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Issue 12 | Spring 2015 Š 2012-2015 Origins Scientific Research Society, founded by Melanie E Magdalena Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License. Permission of the authors is required for derivative works, compilations, and translations. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or views of Origins Scientific Research Society. The publisher, editor, contributors, and related parties assume no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience of any person, organization, or party that uses the information or resources provided within this publication, website, or related products. Origins Scientific Research Society does not claim to own any right, title, or interest in the brands and trademarks of others reproduced in this issue. For any concerns, contact Special thanks to for the awesome arcade cabinet vector on this issue’s cover.

Introductory Rambling Happy equinox fellow Originals! Welcome to spring, complete with bees, pollen, allergies, heat, and Daylight Savings Time. (Why is Daylight Savings Time still a thing? Seriously.) But spring isn’t all that bad since it comes with brand new issue of Origins about games! To the best of my knowledge, since humans began doing things, we’ve always entertained ourselves somehow. Which brings us to Issue 12: Game On! Gaming culture is all around us. We’ve decided to celebrate the close of three years at Origins with fun. From the origins of dice and chess, racing and geometry, to virtual reality, gaming has come a long way. Where did our favorite games come from and where are they heading? This is what we strive to question, answer, and explore. You’ve made it this far in your literary quest for knowledge. Choose the journey you seek and discover the rich culture of the gaming community. (This page may be my “Introductory Rambling” sidequest, but I promise the rest of the issue is much more entertaining.) You may notice new ways to interact with this issue along with Ethan’s “Useless Gaming Trivia” scattered throughout the pages. Games are intertwined with many aspects of our lives. In the past, they came with scientific bundles of knowledge; today, these materialize or beckon us into virtual worlds. Each can teach us a lesson: biology, collaboration, engineering, English, math, physics, psychology, technology, and more. What games do you play and what have they taught you? Share your stories on our social media pages or send a letter to the editor! Without an audience, it would be Game Over. We hope you will explore with us again in our next free issue this Summer: “It’s Getting Hot in Here, Buy All the Winter Clothes.” Happy spring! Melanie E Magdalena Editor-in-Chief

ON THE COVER Back when I first pitched (begged) Melanie about a video game themed special issue the middle of last year, I knew I wanted to have an old school arcade cabinet as the cover. Arcades were such a big part of gaming culture in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Kids lining up, putting their quarters on the arcade cabinet to queue up for the next turn to play, the sounds, the music, the graphics. Nostalgia is good stuff and I tried to capture that. Also inside scoop: each little icon used in the cover represents one of the articles inside. We also incorporated the idea of Free Play with arcade machines and our philosophy of bringing Origins to the people for free, keeping it open source (plus open access), and inviting everyone to come and play with us. - EK

editor and creative director

Melanie E Magdalena copy editors

Priscilla Aguilera Margaret Smith graphic design

Ethan Kellogg marketing & public relations

Alex Vosburgh donor relations

Fidel Junco


Colton Caldwell Connor Lemp Liz Lypp Karen Meza Jenn Swanson

letters to the editor contact

A Gamer’s Insight Into Reality ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)

Alex Vosburgh It is human nature to ponder the state of one’s own existence. And indeed, one cannot ponder the nature of their existence without also considering the nature of the world around them. For what is existence without the collective memories and experiences one has acquired throughout their lifetime? It is through those events and the analysis of such happenstances that one can truly begin to discover themselves; to understand their place in the world and what that even means. Verily, I find that to be one of the nobler parts of humanity and its higher state of consciousness. And yet, one cannot delve into such introspections before coming face to face with ambiguous, difficult, and unanswerable questions. Challenges such as the origin of existence, purpose, the rules of the universe, and what may lie within or beyond have stared at humanity for as long as humanity has been able to stare at the world in the first place. Unfortunately, the universe is a vastly complex thing, and is often difficult to even begin to wrap your mind around. Although humanity is continuously trying to solve its mysteries, there is still a lot left unanswered making it difficult to truly understand and contemplate. Fortunately, humanity is also creative, and through that creativity we have managed to create a great many worlds of our own. Whether through books, movies, or video games, these created universes give us

a vehicle that we can use to isolate and tackle some of the difficult questions which plague our minds. Many projects are using these mediums to do just that, taking on difficult subjects such as social issues, morality, and even the way we look at the world around us. And many have done this to great success, gathering a great deal of followers and supporters. For some people, these followings border on obsession, and in some cases in can be difficult to decipher where the fantasy ends and reality begins. But what if our own universe is just such a creation? Using insane amounts of processing power on supercomputers that perform a staggering amount of calculations per second, researchers have been able to run simulations of our own universe. Using all of the knowledge that we have been able to discover about the rules of our universe so far, these simulations have managed to achieve results strikingly similar to the universe we observe around us. If we are perfectly able to recreate our universe in a simulation, then it stands to reason that in that simulation, there would be a simulated Earth, and on that simulated Earth, simulated humans must exist as well. And if we were to run that simulation long enough, those simulated humans would reach a point where they would have supercomputers pow-

erful enough to run a simulation of their universe. A simulation exactly like the one we are running. Which means that there would exist a simulation within our simulation, and that iteration would inevitably reach the same point that it could run its own simulation. The implication of this thought is that there is potentially an infinite string of universes exactly like our own that are merely simulations of the universe. There would be only one original universe; the rest would be one of the simulations. Of course, this begs the difficult question: are we the original universe? Statistically speaking, it would be impossible for ours to be the original. But if that were the case, then we should be able to find some evidence of the fact that this is a simulation. The big question there is where should we look to find that evidence. The answer actually comes from looking at video games. Video games themselves are nothing more than simulations, they simply use different rules than the simulation designed to recreate our universe. But all games do have certain limitations, even if we are able to create more and more advanced versions of them. These limitations are where the evidence lies that they are a simulation and not technically a part of reality. Therefore, a look at what some of these limitations are should provide a good example of limitations of our own simulation, if that is indeed what our universe consists of. First off, all games have rules. These rules are what defines the interactions of everything in the game, and our universe very clearly has rules. The theories of gravity and electromagnetism, solid, liquid, and gas states and how they behave, and even light are all very clear examples of this. Indeed, it is by discovering those rules and what they mean that humanity has come to understand the universe so well. All video games also have a very clear resolution. While current games look more realistic than ever, if you were to zoom in enough on

any game, there would come a point where that resolution would break down and you would see the individual particles that make up everything that you see. In games, these are often called pixels. In our universe, these can better be thought of as sub-atomic particles. Everything that exists in our universe is composed of atoms, tiny particles that, depending on their structure and size, define the properties of every single element in our universe. But even atoms are comprised of several different components with exotic names such as quarks and gluons, among others. These are our pixels. These are the tiniest pieces of the universe, and they come together to form atoms, which come together to form elements, which come together to form molecules, which come together to form more and more complex components, and it is these components that make up everything in the universe. Which means that our universe has a very clearly defined resolution. Interestingly enough, these tiny components also make up the coding for our universe. All games are coded in a programming language that make up the rules and logic that defines how the game runs. These particles do the exact same thing for our universe. The different ways they move and interact dictate the properties of everything that exists. The language of these subatomic particles is complex and strange, but there is reason to it. As modern scientists study it further, we come closer to unlocking all of the secrets of the universe. Who knows if we’ll ever fully understand our home, the universe we live in. It is vast and complex and sometimes doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. But that won’t stop us from trying to figure it out. As long as humanity has its curiosity, we shall always question things, and inevitably seek the answers to those questions. Which means it’s only a matter of time until we are able to discern whether we live in a majorly complex version of The Sims or not. ◊

Rama | CC BY-SA 2.0 FR


A arg de in qu al at ly e


A History of Dice Connor Lemp

12 | ORIGINS f you look up dice in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you will find them defined as “a small cube that is made of plastic, wood, etc., that has one to six dots on each side, and that is used usually in pairs in various games.” This definition covers the broadest uses of dice today, but it does a terrible disservice to the diversity of dice and games of chance. A broader, and more historically accurate, definition would be something like this “small polyhedral objects inscribed with numbers or symbols, designed to be thrown to produce random results.” I might mention games in my definition, if it weren’t for the completely serious tradition of Cleromancy, in which the future is divined by the drawing of lots and the casting of dice.


Dice have been made in many shapes and sizes, and inscribed with many different sets of symbols. In modern dice numbers are common, as are small dots called pips. Ancient dice were often inscribed with symbols or letters, and some modern dice mimic this design. Throughout history dice have been produced from every imaginable substance. Early examples were made of stone, wood, or bone from various animals. The most ancient dice that have been found are made of stone, likely due to its durability compared to alternative materials. Modern dice are most often made of plastics, formed through injection molding. Some of the oldest dice were carved from the Astragalus bones of animals. The common nickname “knucklebones” is quite literal. Later, knucklebone dice imitated Astragalus bones in shape and size, but were made of

stone or other materials. The game of knucklebones, described by Sophocles in 1188 BCE, is the historical predecessor to the modern game of jacks and was played in a very similar way. The earliest known dice were found in an excavation in modern day Turkey. The find was dated to the year 3000 BCE. These dice were 4-sided, and found with a trove of other gaming pieces. In 2600 BCE, ancient sumerians used 4-sided dice in a game now called the Royal Game of Ur. Replicas of the Royal Game of Ur are available, and a Babylonian tablet dating from 176 BCE allowed for translation of at least some of the rules. Derivations and reconstructions of the game vary in their interpretation of rules, but are still a blast, even after five thousand years. The pharaohs certainly thought so. A board for the Royal Game of Ur, known as Asseb in Egypt, was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Egypt has had an on-going love affair with dice throughout recorded history. The oldest known 20-sided die was found in Egypt. It is made from serpentine, and inscribed with Greek symbols for an unknown purpose. Egypt is also responsible for the oldest known 6-sided die, from 2000 BCE, and the oldest 12-sided die, from 150 BCE. Not to be outdone, the Roman empire is responsible for the oldest 6-sided die with what we would consider standard pip markings. The piece, found near Rome, dates from 900 BCE. The Romans also claim the second oldest 20-sided die, from 100 CE. It is made of a dull, green-tinted glass, and inscribed with Roman symbols. Very few cultures have not appropriated or invented dice of some kind. Holes punched in the floors of the Tlacuachero site in Mexico appear to be scoreboards for dice games. 6-sided dice have been found in excavations in China going back to the year 600 BCE, and 6-sided dice have been found in Viking graves from 1000 CE. No doubt the dice were used for entertainment on their long voyages. The History of Dice by Board With Life

DICE | 13 :: Bone marked off for dice :: Roman, 1st-3rd Century about :: Only 3 sides of each piece is finished. After separation, bone hollows what

who & when

would be filled with other bits of bone and numbers carved on all 6 sides. courtesy of :: Walters Art Museum | CC BY-SA 3.0

:: Inscribed Os (Knucklebone) :: Egyptian, 2687 - 333 BCE about :: Astragalus bone, carved. In pop culture, what

who & when

“roll them bones” refers to knucklebone dice. courtesy of :: LACMA | PD

:: Various Dice :: Vikings, Sweden about :: Likely used for playing games. what

who & where

A & B - Bone/antler grave find, from Björkö, Adelsö, Uppland C - Bone/antler find from unknown location D - Bone/antler grave find, from Sörby, Hölö, Södermanland E - Teeth (from elk) grave find from Björkö, Adelsö, Uppland courtesy of :: The Swedish History Museum, Stockholm | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

:: Brushed Steel Icosahedron :: 21st century about :: From Ethan’s personal collecwhat


tion used to smite dragons, save damsels, and purchase cheap ale at the inn. courtesy of

:: Ethan Kellogg | CC BY 4.0

:: Bone die :: United States, 1823-1834 about :: Discoved at Cantonment Clinch, an American what

who & when

fort used in the Civil War by both Confederate and Union troops at separate times. courtesy of :: Kolby Kirk | CC BY 3.0

DICE AROUND THE WORLD Origins Scientific Research Society

14 | ORIGINS There are many styles of dice. The most common today are made in the shapes of platonic solids. These dice have 4, 6, 8, 12, and 20 sides. The exception to the rule is the much more modern 10-sided die, which is not a platonic solid. 10-sided dice are used in pairs to create percentages, and are sometimes called percentage dice for this reason. Other types of dice exist, such as barrel dice. These dice are aptly named, made with numbers printed along flat sides on the outside edge of the ‘barrel’. These dice are not thrown, but instead rolled in the direction of their long edge. The bulk of historical dice are made in the shape of platonic solids or are made to mimic an existing shape in nature, such as knucklebones dice. Dice have found many uses in human history. Dice have been used in divination, as part of board games, in word games, and in modern efforts to teach math and probability. A common use for modern dice is in roleplaying games. Popularized by Dungeons and Dragons starting in 1974, this style of game is permanently associated with 10, 12, and 20-sided dice in popular culture. And of course, there’s the elephant in the room. Gambling. Gambling is one of the oldest and most popular pastimes of mankind. The first written reference to gambling was made in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata in the year 400 BCE. Dicing was a frequent pastime in Rome, despite the fact that law forbade it except during the Saturnalia. Gambling with dice was said to be popular among Germanic peoples in the time of Tacitus, and to knights during the middle ages. In France, gambling with dice was immensely popular among knights and ladies, despite many laws banning it. Even multiple interventions by Louis IX, the reigning monarch, failed to curb the popularity of dice games in France. Gaming with dice can take many forms and use many different rules. Because the rules for historical dice games were not always recorded, we often have no idea how ancient dice were used. Some games rely on dice to randomize actions, such as determining the outcomes of actions in roleplaying games, or to determine how far to move a piece in a board game. Other games use dice as a random element to guess against,

such as in craps, where bets are made against the value displayed on the dice. Craps is one of the most widely known games to rely on dice. Due to their popularity, and the high stakes sometimes placed on them, the dice used in craps are subjected to great scrutiny. Modern casino dice are made in a specific way to make tampering obvious, and to ensure that dice rolls are fair. Did you know the average roll on a twenty sided die is 10.5? Do you know what the average roll is when you roll three six sided die together and add the results together? Also 10.5. Maths. To understand fair dice, you have to understand unfair dice as well. There is a long history of people cheating at dice games. The history of loaded dice is likely almost as long as dice themselves. Fair dice can be expected to land on one side just as often as another. All sides of a fair die are of equal weight and size, with sharp, unrounded edges. Unfair dice can be created accidentally or intentionally in a number of ways. With the reliability of modern injection molded dice, it can be safely said that any dramatically unfair dice you come across have been made that way deliberately. There are a few basic ways of creating unfair dice. Perhaps the most obvious is weighting. When weighting a modern die, the prospective cheater will drill out holes in the pips of gambling dice, insert small weights, and seal the hole back up again. There are a number of ways to prevent this from happening, and casinos use the most obvious: Casino dice are made of a translucent plastic, so that any such tampering would be plainly visible. A variant of this method can be used on dice whose pips are recessed into the surface. The pips would be carefully filled with a tiny amount of a very heavy substance, like lead, then painted over. While it may seem like a tiny change, a clever gambler could leverage a small change in the probability of dice to their advantage. Again, preventing this sort of cheating is simple. Casinos use dice with flat surfaces, opting to paint the pips onto the surface of dice. In fact, casinos use a paint with the same specific

DICE | 15 gravity as the plastic itself, so that not even the weight difference of the paint markings affects the roll. Unfair dice can also be made by removing surface material from the dice. There are two main ways this is done, either shaving or beveling. To shave a die, one removes a smooth layer of material from two opposing faces of the die. By doing this, the shaved faces remain at their original width, but the remaining 4 faces of the die will have slightly less surface area as rectangles. The die is then more likely to land on one of the shaved faces since they retain their square shape. To bevel a die, a cheater will remove some material from the face of a die to make it slightly convex. Because it is slightly more rounded than other sides of the die, it is more likely to roll off of that side, and come to rest on a flat one. Dice modified in this way can detected by creating a ‘box’ of fair dice, and fitting the suspected crooked die within the space created. Fair dice will slide into the open space smoothly, and with no spare room. Dice that have been shaved or beveled will reveal small gaps in the pattern. Another way to create unfair dice is to cook them. While it sounds like a nickname, this one is literal. A careful cheater can gradually heat plastic dice in an oven with the most desired surface facing up. If carefully heated, the dice will imperceptibly deform, leaving the bottom of the cooked die slightly wider and heavier than the top. If used cautiously, this method can yield a die that appears to be perfectly normal, but rolls the desired number with much greater frequency. These dice can be detected by throwing them in a glass of water. If the plastic is heavier than the water, then the bottom of the cooked die will always rotate to the bottom of the glass. If the plastic is lighter than water, the bottom of the cooked die will always rotate to face upwards from the glass. The water test can also be applied to opaque dice that are suspected to be weighted. When thrown in water, weighted dice will always rotate the heaviest face downward as they sink. There are many other, more complex ways of creating crooked dice. Some methods of cheating at dice will defeat even these methods of detection.

Small spheres of glass, alabaster, stone, or metal averaging at 1.25 cm in diameter are objects we encounter often. Marbles are colorful, transparent, filled with bubbles, or unadorned. The oldest marbles come from Crete, ancient Egypt, and ancient Rome. While these vary greatly through the ages, from simple olive pits, hazelnuts and chestnuts, to stone, wood, metal and glass. Marbles often appear in playgrounds with children around a circle drawn in the dirt. Each takes turns flicking a marble towards that of someone else with the goal of knocking out of the circle. Once a marble is played, your bet can go in your favor and you gain a new marble or yours is lost to the inner circle for others to aim at. Marbles are also associated with Chinese Checkers, where six star points are filled with marbles and you must hop over all the marbles of your opponent(s). Beyond games, there’s also the expression of, “He’s/She’s lost his/her marbles,” meaning the person is doing something irrational and lost sense of reason. [Wolfgang Lonien | CC BY-SA 2.0]

People put a lot of effort into dice, both at creating them and cheating at them. Throughout human history, incalculable sums of money and goods have exchanged hands as a result of the fall of dice. Dice have made and lost fortunes in instants, and the randomness of even fair dice often goes against the participant of a game. You might expect that their capricious nature would dull some of our love for dice, but you would be wrong. ◊ Origins Scientific Research Society


Modern Board Game or Living Fossil? Melanie E Magdalena

Ethan Kellogg | CC BY 4.0

18 | ORIGINS t is a game, science, and sport. Seen as a wargame or mental martial art, the act of teaching and playing chess is often employed as a way to enhance mental prowess. Its origin remains unknown with no fixed point in time marking its first instance. The oldest archaeological evidence of a chess-like game was discovered by archaeologist and historian Jurij F. Burjakov. Named after their place of origin, the ivory Afrasiab Chessmen seven-piece set (c. 700-712 CE) was discovered in 1977 near Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Due to the multitude of variations throughout history, chess is likely the product of multiple people creating various games which were combined into the form of chess we recognize today.


When the Arabs arrived in Persia (638-651 CE), they assimilated Persian culture, including their game chatrang, a chess-like game. With the phonetic evolution from Persian to Arabic, chatrang became shatranj and prospered during the Arabic splendor of arts and sciences. Knowledge from ancient Byzantium, Egypt, Greece, Iran, and the Middle East was translated into Arabic, and Chess was a part of the knowledge that was packaged with early mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and medical achievements, a scientific body of knowledge later sent to the West.

recount the story of a game with thirty-two pieces—sixteen of emerald and sixteen of ruby—gifted to Sassanid king Khosrau I as a challenge and successfully mastered by his courtiers. Firdausi’s claim is not only continuous from centuries prior, but he also mentions the game arriving from “Hind.” Though “Hind” did refer to India after the 11th century, during the time of writing “Hind” referred to the Eastern province of the Iranian Empire.

Shatranj’s popularity encouraged tournaments, and many great players surged, some becoming aliyat (masters). One of the top aliyat of his time, Al-Adli (800-870 CE) wrote a book, Kitab ash-shatranj (Book of Chess) containing the proposed history and roots of the game from Indian chaturanga, along with chess problems, solutions, and a classification system for players based off of their strength and skill. Other Aliyat also wrote important works (such as Latif fi’sh-shatranj by al-Adli’s rival ar-Razi) which have helped researchers understand the popularity and persistence of shatranj.

“Just as chess is a difficult game, its origin is a difficult puzzle.”

Chaturanga is a chess-like game played on an 8x8 square board (rather than today’s 12x12 board). Chaturanga is Sanskirt (catuḥ: “four”; anga: “arm”) meaning “quadripartite” or “army.” The name reflects the four components in Vedic army platoons. (A later experimental version, chaturaji, was a four-sided dice-based game.) Etymologically, the Sasanian-Pahlavi word “chatrang” supports an Indian origin theory; however, the terminology used for the pieces can be identified as Persian. The Iranian mythical bird Sên-Murv was introduced as rukh in Arabic (the modern day “rook”). Depicted as a winged bird-shaped creature, the rukh’s role on the board is iconographically significant in the Iranian world: the bird created a union between the land and sky. In India, this piece is called haathi (elephant).

Mark Weeks

Prior to 600 CE, chess does not appear to exist in any recognizable form. While many scholars have proposed many locations for the geographic origin of chess (including China, post-Alexander Kingdom of Bactria, and the Kushan empire), the strongest argument proposes that chess emerged from Northwest India or Iran in the 7th century.

Irani literature contains the oldest records of chess-like games. The epical treatise Karnamak-ī Ardeshīr-ī Pāpakān (the Book of Deeds of Ardeshir-e Pāpakān) written during the Sasanian dynastic era (224-651 CE) mentions chatrang as one of young prince Ardeshir’s great accomplishments. The Mâdayân î chatrang (c. 620 CE) and Iranian epic-poet Firdausi’s Shahnama (c. 1010)

During the 9th century, Persian poet, musician, and singer Ali ibn-Nafi introduced shatranj to

CHESS | 19

Shatranj set from the 12th century, currently located at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. [Zereshk | CC BY 3.0]

Spain. In the 13th century, the manuscript Libro de los juegos described the arrival of chess, backgammon, and dice. In Spain, the modern-day bishop was introduced as alfil, an Arabic loanword from Persian pīl. The alfil is shaped like an elephant. Many have argued that the presence of elephants points the game to an Indian origin, but elephants are not exclusive to India. Egyptian Ptolemaic Kings regularly acquired elephants from Somalia and Iranian armies included elephants along with foot-soldiers, chariots, riverships, cavalry, and battleships.

Shatranj arrived in Europe by at least four paths: Spain and Italy by conquest, through the Byzantine Empire in the Balkans, and in Russia and Scandinavia via the Volga River trade route from the Caspian Sea. The first European text about chess is a poem, Versus de Scachis (990 CE), describing the two-colored chess board and the first appearance of the Queen (rather than vizier). In the Latin epic Ruodlieb (c. 1050), a German monk from Tegernsee describes a medieval knight’s adventures, which includes a case when the knight faced a high-stakes chess game against a king during negotiations. By the 12th century, chess

had become a pastime for nobility, growing in popularity in France and Germany. French chess players were the strongest in the world from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, when chess clubs sprouted throughout London, shifting the epicenter of chess to England. Chess quickly became an organized sport, and other countries grew interested in participating. In 1851, the first international chess tournament was held in London, won by Adolf Anderssen of Germany. Alexander Petrov of Russia wrote the first Russian manual The Game of Chess (1824). A century later, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) was founded at Paris. This variant of chess continues to this day. Deep Blue, a supercomputer designed by IBM, became the first machine to beat the World Master in several rounds of Chess in 1997. Long before chess reached the FIDE international standard, the game was widespread across Eurasia. Chinese Buddhist monk Fazang (645-712) mentions a 2-player, military game in Central Origins Scientific Research Society

20 | ORIGINS Asia in the text Fanwang fazang shu. In the game, each player has 20 small jade tokens, serving as elephants and horses, which must take strategic command of all the roads on the board. The text calls this game prasena and it may be a reference chatrang or the earliest testimony of xiangqi. Chinese xiangji or “elephant chess� makes its first undeniable appearance in Xuanguai lu written by Niu Sengru (779-847 CE), the Minister of State during the Tang Dynasty. The text tells the story of impoverished scholar Cen Shun who dreams of a battle. During this battle, horses (ma) move aslant over three spaces, the commander goes sideways and can attack on all four sides, the chariots (chuh) move straight forward but never backwards, and six armored men (ping or tsuh) go in file. The description references many of the modern xiangqi pieces but omits the elephant (xiang); the author may have felt the piece was implied or this piece may not have been in use. Bo Juyi (772-846 CE), friend of Niu Sengru, ex-

plicitly names soldiers and chariots in his poem He chun shen ershi shou. These two texts place xiangji in existence as a chess-like game in the 9th century. Multiple sets of xiangqi have been recovered, with the first known set dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty (1102-1106). The set consists of a wooden box with a complete set of 32 copper disc-shaped pieces: two generals, four ministers, four elephants, four horses, four chariots, four cannons, and ten soldiers. Each piece was painted on one side with an image and the opposite with a character in either red or black ink. These pieces are cast and finished, presumably to remove grates from the metal. Poems by Emperor Huizong (Xuanhe yuzhi gongci) and Cai Shen (Linjiangxian) also mention ivory xiangqi pieces (c. 1082-1156). Archaeologists have also recovered painted black and white porcelain pieces from the Song Dynasty and wooden pieces from a sunken boat dating to the Northern Song Dy-

Shogi flat tile pieces with symbols as identifiers (rather than different shapes). [Matt Perreault | CC BY-SA 2.0]

nasty. The imperial treasury inventory of 1565 (Ming Dynasty) also states jade and ivory xiangqi pieces were kept. While the original materials varied and the dates for the game’s widespread use are unclear, xiangqi continues today as a popular chess-like game found in both wood and plastic. While Korean janggi is likely associated with xiangqi, written records do not provide a very clear picture of when or where this chess-like variant first appears. The first mention of janggi comes from Yu Hûi-ch’un (1513-1577) in Bigan nikki sô, where the author mentions he played against his friend Kim Yo. Unfortunately, the passage does not clearly state whether this game was janggi or xiangqi. Chang Yu (1587-1638) provides a full description of the game which matches modern janggi, but he leaves a description about the shape of the pieces and materials used. The only description about the physical pieces of janggi comes from Sim Su-kyong (1516-1599) in Kyônham chamnok: the pieces are wooden, inscribed, and filled with lacquer or paint. Regardless of its origin, janggi was not such a late instance of a chess-like game. The oldest known pieces come from a Mado shipwreck N°3, dating to the Goryeo Period (1265-1268). The pieces are simple pebbles with painted Chinese characters on one face. In 1993, sixteen pieces of pentagonal Hinoki wood, with Chinese calligraphy ideograms, were discovered at a dig at Kofuku-Ji Temple in Nara City. Dating to the Heian Period (794-1185), these are the oldest shogi pieces known in the archaeological record. Japanese shogi, meaning “general’s game,” is first mentioned in the text Kirinshô (1027), which details the proper methodology for inscribing shogi pieces. Starting in the 11th century, it is clear shogi pieces are small and inscribed with ink. The first account which explains the strategy of shogi is the Nichûreki (c. 1210-1230). It covers how the pieces move and describes the board size for a small version (Heian-sho-shogi) with six kinds of pieces and for a large version (Heian-dai-shogi) with thirteen kinds of pieces. Many versions of shogi developed over the years, replacing previous variants (such as Dai-shogi and Chu-shogi) and eventually settling into modern shogi.

CHESS | 21 While it could be presumed that shogi arrived in Japan from China—based on calligraphy ideograms, the style of board, and types of pieces— shogi shares many similarities with other chesslike games from South-East Asia. Geographically, shogi or a proto-shogi could have arrived in Japan via China or South-East Asia through the trade routes. Burmese chess (modern-day Myanmar), sittuyin, is not mentioned until 1800 by Major Symes, a British ambassador. Makruk is also recorded historically late by La Loubère, French ambassador to the Kingdom of Siam (c. 1687-1688). An earlier account by Marco Polo (1285) does mention seeing ivory chess pieces in Champa Kingdom (South Vietnam). Polo’s description is more likely to be that of a Cambodian chess cousin since Vietnamese chess tuo-cong does not use ivory. Where does this melting pot of chess-like games originate from? Looking at the “out-of-India” hypothesis, Henry A. Davidson proposed four major radiations of chess: east into China via the Silk Road (8001000 CE), through Burma and Indo-China (8001100 CE), west into Persia and the Arab Empire (600-800 CE) which continued west into Spain by 1008, and into Siberia (1400-1500 CE). While historical references can be interpreted to support this view, there is a lack of archaeological evidence to verify the written records. Gerhard Josten, from the Initiative Group Kӧnigstein, takes a different view. By looking at the structure of chess, he noted there are three basic unique elements: pawns, officers, and a king. Each of these pieces could have originated from a different source: pawns from Indian racing games (i.e., ashtapada), officers from divinification boards (i.e., senet), and the king from ancient China (i.e., weiqi). To merge these ideas together, Josten proposes the Kushan Empire which included part of India (50 BCE-200 CE). To hold this hypothesis, the controversial find in Southern Uzbekistan of an elephant and a zebu bull must be accepted as chess-like pieces dating to the 2nd century. If these pieces are from proto-chess or chess, Josten’s hypothesis would suggest that half a millenium of written records referencing chess-like games do not exist. This can be justified by assuming there is a period of Origins Scientific Research Society


Around 3100 BCE someone inscribed a hieroglyph representing one of the oldest games of all time: Senet. This Egyptian game is featured in tomb paintings and during the New Kingdom the game became a representation (or perhaps a talisman) for journeying through the underworld. It is even mentioned in the Book of the Dead. They are often found in tombs. The Senet board is a grid of thirty squares arranged in three rows of ten. Though we don’t actually know the rules, there are two versions you can buy and play today. We do know pawns were used as pieces, but not the same type of pawn used in Chess today. [Dmitry Denisenkov | CC BY-SA 2.0]

maturation for chess before it is established and common enough to be included in texts. Josten’s hypothesis does provide a means by which chess could have traveled so widely in the 7th century: within the Silk Road, merchants could have easily combined different game elements from a multi-cultural melting pot into the game that would become chess. Evolution is the process of one form taking on a new form over an extended period of time. When various newer forms share similarities, each likely owes their similarity to a single common ancestor. While this concept of “common ancestry” applies to biological species, it can also be applied to board games. Like plants and animals, board games can go extinct, leaving only “fossil” remains, their history lost. There is a key difference between board games and biological species: board games can easily borrow from each other, whereas it is not nearly as easy to transfer genetic material. Based on literary sources, archaeological finds, and information contained within each game (such as shapes of the pieces, the board,

allowed movements, and rules), it is possible to lay out the multiple variants of chess into a phylogenetic tree to find a common ancestor. In a phylogenetic study of chess ancestry by Alex R. Kraaijeveld (2000), forty chess variants were analyzed with 109 characters identifying primitive and derived states. Using the PHYLIP-package, each analysis in the study was randomized 1000 times and then merged into a single consensus tree. A phylogenetic tree was created for the fictitious Federation Chess (from Star Trek) as a control, Chaturanga, Chaturaji, and proto-Xiangqi. The results showed Chaturanga to be in the best agreement with historical references but did not conclude it to be an “out-of-India” origin for chess. Rather, the study shows that a Chaturanga-like ancestor could have arrived from somewhere else or even be a descendant of an older form of chess outside of India. While phylogenetic methods in board games are not meant to replace traditional research, it does offer a complementary view of the origin of chess from a very different perspective.

Some of the first board games were religious in origin. The Egyptian game of Senet (meaning “passing”) was a tiled board game with dice forerunners (half-flat sticks). Each square connected the player to a path into the underworld. The object of the game was to travel through the underworld and reach the end, at which time one would rise into the sky at dawn to become a sun god. Ashtapada, a race-based game, was played with dice and pieces. When gambling was prohibited in parts of India due to Hindu belief, Ashtapada’s “raceto-the-finish” rules were changed to a more strategic game, paving the way for a board game focused on gaming strategy. Based on previous studies and hypothesis by many scholars, either of these games could have served as a proto-chess.

CHESS | 23 To define chess would require drawing a line. The line would exclude many likely board games which in their time influenced a modification in one game, which in turn modified another, and another, and so on, until chess as we know it began its existence. We could define chess temporal-spatially to only being pieces representing cavalry, chariots, elephants, and infantry (as to justify the widespread existence of these pieces in chesslike games) dating to 400/300 BCE to 300/400 CE when evidence exists that these four divisions of an army did exist (at minimum in India). The common ancestor of chess is as vague as the criteria for its search.

“The prism of the game of chess reflects much of the history of mankind.”

The origin of chess is shrouded in mystery. Where does one draw the line between chess and proto-chess. Is the definition of chess exclusive to FIDE though it recognizes shatranj as its predecessor? Is the definition of chess a tiled board with pieces which move? Such a simple definition would give the Royal Game of Ur, one of the oldest tiled board games in existence, the place of common ancestor to chess variants.

Russian chess historian Pavle Bidev pointed out that the rules of chess likely originated from looking at other games, such as Iranian Takht-ī Nard (backgammon). In my own opinion, the origin of chess comes from a common ancestor created by people on Planet Earth. Chess forerunners were likely common and widely varied, even after the Arabic adoption of shratranj. Boards, pieces, and rules vary, but since around 600 CE people around the world have all found some pleasure in playing one of the oldest games of all time: chess. ◊

Joachim Petzold

From the Royal Tombs of Ur, two ancient game boards of twenty squares were discovered by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s. Named the Royal Game of Ur, this is among the oldest board games in history (alongside ancient Egyptian Senet). A tablet, which partially describes gameplay, has kept the rules of this game alive for millennia. [Babelstone | CC0]

Origins Scientific Research Society



Virtual Reality is shaping the

Design of

Games & Art, and influencing the

Future Jenn Swanson

26 | ORIGINS ince the early 1990s, virtual reality has been on the horizon of gaming, but only recently have we seen a significant progression in the design of virtual reality (VR) systems. This year, at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, four different VR headsets were showcased – Oculus Rift’s Crescent Bay, Samsung’s Gear VR, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s Morpheus. While each one has advantages and limitations, the question remains as to how to design games and art to take full advantage of these systems.



Artists and scientists conceived and developed virtual reality; however, technology had to advance in order for this vision to become a consumable reality. It is believed that the first attempt at VR was in the 1860s, when artists started creating three-dimensional panoramic murals. Yet, it was not until the late 1950s that a young electrical engineer and former naval radar technician, Douglas Engelbart, had the idea to use computers as tools for digital display. After World War II, the U.S. military invested millions of dollars into technology to simulate airplanes and other military vehicles. The military wasn’t the only entity interested in computer graphics.

In 1957, the filmmaker Morton Heilig created the first VR system, the Sensorama, an arcade-style box with a 3D display, vibrating seat, and scent producer. He imagined that this device would become the “cinema of the future,” but that future did not materialize within his lifetime. In 1965, Ivan Sutherland conceived of The Ultimate Display, “a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter.” Three years later, Sutherland developed the first version of a VR headset when he built a periscope-like video apparatus called the “Sword of Damascus,” which connected to a computer to display a virtual world to viewers. In the late 1960s, video artist and programmer Myron Krueger coined the term “artificial reality” as he created a new type of interaction between man and machine. By the 1970s, Hollywood blockbuster movies, such as Star Wars, were using computer-generated special effects. In 1982, Tron became the first Hollywood movie to depict virtual reality. In 1987, Jaron Lanier, the founder of VPL Research, one of the first companies to implement applications for virtual reality experiences, coined the term “virtual reality.” These advancements and many others helped pave the way for the present day’s high-performance


virtual reality experience. With this said, virtual reality is a meticulously constructed experience, not simply a screen to throw into a viewer’s face via a headset. How Does VR Work? In order for the stereoscopic process of VR headsets to work (the process in which the eyes are tricked into seeing a three-dimensional image), each eye is paired with a slightly different stereo image. These images cannot be separated more than a person’s average interpupillary distance (IPD), the distance between the centers of the pupils (which ranges from 54 mm to 70 mm). This degree of separation determines the degree of stereoscopy, or whether the object appears close or far away from the viewer. In order for the image to appear to pop off the screen, the left and right images are switched for each eye, creating negative parallax. Positive parallax is created when an image appears to be behind or buried deep within the screen. When there appears to be no three-dimensional image, the focal point is at the same depth as the screen, or at zero parallax. Humans have binocular vision, meaning that each eye perceives an object from a slightly different angle. The brain combines these two images and fuses them to create a single image. This process creates depth. Though 2D images do not have depth, the brain can pick up on depth cues. These include: (1) perspective, (2) size of known objects (certain objects are expected to be smaller than others - a tennis ball is smaller than an elephant), (3) detail (close objects appear in more detail), (4) occlusion (if an object is in front of another), (5) lighting and shadows, and (6) relative motion (objects in the distance seem to be moving slower than objects close by). In 3D images, the brain picks up additional cues: (1) binocular disparity (the difference in images due to IPD), (2) accommodation (the muscle tension needed to change the focal length of the eyes to a particular depth), and (3) convergence (the muscle tension needed to rotate each eye to the focal point). When creating a stereoscopic image, one uses these cues together. Traditionally, 3D images are created by switching between the left and

right images, or superimposing the left and right together using filters. For VR headsets, parallel images are provided for each eye, leaving the brain to fuse the two images together, much like how one perceives depth in real space. In addition to the distance between images, the edges of the screen itself should be kept outside the user’s field of view (FOV) for a better VR experience. A person’s normal field of vision is about 150° to 180° when using both eyes. However, one cannot see everything in focus at once. An FOV of a little less than 100° is needed for immersion, thus many VR headsets currently have at least a 90° field of view (for instance, Oculus Rift has a 110° field of view). By hiding the edges, the viewer is further immersed into the virtual world. Building


VR World

Beyond the technical aspects of VR, there is also a need to give the player a sense of presence in VR games and environments to establish proper realism. Scientist Mel Slater divides presence into two parts, cognitive (mind) and perspective Origins Scientific Research Society

28 | ORIGINS (senses). Cognitive presence, where the mind is taken to another world, can easily be obtained while watching a movie or reading a book. However, perspective presence, when the senses are tricked into believing that they inhabit a virtual environment, is harder to evoke. For this reason, games that are simply adapted to VR fail to immerse the player. Instead, there is a need for games to be designed to the VR medium.


There are three major game design principles that can be used to create this sense of presence, starting with height. In a non-VR game, non-playable characters (also known as NPCs) are usually displayed as taller than the playable character, so to better frame them. The world is scaled down so that NPCs can be fit into the field of vision of the screen. However, in VR, this makes things confusing; the player feels that the playable character is unnaturally short. Putting NPCs at eye level and having doors and windows sized properly and placed at the correct height to the

character in the game adds to the player’s belief in this world. Also, creating enemies that tower over the character will evoke a greater scare factor than short ones. The second principle that can be implemented in VR is 3D rendering and motion parallax, which create a sense of space not present in non-VR games. These elements also invoke an awareness of personal space within the game. In nonVR games, NPC’s stand very close to a character when talking. Though this helps to see the detail of that character, in VR, this creates an invasion of personal space. The NPC seems to be standing directly on top of the playable character. Also, it becomes important that user interface (UI) elements, such as the status bar, do not float in front of the player’s face and smother personal space. Though these UI elements could recede into space, they may collide with other objects in the game and become distracting. The best method seems to be integrating the status bar into an ex-

VIRTUAL REALITY | 29 isting object necessary to carry throughout the game. Creating this type of gameplay can lead to a better experience as a whole. This leads into the third principle of game design in VR, which is scale. Since everything from the player’s point of view is in full stereo, visual cues are amplified. Large objects feel truly massive, and giant enemies are terrifyingly ginormous. Designers need to be careful when creating closed corridors, as small spaces can cause claustrophobia. Alternatively, when a player transitions from a narrow hallway to a wideopen space, they are immediately imparted with a sense of relief. Spotting the differences in the experience of playing a VR game versus a nonVR game can further inform the choices in what to design into the game and how to shape the environment. The goal of virtual reality games is to create and maintain presence; breaks in presence cause a player to quickly become ejected from the experience. In order to avoid these recesses, content design should have a fixed sense of locomotion, usually using lateral movement (keeping the player fixed to the ground plane they are standing on), since fast changes in altitude can cause motion sickness. Points of reference also help to gauge where the player is in the game, and keep the playability on target. Though each individual has a different comfort level with VR, users can acclimate to the virtual world over time if its rules are easily understood and consistent. Good game design in VR avoids any unexpected perspective changes. Shifts in the horizon line can cause disorientation. Cut scenes, while important for narrative and visually stunning in non-VR games, are unnecessary in a VR experience. Furthermore, disabling head look (the action that lets a player look around the virtual environment using the VR headset) or moving the camera artificially breaks immersion in the virtual world. The player should be in control of the camera as much as possible. Camera knockback and camera shake are artificial elements that cause a break in the experience. Visual head rotation should always match actual head rotation. Nonetheless, stationary experiences typically work well for everyone. As long as a sense of presence

is maintained, the player will likely adjust to and enjoy the VR experience. Adding Your Hands While head tracking is essential to any full VR experience, hand tracking has also been making its way into the virtual reality world. Sony’s Morpheus has two controllers, (aptly called The Eye and The Move) which manipulate the gamer’s view and position, and let the player see their hands in virtual space. HTC’s Vive also has a hand-tracking component using two joystick-like controllers with a touchpad click surface. On the other hand, Oculus’ Crescent Bay and Samsung’s Gear VR do not have this experience tied into their packages; however, third party hardware developer, Leap Motion has been making a controller that can tie into any VR headset. Similar to the Xbox’s Kinect, it tracks hands and can even operate without any VR input. The addition of hand tracking within gameplay will open up a whole new immersive experience in VR games. These controllers will be able to act as physical touch points within a game. Morpheus controllers take this experience to the next level, by tracking the controllers once they are set down so that they are still visible to the player in virtual reality. Morpheus is adding another component for the ability to put down one VR item and pick up another using the same controller. This will help to create and maintain a sense of presence in gameplay. Being Someone Else The advancement in VR is not only changing the way games are played, it is also changing art as a whole. Games fall into a subcategory of art, which is broadly defined as the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” Though games are categorized as art, many tend to fulfill an escapist fantasy, rather than fully immerse us in another world as a relatable character. This may change with the evolution of VR; however, games, especially action games, tend to focus on the events happening in their virtual world and fall into creating archetypal characters. No one can really relate to Master Chief (a video Origins Scientific Research Society

30 | ORIGINS game protagonist), though it is fun to play him in Halo on the Xbox. Good art is an experience that evokes an emotion from the viewer; this is very similar to that sense of presence mentioned earlier – and it’s what the developers at Oculus Rift are trying to create. One of the most well-known VR art pieces emerged in 1995 when Cher Davies created Osmose, an “immersive interactive virtual-reality environment installation with computer graphics and interactive 3D sound, a head-mounted display, and [a] real-motion tracking [vest] based on breathing and balance.” Through the use of their own breath and balance, participants were able to journey between a dozen world-spaces, based mostly on metaphorical aspects of nature, as well as other worlds filled with code from the project and quotes from the artist. Though this is not an example of where the current market is, it is where it started in the 90s. This is what happens when art and science come together: technology advances. Currently, artist Mark Farid is undertaking a radical project called Seeing I, in which he plans to wear an Oculus Rift headset and live another person’s life for 28 days. The project is both one of psychological and artistic curiosity. Whether this experience will change how he perceives his reality after those 28 days is the key question, and it is uncertain whether any potential damage to Farid’s mental health could be repaired. Another art installation, called The Machine to be Another, focuses on the concept of body transfer illusion, the idea that the brain can be tricked into taking ownership of a body or body part that is not one’s own. In this art piece, participants of different genders swap bodies via the Oculus. Similar projects have been found to teach people about empathy and decrease racial bias, by literally putting someone in someone else’s shoes. Augmented Reality Finally, while virtual reality headsets are planning to immerse us in worlds different from our everyday lives, augmented reality headsets are being constructed to put virtual data into our daily lives. These include the infamous Google Glass,

as well as Microsoft’s Project HoloLens, an AR headset that Microsoft claims will be wire-free with all the hardware integrated into the device itself. Though the prototype hasn’t come that far yet, the HoloLens is able to scan an environment and insert digital projections into the real world. However, the image is confined to a viewer’s center of vision, about forty percent of the field of view. There is another AR device secretly being developed. A small company called Magic Leap is creating what they term “cinematic reality”. While they are also constructing an AR headset, they are developing a new way to generate virtual objects in real space, using something called digital light-field signal technology. The current description is “a lightweight head-mounted device that will house a tiny projector comprised of bespoke prisms and lenses that will beam images onto the user’s retinas creating a ‘dynamic digitized light field signal.’ Apps, powered by mobile devices or body worn computers, will generate a steady stream of fantastic creatures and surreal tableau delivered with stereo speakers and at sixty frames per second.” These images will be integrated into the real world using infrared positioning cameras, GPS modules, and multi-axis accelerometers. Thus far, Magic Leap has not released a prototype, but it is rumored that ‘golden tickets’ are coming. A Future



With all that is going into the making of virtual experiences, the future is open to many possibilities. Within the next twenty years, we may be surfing the Internet with our AR headsets, gaming in virtual worlds that feel more real than reality, and experiencing the world daily as other people through virtual body transfer illusion. Prejudice may be completely eradicated due to this technology. Vacations may become weekly virtual experiences where people never have to leave their homes. Virtual reality may become the source of entertainment for the next generation. And people may lose their identities as they delve deeper into virtual space. Who knows what will happen as these technologies advance? ◊


VR Going Mainstream?

Sony Morpheus

Microsoft HoloLens

Cyberith Virtualizer

Virtuix Omni

Turning Your Mind Out

Oculus Rift

EXPERIENCE VR/AR VARIETY Origins Scientific Research Society

Too Cool for PokeSchool Ethan Kellogg

Today's lessons: 1. Mathematics: Pokemon Catch Rate 2. History: Gyarados and Magikarp in art 3. English: English Pokemon names and their meanings 4. Science: Digital Storage of Biological Matter

34 | ORIGINS When I was a young child, Pokémon was my jam. I played the games, I watched the TV show, I even drew up my own fake Pokémon to impress my friends. I once had a dream about living in the Pokémon universe, and going to a Pokémon school. It was exactly like going to school in the real world, but the teachers were Pokémon and everyone had fun playing and laughing. Of course the fever dreams of an obsessed child over a video game are of very little merit, except as maybe a warning sign to the kind of nerd I would become, but the thought of a Pokémon school intrigues me even still. What lessons can you learn from the world of Pokémon? What real world applications can one gain from spending so much time with little Pocket Monsters? Well, class is about to start, and our first lesson is about to begin.


Pokémon Catch Rate Formula

The first lesson of the day is Maths because if you’re like me, you want to get Maths over and done with so you can get to the fun stuff. However, despite maths being soul crushingly depressing in almost every way possible, with Pokémon it’s actually kind of interesting. Being a video game, Pokémon uses a lot of math in the background just to make the game playable. Every attack, every encounter, even when you throw a Pokeball to capture one of those pesky Zubat has some formula that the game calculates to determine your success. One formula we’ll look at today is the Pokémon Catch Rate used in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Let’s test this out. I’m in Petalburg Woods. I find a level 4 Zigzagoon running around. My Paras uses Spore the first turn to put it to sleep, and then uses False Swipe to leave it with 1 Hit Point. I throw a Pokeball, and the game calculates. Zigzagoon’s Max Hit Points is 20, (M = 20) his current Hit Points total is 1 (H = 1). Zigzagoon’s Catch Rate is 255 (C = 255). A Pokeball has a bonus of 1 (B =1). Finally, the Sleep condition has a bonus of 2.5 (S = 2.5).

( [(3M - 2H)* C * B] / [3M] ) * S = X M is the max Hit Points the Pokémon has. H is the current amount of Hit Points the Pokémon has. C is the Catch Rate of the Pokémon, an intrinsic number assigned to Pokémon based off of how easy or difficult they are to catch. This number ranges from 3 to 255, with the higher numbers being easier to catch then the lower ones. B is the Pokeball bonus. A number assigned to the ball you throw based off of how easy it is to capture a Pokémon with said ball. A regular Pokeball has a value of 1, whereas an Ultra ball has a value of 2. Other balls can have more or less than this based on the circumstances. The Master Ball bypasses the capture rate formula completely, ensuring a 100% chance to capture the Pokémon when used. S is the Status bonus. This number ranges from 1 to 2.5 depending on the severity of the status ailment afflicting the Pokémon, whether it be asleep, confused, burned, poisoned or frozen. X is your final result. If X is greater than 255 the Pokémon is automatically caught.

So our formula looks like this: ( [ ([3*20] - [2*1]) * 255 * 1 ] / [3*20] ) * 2.5 = X ( [ (60 - 2) * 255 ] / 60 ) * 2.5 = X ( [58 * 255] / 60) * 2.5 = X (14790 / 60) * 2.5 = X 246.5 * 2.5 = X 616.25 = X

LESSONS FROM POKEMON | 35 And since 616.25 is greater than 255, when the Pokeball is thrown it is automatically caught. Yeah! Gotcha! Now what would happen if X was less than 255? Well it that case the game runs another formula. These are called Shake Checks. The formula is as follows:

Shake Check Formula

Y = 65536 / (255/X)^0.1875

The game simply uses the number X it generated from the previous formula and generates this Shake Check number Y. The game then generates a random number from 0 to 65535 and compares it to Y. If Y is less than the number generated, the Shake Check passes and it generates another number to compare to Y. If four Shake Checks pass, the Pokémon is caught. The Pokémon will break free without shaking if the first check fails or after one shake if the second check fails. If the third check fails, the Pokémon breaks free after three shakes. Needless to say, it’s a good thing the game runs all this math so I don’t have to.

History Moving on to the next course, we have history. A large number of the Pokémon designs are based off of Chinese and Japanese lore. Two Pokémon that we’ll focus on today is Magikarp and its evolved form Gyarados. Magikarp is characterized as being a worthless Pokémon. Its only skill is the ability to jump high by floundering. In the game the only attack it starts off with is Splash, which doesn’t actually do anything. Once it reaches level 20, Magikarp evolves into Gyarados. Whereas Magikarp was pathetic and useless, Gyarados is a giant Chinese Dragon full of rage and power. This draws parallels to a Chinese folk story about a waterfall called the Dragon Gate. It’s located at the Yellow River at Henan. Legend states that if the Yulong carp that live in the waters nearby can climb the waterfall by jumping as high as they can, they’ll transform into powHave you heard about the rumor that in erful dragons. The imagery of a fish Pokemon there was a secret combination becoming a dragon resonates in Chiof buttons you could press to help ensure nese culture as idioms describing a successful capture? This was only partially moving up the social ladder or as entrue in the original Red, Blue, and Yellow couragement to students to strive for versions, as the random number generation greatness in school. “Study hard and could be influenced by certain button all your hard work will pay off as you presses on the Gameboy, but only if the transform yourself into a powerful player had absolute frame perfect timing. dragon,” or something like that.

English The third lesson on the agenda is English. Well, kind of. I’m stretching this school course metaphor really thin with this one, but I want to talk about the etymology behind the Americanized names for the Pokémon. Back when Pokémon first came out in 1996, the names for the Pokémon were in Japanese. Well, everything was in Japanese, as the game was originally released in Japan. It wasn’t until 1998 that they translated and localized the games for English speaking players.

Origins Scientific Research Society

36 | ORIGINS When they did, most of the names for the Pokémon were changed to make it easier for English speaking players to pronounce them. When they did this they also made the names reflect the themes and give clues as to their origin. Some of these are very straight forward, like Bulbasaur, which is the bulb of a plant and a dinosaur: simple and to the point. Some are a lot more discreet, like Tyrogue. The first part is tyro, which is a beginner or novice (reflecting Tyrogue’s status as a baby Pokémon), and rogue, meaning someone mischievous. In its Pokedex description, Tyrogue are known for their eagerness to fight and scrappy attitudes. Lastly, let’s look at Xerneas the legendary Pokémon from Pokémon X and Y. First off, they were clever and had the three legendary Pokémon for X and Y’s names start with X, Y and Z. Xerneas is named after the letter X and Cernunnos, the celtic god based of a deer. Pretty interesting stuff, and with over 720 Pokémon there’s a lot of references to look into.

Science The final lesson we have for today is Science, and with the Pokémon franchise, science doesn’t really play a big part in the story of collecting monsters as pets and making them fight for your entertainment. However, one really cool sciency part is the idea of the Pokémon PCs. In the game, when you capture a Pokémon, you can store it digitally in a computer and retrieve it later even across the country. The idea of digitally storing biological matter is a very interesting one, however in the real world we aren’t quite at that level of technology yet. We haven’t figured that out yet, but scientists in the real world have started to understand storing digital information in synthetic DNA. In this way they’ve stored 5.5 petabits, which is around 700 terabytes, into a single gram of DNA. With the universal practicality of DNA, not to mention how long it can sit in storage without any data loss, over 2000 years at room temperature or longer if frozen, DNA storage is shaping up to be the next major upgrade in our data storage technology. Hopefully then we can move onto storing creatures in computers. Or real life Pokémon? Nah, that’s stretching it a bit far. Did you know blowing into a game cartridge to try and get it to work never actually worked? Confirmation bias knows no bounds! All in all the world of Pokémon is rich with knowledge. I think my school paradigm fell apart there a little at the end, but there is a lot of information to learn and lots more to talk about. When I was younger I had a dream about going to a Pokémon school, but today I learned that Pokémon has taught me a lot. Maths, history, english, and science. Hopefully you learned a little something too. ◊

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F low in Gaming Liz Lypp As human beings, we are driven to be happy and partake in activities that provide us with happiness, a sense of pride, and make us feel complete. The idea of finding this “sweet spot” is not a new one, and has popped up in thousands of years worth of philosophical literature and theories. In 1990, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to coin the term “flow” for this optimal mental state. His research revolved around the branch of positive psychology, which focuses on promoting a balanced and productive lifestyle instead of solely on treating mental illness. Flow is defined as being the area between a task being too easy or boring, but not so difficult that the task causes frustration, anxiety, and disappointment.


How is flow related to games? Well, have you ever noticed that when you play a game that you truly enjoy, your sense of time seems to fade away and

five hours later you realize how long you’ve been playing? This is because you have encountered flow. The game is challenging enough to keep your attention, you are rewarded for your efforts, and it gives you a feeling of pride. If you play a game that isn’t challenging enough, you are likely to put it down and pick something else. The same goes for games that are too challenging. If you keep failing, you are likely to be upset and stop playing. This theory isn’t just limited to the gaming community, or an excuse to play games all the time. In 2010 while training recruits, the U.S. Navy delegated two hours a day to allow the recruits to play video games. The results showed that the recruits improved their performance at tasks outside of the game by 50-80% after only one hour of playing. With the idea of flow spreading throughout the gaming community, the military, and industrial-organizational psychology, we are bound to see this idea become more widely known and used as time passes. The military has been open to using more training exercises involving simulation games and encouraging taking breaks to improve performance. The I/O psychology community has already picked up on this, and this has influenced many major tech companies to have outlets like arcade rooms where employees can take a break and get back into the zone by playing some of their favorite games. For the rest of the gaming community, more awesome and challenging games should be expected. Woohoo! ◊ Origins Scientific Research Society

Spatial Intelligence and Geometric Games Karen Meza Spatial intelligence is defined as the ability to comprehend three-dimensional images and shapes. While this usually involves vision, spatial intelligence involves using abstract ideas and analytical abilities to recognize what is seen and how it relates to everything around it. To “visually think� is a skill very useful in everyday life and in gaming. In particular, gaming can help you develop spatial intelligence.

SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE | 39 Named after Ernő Rubik, the Rubik’s Cube was Tetris is a game of combinations, where one created in Budapest (1974) as an impossible obmust rotate different combinations of cubes ject. By moving the cubic planes back and forth, so no spaces or gaps are created on a line. The the player could reorganize the colored squares object of the game is to not overfill the wall. As to match on each side without ever breaking the you advance in levels, you never receive pieces cube. in a predictable order and the game increases in speed. The player must quickly see the piece, roRubik created this cube to initially explain spatate it, and place it faster and faster until the wall tial relations to his students. fills up and Tetriminos beat He was unaware at the time your fingers’ reaction time. that his invention would turn You have to take gambles on “I think that the time for into one of the most sold if putting a piece in one spot computer games as being games worldwide. The Ruwill benefit you in the long ‘waste of time/pastimes,’ I bik’s Cube crossed borders run or if you just destroyed think that time has passed after a group of mathematiyour game. Eventually, most and we need to think cians saw the “Magic Cube” will grow tired and leave (unseriously. If you go back (its name at the time) at a less you are playing Not Teconvention. Shortly after, tris 2, in which case you have to 100 years ago, what did Tom Kremer agreed to disa point to prove and cannot people do? They played tribute it. sports because they needed leave). Rubik’s Cube attracts users due to its lack of required instructions. Once you begin to rotate the planes to reorganize the colors, you become enveloped in trying to get it to do exactly what you want. After hours, days, weeks, months, or eventual surrender, the Cube can engulf you in frustration with its nearly infinite options for a solution. There are billions of ways to solve a Rubik’s Cube: 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (43 quintillion), to be exact. The fastest resolution record is in 6 seconds and less than 20 moves.

to prepare themselves for a lifetime of physical activity. But today when we play computer games, what are we preparing ourselves for? We are preparing ourselves for a future in which most of what we do is going to be inside of virtual worlds. And so, the practice of playing computer games, which all happen in virtual worlds, I think is exactly what our children need to prepare themselves for that lifetime of virtual labor.”

Rubik’s Cube and Tetris are both geometrically shaped games which, once solved, can be resolved time and time again. Your brain learns and adapts to the various scenarios it encounters with attempt enhancing your spatial intelligence. This brings us to question: once you’ve managed to solve the puzzle (whether or not it continues to be difficult), is this new intelligence something which has been acquired or is it merely a skill you had not yet developed? ◊ Origins Scientific Research Society

- Henk Rogers, 2015 D.I.C.E. Summit

A decade later, while working at the Soviet Academy of Science in Moscow, Alexei Pajitnov created Tetris (1985). Henk Rogers discovered Tetris at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (1988) and flew out to Moscow the following year to license Game Boy rights to Nintendo. Henk and Alexey became friends and formed a partnership in 1996: The Tetris Company.

Today, 30 years after its creation, Tetris has sold about 143 million copies worldwide. While each version of Tetris has its own player with a World Record, there are many impressive Tetris Grand Masters who can even beat the invisible wave during the credits scene. Regardless of which version the game happens to be or the console it is played on, once you experience Tetris, it is a game you will always be able to play.


A RACE THROUGH TIME Colton Caldwell Racing games are held in a special place by the gaming community. Though the genre is not the most popular, as an avid gamer or not, gamers almost always have one favorite racing game. When people think of a racing game they usually think of a particular form of racing, but there is a larger variety in the genre than one might think which has drastically evolved over the years.

with scenery in the background. The game also featured more detailed sound effects. People loved it and Pole Position became the biggest game of 1983.

In 1974, Atari created Gran Trak 10, a coin operated arcade game. It was the first car racing video game ever made. It involved a very basic shape of a car driving around a course that you saw from a birds eye view. The game was controlled with an accelerator pedal and a steering wheel mounted to the front of the arcade cabinet. This basic set-up was later used in other racing games, such as Leland’s 1989 Super Off Road trophy truck racing game.

Arcades and at-home gaming consoles featured many racers after Gran Trak 10. The top-down, four direction Rally-X (Namco & Midway, 1980) arcade car game had the racer collect 10 flags without hitting rocks or other cars before running out of gas. Excitebike (Nintendo, 1985) debuted as a release title for the Nintendo Entertainment System as a side-scrolling motocross game. Later Road Blasters (Atari, 1987) required the racer to pass the finish line without running out of fuel while dodging bullets and other cars. Additionally, Road Blasters gave the racer bonus points for shooting other cars and crossing the finish line with extra gas.

Over time, racing games evolved. Audio and visuals gradually embraced realism, with the addition of more precise controls improving the gaming experience. Pole Position (Namco, 1982) featured an optional “cockpit” with a chair and controls including a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals, and a high/low gear selector. The camera sat behind the Formula 1 car so you could see the track immediately in front of you

The longest running franchise of racing games began in April 1992. For racing fans around the world, Super Mario Kart (Nintendo, 1992) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) quickly became a favorite game. The addictive gameplay with Nintendo characters, such as the iconic Donkey Kong and Mario, powering up their racing karts pushed the game to the number one slot of the Guinness World Records

Mario Kart Evolution

Experience: Gran Trak 10



list of “50 Best Games of All Time.” With eleven games, Mario Kart’s success can be attributed to the creativity of each subsequent title bringing back fans time and time again. Racing sub-genres vary from beating opponents to the finish line or racing against a timer, to collecting the most items or trying to blow up other racers. Racing also can take place on a track, along a street, in the air, on water, or even in space. Speed boats took the scene at the arcade in Hydro Thunder (Midway, 1999). With water adding physics to the game, the racing was realistic and very different from track games. The arcade cabinet was also unique with a throttle lever and a thumb button to activate the speed boat boosters. Star Wars Racer Arcade (Sega, 2000) followed the same principle in the air. Based on Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (Lucasfilm, 1999), the Pod Racer arcade cabinet featured two throttle levers for the two engines and a boost button between them. The most realistic racing games are now simulators. One of the more notable franchises is Forza Motorsport by Microsoft and Turn 10. Starting in 2005, the game was praised as one of the most graphically realistic games of all time. The game was not only gorgeous but also respected the laws of physics. Since the debut, there are five Forza Motorsport and two Forza Horizon games, though the Horizon series has more of an “arcade” feel than a simulation. Forza Motorsport 4

introduced a new feature called “Autovista” on a handful of the cars in the game, wich allows the user to open the doors of a car and explore inside as well as look under the hood. It’s a feature that was built upon and could be done with every vehicle in Forza Motorsport 5, including all downloadable content. Forza Motorsport 5 was released in 2013 as an Xbox One launch title and, with the help of the graphics rendering and processing capabilities of the Xbox One, is the most photo-realistic game made to date. At first glance its extremely hard to tell the difference between the game and real life. It allows you to virtually get into a number of high end and extremely rare vehicles, like the 2014 McLaren P1 or 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C, which the average person would not likely have the opportunity to experience in real life. From hardcore racing fans who enjoy competition with simulation racers to families who are brought together for fun and create memories with games, racing games have had a huge impact on many people in the world. In fact, some professional race car drivers have admitted to playing simulation racing games in preparation for a race. This allows them to get familiar with a course that they will be racing on in real life and helps immensely because they don’t have that opportunity of study at the real track. With racing games being as good as they are today, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this beloved genre. ◊ Origins Scientific Research Society

42 | ORIGINS “A R ace T hrough T ime ”

C olton C aldwell


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Origins Scientific Research Society

Origins | Spring 2015  

It's time to Game On with Issue #12!

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