For those of you who enjoy walks in the countryside and want to do your part saving the trees too,  Tree Health Survey  is an App which allows users to report issues of disease in trees to the appropriate Government Officials.            












              Citizen Science  – The ‘Steward’, foretold to save the local lake from becoming too polluted to swim in, time travels to gain a better understanding of the actions which resulted in the polluted lake. It is aimed at a young audience but there’s an important lesson we can all take to heart; each one of us have a role to play in building a better, more environmentally friendly world. ‘Citizen Science’ the term itself is a worldwide movement where individuals do what they can to progress the research of scientists into various environmental solutions, like the ‘Tree Health Survey’ and ‘Fraxinus’.  Zooniverse  is a huge database of Citizen Science projects with a range that caters for every interest.           






             Plan It Green  -        A building sim; the aim is to give an old energy sucking town a newer greener facelift. As Mayor there are a range of factors to consider when building; this game incorporates alternate energy solutions like solar powered houses, wind farms, even hydro plants! It was enjoyable and an easy play. Sim City EDU (only for teachers and students), Electro City (a more challenging play), IBM CityOne (choose to either the environmental route or a corporate route, makes for an interesting selection of players) – are just a few more titles in the building sim category with an environmentally aware aspect.             






                        Flower  – It’s always good to take a little time and appreciate the world around us. If everyone did this, who knows, maybe all these other issues we’ve discussed wouldn’t be issues! This game is really beautiful. It is tranquil, calming and very spiritual. Playing as the wind, flower petals are collected resulting in a whirlwind of beauty where each blade of grass moves independently! This game is gorgeous but it is more than just a simple pleasure for your senses (it has a great sound track too), it encourages a need in the player to actually go out into the real world and appreciate all it has to offer. This game is raved about by avid gamers and non-gamers alike. A nice little positive to round off a content heavy list!          There are so many games out there that focus on real issues, educating people of all age groups and motivating people into action, this is just a drop in the ocean of what’s on offer ( there’s games for that too). It is well worth the exploration and there are some real gems that provide great ways to get involved!     Here at Totem Learning, we have been busy doing our bit too!  Is IT Green , is the Serious Game which will equip players with the knowledge and skills to make their business energy efficient and save money in the process.     Nicky Rhodes our resident 3D and 2D Artist has been working diligently on this project. She has recorded her process and methods for any aspiring artists to learn from and we are delighted to announce they will be released on our blog very soon. Not to be missed by artists at any stage of their career, there’s sure to be something to learn for all – talking of which did you see Chris Chadwick’s post on  the Golden Ratio ?     Remember you can get involved on the discussion of your favourite Serious Games and candidates for future Totem Top Tens by using the hashtag #TL10 on twitter!



The second in Totem's Top Ten Serious Games Series. This blog is all about games that address environmental issues. 


       The Golden Ratio: A brief introduction       






     A brief introduction to The Golden Ratio – By Chris Chadwick  It’s not half and it’s not quite a third, it’s somewhere in between. It’s the golden ratio (TGR).  This very brief introduction to TGR will touch on what it is and how it can be used in layout and design. The golden ratio or mean is also known as the divine proportion, Gods fingerprint, nature’s perfect proportion, the golden section, Phi and simply Fibonacci (after the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci whose sequence of numbers are intimately connected to the golden ratio). The ratio is actually 1.6180339887… but can be rounded to 1.618 for the sake of design and we shall just stick with the name, the golden ratio for this blog.  What does it mean to a designer?  To me it means, bringing together parts or a whole in a way which is aesthetically pleasing to the eye - divided at the ratio of 1.618. I’ve created a  vector pack you can download and use  which may help you to start including TGR in your own work. Have a play and let us know how you get on. It is licence free so use, share and edit as you please.     






     This simple ratio can be used to create shapes; rectangles, pentagons, triangles, pentagrams, spirals and more. The same ratio consistently pops up in nature, most commonly associated to the nautilus shell, pinecones, sunflowers, storm clouds, galaxies and even humans. Nature mirrored in design works, it simply looks right and… Natural.     






      This short clip entitled ‘Nature by Numbers’ by Cristóbal Vila  shows some great examples of geometry within nature. The construction of the shell using TGR is particularly nice.  Famous examples of TGR outside of nature;   The Parthenon – temple in Athens, Greece.  The Mona Lisa – and many other works of Leonardo Da Vinci.  Logos and branding from the likes of Twitter, Apple and Pepsi.      






     The list goes on (search for examples of the golden ratio online). Some argue that these reoccurring patterns in nature are nothing more than coincidences. In design however, there is no doubt that for some reason, use of TGR is visually appealing. Twitter, for example, uses TGR to separate its content from the sidebar.   Personally I believe its appeal is because subconsciously or consciously we see it around us, multiple times, throughout the day. Your body proportions, for example, follow this same mathematical pattern. Take the length of your forearm in relation to your hand, the ratio is 1.618. Now look at one of your fingers. The length of each bone in relation to its larger predecessor follows the ratio of, yes, you guessed it 1.618.  How it can be visualised?  TGR can be used to create a golden rectangle (a good starting point for design and art), which has a length and height matching that of the ratio. To make a golden rectangle take a square and multiply it’s length by 1.618. If you reintroduce the original square, left aligned to the rectangle you now have a tool showing TGR. Draw in an arch with a radius that matches the squares height, using its bottom right corner as the pivot point. You now have the first curve in what is known as the golden spiral.     






     Starting to notice a trend in names here? This collective group of golden shapes can be duplicated, rotated 90° and scaled proportionately to fit perfectly within the original divide (the yellow section). Doing this extends the spiral. Continue rotating and aligning our golden shapes and you’ll see this spiral close in on itself. Isolated, this is the golden spiral, which matches up to the nautilus shell mentioned earlier.      






     Placing an isosceles triangle (two sides the same length) within the golden rectangle is another way of using TGR within design. Named, you guessed it… the golden triangle. This shape holds its proportions regardless of how you divide it.     






     Let’s now take a look at Drew Struzan’s Star Wars – Episode II movie poster and see if we can decode his use of TGR. Below, pay particular attention to the busy boxing of The Golden Ratio image and see how the elements have been housed within these overlapping rectangles. Even the Lightsaber's proportion to the other elements matches TGR.     






     In the example below I have taken a golden rectangle with a 1.618 divide and placed it over the face so that the eyes are central to where the lines intersect. This seemed to frame the face perfectly, so I continued to expand the shape, the results were interesting to say the least. From the face of this one character nearly all the other elements of the poster could be framed.     






     As you can see the spiral, rectangle, triangle and TGR can all be used to help position a subject in a photograph, balance logo design, create a website and even produce a movie poster.   A fantastic Disney film called ‘Donald in Mathmagic Land’  is well worth a watch as it explains TGR in all its Technicolor glory.  One final place you will find TGR is in our branding. Our branding guide will be released shortly for you to take a peek at. I hope this short blog has given you some food for thought and please let us know if you found the vector pack to be of any help.  Start looking around at billboards, TV ads, books etc and see if you start to notice TGR.  Remember, open your eyes and all you will see is gold. 

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This very brief introduction to TGR will touch on what it is and how it can be used in layout and design. I have also created a free vector pack you can download and use which may help you start including TGR in your own work..

1 Comment