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  ‘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.

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  The Non-Grabby Terms of ‘Gaia Online’  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I have a special hate-on for unfriendly Terms of Service--those legal agreements which govern the use of a web site or virtual world. The worst Terms of Service (ToS) are set up for wholesale exploitation of user submissions while giving the contributors nothing or very little value in return. These ToS agreements are known as "grabby." I wrote an article on grabby ToS agreements six years ago--it's remarkable how little things have changed since then.

While signing up for a Gaia Online account the other day, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very user-friendly ToS agreement behind the scenes. Like many online communities, Gaia demands a license to exploit user-created content, but unlike most online services, Gaia promises to exploit the content "solely as necessary to provide the features and functionality of the part(s) of Gaia Online within which you choose to make your Member Submissions available..." Also unlike many online services, Gaia's license to your content expires when you remove the content. I'm no lawyer, but I do read a lot of ToS agreements (most users don't), and this is one of the fairest I've seen. Even Second Life's ToS, which is commonly believed to be user-friendly (and was recently found unenforceable), isn't as good as Gaia's.

Continue reading: The Non-Grabby Terms of ‘Gaia Online’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Child Porn Panic Hits ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
As recently reported in the Second Life Herald, Second Life Insider, and acknowledged by Linden Lab, German TV network ARD has revealed Second Life depictions of child porn to national viewers and authorities.

Linden Lab explained yesterday that it was contacted last week by ARD, which presented footage of an adult and child avatar "engaged in depicted sexual conduct." The virtual-world maker assured readers of its blog that both participants were adults, and were "immediately banned from Second Life." Apparently, an ARD reporter also found pictures inside the virtual world described as "sexual photographs involving a child," and ARD reportedly handed over the images to German authorities. Linden Lab's requests for the location of the photos in-world have not been responded to, according to the company's blog.

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  IBM Rolls Its Own Virtual World  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-08 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
IBM staffers have created their own metaverse, according to eightbar, a blog authored by staffers of the company's "Innovate Quick" team. IBM recently announced plans to roll out a high-powered server capable of running massive virtual worlds, and has been tinkering with Second Life for about a year.

The IBM-created virtual world was spurred by "a desire to have a more secure intranet environment where [the team] can meet and explore the potential technology and social implications," writes eightbar contributor Ian Hughes, adding that "We in the IQ team are certainly not trying to be Second Life. We are however using some of the elements of virtual presence, and examining the potential balance of content creation versus deployable content in a business context."

The company is using Garage Games' Torque Game Engine, a low-cost game platform supporting dozens of simultaneous users (about as many as a single Second Life area). Hughes writes that the team is integrating their Torque-based virtual world with existing IBM communications systems: "What we need is the ability to gather some people together and use the human aspects of the avatar interaction to be more effective in our communications."

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  Eat in a World Without Hunger, Drink in a World Without Thirst  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
In the virtual world of Second Life, avatars aren't required to consume digital food or liquids. It's possible to force an avatar to "eat" or "drink," but the digital denizens lack a simulated nervous and digestive system--consumption is akin to playing "tea party."

As it happens, a few outside businesses have joined Second Life's "tea party" recently, bringing along artificial food, drink, and scent. Earlier this year, Calvin Klein made a stink with its ck IN2U perfume, reportedly showering avatars with "fizzing fragrance bubbles." Last month, Coke kicked off a "virtual thirst" campaign (but failed to complete the simulation with a virtual tooth-decay campaign).

Today, Kraft Foods and American TV personality Phil Lempert bring "Phil's Supermarket" to the virtual world, reports the Business Communicators of Second Life blog. According to Lempert's web site, users will be able to browse for over 100,000 products by the end of the summer, and "pre-shop" (but not "actually shop") for real-world items. This seems like a great way to collect data on the activity and preferences of potential customers, if anyone will bother to "pre-shop."

The greatest failure of "Phil's Supermarket" is that it requires users to go shopping twice. Who has time for that? I'd rather order groceries online using a web site--a superior tool for finding and buying real food I can actually eat. Throw in automatically-delivered Second Life equivalents to the web-ordered food, and you've now got a service that saves time and bridges both worlds.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Linden Lab Lays Down Law: Give Your ID, Or Give Up Adult Content  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab has announced that new restrictions on how users consume and host content in Second Life will be rolled out by mid-May. According to an official blog posting, users who do not pay a fee to verify their age will be restricted from accessing Mature-rated areas of the virtual world. These areas will be identified by virtual land owners, who Linden Lab says "are morally and legally responsible for the content displayed and the behavior taking place on their land." Land owners will be required to flag their land as "adult" if it contains "adult content."

According to Linden Lab, "The verification system will be run by a third party specializing in age and identity authentication. No personally identifying information will be stored by them or by Linden Lab, including date of birth, unless the Resident chooses to do so. Those who wish to be verified, but remain anonymous, are free to do so... US Residents will be asked to provide the last four digits of their Social Security Number, while non-US Residents may need to provide a passport or national ID number." An extensive Q&A is provided on the company's official blog.

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  What Revolting Digg Users Can Teach Game Operators  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Matt Mihaly, CEO of Iron Realms, relates the recent Digg.com user-revolt to the world of massively-multiplayer game operation:

"Digg may own the service but the users have a hell of a lot to say about that service's ability to operate... I think the lesson for game operators is that you are always one decision away from alienating a huge portion of your userbase. It doesn’t matter how many fanbois you have. Not only will some of them turn on you and become your harshest critics, but most of your players have little to no real loyalty to you. They may admire you but most of them are there for the experience, not you. Bad decisions are permitted, but decisions that fly directly in the face of everything your players expect from you could elicit a response remarkably like spontaneous combustion."

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  Ypulse Interviews ‘Gaia Online’ CEO  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Ypulse has posted a brief interview with Craig Sherman, CEO of Gaia Online, a web-based community currently boasting 5 million registrants and a record concurrency of over 86,000 users. The entire interview is worth a read, but here are my take-away points:
  • Gaia Online forums represent 25% of community activity. Usage averages 1M posts daily, 1B posts created (since 2003).
  • Gaia Online's business model is based on sponsorships (integrated branding rather than billboard ads).
  • Gaia Online sells 2-3 virtual collectibles monthly at $2.50 USD each. This is a "key source" of revenue. Some real-world items for sale, such as "OMG" cap, based on virtual items, have been "really popular."
  • 85% of users have recommended Gaia Online to friends
  • International expansion of the service is planned.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Integrated Media Festival Panel to Discuss ‘Digital Intimacy’  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'll be a panelist on the topic of "digital intimacy" in Toronto next week as part of the 2007 Integrated Media Festival, a 1-day event produced by The Centre for Creative Communications. The panel, which discusses inhibition, relationships, and sexuality in the digital realm, also involves Amber MacArthur of CityNews/CP24 and Cynthia Loyst of Sextv. I'll be presenting for about 10 minutes on some of the ways intimacy is expressed in virtual worlds, and how pliable boundaries between public and private space in worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft touch the human beings behind the avatars.

The 90-minute panel begins at 1:30pm on May 7, 2007, at Revival Bar, 783 College Street West, Toronto. The event is free, and open to the public. A schedule of the entire day can be found here.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Project Open Letter’ Points Out Persistent ‘Second Life’ Problems  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Cristiano Diaz (Cristiano Midnight in Second Life) has launched Project Open Letter, in which serious problems with Linden Lab's virtual world are addressed. Many veteran Second Life users, including myself, have complained loudly over the years about show-stopping technical issues with the platform. Project Open Letter aims to consolidate those complaints. While I may not agree with 100% of the letter's content (and note that it's easy to make up or falsify the letter's signatures), I feel it hits enough important points that it's worth signing and reprinting here...

Continue reading: ‘Project Open Letter’ Points Out Persistent ‘Second Life’ Problems
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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