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Big Think Interview With Nicole Lazzaro
Since founding XEODesign in 1992 Nicole's design and research has improved over 40 million player experiences, including several popular franchises for casual audiences such as three of the Myst Series, Diner Dash, GoPets, Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover, Mavis Beacon teaches Typing, Jeopardy Online, as well as creativity coaching for the designers of The Sims.
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nOkay, good, so I’m Nicole Lazzaro and I’m president and founder of\r\nXEODesign.\r\n\r\n
Question: What do you and your company do on a day-to-day\r\nbasis?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nSure. Well I make games\r\nmore fun, so I’m the leading expert on emotion and the fun of games and I work\r\nwith companies, everyone from EA to Sony to Ubisoft to PlayFirst to make their\r\ngames more engaging. Essentially\r\nI’ve for the past 20 years I’ve studied how to make the screen you know more\r\nengaging.\r\n\r\n
Question: What are the major changes you’ve seen in the\r\nvideo game world during your career?\r\n\r\n
\r\n\r\n Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nThere has been an enormous amount of changes, which has been really\r\nrewarding because back in the year 2000, sort of at the turn of this century, I\r\nhad this revelation on top of a temple in Egypt. I was standing on a temple in Dendera looking out over the\r\ndesert. It was a hot day and I\r\nreached down for my canteen to get that last sip of water when there at my feet\r\nsomeone had carved a game board and I thought, wow, you know, two people had\r\nstood where I stood and thought to pass the time with a game. And I wondered, what were their\r\nfeelings? What were their\r\nemotions? What engaged them in\r\nthat activity you know 2,000 years ago? \r\nAnd then what would they think of? \r\nHow would they respond to the games we play today? Then putting on my future hat thinking\r\nabout well what kinds of engagement? \r\nWhat kinds of games will we play say in the year 2020? And it was then that I noticed that the\r\nkinds of game experiences that I wanted to have were going to have to… The industry was going to have to go\r\nthrough a significant number of changes to capture that same amount of play and\r\nengagement. In a sense that set me\r\non this train of research for the past 10 years to look at what creates… why\r\npeople play games and what makes games fun because if you think about it sort\r\nof like Newton watching the apple fall, emotions have this invisible pull on\r\nhuman action and it’s present if you see you know in any kind of game play, but\r\nif you look at the games that I work on in the industry they have thousands of\r\nrules and maybe a handful of emotions, but if you look at a group of kids\r\nplaying you know you see the whole pantheon, the entire pantheon of human\r\nemotions coming from the game with a single rule. You know, tag. \r\nYou’re it. So it’s been\r\nreally wonderful over the past 10 years to share with the game industry hundreds\r\nand thousands of people who have downloaded our whitepapers and our research to\r\nlook at the whole spectrum of games evolving, so we’ve saw the entrance of a\r\nlot of… the mechanics of easy fun with Wii, you know that exploration and role\r\nplay. We’ve got new kinds of games\r\nthat are both educational and good for you in a sense, so there is a lot of you\r\nknow Brain Age and you know people playing Dance, Dance Revolution to lose\r\nweight. People playing eco games\r\nnow to you know make the world a better place and then social gaming is huge…\r\nis a huge trend and we see that in something we call people fun that where\r\npeople really experience more emotions the more that they connect through game\r\nplay and so that’s a really interesting trend.
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nThere has been an enormous amount of changes, which has been really\r\nrewarding because back in the year 2000, sort of at the turn of this century, I\r\nhad this revelation on top of a temple in Egypt. I was standing on a temple in Dendera looking out over the\r\ndesert. It was a hot day and I\r\nreached down for my canteen to get that last sip of water when there at my feet\r\nsomeone had carved a game board and I thought, wow, you know, two people had\r\nstood where I stood and thought to pass the time with a game. And I wondered, what were their\r\nfeelings? What were their\r\nemotions? What engaged them in\r\nthat activity you know 2,000 years ago? \r\nAnd then what would they think of? \r\nHow would they respond to the games we play today? Then putting on my future hat thinking\r\nabout well what kinds of engagement? \r\nWhat kinds of games will we play say in the year 2020? And it was then that I noticed that the\r\nkinds of game experiences that I wanted to have were going to have to… The industry was going to have to go\r\nthrough a significant number of changes to capture that same amount of play and\r\nengagement. In a sense that set me\r\non this train of research for the past 10 years to look at what creates… why\r\npeople play games and what makes games fun because if you think about it sort\r\nof like Newton watching the apple fall, emotions have this invisible pull on\r\nhuman action and it’s present if you see you know in any kind of game play, but\r\nif you look at the games that I work on in the industry they have thousands of\r\nrules and maybe a handful of emotions, but if you look at a group of kids\r\nplaying you know you see the whole pantheon, the entire pantheon of human\r\nemotions coming from the game with a single rule. You know, tag. \r\nYou’re it. So it’s been\r\nreally wonderful over the past 10 years to share with the game industry hundreds\r\nand thousands of people who have downloaded our whitepapers and our research to\r\nlook at the whole spectrum of games evolving, so we’ve saw the entrance of a\r\nlot of… the mechanics of easy fun with Wii, you know that exploration and role\r\nplay. We’ve got new kinds of games\r\nthat are both educational and good for you in a sense, so there is a lot of you\r\nknow Brain Age and you know people playing Dance, Dance Revolution to lose\r\nweight. People playing eco games\r\nnow to you know make the world a better place and then social gaming is huge…\r\nis a huge trend and we see that in something we call people fun that where\r\npeople really experience more emotions the more that they connect through game\r\nplay and so that’s a really interesting trend.
So we’ve seen essentially the industry go from what was a\r\nvery small percentage of the whole population, roughly about 15%, this hardcore\r\nmarket. We’re not starting finally\r\nto see the games jump the chasm to a more of a mass market product, so if you\r\nknow “Crossing the Chasm” by Malcolm Gladwell that you get these new kinds of\r\nplayers entering the market space. \r\nThey want different products. \r\nThey want different kinds of interaction and so now that is what we’re\r\nseeing with the games being produced by again, companies like Playfish and\r\nZynga and, you know, Playdom. The\r\nMafia Wars of the world, the Farmvilles of the world, all of those are really\r\nhelping people engage in social interaction and it’s that social interaction\r\nthat they actually enjoy more than the game itself. In fact, if you see people play at… you know in the same\r\nroom you’ll see more emotions, a wider variety of emotions, more intense emotions\r\nthan people playing the same game in different rooms and so what we’re helping\r\nour clients do is take those you know multiplayer interactions that might\r\nhappen in the real world to put them into game mechanics that make, you know, online play, you know, all that much more engaging.\r\n\r\n
Question: What makes a game fun?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nYeah, so what I was inspired to do is to really dig down into what makes\r\nthings fun. You know why do we\r\nplay games? So what I did was I\r\nlooked across games, so I studied everything from Halo to Tetris, people\r\nplaying at home, school and work, young and old, all the platforms, cross\r\ngender and I noticed that there were a lot of similarities between what the\r\nfavorite… people… player’s favorite moments in games were and so what I did was\r\nI collected those moments on videotape and then I used Paul Ekman’s facial\r\naction coding, simplified it for games to measure their emotional\r\nresponses. So there is seven\r\nemotions you can measure in the face, others you can measure in the body and\r\nwhat I did is I took those favorite moments in games and did a cluster analysis\r\nand it turns out that they group into you know four roughly categories of\r\nemotion and then looking at those emotions I looked at well what were the\r\nsimilarities of the types of decisions players were making. What kinds of play styles? What kind of play mechanics were\r\ninvolved? And that’s how we came\r\nup with the four keys to fun. So\r\nthat’s our model with essentially that’s basically the research says is that\r\ngames create engagement in essentially four ways. There is the hard fun of challenge and mastery, the\r\nfrustration that leads to what we call fiero, that yes, I won you know where\r\nyou get the boss monster. There is\r\nthis wonderful feeling in the body that’s on personal accomplishment. You know usability, making things easy\r\nto use won’t get you there at that emotion at all and in fact you have to feel\r\nfrustrated and so frustrated you’re about ready to throw the controller through\r\nthe window. If then at that point\r\nyou win that’s when you get that feeling like yes, we really did it. Very, very powerful emotion and players\r\nwill play hours of games, both hardcore and casual gamers will play hours to\r\nget that kind of feeling.\r\n\r\n
And then we noticed that well it wasn’t just about the\r\npoints and scoring you know like basketball. It’s fun to shoot… \r\nYou know it’s fun to shoot hoops for score, but it’s also just fun to\r\njust shoot hoops right. You know\r\nit wouldn’t be fun if the basketball hoop were like this big you know. You know it’s nice that it’s that small\r\nright and so it makes it… it makes it more challenging, but players also like\r\nother things like just dribbling the ball is fun or playing without a score and\r\nso there is this easy fun that goes along with the hard fun, so there is the\r\nhard fun of challenge and mastery. \r\nThe easy fun is more about exploration and role play, storytelling. We get mechanics involving ambiguity\r\nand detail, so in the Sims you know you can put the Sims in your pool and then\r\npull out the ladders to see what happens. \r\nYou can drive a racetrack backwards. In Grand Theft Auto you can go from point A to point B on a\r\nmission. The hard fun of the game,\r\nright, but then at any point in time you can actually also they give you like\r\non Improv Theater they give you a plate glass window. They give you freeway exit ramp, parking meters and it’s up\r\nto you as the player to figure out how those interact and so with that kind of\r\nmechanic we really… they’re very\r\ndifferent type of… They’re very\r\ndifferent types of interaction that were going. And what we noticed is that with the four keys is that\r\nbestselling games tend to have three out of the four and players wouldn’t do\r\njust one. They tended to also\r\nwithin a 20 minute session have three out of the four that they played and\r\ntheir favorites were three out of… \r\nyou know roughly three out of the four. So that’s hard fun, frustration or fiero. That’s easy fun with curiosity, wonder\r\nand surprise. Wonder is this great\r\nemotion that actually adults feel very rarely, so that’s wonderful that games\r\nand movies you know can give it to us, but games especially.\r\n\r\n
Then the third one is what we call serious fun, so in easy\r\nfun you get a lot of feedback for you know car, plate glass window, see what\r\nhappens. In serious fun it’s\r\nactually all about the reward. So\r\nhow do you feel before, during and after? \r\nSo we find players play to blow off frustration at their boss or at\r\ntheir teacher. They also play\r\nthough for you know the feeling of getting smarter or of you know creating… you\r\nknow making a difference in the world. \r\nThere is people playing again Brain Age to lose weight, Dance, Dance\r\nRevolution to you know… I’m sorry,\r\nBrain Age to get smarter and Dance, Dance Revolution to lose weight, but we\r\nalso see stuff that really represents who they are, so there is a lot of… There is about to be a real surge in\r\neco games, which we are actually making one, which we can talk about in a bit\r\nthat… our game Tilt and that allow players to express their values in the\r\nworld, so it’s not just about playing games as a separate, but actually how it\r\nreflects on them and what they value, what their motives are, what they like\r\nabout and want to see happen. So\r\nthat’s serious fun. That’s\r\nexcitement and relaxation, a lot of other emotions, repetition, rhythm. You know music can get into that. We’re using the fun of games to do real\r\nwork often. Serious gaming where you’re\r\ndoing a fire fighting simulator or a nuclear you know power plant simulator to\r\nlearn. That’s all part of serious\r\nfun.\r\n\r\n
\r\n\r\n And then the last form of engagement is people fun and\r\npeople fun is really, it’s an amazing area. You’ve got emotion. \r\nThe emotion that we can measure is amusement, so laughter, so you can\r\nlaugh and whenever you see laughter then you know that you’re getting people to\r\nengage with each other and with people fun we have a lot of mechanics, sort of\r\nsocial mechanics that create social bonding, that bring people together. Everyone has got a friend for example\r\nthat can make you do the roll on the floor laughing thing, right? And when you can actually then get up\r\nand breathe again you actually feel closer to that person and so what is\r\ninteresting about that is that there is not a disconnect between… I mean it actually doesn’t\r\nseparate. The game doesn’t\r\nseparate. It actually pulls people\r\ntogether and what we get there is we get the ability to actually create social\r\nbonds. I really hate the word\r\nsocial capital. A lot of folks in\r\nthe social media space talk about, oh, well, we’re building social capital when\r\nin fact what you’re really doing is you’re weaving the social fabric between\r\npeople.
And then the last form of engagement is people fun and\r\npeople fun is really, it’s an amazing area. You’ve got emotion. \r\nThe emotion that we can measure is amusement, so laughter, so you can\r\nlaugh and whenever you see laughter then you know that you’re getting people to\r\nengage with each other and with people fun we have a lot of mechanics, sort of\r\nsocial mechanics that create social bonding, that bring people together. Everyone has got a friend for example\r\nthat can make you do the roll on the floor laughing thing, right? And when you can actually then get up\r\nand breathe again you actually feel closer to that person and so what is\r\ninteresting about that is that there is not a disconnect between… I mean it actually doesn’t\r\nseparate. The game doesn’t\r\nseparate. It actually pulls people\r\ntogether and what we get there is we get the ability to actually create social\r\nbonds. I really hate the word\r\nsocial capital. A lot of folks in\r\nthe social media space talk about, oh, well, we’re building social capital when\r\nin fact what you’re really doing is you’re weaving the social fabric between\r\npeople.
So some of the factors that go into it are creating social\r\ntokens for example, so if you have mechanics in your game that could then be\r\nmutated or changed in a certain way and pass from player to player that can\r\nactually increase the social bonding that goes on in the game. So if I give you a health pack I feel\r\ngenerous. You feel gratitude and\r\nthen you know someone else might feel… see that action and say oh, elevation,\r\nwow, human kindness and then later on in the game you know that situation may\r\nbe reversed or you might experience schadenfreude, which is you know the\r\npleasure when someone you… when one of your rivals you know experiences\r\nmisfortune or Naches, which is this pleasure and pride when someone you help\r\nsucceeds. So when you mentor\r\nsomeone and they succeed you feel this emotion around them. So if you think about what we can do\r\njust by adding these different verbs, adding new verbs to the games we can\r\nactually change what we call an emotion profile, so just like wine or chocolate\r\nhas this flavor profile. You know\r\nyou have a nose and a head and nice long finish. Games and other entertainment produce a series of sensations\r\nin the body that can be intentionally designed. They already create… and even media products, other media\r\nproducts create… social media for example, creates… sort of have certain\r\nemotional signatures in the body if you will and you can actually intentionally\r\ndesign them to create different things that really go with the task at\r\nhand.\r\n\r\n
So for example, the social media platforms like Facebook and\r\nTwitter all of them have a number of different verbs that really match this\r\nprofile of friendship and getting closer. \r\nSo for example, the bestselling games on Facebook you know are the ones\r\nthat are about people, plants and… you know people, plants and pets okay and\r\nall those have wonderful social emotions. \r\nYou know Mafias. You’ve got\r\nFarmville, gardening and you’ve got you know Pet Society or you know the Animal\r\nCrossing kind of clones and all of those really revolve around friendship. You also have verbs, so the verb in\r\nFacebook of poke, so by adding that feature poke, that kind of is like well\r\nthat’s a poke in the ribs maybe, so that’s friendly, so it creates a little bit\r\nof what we call amici.. You know\r\nit’s Italian for this friendly kind of feeling, but what we do can is with that\r\nis you can then actually by adding these verbs or taking them out you can\r\nadjust this emotion profile.\r\n\r\n
Same thing with Twitter, so Twitter actually has a very… a\r\nbig challenge for it right now because it’s got a follow you, follow me kind of\r\ngame going on, so you have underneath your avatar photo you’ve created a game\r\nbecause by putting that hard fun, that score, how many followers I have\r\nunderneath my headshot, well that kind of encourages certain behavior because\r\npeople will behave to maximize that score because that is what a score does,\r\nright, so what you do then is friend as many people who then friend you back and\r\nso then your score goes up, but then what happens to your feed of your\r\nfollowing, if you’re following you know a million people are you really\r\nfollowing any of them? Can you\r\nreally use it to you know stay up or really touch base with them or is it just\r\nyou know a lot of people have zero tweets and you know a thousand followers. It’s like well what is that all\r\nabout? And so in a sense that\r\nvibe, putting a score there players actually broke the game. They broke the game a little bit and so\r\nthe added addition of lists and obviously you know some other mechanics like\r\nre-tweeting and DM-ing and stuff, direct messaging and stuff that all helps\r\nbind the… you know bind the game…\r\nthe game that is Twitter, bind that social experience together. So you can see how all these actions\r\ncreate… have a sense of cloud of emotion around them and that’s what makes the\r\nexperience really fill out. Just\r\nlike a film would with story and character we’re actually painting in a sense\r\nthe UI. We’re actually painting\r\nthe experience with emotion and attention and essentially by intentional design\r\nyou can actually color it any emotion that you choose if you know what verb to\r\nuse.\r\n\r\n
Question: What kinds of video games are being designed to\r\nappeal specifically to girls and women?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nWell I think that the experiences that are being designed are definitely\r\nmuch more casual. In our research\r\nwhat is interesting is that it’s not so much the mechanic, the type of choice\r\nthat you make in the game or the type of challenge, but the theme tends to have\r\nmore of a gender skew and what is interesting with… I’m glad you brought up the gender issue because there is\r\nsome really interesting stuff. Not\r\nall guys want to have a Rambo fantasy. \r\nSome kind of get tired of it after a little while. A lot of guys like sports, but not\r\neverybody likes sports and if you think about what… if you get two groups and\r\nit can be divided by gender or age, you know average **** time, amount of\r\nviolence in the experience you have to remember that that average is an average\r\nof what? Well it’s an average of\r\nindividuals and those individuals actually aren’t all on that same line. Even if there is a statistical difference\r\nbetween the two you actually then have two normal distribution curves and so\r\nthere is a lot of guys in the girl’s range say and a lot of girls in the guy’s\r\nrange and what people tend to forget with the… with 50 years of marketing\r\nexperience behind us now we tend to jump right into the gender as like oh, this\r\nis the defining rule, this is how we make our games better because we’re going\r\nto target this by gender. It turns\r\nout though if we put everything that people like about games and we just sort\r\nof dump it on the table okay and in one hand we gather everything that guys\r\nlike and only guys like in one hand and if we gather the other hand and\r\neverything girls like and only woman like in the other well then what do we\r\ndo? Well the game industry well it\r\nmakes a game for guys and a game for girls, right? Well what are we forgetting? It turns out what we’re forgetting is everything that’s\r\nstill on the table, right and it turns out in terms of our research everything\r\nthat is still on the table is what players like the most about games and so\r\nwhen we think about how to you know use gender segmentation as a way to make\r\ngames more fun it’s actually a pretty slippery slope because if you’re looking\r\nat a lot of games that have mass appeal you know it’s like 40, 60, you know,\r\nmale and female and so… and games are almost all played in mixed gendered environments. So it’s not surprising that the most\r\npopular games like World of Warcraft or the Simms or Myst, and we’ve worked on\r\nthree of the Myst series, is that they actually draw… They actually draw from\r\nboth pools. You know there is\r\nmechanics and situations and themes that appeal to… that appeal to both.\r\n\r\n
But in terms of casual games what we find is that there is a\r\nlot of very interesting obviously theme stuff, so the whole restaurant\r\nsimulations, Diner Dash, we’ve worked with PlayFirst on everything since Diner\r\nDash II pretty much on has come through our lab and what we’ve noticed is that\r\nthere are a number of mechanics and it’s not that they… women absolutely like\r\nhard fun. You might think that\r\nit’s the guys that want the real sweaty, kind of like intense experience and\r\nthe girls want this either very social or very easy time. Not true at all. I mean women love as well as men, they\r\nreally love to work hard for their game. \r\nThe harder they work the more rewarding it feels and so it’s not surprising\r\nthat people will… You know you\r\nplay Tetris on time mode and it’s you do work up a sweat. But what we don’t see is we don’t see a\r\nlot of complexity in the controls, so you know women do tend to invest less\r\ntime in learning a thing. They\r\nalso are a newer entrance into the market, so what correlates a lot more with\r\ncasual and core kind of games is like, you know, how long you’ve been playing\r\ngames and how often you play because games for the hardcore market have really\r\nscaled up in terms of adding additional features over time and the hardcore\r\nmarket really has perfected, you know, the sort of five core games. There’s five core games that they\r\nperfected, whereas the casual space is much more open.\r\n\r\n
Question: How have you attempted to integrate social values\r\ninto video games?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nAbsolutely. Yeah, so Tilt\r\nis a game, and basically it’s Tilt Flip's Adventure in 1.5 Dimensions and it’s\r\nan experience on the iPhone. What\r\nwe’ve done is the story starts with Flip who crawls out of this polluted ooze\r\nthat was once Shady Glen and decides to take on this toxic green blight cloud\r\nby eating carbon out of the air and gathering water and seeds to replant the\r\nforest and Flip is just a tiny little lizardy, you know, kind of froggy\r\nchameleon kind of character and can really only move and, you know, in four\r\ndirections, so it can only have four positions and what we did was we created\r\nthis, so all you do to… There are\r\nno buttons in the game. All you do\r\nis tilt the game. You just tilt\r\nthe iPhone to control it and Flip gathers, you know, water and seeds and eats\r\npollution, and what we found is that we wanted to really capitalize on… or give\r\npeople the opportunity to express themselves kind of like the Powers of 10\r\nvideo, if you seen that, IAMS animation where you go from really small to being\r\nlike way out towards Saturn and then go back down again and we wanted to give\r\nplayers the experience of the power of tiny actions, so if I just you know to\r\nmake a simple choice between say paper and plastic you know today or I turn off\r\nmy light switch then you actually… those… you want to see how those decisions\r\nadd up to a global experience of play and so we’ve got a single player layer\r\nfor the game where you go through 12 scenes or 60 levels to the game and then\r\nyou can… all of your Tilt points\r\nare geo-coded to where you can earn them. \r\nSo you can actually have on a global scale we can have different\r\ncontinents and different regions you know competing and cooperating against\r\neach other, so we you know North America going against China and then in the\r\nreal world we take it one step further where you can actually take… do an action in the real world like you\r\nchange your light bulbs and you or… you know you might use your… reduce your\r\ncarbon footprint or you know and start a recycling program or an educational\r\nprogram and if you were to share that with… on social media with your friends\r\nwith the tag for the game the game will actually scrape that and you earn\r\ncredit for it in the game. So you\r\ncan basically do stuff in the real world and through the miracle of social\r\nmedia you actually do better in the game. \r\nSo we take it all the way up to that… to a real world experience to make\r\nthe world a better place and it’s all through game play.\r\n\r\n
Question: How are mobile platforms changing video games?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nYeah, the iPhone and other… \r\nThe iPhone is taking gaming to a whole other level of play because it’s\r\nalways with you. It always with\r\nyou and there are a lot of new sensors, so you’ve got accelerometer and\r\ngeocoding, that sort of thing, and more importantly I think is it’s also social\r\nand so that social interaction that through game play because it has your\r\ncontact list on it for example, you know, being able to bridge out to your\r\nfriends and play together in these micro payments of time if you will is going\r\nto be a huge thing for the iPhone. \r\nAnd I say this even though I invented the very first game to use the\r\naccelerometer. The very first\r\nversion of Tilt I designed with Joe Hewitt at iPhone dev camp about a week\r\nafter the iPhone came out and we… \r\nIt was really fun because we just two web pages, one YouTube video and\r\nyet we got 250,000 visits because we mapped the mechanics of the game into the\r\nnew control set of the iPhone and then also it created that sense of wonder,\r\nthat curiosity, wonder and surprise and when people who had an iPhone… They didn’t have an app store, no API\r\nor anything like that, so they could play with the things that came on the\r\ndevice, but if they hopped over to our web page they could have a whole new\r\nexperience to show to their friends. \r\nThere was a lot of over the shoulder play as well.\r\n\r\n
And so, you know, just sort of wrapping back in what we’ve\r\ngot is this whole now set of games and it’s not just the control. It’s not just the micro form that fits\r\nin your hand, but it’s that connectedness and the fact that I can\r\nasynchronously play with my friends again to sort of weave more social fabric\r\nwith them. That’s what is going to\r\nbe the real killer app if you will you know for the iPhone. And in fact, you know, with the new…\r\nthe newly announced iPad, I predict that e-reading isn’t going to be the\r\ndominant… You know, reading your newspaper is not going to be the dominant use\r\ncase at all. The dominant thing is\r\nactually going to be gaming and two player gaming though. I don’t think many people will, you\r\nknow, hold that device that that’s large you know in front of them you know for\r\nthat long to let’s say drive a car. \r\nWhat will happen though is I could put it down you know in between us\r\nand then we have a… then we have a game board between us and then kind of like\r\nthat Star Wars chess scene, you know, in Episode Three or whatever. You can actually make moves and we can\r\nshare that environment or we have it in our lap and we have this Battleship\r\nkind of experience where I can see some of your screen, but not. That’s going to be… For the first time\r\nwe’re going to have real face-to-face electronic gaming. I can’t wait. We’re going to be obviously taking Tilt to the iPad, and I\r\ncan’t wait to see what developers come up with.\r\n\r\n
Question: In what surprising new ways will video games be\r\nused in the future?\r\n\r\n
Nicole Lazzaro: \r\nAbsolutely. Well I think\r\nwhat our mission right now is you know with launching Tilt and the consulting\r\nthat we do with our clients companies is really unlocking you know human\r\npotential and improving quality of life through play and it’s not… I mean there isn’t a game in the world\r\nthat doesn’t teach and there is no play style even that doesn’t teach, so there\r\nis this very human, not a human need, but I mean it’s just a human\r\nfacility. This play experience is\r\npart of what we do. So we’re\r\nactually going to see, work and play get a lot closer together, so we’re going\r\nto be playing more at work. We’re\r\nactually going to be… you know\r\nwe’re actually going to have work that feels more like play, so I predict that\r\nnot only do we have… We’re going\r\nto have more robust you know simulations, training simulation games. You know so if I hand you a nuclear\r\nreactor you know you can play with it. \r\nYou can train to… You can do management training that way. You can do all kinds of social… In fact, World of Warcraft, if you’re\r\nguild leader, you know, you’re learning a lot about management… managing other\r\npeople, so I think we’re going to see a lot of stuff happening in games coming\r\nthrough. And I think I’m really\r\nhopeful for… This is why I’m\r\nsharing a lot of my research, is that what we’re really hopeful for is to see\r\nhuge changes in the American workplace and you know actually all around the\r\nworld because when I go in and you know I’m trained to read emotion on people’s\r\nfaces what I see and I see that and I see their work styles and their you know\r\nwhat tasks they can actually do and you know I’m in awe and in horror of what I\r\nsee when I go into the average office space because the work there is so… I mean it’s so ill-suited to the task\r\nat hand. You know, if this were a\r\nzoo or a kindergarten, you know, Child Protective Services or, you know, the\r\nHumane Society would be there… down there, you know, to close it down in about\r\nan hour because the work environment, the physical space, the types of tasks,\r\nthe emotions around those tasks are totally ill-suited to accomplishing the\r\ntask at hand and so by really understanding play and what motivates people and\r\ngames are self motivating systems, so self motivating systems we’re going to\r\nsee that self motivation permeate throughout everything from word processing\r\nto, you know, the way that your copier operates.\r\n\r\n
We’re going to see not only that we’re going to see these\r\ngame mechanics you know embedded in the software that we use, you know in the\r\nphysical devices that we touch like, you know, a copy machine, but we’ll also\r\nsee it in this business structure as well, so we’re going to see the way that\r\ngive feedback, the way that we give out tasks, the way that we manage folks is\r\nactually going to be a lot more responsive to game style kind of thinking\r\nbecause in a game what do you have to have? Well Sid Meyer says it’s got to be interesting choices,\r\nright, so you got to have that, but then you also… You know I think that what we do in games is really we\r\nsimplify the world. You know we\r\nsuspend some consequences. You\r\nknow that gives us a little free action and then we then enhance the feedback\r\nand enhancing the feedback and enhancing the reward, that easy fun and that\r\nserious fun really can then motivate folks, motivate people to explore and\r\nextend themselves and when they accomplish something hard that they couldn’t do\r\nbefore then that hard fun comes in and you feel much more well-rounded as a\r\nperson and much more… you know,\r\nyou feel much more… that sense of accomplishment and, you know, really usefulness, you know, in society at large.\r\n\r\n
And actually just riffing off of that a bit, I think that\r\nalso the other way that games are changing the way we are as a society is that\r\ngames have multivariant input, so especially simulation games, so you’ve got\r\nmultiple things coming in and you have the ability to make a lot of\r\nchanges. So in a sense simulation\r\ngames are really… have the opportunity to change the world, to really educated\r\nus as global citizens because what are simulation games are they are a… they\r\nhave multivariant inputs and multi variant outputs, so when I play Sim City I\r\nplay a city manager and I, you know, make decisions, you know, and I can make\r\ndecisions that related to Godzilla or I can make decisions to earthquake or\r\nfire or I can, you know, build it up, but when you’re done with Sim City you\r\nactually know a little bit more about that. You know more of that world and what we really need right\r\nnow are people who can understand multivariant systems to fight things like\r\nglobal warming, AIDS, all of these problems. We’ve pretty much dealt with a lot of the low-hanging fruit\r\nhere, and so you know I think that games play a really serious role, a really\r\nimportant role in elevating up our thinking to that next level of play, and I\r\nthink if we can do that the world will definitely be a better place.\r\n\r\n
\r\n\r\n Question: What was your favorite video game as a kid?
Question: What was your favorite video game as a kid?
Nicole\r\nLazzaro: Okay, yeah, yeah,\r\nyeah, yeah. So I think growing up\r\nas a kid one of my favorite… As a\r\nkid the thing that had me drop the most quarters was Star Wars, the Star Wars\r\nFlight Sim. I love the feeling of\r\nflying. I love that whole\r\nexperience. I felt like I was this,\r\nyou know, fighter pilot and I was you know racing and I never got past level\r\nseven, but you know I loved the way the audio came in. I was in that universe, even though it\r\nwas only wireframe at the time. It\r\nwas a wireframe kind of, you know, flight sim and that experience allowed me to\r\nextend my love of the whole Star Wars universe, which again was this… you know this inspirational fantasy, so\r\nit really connected it you know for me. \r\nAnd I think that would be... \r\nYeah, that would definitely be my favorite game.
Recorded on February 16, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
A conversation with the founder and president of XEODesign.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
In his book with Richard Clarke, "Warnings," Eddy made clear this was inevitable.
- In their 2017 book, "Warnings," R.P. Eddy and Richard Clarke warned about a coming pandemic.
- "You never get credit for correctly predicting an outbreak," says science journalist Laurie Garrett in the book.
- In this interview with Big Think, R.P. Eddy explains why people don't listen to warnings—and how to try to get them to listen.
<p>If only we had a warning.</p><p>Well, besides this <a href="https://cmr.asm.org/content/20/4/660?fbclid=IwAR2veUWlXE0ydoFEzl0PoHPPwcQQkNk1zTncJt4GleZ_whDZi9_xcCCHJyk" target="_blank">2007 review</a> from a team at the University of Hong Kong warning about a pandemic coming from a wet market in southern China. Or President Obama <a href="https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/04/10/barack-obama-2014-pandemic-comments-sot-ctn-vpx.cnn" target="_blank">warning</a> about the potential for a pandemic in 2014. Or journalist <a href="https://www.lauriegarrett.com/about" target="_blank">Laurie Garrett</a>, who has been covering diseases since reporting from Africa in the late seventies, where she noticed that measles killed way more citizens than war. Her <a href="https://www.lauriegarrett.com/the-coming-plague" target="_blank">1994 book</a> was aptly titled "The Coming Plague."</p><p>Garrett is what Richard Clarke and R.P. Eddy call a "Cassandra" in their 2017 book, "Warnings." The term honors the Greek priestess who was cursed to utter prophecies that no one would believe. A Cassandra, they write, has "the ability to detect danger from warning signs before others see it." Their book covers seven warnings we should have seen—Hurricane Katrina, Bernie Madoff, Fukushima, ISIS—and seven that are coming. </p><p>Well, six. </p><p>True story: a few weeks ago, I finish reading Sam Quinones's exceptional reporting on the opioid epidemic, "Dreamland." The next book on my desk is "Warnings," which I planned on re-reading in order to cover the chapter on pandemics. I open Twitter to find a private message from R.P. Eddy randomly sharing their chapter on pandemics. Either my laptop is listening a little too closely or it's a fortunate coincidence. I choose the latter and request an interview with Eddy, which he <a href="https://www.earthrisepodcast.com/politics/92-with-r-p-eddy/" target="_blank">graciously accepts</a>. </p><p>If anyone knows how governments respond (or don't respond) to crises, it's Eddy. The CEO of global intelligence firm, Ergo, Eddy previously served as Chief of Staff to Richard Holbrooke, Senior Adviser to Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, and Senior Policy Officer to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He was an architect of the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS, TB, and Malaria. He's lived, breathed, and studied pandemics for decades. He is the man that, if we had a functional government, would be helping lead us through this mess right now. </p><p>When I mention COVID-19, his first reply is not reassuring: "We're at the most foreseeable catastrophe I can think of."</p>
EarthRise Podcast 92: Predicting the Pandemic (with R.P. Eddy)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c1ce45635344c89d8213291842d947db"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tlcoXGNDlhE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Being a Cassandra isn't about assurance, but taking a broad look at the facts—he champions <a href="https://interactioninstitute.org/orthogonal-thinking-and-doing/#:~:text=Orthogonal%20thinking%20draws%20from%20a,to%20see%20what%20might%20emerge." target="_blank">orthogonal thinking</a> in "Warnings"—and piecing together a story. Eddy says it begins by noticing the "invisible obvious."</p><p>He mentions a 1970s-era conference designed to address the role of women on Wall St. The highly-touted gathering took months of planning. Hundreds of people were in attendance. It wasn't until everyone was on stage that someone noticed not a single woman was invited to speak. Once pointed out, no one could unsee it. </p><p>The invisible obvious. </p><p>In every "warning" chapter—the rise of AI, the challenge of sea-level rise, the dangers of gene editing—a Cassandra is detailed. Garrett fulfills that role for pandemics. She claims public health experts are placed in an impossible situation. "You never get credit for correctly predicting an outbreak." When they implement effective countermeasures that stop the spread of a virus, critics believe "that you exaggerated the threat." </p><p>Eddy is talking to me from Idaho, where his family is sheltering. He noticed something odd while driving across America. On the east coast, everyone was vigilant about distancing and masks. As the Eddys encroached upon the heartland, even they started loosening up the rules. No human is distinct from their environment. Eddy speaks about the pandemic daily—Ergo is behind the highly-regarded <a href="https://ergo.net/covid19" target="_blank">COVID-19 Intelligence Forum</a>—yet even he was being lulled into a false sense of security while stopping in communities that believe the coronavirus is a hoax, or at least not as dangerous as it is.</p><p>I ask why we're so prone to disbelieve the science behind public health efforts. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Humans have 130,000-year-old computers stuck between our ears. We are designed for a world much less complex than the one in which we find ourselves, and we are driven by biases and heuristics. We make mistakes all the time because we use these shortcuts that worked really well 100,000 years ago, but don't work well now."</p><p>Shortcuts that served tribes, not nations. Shortcuts that cause us to rely on the quick satisfaction of hearsay, not the slow complexity of science. Shortcuts that cause people to believe an invisible god has a plan for everyone and disbelieve a visible virus is ravaging our nation's broken health care system. Shortcuts that cause tens of millions of Americans to vote the worst possible person to the presidency when a pandemic was inevitable. </p>
Eddy attends an event hosted by GLG to welcome Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy, authors of "Warnings: Finding Cassandras To Stop Catastrophes" at GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group) on May 30, 2017 in New York City.
Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for GLG<p>I mention conspiracy theories. Eddy sighs—an appropriate response. We compare anti-maskers to anti-vaxxers, which are often cut from the same cloth. We both know plenty. He says it's best to first identify and acknowledge the base fear behind their "anti." Consider the idea that vaccines are a mechanism for microchipping the population.</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;">"Conspiracies are all based in some healthy place. These people are probably concerned about government surveillance and personal freedom. They believe every aspect of the Edward Snowden story; they believe this microchipping story is the next step. They're not wrong that we should watch and be aware, but they're wrong in thinking that we're falling for it right now."</p><p>Because we should be aware. Our government is corrupt to the bone. The challenge is distinguishing between incompetence and malfeasance. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I don't believe in government conspiracy theories because I don't think government is that competent. I've had every security clearance anyone could ever want in the U.S. government. Way above top secret. We do not have the capacity to pull off a 9/11 conspiracy or to microchip people. Everything leaks, especially in this era." </p><p>We've reached this strange era of mass hypnosis, where elected officials like Rand Paul can actually <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/06/30/rand-paul-to-federal-health-officials-we-shouldnt-presume-that-a-group-of-experts-somehow-knows-whats-best/" target="_blank">state</a> during congressional testimony, "We shouldn't presume that a group of experts somehow knows what's best." Then who to actually trust? An <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/rand-paul-ophthalmology-certification-scandal-why-it-matters" target="_blank">uncertified ophthalmologist</a> playing an epidemiologist on TV? </p><p>We're in serious trouble when people that have spent years studying and decades working in public health are usurped by charlatans at YouTube University. But here we are. </p><p>Sadly, optics matter. Cassandras aren't necessarily charismatic. They're concerned with data, not adoration. Then they run into animals with 130,000-year-old operating systems being exploited by captivating characters. Truth becomes secondary. Suddenly, <a href="https://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/memberarticles/germ-theory-vs-terrain-theory-in-relation-to-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">germ theory isn't real</a>, masks are a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/03/covid-19-masks-men-masculinity" target="_blank">sign of indoctrination</a>, and the virus will "<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-still-believes-coronavirus-will-just-disappear-as-cases-rise-2020-7" target="_blank">magically disappear</a>." </p><p>Eddy's advice is important. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"You need to recognize when you're out of your depths and find an expert. It's not the blowhard on Fox News. It's probably, by the way, someone who probably does not have good presentation skills. But they likely have answers."</p><p>This is always true, especially during times of crisis. Times like now, when we need a unifying message and expert guidance, both of which America lacks. At least this much we know: we've been warned. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.
- An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
- According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
- Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.
Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.
- J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
- But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
- These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Mental decolonisation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDU4Mjg3N30.pKS1PLxKYeJ6WDPAcleg7NCxzDn7Pddcg9rSJaul6no/img.png?width=980" id="56ee5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1d2ba98946accd12f7e0070c8d10154d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society." />
Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society.
Image: Arda.ir<p>Where on earth was Middle-earth? Based on a few hints by Tolkien himself, we've always sort-of assumed that his stories of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were centered on Europe, but so long ago that the shape of the coasts and the land has changed. </p><p>But perhaps that's too easy and too Eurocentric an assumption; perhaps, like so many other things these days, Tolkien's fantasy realm too is in dire need of mental decolonisation.</p><p>And here's an excellent occasion: an Iranian Tolkienologist has found intriguing hints that the writer based some of Middle-earth's topography on mountains, rivers, and islands located in and near present-day Pakistan. </p><p>As mentioned in a previous article – recently reposted on the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/VeryStrangeMaps" target="_blank">Strange Maps Facebook page</a> on the occasion of the death of Ian Holm – Tolkien admitted that "The Shire is based on rural England, and not on any other country in the world," and that "the action of the story takes place in the North-West of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean."<br></p>
Non-European topography<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ4MzcyMX0.891LPW42L78fdrwUhXdgOab7cbhs3YOqZK4ukIQx-Rw/img.png?width=980" id="6741c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b50c57cb3b8a3a1cc8a4696c89ad954" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Tian-shan, the Himalayas, and the Pamirs" />
If you look at it like that, yes: that does resemble Mordor...
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Extrapolating from the location of the Shire in Middle-earth and from other clues dropped by Tolkien, geophysics and geology professor Peter Bird matched the geography of Middle-earth with that of Europe (more about that in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/121-where-on-earth-was-middle-earth?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0ZFYK1EXrf4J3B3X5_U4hSAgidgBs24ZNTYV9QEFbz2qI34OA_DpZsn70#Echobox=1592583835" target="_blank">aforementioned article</a>).</p><p>However, seeing Middle-earth as a mere palimpsest for present-day Europe is to place an undue limit on the imagination of its creator. As Tolkien also said about the shape of his world: "[It] was devised 'dramatically' rather than geologically or paleontologically."</p><p>In other words, certain parts of Middle-earth may very well have been inspired by other places than European ones. It is telling that it took a non-European connoisseur of Tolkien's topography to find some examples. <br></p>
"Seen that map before"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ3Njc3NH0.azDO1_NWm9q9FwMpmqBOV2troOX0ajAXS4lP2bLstJI/img.png?width=980" id="1b193" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21c3d38b14503ba8edac18c0ef1cceb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Indus river" />
The Indus river is a prominent geographical feature of Pakistan. Its course is similar to that of the Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>In an article published on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, the web page for the Persian Tolkien Society, Mohammad Reza Kamali writes that during several years of cartographic study, "I found that maybe there are real lands [that] could have inspired Professor Tolkien, and some of them are not in Europe."</p><p>Around 2012, Kamali's eye stopped when it came across a Google Map of Central Asia that showed the mountain chain of the Himalayas, the peaks of the Pamirs bunched together in an almost circular area, and the huge, flat oval of the Takla Makan desert, bounded to the north by the Tian-Shan mountains. </p><p>"I had seen that map before," he writes. "This is of course Mordor, the land of Sauron and the dark powers of Middle-earth, where Frodo and Sam destroy the One Ring." </p><p>In <a href="http://lotrproject.com/map" target="_blank">Tolkien's world</a>, the Himalayas transform into Ephel Duath, the Mountains of Shadow; and the Tian Shan into Ered Lithui, the Ash Mountains. And the circle-shaped Pamirs "are the same shape and in exactly the same corner as the Udûn of Mordor, where Frodo and Sam originally tried getting into Mordor, via the Black Gate."<br></p>
Similar shapes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDQyODMzNX0.KHrY7rDCNNaKKJQz-xn431APM2TqxGPCaMsqNvBe1xA/img.jpg?width=980" id="7a9fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e87f1af97902201abc042640255606b2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Marine Corps helicopter flying over Tarbela Dam" />
A US Marine Corps helicopter flying over the Tarbela Dam on the Indus river in Pakistan. At its center: a former river island which may have been the inspiration for Cair Andros, a ship-shaped island in Middle-earth's Anduin river.
Image: Paul Duncan (USMC), public domain<p>Mulling over these similarities, Kamali became convinced that Tolkien's map work was heavily inspired by Asia. Looking further, he found more evidence. Consider Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth, in whose waters the One Ring was lost for more than two thousand years. </p><p>On Tolkien's map, the Anduin bends toward the sea in a shape similar to that of another great river: the Indus, which runs the length of Pakistan. Like the Anduin, it flows to the west of a major mountain chain. A prominent feature of the Anduin is the river island of Cair Andros, just north of Osgiliath. Its name means 'Ship of Long Foam', a reference to its long and narrow shape, and the sharpness of its rocks, which split the waters of the Anduin like a prow. <br></p><p>Kamali is not entirely sure, but proposes that Tolkien may have been inspired by a similar-shaped island in the Indus. Now integrated into the Tarbela Dam, which was inaugurated in 1976, it would still have been a separate island in the 1930s and '40s, when Tolkien dreamed up his map.</p>
Kutch as Tolfalas Island<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTU5NjcyNn0.869W8iiowQb9_T3laFKOUe5o5UMXuMlSITb1VxRlC2g/img.png?width=980" id="9c49e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="548bafc6042cc7515e07f77657aa161c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Kutch" />
During the rainy season, the coastal region of Kutch, near the mouth of the Indus, turns into an island that resembles Tolfalas Island, near the mouth of the Anduin.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Turning our eyes to the mouth of the Anduin and Indus, we see another pair of islands, and Kamali is more certain about the real one having inspired the fictional one. The fictional one is Tolfalas Island, the largest island in Belfalas Bay. <br></p><p>At first glance, it doesn't seem to have a real-life counterpart near where the Indus joins the Arabian Sea. But take a look at the coastal part of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is known as <em>Kutch</em>, a name which apparently refers to its alternately wet and dry states. In the rainy season, the shallow wetlands flood and Kutch becomes an island – the biggest island in the Gulf of Kutch, and not too dissimilar to Tolfalas Island. </p>
General knowledge<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDIwODkyOH0.aInJedv3tiQo1LmW-M6D5LV699oeWNltxeYcVKWwtF0/img.jpg?width=980" id="9bc6e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="01d97d3941f9ba732b4df35c3aedd977" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India" />
1909 map showing British India in pink (direct British control) and yellow (princely states). Circled: Kutch, clearly recognisable as an island.
Image: Edinburgh Geographical Institute; J. G. Bartholomew and Sons, public domain<p>But are these similarities really more than coincidences? Why would Tolkien, who was based in Oxford and steeped in English lore and Germanic mythology, turn to the Indian subcontinent for topographical inspiration? Perhaps because cartographic knowledge of that part of the world was far more general in Britain then than it is now. Until the late 1940s, the countries we know today as India and Pakistan were part of the British Empire. Detailed maps of the region would have been standard fare for British atlases. </p><p>Kamali is convinced that the topographical features on Tolkien's map of Middle-earth are not mere fantasy, but derive from actual places in our world, and were 'riddled' onto the map. In that case, we may look forward to more discoveries of Tolkien's real-world inspiration. <br></p>
From Frodingham to Frodo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NzgzMzE2OH0.uMd43VxS9WQSWr1Z0IQ-UxIhBYkERhxTU7hoPvNachk/img.jpg?width=980" id="05037" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff9aace7fc7c111df3639a276cedf63c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photograph of J. R. R. Tolkien in army uniform" />
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916, when he was 24. Around that time, he was stationed near the village of Frodingham, which may have given him the inspiration for the name of the main protagonist in Lord of the Rings.
Image: public domain<p>Here's one example of Tolkienography—if that's what we can call the effect of actual geography on this particular writer's imagination—which I gleaned myself, some years ago in East Yorkshire. A local historian told me that Tolkien had been stationed in the area during the First World War, and had apparently stored away some local place names for later use. The name Frodo, he said, derived from a town where he had attended a few dances – Frodingham, a village across the Humber in northern Lincolnshire, not far from Scunthorpe (<em>Scunto</em>? We dodged a bullet there). </p><p>Whether that story is entirely true or not is beside the point. As fantasy fans know, any grail quest is ultimately about the quest, not the grail. In fact, to quote Mr Kamali, the treasure is important only because it's well hidden, "by a clever professor who enjoys riddles."</p><p><em>Unless otherwise indicated, illustrations are from Mr Kamali's <a href="https://arda.ir/the-tale-of-the-annotated-map-and-tolkien-hidden-riddles/?fbclid=IwAR3RmtU0ZdyzQGlK-iCsUjho4LA2W279fwO9dt8vv90FX2IeO3zrfMuMToU" target="_blank">article</a> on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, reproduced with kind permission. </em><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1036</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.
- A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
- Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMzcxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA2NTgxM30.Au-HmSRnSeN86ZGU7qeZJzq50LPM0LxjvUUU6_y2XVs/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="2bb9b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2af6156aff63fba2146746ae150f490e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="sad woman sitting on the floor at the foot of a bed" />
An estimated one in ten women experience female sexual dysfunction.
Photo by fizkes on Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224499.2020.1743225?scroll=top&needAccess=true" target="_blank">This 2020 study published in the Journal of Sex Research</a>, led by Dr. Avigail Moor and her colleagues Yael Haimov and Shaked Shreiber, focused on 15 women between the ages of 25-59, all of whom were in committed, heterosexual, long-term relationships (with a median relationship length of 3.5 years) to better understand decreases in female sexual desire. Approximately half the women in this sample had children.<br></p><p><strong>During this study, the women were asked various questions about:</strong></p><ol> <li>The quality of their relationship</li><li>How their relationship has been impacted by their decreased sexual desire </li><li>What they believe could have caused a decrease in their sexual desire over the course of their relationship</li><li>What impact they felt this had on themselves and their relationship </li><li>How they dealt with the decreased sexual desire themselves</li><li>How the couple dealt with and/or navigated the decrease in sexual desire together</li></ol><p><strong>There are a number of reasons why women, in particular, could be going through a libido decline, including:</strong></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><ul><li>Job stress</li><li>Family stress</li><li>Self-confidence struggles</li><li>Declining hormones or hormone imbalances</li><li>Relationship issues</li><li>Health conditions </li></ul><div></div>
Navigating low sexual desire and desire discrepancies in your relationship<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMzcyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTYzNjE5N30.oec9wuuxd9MEVkqmappsngN2nVmMxF3sIi9AlL9Q5SE/img.jpg?width=980" id="e246b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebf8cdebd54a0b26ee181320e756bff4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="couple hugging in a bedroom" />
Even if you are struggling with differing sexual desires in your relationship, there are still countless ways you can show affection to your partner.
Photo by fizkes on Shutterstock<p>Assistant professor at Harvard Medical School <a href="https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/loss-of-sexual-desire-in-women#1" target="_blank">Jan Shifren</a>, MD, explains in an interview: "One of the first things I do speaking to women who come in with sexual concerns is let them know that there is no normal frequency or set of behaviors and things change with times. If it's working for them and/or their partner, there is no problem."</p><p>Shifren goes on to explain that when the decreases in sexual interest begin having a negative impact on her life and cause distress in the relationship, this is when it's considered a problem of low sexual desire. </p><p>If it is believed to be a problem, there are a few things this study, in particular, has highlighted. </p><p><strong>Love doesn't equal desire, and a lack of desire doesn't equal disaster. </strong></p><p>Participants of this study explained that their sexual desire (or lack thereof) never made them doubt their relationship or the feelings they had for their partner. They saw the sexual desire and love for their partner as two very separate things. </p><p>Over half the participants said they didn't believe their <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/symptoms-causes/syc-20374554#:~:text=Women's%20sexual%20desires%20naturally%20fluctuate,low%20sex%20drive%20in%20women." target="_blank">decreased sexual desire</a> had a negative impact on their relationship, explaining that they have more intimate, deeper connections with their partner that went beyond sex. Many women who felt this way cited the fact that they were navigating life's ups and downs, things like parenthood and job stress, with their partner, which made them feel closer to their partners even if the sexual desire wasn't there. </p><p><strong>This is an extremely isolating problem even if it impacts the whole relationship. </strong></p><p>In order to make sense of the rapid changes in their desires or the complete lack of sexual drive, many women in the study claimed they looked inwards, often blaming themselves. Instead of thinking that this is a common thing many individuals (and many other women) struggle with, many of these participants felt guilty about their low libidos, thinking it must be their problem. </p><p><strong>Among these women, feelings of guilt and self-blame were frequent over the course of their interviews. </strong></p><p>Even in situations where there was very minimal negative impact on the relationship, desire discrepancies still caused some tension. </p><p>While over half the women involved stated they did not feel desire discrepancies in their relationship negatively impacted their relationship, many women still did describe feeling some sort of "pressure" to have sex more often. </p><p>Despite having relationships that were described as loving and healthy, some of the women in the study indicated that they have, in the past, still experienced conflict with their partner over how long it had been since they had sex. Some women also stated they were worried that their partner took their low libido personally. </p><p><strong>How can you navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships?</strong></p><p>This is one of the first studies to focus so specifically on female sexual dysfunction in long-term relationships, so there is still a lot of research to be done. What we have learned from this study, however, can help us better understand how to navigate these difficult challenges of intimate relationships. </p><p>Strategies that can be used to address the problems in the relationship that are caused by having a low sex drive can be things like: </p><ul><li>Creating an honest line of communication. Participating in conversations that allow each person to be open and honest about how they feel can promote intimacy and bonding as well as a deeper understanding of what the other person is going through. </li><li>Compromising. This doesn't mean simply having sex when you don't feel like it, but it can be other things that promote intimacy such as a date night or incorporating other forms of physical affection into your relationship. </li><li>Treating this like any other relationship problem. Relationships take work, and just as you navigate difficulties due to chores, finances, and responsibilities, you can navigate the struggles of low sexual desire by creating an environment of understanding and having a desire to make things work. </li></ul>