More Information About Me

Simeon Peebler started out in the early 1980s programming his Commodore 64 and making his own games and music when he should have been doing "more appropriate" things. Flash forward to the present day; after years in game development and technology, he works as a game designer and programmer and has been working the last few years in teaching game design and game development at a leading digital arts college in Chicago Tribeca Flashpoint Academy In 2011, Simeon created Brain Bump, a trivia game for the Amazon Kindle. He also has been working on composing original music and songwriting (go to his songwriting site and hear his latest album).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The story behind Brain Bump Trivia Game for Kindle

When I heard that the Amazon's Kindle was going to offer third-party created "Active Content" -- I was immediately drawn to the opportunity and possibility of designing a game on a device designed for one of my passions in life: reading.

I was an early reader, and that love of reading, and ultimately, as a by-product, learning, really was an anchor in my life. As a child, when I realized that by merely picking up a book I could learn how to become anything I wanted to become in the world (even pilot the Space Shuttle!), and I could witness a million things through the words of others I could not experience in my day-to-day existence, I was hooked on analog reading.

When I had my first 300 baud modem in the 1980s, and dialed up to connect to a library and downloaded information at will, my passion for learning helped me readily accept digital reading right away. This was a powerful opportunity to feed my continued yearning for new information; however, staring at a computer monitor was not great for the eyes.

Reading a printed page was still a superior interface to digital reading for my eyes at that point. For me physical print remained superior for reading until the advent of Amazon's e-Ink technology and Kindle platform.

Digital reading had truly, and has finally, arrived.

I have spent my professional career largely building and making computer games (or teaching others how to make them). Actively reading and learning about new technology allowed me to adapt, on a more or less constant basis, so that I could be an effective professional in terms of the nuts and bolts of the labor required to deliver results to employers. In 2009 I decided I would try my hand at making an iPhone game which was a port of a simple puzzle game I made for the PC called Bloink. The first thing I did was go out to the local book store and buy a few iPhone developer books (at the time of Bloink's development the iPhone App Store was still less than a year old -- but VERY hot, and plenty of people were writing books on the topic). I was able to complete the game, based in part on my drive for "constant education" in the materials I used to learn how to make the game.

I had the opportunity to join the Kindle Development Kit program in 2010, and while I was not entirely sure what I wanted to develop at the start, I was eager to make a game that really immersed itself in the spirit of the player's use of the Kindle device. Since development for the Kindle requires Java programming, the first thing I had to do was become familiar with Java again (I had used it years previous, but was quite stale). Instead of going to the physical bookstore, this time I opened up the Kindle Store on the device, and was able to quickly select a few books that might be helpful with developing for the platform. Computer books tend to be bulky, heavy and oversized in all regards, so I managed to buy not only Java books but a slew of other reference books I frequent (and I can use the Kindle reader software on my PC to see the books anywhere I happened to be!).

In my view, making a game for the Kindle had some basic challenges. People use the device to enjoy books first and foremost, not to play hard-core games. The display technology does not make itself appropriate for the kinds of action games more easily rendered on LCD-display style device. I decided to synthesize these challenges and the result is evident in my first game for the Kindle called Brain Bump.

In short, Brain Bump is a trivia game about books. This solves the problems I mentioned because trivia games are turn-based affairs, with a posed question and prompt for an answer. This play mechanic could be executed without needing intense real-time graphic animation. And the physical content -- literature trivia -- is appealing to readers and book lovers, and people interested in writers and reading. With my main challenges solved, I saw a powerful new opportunity in this mixture of things which came to me as I was going through the design process.

Here's the extra piece that makes Brain Bump more than just a standard trivia game. During the course of play, imagine that you encounter a trivia question about a Stephen King novel you've never had the chance to read...but are interested in reading at some point. On the game screen I added an option called "Explore this question in the Kindle Store" -- at any time during play, the trivia questions can lead to you adding books to your Kindle you've always been interested in reading but never got around to reading. When you return to the game on the device, it carries on play right where you were when you clicked the button. Suddenly, a standard trivia game now has become a tool for growth, exploration and learning.

This may lead to players going out and searching for the right answers as they play -- that would be a great thing.

I hope that Brain Bump encourages reading, exploration and learning in players. If it does that, it may be the most important game I've ever made.

Go here to get Brain Bump Literature Trivia Game, as it is now available from!

Official Brain Bump game site is here:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tribeca Flashpoint Academy -- Early Decision

My nephew was recently given "Early Decision" acceptance to Duke. Obviously I was thrilled, as he is a talented and bright guy, with a world full of potential. He's still not sure exactly what he wants to do in the world, which is fine...Duke will be a great place for him to get his bearings and get grounded in the first or second direction he'll take in life. But if he had any interest in pursuing digital media arts, I would have encouraged him and his parents to get thier own "Early Decision" to attend Tribeca Flashpoint Academy in Chicago.

I'm slightly partial to Tribeca Flashpoint as I spent several years teaching at the school, but I have incredible faith in their program and the team running the institution -- had my nephew shown interest in becoming a digial media professional, getting an "Early Decision" acceptance into the program at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy would have impressed an already proud uncle even more.

If you are a parent, in particular, check out this recent video they posted: watch it on Vimeo now.