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  ‘Playboy’ Pulls Out of ‘Second Life’?  
Posted 2007-07-25 by Tony Walsh
It seems Playboy has gone the traditional corporate route in Second Life, which goes something like this: announce a presence in a "cutting-edge virtual world," host a few events, leave behind a ghost-town. This pattern works well in the sense that most people only remember the "announce a presence" part. It even seems to be good enough just to say you'll be doing something exciting with Second Life, without actually following through. Duran Duran, I'm looking at you (and Coke, I haven't forgotten about your long-overdue Virtual Thirst campaign results, either).

It's been about six weeks since Playboy Island opened its mahogany gates. Sexblogger Bonnie Ruberg dropped in recently, finding that "...a trip to the Playboy Island–which the 'brand' is promoting as a 24/7 party–reveals a sterile and totally abandoned little island... we've got an island tumble weeds are just dying to blow across, and a few horrible little love nests where pose balls allow you to do such erotic things as play the harp, sun bathe, or hit a giant gong." Terra Novan Ren Reynolds also took a recent tour, noting "The Island was of course completely empty for most of the time I was there." By the sounds of it, Playboy's beer-goggles wore off, it discovered who it was sleeping with, and snuck out the door before dawn. The problem is that the brand left its pants behind.
  Study: Young People See Technology As Means to End  
Posted 2007-07-24 by Tony Walsh
MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft released summary findings today from surveys of 18,000 tech-savvy young people across the globe indicating that technology itself isn't as important as the activities technology facilitates: Namely communication, social networking, self-expression, and entertainment.

The surveys also found:
  • Marketers are as influential and important as friends.
  • Digital communications and social networking compliment, rather than compete with TV.
  • Technology enhances, rather than replaces in-person interaction.
  • Japanese young people generally don't have their own computers until college-age, but do use mobile phones.
  • Chinese young people look to the internet to connect with others, since they have no siblings.
  • Young people of Italy, Brazil and Australia use mobiles to meet up, socialize, and take pictures.
  • Danes "can't live without" mobiles or TV. The Dutch "can't live without" email.
It's worth reiterating that the surveys were conducted with "tech embracing" kids and young people, therefore conclusions like "Young people are now constantly connected," or "There is a powerful link between TV and the Internet," uttered by MTV Network's Fahey Rush are forgone, in my opinion. How would the survey have been different if the other side of the digital divide had been polled?
  ‘IWOOT’: Not the First ‘Second Life’ Shop to Sell Real Goods  
Posted 2007-07-14 by Tony Walsh
Online retailer IWOOT opened a Second Life presence last week, claiming to be "the first ever Second Life shop where you can purchase real products and get them delivered to your door."

Wrong, IWOOT. I don't know who told you to make the claim you did, but it was bad advice, hopefully based merely upon ignorance rather than ill intent.

As early as 2005 [*], it was possible to have real computer hardware and real comic books delivered to your door through, a third-party Second Life retailer selling both real and virtual goods for Linden Dollars. In 2007, Dynamedia and announced a partnership intended to facilitate real food ordering through Second Life. Domino's Pizza announced a similar scheme. I don't know if either food ordering system was actually implemented, but SLBoutique's supply chain certainly worked.

What usually happens at this point is that a company rep will split hairs over what IWOOT meant by "first ever Second Life shop" in order to justify the original claim. My advice: Don't split hairs, just retract the statement.
  ‘Toontown’ to Aim Ads at Kids  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Mediaweek reports that Disney's cutesy, award-winning Toontown is moving from a subscription- to ad-supported model by the fall. Toontown users are considered too young to handle unfiltered text chats, so how could it possibly be appropriate to advertise to this young audience? I hope part of Disney's plan is to continue to offer subscriptions to those parents who can afford to keep Toontown ad-free for their kids.
  ‘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.
  links for 2007-07-08  
Posted 2007-07-08 by Tony Walsh
  Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies  
Posted 2007-07-04 by Tony Walsh
The skies of Azeroth rained gnomes today, but none survived the impact, according to a reader of Raph Koster's blog. The gnomes left behind corpses arranged to spell out the name of a web site dealing in virtual gold sales--an effective means of advertising third-party services Blizzard (creator of the Azeroth setting) is firmly against, allegedly carried out using client-side hacks (another Blizzard no-no). Gamers on the official Warcraft message boards reported the gnome-rain fell on at least several servers.

This is the most spectacular case of corpse graffiti I've ever heard of. Although World of Warcraft added weather effects over a year ago, "raining gnomes" wasn't on the list. I'd probably re-subscribe if gnome-rain was a regular occurrence. Anyone got the weekend forecast handy?

Continue reading: Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies
  Coke Gives Up on ‘Second Life’ Trademark Infringement? [Corrected]  
Posted 2007-06-28 by Tony Walsh
Coca-Cola, which recently entered Second Life, has reportedly "released" its trademark to resident merchants. According to Vint Falken, news of the release was delivered in an email from SLExchange, one of Second Life's biggest third-party shopping web sites. The Coca-Cola brand has been bootlegged by Second Life merchants for years--I suppose Coke's decided this actually works for their business.

I'm no lawyer, so I have to wonder what "releasing" a trademark actually means, or what the implications are. I wasn't aware a corporation could issue a blanket release for a proprietary mark while still owning it, but hey, I learn something new every day. Looking forward to Benjamin Duranske's comments on this one.

[Correction: The news source had originally been cited as C.C. Chapman, but is now cited correctly as SLExchange. Sorry, C.C.]
  ‘Major League Gaming’ Gains Solid Foothold in Canada  
Posted 2007-06-19 by Tony Walsh
Insight Sports, a Toronto-based media company, is bringing Major League Gaming to Canada, providing a localized, organized pathway to "professional" video gaming. To this end, Major League Gaming Canada will be staging an Xbox-exclusive tournament this fall: "The MLG Canadian Open will be held Friday, November 2nd – Sunday, November 4th, 2007 at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre. It will serve as a marquee event within the larger Gaming and Digital Lifestyle show that is expected to attract over 25,000 core gamers and technology enthusiasts during the weekend."

I spoke briefly today with MLG co-founder Sundance DiGiovanni, who told me that MLG chose consoles over the PC platform because of the lower barrier to entry for console gamers--the cost of buying a PC rig is just too high, he said. While MLG is Xbox-exclusive for now, DiGiovanni told me the Nintendo Wii is a possibility moving forward.

Support from Xbox Canada, Yahoo! Canada, Zellers, The Score and G4techTV has already been secured for MLG's Canadian debut. Xbox Canada has ensured the Xbox will be used exclusively during league play; Yahoo! Canada will promote MLG through its media network; Zellers will facilitate retail sales and promotions; The Score TV network will be the official home of MLG, including the U.S., with G4techTV apparently picking up the broadcast scraps.

Not sure what to make of this until I actually see a televised MLG tournament. On the one hand, it's good to see video games get a "pro sports" treatment. On other other hand, is MLG meeting a need? Are North Americans ready for video games as pro sports?
  ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour  
Posted 2007-06-18 by Tony Walsh
The American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health has issued a report entitled "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games" which taps into 22 years of scientific literature drawn from the PubMed database. The report contains no new findings, but does provide a handy summary of previous investigation into the impact of video games on health.

The Council on Science and Public Health report refers only to the "potential" benefits and detrimental effects of games, referring to studies which showed an "association" between gaming and negative behavior. This seems a more sensible stance than the one taken by Dr. Peter Jaffe, a University of Western Ontario professor, who contended earlier this year that the effects of entertainment violence (including video games) on children "are measurable and long lasting." My question "Does Violent Media Cause Violence, Or Doesn't It?" still stands--the report indicates "more research" is needed to connect video game content with negative behavior.

Continue reading: ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour
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