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  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.
  ‘Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge’ Announced  
Posted 2007-06-11 by Tony Walsh
Microsoft announced today that it has partnered with the Games for Change organization in establishing a worldwide "Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge." Launching in August, the competition is intended to increase awareness of socially-conscious games (and the Xbox 360 brand, of course).

College students from more than 100 countries will be eligible to submit their ideas for a game based on the theme of global warming, with three cash prizes available for the best team or individual entries (no word yet on the value of the prizes). The top three entrants will have a chance to present to the Xbox games management team--winning games could be added as a download to the Xbox Live Arcade network. Development of the games will use the XNA Game Studio Express software, which allows entry-level creators to try out Xbox Live development.

How about this for addressing global warming: Instead of holding a competition for themed games, why not reduce the number of Xbox 360 consoles produced, increase backwards compatibility between Xbox and Xbox 360 hardware (reduces material waste), increase the power efficiency of the Xbox 360, reduce packaging used for games, and have the top 3 entrants in the Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge present via videoconferencing rather than fly them in?
  Go, Game!  
Posted 2007-06-04 by Tony Walsh
Go, Game!
Obey the phone. It is never wrong.
Today I rampaged through the Mission District of San Francisco with a team of intrepid adventurers partaking in the Go Game, a technology-driven, urban puzzle-hunt with hints of live-action role playing and alternate reality gaming. Six teams of roughly five players each took to the streets, receiving mission instructions from a WiFi-enabled phone, and documenting their follies with a digital camera over a 2 - 3 hour period.

Tasks included a mix of clue-driven scavenging, interaction with non-player characters, and creative performance. My team, for example, had to recreate a famous moment in history with 30 seconds of video footage. We chose the splitting of the atom. Reviewing the footage collected from all teams at the end of the game was good fun.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, particularly since I haven't had a chance to tour San Francisco since arriving last Friday. I found the technology aspect a bit cumbersome, though. One of the co-founders of the game told me that play via any mobile phone is planned, which would really expand the possibilities for the Go Game, although I think the ideal situation would be to play with pay phones or voice calls on mobiles as an option in addition to text. Currently the game is played via text-based instructions and responses, which has its charms, but proved a little clunkier than I'd hoped. If they're going to stick with technology, I'd like to see a locative aspect added. Here's to the continuing evolution of the Go Game, which I understand is also available in my home town of Toronto.
  Catch Me in San Francisco  
Posted 2007-05-30 by Tony Walsh
On Friday I'll be trekking out to San Francisco for a week to lend my mentoring skills to the BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies. In addition to guiding documentary filmmakers towards digital, non-linear and/or cross-media platforms and formats, I'll be part of a panel on June 2, and will be also be presenting on June 4.

New Media/New Meaning: Multi-Platform Technology, New Media Innovation and Documentary Storytelling
10am - 11:30am, Saturday, June 2 at KQED, 2601 Mariposa Street at Bryant, San Francisco
Panelists include: Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic (moderator); Chris O'Dea, MobiTV; Tim Olson, KQED Interactive; Rahdi Taylor, Sundance Documentary Institute; Josh Felser, Sony/Grouper; Anthony Marshall, Current TV; Scott Kirsner, Cinema Tech; Tony Walsh, Clickable Culture; Meghan Cunningham, Magnet Media, zoom-in online; Ben Batstone Cunningham, alt-zoom studios.

Game Development and Marketing Tools for Producers
10:30am - 12pm, Monday, June 4, location unknown.
I'll be presenting on selected video games and game forms, virtual worlds, and alternate reality games, showing how each has been used as an outlet for non-linear storytelling and (in certain cases) for marketing a specific property. Most likely I'll be covering serious games, newsgames, Second Life, and Ocular Effect, at least.
  Game Sketching with John Buchanan  
Posted 2007-05-28 by Tony Walsh
While on a working trip to Tasmania, I had the pleasure of meeting John Buchanan, Director of Carnegie Mellon's ETC in Adelaide, Australia. I participated in Buchanan's demonstration of a "Game Sketch" system he's working on with his students. Game sketching is a method of pre-prototyping the basic interactivity for the purposes of playing with game ideas. Although technology-independent, Buchanan and his students have developed a 3D tool where simple interactive systems and play modes can be toyed with. Using this tool, any simple 3D object can be made into a controllable game piece with rudimentary functionality. The tool is destined to be distributed free, without a license, from what I hear.

As with any kind of sketch, the purpose is to boil a concept down to its essence by removing distractions. The multi-user tool actually relies on live puppeteering and moderation--not unlike tabletop or live-action roleplay. In this way, play situations can be changed on the fly without downtime resulting from having to create new assets or scripts. The demonstration in Tasmania actually involved live performance (I played a ninja!) as a substitute for the tool, which was having trouble with limited network bandwidth. The experience was a bit similar to what I know as "paper prototyping" which often involves sketched elements moderated by a human controller.

I plan to add game sketching--without any kind of computer-based tool--to the game design courses I'm teaching. I already focus on a series of basic interaction design exercises, but I think sketching would be a useful bridge between these and full-fledged game prototypes. It's important for students to understand that good games boil down to good game play, regardless of presentation. Thanks, John, for introducing me to game sketching!
  Home and Away: Back from Oz  
Posted 2007-05-27 by Tony Walsh
From May 16-26, I was fortunate enough to have been flown down to Australia from my home in Canada in order to share some of my new media / cross media / virtual worlds / alternate reality game learning at three separate events. I presented at the Museum of Sydney along with Gary Hayes and Guy Gadney, joined fellow instructors Hayes and Jackie Turnure at LAMP in a 1-day cross-media bootcamp for film and TV producers, and then joined Hayes, Turnure and a group of other mentors for "Story of the Future," an intensive LAMP retreat held in fabulous Freycinet, Tasmania aimed at pushing eight teams of heritage media producers towards innovative, cross-media formats and platforms.

I'd like to thank Gary Hayes, Peter Giles, and AFTRS / LAMP for arranging the junket, a highly productive working experience which reinvigorated me professionally. After 14 years in the new media business and several years in the cross-media business, I've become somewhat jaded. The LAMP residential showed me--through the eyes of the participants--that this stuff is still very new and magical. I worked closely with eight local teams, each of whom brought a high degree of enthusiasm, talent, and open-mindedness to the table. The mentors were absolutely top-notch personalities and professionals, and it was a real pleasure to be able to share mindspace with them. I learned a lot from the teams, and the mentors and am grateful to have made so many new friends. Keep your eyes on Australia, folks, there's some raging cross-media talent downunder eager to break out.
  Reporting From Oz  
Posted 2007-05-18 by Tony Walsh
Just a quick status report from my Australian adventure, which began May 14 and will wrap up May 26. I joined locals Gary Hayes and Guy Gadney a couple days ago for an afternoon of presentations at the Museum of Sydney. Unfortunately I was clobbered by an attack of The Nerves the second I took the podium, but I managed to recover quickly and deliver a decent seminar overall.

Yesterday I spent the day at AFTRS, workshopping student cross-media pitches with Jackie Turnure and Gary Hayes. And tomorrow morning I fly out to Tasmania for the LAMP residential, where I'll be joining a team of mentors working with linear media producers on the expansion of their ideas into new media experiences.

My internet access has been pretty spotty this week, and thanks the ineptitude of Telus Mobility, my new Motorola World Phone's so-called "global roaming" is utterly non-functional.
  Going Downunder May 14 - 26  
Posted 2007-05-14 by Tony Walsh
I'll be in various parts of Australia between May 14 - 26, lending my mentoring skills to the LAMP residential entitled "Story of the Future." Eight projects have been selected for expansion and development--I'm tentatively assigned to "Thursday's Fictions," a story-centric experience (based on a book and film by the same name) which asks participants to decide what they'd take with them if they had five minutes left to live.

Assuming the jet-lag doesn't strike me dead, I'll be speaking about "The Real, The Virtual and The Mixed" on Thursday, May 17 as part of "Mixed Reality, Branded Entertainment," a day of seminars hosted at the Museum of Sydney between 1 and 4pm.

Between May 20 and 25, I'll be working at the LAMP residential in beautiful Freycinet. I should have internet access during this time, but don't expect to be posting much (if at all) to Clickable Culture.
  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.
  ‘ReGenesis Extended Reality Game’ Wins International Emmy  
Posted 2007-04-23 by Tony Walsh
‘ReGenesis Extended Reality Game’ Wins International Emmy
Xenophile snags International Interactive Emmy award. Pictured from L to R: Thomas Wallner, Catherine Warren (Bell Fund Board Member), Keith Clarkson, Patrick Crowe. Photo: Gary Hayes.
A belated huzzah is due to Canada's Xenophile Media for their ReGenesis Extended Reality Game (II), which won an International Emmy award for Interactive Program (tied with Zinc Roe Design for Zimmer Twins). The game was produced in association with Shaftesbury Films, in parallel with two seasons of their ReGenesis TV series roughly between late 2004 and early 2006. The interplay between the TV and cross-platform game elements included numerous hooks, including seemingly-user-generated plot-twists, synchronized live events, and a gripping web/TV simulcast at the end of the second season.

I worked with Xenophile as a game designer and writer on both seasons of the game, collaborating closely in particular with Creative Director Evan Jones (now of Stitch Media), writers from the show, and Kolody Inc. (a Toronto-based creative firm which did a fantastic job of visual and functional design on the project). This is the latest in a series of recent accomplishments for Xenophile, and surely not the last. Congrats, gang!
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on 4159 entries

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