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  Notes: ‘Web 2.0 To Web 3D’  
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
Following are my abbreviated notes from the SXSW panel "Web 2.0 to Web 3D."

James Au

Robert Scoble
Robin Hunicke
Susan Wu

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Web 2.0 To Web 3D’
  Buy My Comic Books Through ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-12-19 by Tony Walsh
Featured Item
Users of the virtual world Second Life may now order the He Is Just a Rat comic book series, written and drawn by Tony Walsh (that's me, you fool), exclusively through SLBoutique. Buyers receive not only a virtual T-shirt for their avatar, but 5 real-life comic books delivered to their door--and I'll optionally sign the comics in each package for the first 50 orders. Ordering details here.

Although I plan to test out virtual-item sales in 2007, this effort is mostly about clearing out my house of boxes of real comic books. Even though I sold thousands of the comics back in the mid-1990s, there are still a few hundred left of the various issues. I'm charging L$2000 for the comic orders, which covers postage, the envelope, and my time preparing each package. The He Is Just a Rat bundle is one of the few real-life items offered by, a service I've found to be very well designed and implemented.
  Reading ‘Mind at Play’  
Posted 2006-12-18 by Tony Walsh
My wife snagged me a copy of the 1983 book Mind at Play by Geoffrey Loftus and Elizabeth Loftus. The book concerns the psychology of video games, and although it's very dated, it seems to be a useful read, particularly in light more recent work such as The Rules of Play and A Theory of Fun. A lot has changed since 1983, but I find those elements of the game industry and game design which haven't changed to be at least as interesting (for example, the similarities between designing coin-op games and microtransaction-driven games are worth considering). Mind at Play promises to be a good addition to my inventory of game design and education resources. Besides, it's under 200 pages and has large type.

Next up: James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, a timely addition to the course material I'm preparing for semester 2 of Game Culture & Design at George Brown College.
  Interviewed by Italy’s ‘La Stampa’  
Posted 2006-11-30 by Tony Walsh
Writer Ivan Fulco cordially invited me to share my thoughts on virtual world Second Life recently, and the results have been published by Italy's La Stampa. Fulco asked me about reasons to both visit and avoid Second Life, about the culture of the growing virtual world, about the platform's staying-power, and about virtual worlds generally. For now, the interview is available exclusively in Italian (I gave my answers in English), but I hope to print the original (English) version soon. Don't bother trying an online translator unless you want a good laugh :)

The last Italian interview I gave was for was for Videoludica (thoughts on that one here). Ironically, I get more play overseas as a game culture commentator than on my home turf.
  ‘Alternate Reality Games White Paper’ Published  
Posted 2006-11-28 by Tony Walsh
The International Game Developers Association's special-interest group on ARGs has published its first white paper about the Alternate Reality game-form, after 8 months of work and hundreds of revisions. The paper not only introduces the genre, but offers actionable information on design methods, business models, and specific games. From the forward: "The ARG industry is consistently producing multi-million-dollar games for tens of thousands of players at a time, and generating interest across the entertainment, broadcast, and advertising industries... Although new to many people, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are still far short of achieving their full potential, each new wave of games bringing major new innovations and increased understanding of what works and what doesn't." Incidentally, these sentiments were echoed during yesterday's SL Future Salon on ARGs held in the MMO world of Second Life--coincidentally, the white paper includes a section in the introduction about ARGs and MMOGs.

Continue reading: ‘Alternate Reality Games White Paper’ Published
  Ignoring Local Gamers  
Posted 2006-11-22 by Tony Walsh
I'm a bit annoyed with Toronto weekly NOW for failing to find a local connection in its story "Activist Gaming Takes Hold," that ran in last week's edition. It's great that NOW writer David Silverberg covered serious games such as Disaffected!, Darfur Is Dying, The Organizing Game and the McDonald's Videogame, but where's Pax Warrior? NOW is a local weekly, so why not cover Toronto-based game developer 23 YYZee? The studio's serious game Pax Warrior explores peacekeeping in Rwanda and incorporates social studies and history curricula for classroom use. The game was licensed for free to over 200,000 Canadian high school students--that's a generation of potential "activist gamers." NOW clearly dropped the ball on this one.

As an occasional source for the mainstream media, it frustrates me when domestic media outlets go for international talking heads instead of local experts. Earlier this year, Canada's Exclaim! magazine ran a weak piece on Alternate Reality Gaming without one Canadian connection (despite some very obvious choices). I was approached by a producer a month ago about a Canadian TV documentary on MMOs, but he wasn't looking for my participation, only my list of international contacts. Admittedly, I'm crying sour grapes here, but I could have added to the NOW piece on "activist gaming," having written a semi-satirical call to arms for Sims Online players (featured in Canada's Shift Magazine), having once been "disaffected" as a Kinko's midnight shift worker in downtown Toronto, and currently teaching at "The City College" in a Game Design program geared towards serious games. The CBC (Canada's national public broadcaster) has covered Second Life a few times, but doesn't have a great track record for involving Canadian subject-matter experts--here's a recent example (I could have told them it was a non-news item, pointing to earlier precedents).

Continue reading: Ignoring Local Gamers
  ‘Toronto Star’ Takes Bizarre ‘Warcraft’ Trip  
Posted 2006-11-16 by Tony Walsh
Wow. There are so many things wrong with this Toronto Star article on World of Warcraft. I barely know where to start. Wait, yes I do: The reportage is terrible. I'll just pick on a few of the worst points so you know where I'm coming from on this. Writer Christian Cotroneo claims:

"...World of Warcraft is the granddaddy of online communities. On one hand, it’s a sprawling, seamless fantasy, where you choose an avatar — a rogue, fighter, Mage — and go forth in this virtual world to hack, slash and maim your way to glory." World of Warcraft is not the granddaddy of online communities. It's not the oldest one by a long shot, and it hasn't spawned any sequels ("grandchildren," keeping with the metaphor), and it isn't even the largest "online community." And why is "Mage" exclusively capitalized? Don't they have proofreaders over at The Star?

"On the other hand, it’s supremely social. Players band together, chatting incessantly. They hook up for virtual drinks at the inn, share a slab of wild boar meat. They dance, they have picnics in the woods, they even share a bed on occasion." Dude, I don't know what server you are playing on, but I have never heard of players going to an inn in Warcraft for a pint and a slab of meat. Picnics in the woods!?! Cotroneo is embellishing here. Maybe he plays on a server dedicated to role-playing, where players imagined they were eating and drinking together, or having cybersex in the woods, or whatever the hell he thinks he's talking about.

"'Yay! I got my Voidwalker!' some warrior declares in the general chat window that runs along the bottom of the screen. He is, I assume, referring to some fancy piece of equipment earned in battle." For the uninitiated, a Voidwalker is a minion of a Warlock and has nothing to do with warriors or equipment earned in battle.

What I have been seeing a lot of lately are mainstream media outlets increasing their coverage of games and virtual worlds, but not applying the same journalistic skills, methods or ethics to those spaces. No "average" audience member would ever catch the errors, although they might walk away with the wrong idea. But gamers and virtual world residents (of which there are increasing numbers these days) know better.
  ‘Guardian’ Fails to Protect ‘Second Life’ History  
Posted 2006-11-08 by Tony Walsh
The living history of virtual world Second Life continues to withstand injury by outside business efforts and lazy reporters. The Guardian Unlimited's Berlin correspondent Jess Smee reports that Bild-Zeitung publisher Axel Springer is about to launch Second Life's "first" tabloid focusing entirely on in-world society and culture. Smee's report is not only incorrect, but it inexplicably ignores the living legacy of the Second Life Herald, a high-profile tabloid that's been happily raking mud in-world and on the web since 2004 (and earlier as The Alphaville Herald). Numerous mainstream media reports have used the Herald as a source over the years in order to bring catchy insider stories to the outside world.

What happened here? How could a seasoned reporter screw up so significantly? I couldn't find Smee's contact information to send an inquiry directly to the writer, so I'll indulge in speculation. Ultimately this boils down to laziness on Smee's part. A Google search for "Second Life tabloid" lists the Herald in the top ten results. So obviously Smee isn't doing even the slightest bit of research. The writer probably just reprinted whatever Axel Springer communicated. I can forgive publisher Axel Springer for being oblivious to existing Second Life culture (although how it thinks it can cover something it doesn't understand is beyond me), but it's insulting when companies try to rewrite community history. Further commentary at the Herald and Second Life Insider.
  An Open Letter to The Internet  
Posted 2006-10-26 by Tony Walsh
Dear Internet,

I regret not being able to defend you more effectively on live television last night. As you know, we have been friends for over a decade, through feast and famine. I've appreciated how you've disrupted culture, politics, and business, and I've come to your defense in small ways over the years, but never took time to write a book or extensive magazine article on how excellent you truly are. Conversely, your detractors Andrew Keen and Steve Maich have written a book and extensive magazine article (respectively) on how awful they think you are. In hindsight, I should have realized it would be difficult defending you when the assumption from the outset is that you "suck." It's easier to tear something down than to build it up. Although I was able to respond to demands for proof of your awesomeness, I was a ultimately drowned out in the scrum.

You and I both know you live a dual life, Internet. While I celebrate your excellence, I simultaneously recognize how other people have misused your powers. You're not the problem, Internet. People are the problem. Some people use you as a tool for plagiarism, for deceitful purposes, or to inflate corporate value--but on the other hand, some use you to bust perverts, break news, or to make crazy money. You're a bit like a knife: Whether it stabs someone in the heart or slices a birthday cake, it cuts both ways. So do you, depending on how you are wielded. I understand your capacity for great good and for great ill, but I'm not sure why anyone would focus only on your bad side. Except maybe to sell books or magazines.

Respectfully yours,
Mr. Tony Walsh, Esq.
  I Explain Why ‘The Internet’ Doesn’t Suck  
Posted 2006-10-25 by Tony Walsh
If you're within broadcast range of Ontario public TV station TVO today, you can catch me on The Agenda in a 40-minute discussion about the degree of suckitude present and/or lacking in "The Internet." The discussion was arranged after Maclean's magazine writer Steve Maich stole the cover of this week's print edition with the provocative declaration that "The Internet sucks." Maich's article takes an incredibly one-sided view, and there's so much I could easily pick apart here, but I'll wait until tonight's segment. Producer Daniel Kitts tells me that tonight's guests not only include Maich, but the McLuhan Centre's Liss Jeffrey (others TBA). The segment airs at 8pm Eastern Time, but will also be available as a podcast.
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