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  ‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]  
Posted 2007-07-13 by Tony Walsh
‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]
Users of brand-friendly microworld The Music Lounge have started their own lifestyle magazines featuring in-world gossip, personalities and fashions. One of the first, dubbed The Lounge Issue, by user 'Softcoppertone,' seems to have made it to issue #2, but wasn't available online at the time of writing. The Lounge Issue's second issue contained an article on cybersex which caused a bit of controversy due to the teenage demographic of the Lounge. Meanwhile, all 24 pages of Lounge Vogue's first edition published by 'limy' are available online, featuring music, fashion, bootlegged real-world brands, and snapshots of Lounge culture.

I think the emergence of an in-world press (even lifestyle rather than hard journalism) marks the maturity of a virtual world. While the production values of these Lounge magazines are amateurish, it's obvious substantial effort went into Lounge Vogue, apparently the only such magazine covering the Lounge currently available online. Chatter on the Lounge message boards indicates other users hope to kickstart their own magazines. Personally I'm hoping for deeper cultural substance--it's a pity The Lounge Issue and its cybersex article are no longer available. [update: it's up now, and issue 2 contains some great inside scoops!]
  ‘Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames’ Released  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Ian Bogost's latest book, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, looks at how video games make arguments, offering a theory of rhetoric for games, and covering a wide range of example games with an eye towards politics, advertising and learning. It's now available through Amazon and MIT Press.

Bogost is an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, and founding partner of Persuasive Games, a firm which recently entered into a publishing relationship with the New York Times, creating newsgames for the paper's online op-ed page. I'm particularly looking forward to Persuasive Games (the book), as one of the colleges where I teach part-time will make persuasive games one of its main areas of investigation this fall, and because most of the games I've worked on over the years have had an educational or marketing agenda.
  Thanks, ‘Broken Pencil’!  
Posted 2007-06-21 by Tony Walsh
My best Ren-Faire flourish goes to Broken Pencil, Canada's guide to underground arts and culture, for its recently-published, positive review of Clickable Culture. Reviewer James King applies my musings on digital decay to Clickable Culture's archive of blog posts (a few thousand or so since 1999)--wouldn't it be interesting to flip through past posts and see the amount of "wear" on the pages? It's actually something I could set up... definitely would add some character to a future visual update.

Interestingly, King's most negative comments pertain to a couple of commentators ruining the vibe here. Glad I cleaned that up.

Thanks for the review, Broken Pencil--it's been 10 years since you last checked in on me :)
  Canada Has a Game Studies Association?  
Posted 2007-06-13 by Tony Walsh
There's so much I don't know about my own country. Today I learned that we in Canada have our very own Game Studies Association. It was formed two years ago, mostly by educators, and just launched a journal called Loading.

Why is it that I'm more aware of American events, individuals and groups than Canadian ones? We have a serious self-esteem and outreach problem in Canada, I think. The last Canadian games conference I found out about (too late to sign up for, I might add) had to ship in Americans as speakers, but I don't think it's because of a lack of domestic talent. It's a lack of awareness of domestic talent, which is really unforgivable in this age of personal home pages and Google.
  ‘Cerise’ Magazine: By and For Women Gamers  
Posted 2007-05-03 by Tony Walsh
Cerise has launched its inaugural issue under a confusing agenda. The online magazine's tagline reads "gaming magazine for women." Its mission statement says that Cerise is by and for women gamers "at its core," but is also "dedicated to creating an inclusive space for individuals of all identities traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream, and for our allies who support our movement to increase our presence and representation in the game industry." At least one of the articles in the debut issue is of direct interest to men who make video games.

I happen to be a man working in certain areas of gaming. Is Cerise for me? "No," according to the tagline. "Yes," if I'm a supporter of the movement, according to the mission statement. But if Cerise is only for women or supporters of underrepresented identities, then why does the first article in the magazine address game designers who don't adequately support "girl gamers?" The content seems at odds with the mission.

Certainly there's a need for women and other underrepresented identities to be included more in the game industry and in game content. I think Cerise is a decent push in that direction, but the magazine's agenda needs some improvement. If it doesn't address men--unless those men are already "allies"--then it's preaching to the converted. Hell, I'm converted, and the magazine's tagline is a total turnoff for me. I don't read magazines "for men," why would I read a magazine "for women?"
  Interviewed by Italy’s ‘La Stampa’  
Posted 2006-11-30 by Tony Walsh
Writer Ivan Fulco cordially invited me to share my thoughts on virtual world Second Life recently, and the results have been published by Italy's La Stampa. Fulco asked me about reasons to both visit and avoid Second Life, about the culture of the growing virtual world, about the platform's staying-power, and about virtual worlds generally. For now, the interview is available exclusively in Italian (I gave my answers in English), but I hope to print the original (English) version soon. Don't bother trying an online translator unless you want a good laugh :)

The last Italian interview I gave was for was for Videoludica (thoughts on that one here). Ironically, I get more play overseas as a game culture commentator than on my home turf.
  Ignoring Local Gamers  
Posted 2006-11-22 by Tony Walsh
I'm a bit annoyed with Toronto weekly NOW for failing to find a local connection in its story "Activist Gaming Takes Hold," that ran in last week's edition. It's great that NOW writer David Silverberg covered serious games such as Disaffected!, Darfur Is Dying, The Organizing Game and the McDonald's Videogame, but where's Pax Warrior? NOW is a local weekly, so why not cover Toronto-based game developer 23 YYZee? The studio's serious game Pax Warrior explores peacekeeping in Rwanda and incorporates social studies and history curricula for classroom use. The game was licensed for free to over 200,000 Canadian high school students--that's a generation of potential "activist gamers." NOW clearly dropped the ball on this one.

As an occasional source for the mainstream media, it frustrates me when domestic media outlets go for international talking heads instead of local experts. Earlier this year, Canada's Exclaim! magazine ran a weak piece on Alternate Reality Gaming without one Canadian connection (despite some very obvious choices). I was approached by a producer a month ago about a Canadian TV documentary on MMOs, but he wasn't looking for my participation, only my list of international contacts. Admittedly, I'm crying sour grapes here, but I could have added to the NOW piece on "activist gaming," having written a semi-satirical call to arms for Sims Online players (featured in Canada's Shift Magazine), having once been "disaffected" as a Kinko's midnight shift worker in downtown Toronto, and currently teaching at "The City College" in a Game Design program geared towards serious games. The CBC (Canada's national public broadcaster) has covered Second Life a few times, but doesn't have a great track record for involving Canadian subject-matter experts--here's a recent example (I could have told them it was a non-news item, pointing to earlier precedents).

Continue reading: Ignoring Local Gamers
  ‘Toronto Star’ Takes Bizarre ‘Warcraft’ Trip  
Posted 2006-11-16 by Tony Walsh
Wow. There are so many things wrong with this Toronto Star article on World of Warcraft. I barely know where to start. Wait, yes I do: The reportage is terrible. I'll just pick on a few of the worst points so you know where I'm coming from on this. Writer Christian Cotroneo claims:

"...World of Warcraft is the granddaddy of online communities. On one hand, it’s a sprawling, seamless fantasy, where you choose an avatar — a rogue, fighter, Mage — and go forth in this virtual world to hack, slash and maim your way to glory." World of Warcraft is not the granddaddy of online communities. It's not the oldest one by a long shot, and it hasn't spawned any sequels ("grandchildren," keeping with the metaphor), and it isn't even the largest "online community." And why is "Mage" exclusively capitalized? Don't they have proofreaders over at The Star?

"On the other hand, it’s supremely social. Players band together, chatting incessantly. They hook up for virtual drinks at the inn, share a slab of wild boar meat. They dance, they have picnics in the woods, they even share a bed on occasion." Dude, I don't know what server you are playing on, but I have never heard of players going to an inn in Warcraft for a pint and a slab of meat. Picnics in the woods!?! Cotroneo is embellishing here. Maybe he plays on a server dedicated to role-playing, where players imagined they were eating and drinking together, or having cybersex in the woods, or whatever the hell he thinks he's talking about.

"'Yay! I got my Voidwalker!' some warrior declares in the general chat window that runs along the bottom of the screen. He is, I assume, referring to some fancy piece of equipment earned in battle." For the uninitiated, a Voidwalker is a minion of a Warlock and has nothing to do with warriors or equipment earned in battle.

What I have been seeing a lot of lately are mainstream media outlets increasing their coverage of games and virtual worlds, but not applying the same journalistic skills, methods or ethics to those spaces. No "average" audience member would ever catch the errors, although they might walk away with the wrong idea. But gamers and virtual world residents (of which there are increasing numbers these days) know better.
  ‘Guardian’ Fails to Protect ‘Second Life’ History  
Posted 2006-11-08 by Tony Walsh
The living history of virtual world Second Life continues to withstand injury by outside business efforts and lazy reporters. The Guardian Unlimited's Berlin correspondent Jess Smee reports that Bild-Zeitung publisher Axel Springer is about to launch Second Life's "first" tabloid focusing entirely on in-world society and culture. Smee's report is not only incorrect, but it inexplicably ignores the living legacy of the Second Life Herald, a high-profile tabloid that's been happily raking mud in-world and on the web since 2004 (and earlier as The Alphaville Herald). Numerous mainstream media reports have used the Herald as a source over the years in order to bring catchy insider stories to the outside world.

What happened here? How could a seasoned reporter screw up so significantly? I couldn't find Smee's contact information to send an inquiry directly to the writer, so I'll indulge in speculation. Ultimately this boils down to laziness on Smee's part. A Google search for "Second Life tabloid" lists the Herald in the top ten results. So obviously Smee isn't doing even the slightest bit of research. The writer probably just reprinted whatever Axel Springer communicated. I can forgive publisher Axel Springer for being oblivious to existing Second Life culture (although how it thinks it can cover something it doesn't understand is beyond me), but it's insulting when companies try to rewrite community history. Further commentary at the Herald and Second Life Insider.
  My Avatar Soils Local Paper  
Posted 2006-10-06 by Tony Walsh
My Avatar Soils Local Paper
Brent Lawson of the Hamilton Spectator has written a 1-pager on virtual world Second Life, featuring myself and 3pointD's Mark Wallace in our own mixed-reality vignettes. I've only had my face appear in a newspaper a few times--this time, it's my avatar, which I designed to mirror (well, "mimic," maybe) my own features. It's pretty strange to see my own homonculus plastered on the printed page.

Lawson's article introduces Second Life to the uninitiated fairly well, although it does contain a few minor factual errors and a hilarious take on the virtual world by McMaster University professor Robert Hamilton. While Hamilton is correct that Second Life "fails miserably" on several levels, his opinion seems exceedingly uninformed.

Continue reading: My Avatar Soils Local Paper
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