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  Notes: ‘On the Edge of Independent User-Creation in Gamespace’  
Posted 2007-03-11 by Tony Walsh
Following are my abbreviated notes on the SXSW panel "On the Edge of Independent User-Creation in Gamespace."

Jerry Paffendorf, The Electric Sheep Company

John Bacus, Prod Mgr, Google
Jamais Cascio, World-Builder-in-Chief, Open the Future
Raph Koster, Pres, Areae Inc

Continue reading: Notes: ‘On the Edge of Independent User-Creation in Gamespace’
  Notes: ‘Virtual Worlds and Virtual Humans’  
Posted 2007-03-11 by Tony Walsh
My abbreviated notes from the interesting (and packed) SXSW panel "Virtual Worlds and Virtual Humans" follow...

Mark Stephen Meadows, HeadCase

Ben Cerveny, Playground Foundation
Justin Hall, Passively Multiplayer
Susan Wu, Charles River Ventures

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Virtual Worlds and Virtual Humans’
  Notes: ‘Avatar-Based Marketing in Sythetic Worlds’  
Posted 2007-03-11 by Tony Walsh
Today I moderated a great panel on 'Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds' at SXSW / Screenburn. The panel was well-attended (close to a full room, it seemed), with a majority of attendees already in virtual worlds (particularly Second Life). Lots of thoughtful commentary, discussion, and questions back and forth between audience and panelists. Thanks to all who participated!

Notes are available via Mark Wallace's and Blast First.
  Luncheon With the Stars  
Posted 2007-03-10 by Tony Walsh
This year's SXSW is turning out to be even more social than last year--not that the panels aren't interesting, just that the impromptu get-togethers are more engaging (as is the way with conferences, apparently). Today I had the pleasure of lunching with this morning's ARG panel, specifically with fellow Torontonian Evan Jones, displaced Brits Dan Hon and Alice Taylor, the wise Brooke Thompson, and the crafty Brian Clark. Fruity drinks FTW! I'd met everyone in the posse previously except Alice, who turned out to be as clever, punchy and charming in person as her writing suggests. Yay!

Over lunch I learned that "The Ocular Effect," (aka Fallen alternate reality game) a project I worked on last summer with Toronto's Xenophile Media, has been nominated for a SXSW Web Award in the "Experimental" category. Luckily Evan Jones (creative director), Thomas Wallner (co-producer), and myself (game designer) are all here in Austin in case the stage needs rushing.
  Notes: ‘Attack of the ARGs!’  
Posted 2007-03-10 by Tony Walsh
SXSW panel Attack of the ARGs--it's a full room, standing-room only. Check the official listing for more info on the participants, my very rough and abbreviated notes follow:

Moderator Alice Taylor: "Where do you see ARGs going?"
Brian Clark- Last weekend was the ARG fest in San Francisco, included filmmakers behind the Lonely Girl series [notes how the series spawned ARG interest and its own unofficial--then official--game].
Evan Jones- Interested to see some of the mainstream-level ARGs emerge; there is an audience that wants to engage in a story on a much briefer level.
Brooke Thompson- More TV shows will adopt ARG play... we will be seeing how games can help people work, find places in their cities, interact with others... ARGs will spread out to include serious gaming.
Brian Clark- There are more people watching the scene than participating in it.
Dan Hon- It's hard to get into a game that's 2 years long and already in progress. We've been looking into TV. What do TV shows do to help viewers catch up halfway through the season? We're looking into episodic gaming; bite-sized chunks; short-run games.

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Attack of the ARGs!’
  Three Rings Spins A New ‘Whirled’  
Posted 2007-03-08 by Tony Walsh
Three Rings Design, makers of the addictive swashbuckler Puzzle Pirates and the cunning Bang Howdy, is spinning up its new Whirled--a web-based social world featuring games and user-created content. Currently in closed alpha testing, eager beavers can sign up to be notified when the gates open.

I think "Whirled" is a great name. Why? Because weeks ago I soft-launched MiraWhirl, a slowly-evolving repository of items for virtual worlds and social spaces. MiraWhirl... mirror-world... get it? More on the intentions behind my own project later. In the mean time, I hope Lauren Wheeler, a project manager at Three Rings, will spill some details about Whirled during our upcoming panel at SXSW on March 11.
  What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007  
Posted 2007-03-08 by Tony Walsh
What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007
Look for me at SXSW/Screenburn, March 9 - 14.
Larger image available here.
March 14 - 19, 2007 marks my third year participating in a South by Southwest Interactive panel, and my first year as an advisory board member of Screenburn (a component of SXSWi). I'm particularly excited about Screenburn's emphasis on virtual worlds this year, which will bring together some of the brightest minds in this evolving industry--including familiar cohorts and some folks I've not had the chance to meet in person yet.

This will also be the first SXSW where I'll be keeping an eye out for interesting contract telework opportunities in the social media, gaming and virtual worlds spaces (preferably a combination of all of the above). There just isn't enough going on in the Toronto area (my home base) to keep me engaged and challenged. I decided not to invest in a trip to the Game Developers Conference this year because I'm not interested in working in the mainstream "game industry" (imagine exaggerated air-quotes on that phrase). I'm also not going to the upcoming Virtual Worlds conference, it's simply too expensive and big-business oriented. I have found SXSW to be a well-rounded conference in terms of panels and attendees--more in line with my cross-platform interests than many other conferences.

Please feel free to contact me if you're in Austin during SXSW/Screenburn, or if you've got an event you think I might enjoy. I'll be there by mid-afternoon on Friday, March 9 and leaving mid-afternoon on Wednesday, March 14. You can reach me via email (tony at secretlair dot com) or via mobile/sms (+1 416 894 0894).

Following are the panels I am most likely to attend:

Continue reading: What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007
  Brand Advice in ‘Second Life’ and Beyond  
Posted 2007-02-06 by Tony Walsh
Leading up to moderating a SXSW panel on "Avatar-Based Marketing," I've been collecting relevant reading material, and I thought I'd share some recent selections with you. Feel free to add your own bookmarks to the comments section of this post.

Gary Hayes of Personalize Media gives us "The Brand Owners Guide to Joining the Metaverse," where 13 tips are presented, including some favourites of mine ("Don't Become Virtual Just Because You Can" and "Be Sensitive to The World") and some practical advice for development, such as "Design Multiple Levels of Navigation" and "If You Are Going to Provide Content Give Enough Choice." Also see Hayes' article "TV & Design Brands and Virtual Worlds."

Avatar Tateru Nino of Second Life Insider expounds on the subject of "Practical Marketing - physical business in nonphysical worlds." In summary, Nino's thesis is that attempting to replicate real products in Second Life is not only futile (since functionality can't usually be replicated) but could damage the brand. I'm not sure I agree 100%, but I encountered great example of this sort of disconnect with Telus' entry into Second Life: Virtual Telus phones didn't behave like phones at all, and didn't seem to offer enough value to consumers... ergo, why bother building a "functional" phone in Second Life?

Then there's a long series of reading material on MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach / Virtual Hills offerings, from Advertising Age's "Case Study: Marketing in Virtual Laguna Beach" (registration required), to Wired's "A Second Life for MTV" by 3pointD's Mark Wallace. Lastly, some quick hits: "CBS machinima ad for Two and a Half Men," Fox Atomic stages a machinima contest in Second Life, and "‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels."
  Coming Soon: ‘Avatar-Based Marketing’ Panel at SXSW Screenburn  
Posted 2007-01-31 by Tony Walsh
On March 11, 2007 at the South By Southwest Screeenburn conference in Austin, Texas, I'll be moderating a panel entitled "Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds."

The panel description reads: "Synthetic, alternate worlds such as Second Life, There, and Habbo Hotel are populated by customizable, user-controlled avatars. These exciting spaces are increasingly being eyed as the next level in experiential marketing. Does a successful marketing effort target the user or the avatar? What are the best ways to capture and retain attention in a virtual world? Our panelists discuss the business, cultural, and ethical considerations of marketing to avatars." Details subject to change.

Panelists include Eric Gruber (MTV Freelance), Paul Hemp (Harvard Business Review), Lauren Wheeler (Three Rings Design), and Linda Zimmer (MarCom:Interactive). I'm pleased that we are able to present a diverse range of experience with the topic at hand. Among other pursuits, Eric Gruber has been heavily involved with Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills; Paul Hemp wrote the important article "Avatar-Based Marketing" last year, Lauren Wheeler is involved with Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates and an upcoming top-secret project using a microcurrency model; Linda Zimmer is the author of the Business Communicators of Second Life blog. As you may know, I have been a constant critic of Second Life-based business efforts over the last few years--as moderator, I intend to keep the discussion well-rounded and free of fluffing.
  Help Me Round Out a SXSW Screenburn Panel [Updated]  
Posted 2007-01-08 by Tony Walsh
I'll be moderating a panel this March on "Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds" at SXSW's gaming sideshow Screenburn. I'm trying to keep the panel as balanced as possible with regards to gender and virtual-world interest. So far, I've got all the men I need, with Second Life and There well-represented, but I'd really like to include a woman who has experience with a third major, commercialized virtual world such as Habbo. If you're such a woman, or know someone who is, please drop me a line with an introduction. Thanks.

[Update1: see clarification below]
[Update2: Thanks for the responses, I've successfully rounded out the panel!]
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