Despite being a surprisingly liberating piece of technology (in terms of getting me away from my desk where I can actually think about things), I'm still grouchy over a handful of iPhone oversights. Number one at the moment--the stunning lack of a copy/paste feature. Which leads to a few related thoughts:
1) Why does the iPhone, a mini-computer, insist on pretending its just a phone?
2) Let's please have a toggle between "Power User" and "Hapless N00b."
3) More iPhone gestures, please.
I get that the screen is small. I get that there aren't supposed to be buttons all over the place. But for us interactive-literate types, why not provide another layer of functionality? For example, at least one iPhone app I've heard of erases something when the phone is shaken gently back and forth. Nice. More gestures, please. And not cop-outs like plain old sliding or dragging, either. Here's my proposal for copy/paste:
Put your finger on the thing you want to copy, keep your finger down, and draw a "C" shape. The thing is copied. Then, put your finger where you want to paste the thing you copied and draw a "V" shape. The thing is pasted with a couple finger-flicks. Was that so hard? Christ.
The film is satirical in tone, but actually, worlds like Second Life which allow user-created content and real/virtual currency exchange are viable places for hiring out "sweatshop" labor, depending on what sort of work product you're looking for.
So-called "camping chairs," which pay Second Life users to linger in specific locations (known as "camping" in gamer parlance), pay a very low wage to workers in North America and Europe, but could actually provide a decent income in some countries. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that most Chinese gold farmers make under $0.25 USD per hour. The sweatshop featured in Invisible Threads pays in virtual currency equivalent to $0.90 USD hourly.
Sony will roll out Skype services for its latest PSP handheld game console (the slim, lightweight one) through a software update scheduled for late January. According to an emailed press release, the software update will allow PSP owners with WiFi access, a microphone, and a Skype account to make and receive free voice calls, manage contacts and presence, modify their Skype account settings, and make use of the SkypeOut (place calls to non-Skype phones) as well as SkypeIn (receive calls from non-Skype phones) services.
While this is fantastic news for anyone who already has a slimline PSP, I'm not sure it's going to push PSP sales in general. As the ill-fated N-Gage phone/game console showed us, there doesn't seem to be much interest in a game console which doubles as a phone. Skype services are only available wherever WiFi hotspots are, so coverage isn't exactly ubiquitous in most parts of the world. I don't really see how the inclusion of Skype helps the PSP brand, either--is it a game console (its game library is weak), a media player (its original movie format is dead or dying), or a communications device (only where there's WiFi)?
Download Nintendo content (and games) via your PC to SD Micro card which fits into DSvision slot 1 card. I'm already using a passthrough card to play music, movies, and homebrew apps on my DS: why would I want DSvision?
Steven Davis discusses cheating methods and tools for web-based word and math games--trivia games also noted. In short, it's easy to cheat. Designers should expect cheating, and players at best can hope for honorable opponents.
Microsoft has announced its 2008 "Games for Change Challenge," where students around the globe will submit serious games which address the theme "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." I didn't think much of the competition when it was launched earlier this year, based around the theme of global warming.
In both cases, I see the best solution to environmental rehabilitation as reducing (ideally eliminating) the use of Microsoft-created technology altogether. Stop making so many faulty consoles--or any at all, given that computing hardware such as the Xbox 360 eats too much energy and ultimately ends up in landfill or the hands of poor recyclers. If you must make consoles, ensure full backwards compatibility with previous software libraries and hardware peripherals such as controllers. Increase power efficiency, not power demands. Reduce packaging. Require contest entries to be presented remotely.
The ultimate test for these environmentally-themed games is whether or not the player does more good than harm in playing. Ideally, this means motivating a gamer to go outside and make a real difference, but it could be as simple as reducing household energy demands by turning off hungry hardware (such as the game console). The contest's mission is to have student technologists "actively contribute" to improving the world--I'm not sure this can be accomplished using Microsoft's proprietary game console as a platform.
Are massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) killing the planet? A report released by environmental group Global Action Plan suggests that computer servers, such as those which are used for online games, have a hefty carbon footprint. In a summary of its report, the group says
A medium-sized server has a similar carbon footprint to an SUV achieving 15 miles to the gallon. Servers also require as much energy to cool them as they directly consume.
1,000 PCs left on 24/7 without any power save settings activated will consume up to £70,000 of electricity per year...
Massive online games require massive server facilities--imagine, for example, how many always-on servers World of Warcraft must be running with over 9 million players around the world.
Given that MMOs are growing in popularity, it seems likely that an increasing number of servers will be needed to run the games. One can only hope that the efficiency (quality) of servers will somehow increase more quickly than the quantity of servers required. Because even if quality servers maintain today's levels, we're not doing the planet any favors by playing MMOs. We need to reduce gaming's ecological footprint.
Nintendo releases DS TV (TV tuner for DS and DS Lite) exclusively in Japan for the equivalent of roughly $60 USD. Apparently one of the features gives the viewer a group of imaginary friends to watch TV with.
"By using Second Life, the minsters were able to reach a much wider range of the earth’s population to talk about the impact climate change is having on everyone." If 'wider range' means reaching up to 200 people who happen to have high-end computers and substantial bandwidth, then yes, mission accomplished.
Tile-based strategy game Zombies!!! sells 100k copies since 2001, not including localized versions or expansion packs. Bloody good sales for a relatively obscure tabletop game. It's an easy pick-up-and-play game with tiny plastic zombie figures, so that explains some of the appeal.
Adrian Hon discusses the application of the term "Alternate Reality Game" to a variety of different properties. Takeaway: "one positive characteristic that links all of these ARGs [is] the skill and process that goes into making and designing them."