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  What’s ‘Fair Game’ In Alternate Reality?  
Posted 2007-11-01 by Tony Walsh
The 40th episode of the ARG Netcast features a great discussion about what constitutes "fair game" in Alternate Reality Game play based on what players are willing and able to do versus what the puppetmasters have planned. In my opinion as a contributing designer/writer to such games, the "this is not a game" conceit which largely defined the genre early on is a double-edged sword.

If, as a puppetmaster, you decide that "this is not a game," you had better ensure your not-game is sealed airtight against the deep digging some players are willing to do. Such digging (discussed in the netcast) includes brute-force password hacking, intensive sleuthing for the real-life people (game makers, actors) behind the scenes, or decompiling Flash executable files to search for revealing clues.

In my opinion, if you're making a not-game, you have to accept that this means there are no rules. I think players are entitled to use whatever means necessary to dissect a not-game for clues, provided they obey social contracts and actual laws. Like supervillains, puppetmasters often overestimate the sanctity of their secret plans due to conceit: Surely they're more clever than the heroes. And we all know how that turns out.

Continue reading: What’s ‘Fair Game’ In Alternate Reality?
  ARG Netcast: The Buzz  
Posted 2007-07-26 by Tony Walsh
I'm a guest panelist on the latest ARG Netcast, entitled "The Buzz," joining ARGNet publisher Jonathan Waite, Unfiction owner Sean C. Stacey, and ARGNet writer Celina Beach in a chat about ARG-related buzz and viral marketing. Thanks for having me, folks, it was a fun conversation.

One particular angle of conversation covered the concept of Chaotic Fiction, which Sean C. Stacey wrote about last year and helps to provide a framework for discussing and designing ARG-style games by identifying the degrees of Authorship, Rules, and Coherence in a given work. I had forgotten about all this until the Netcast, so it was great to get a refresher on the subject.
  Whither Gaming Radio?  
Posted 2006-12-06 by Tony Walsh
Writer Jim Rossignol recently wondered if the concept of broadcasting game-specific radio programs has a place outside of Japan, where advertorial programs have been broadcast to support the game Lineage II: "Could this concept be extended to Warcraft's millions? Is there a captive audience there just waiting to be tapped into by games companies and related advertisers? Should MMOs come with built-in radio functions? Can a third party pick up this idea and run a gaming-radio application?" Short answer: Yes.

I thought I'd point out to my readers that while there may not be many official radio programs dedicated to specific games, there are a number of unofficial podcasts floating around. I'm partial to the always-entertaining Taverncast for World of Warcraft, 'Star Wars Galaxies' with Yivvits and Mr. Bubble for SWG, and SecondCast for Second Life (technically not a game, but whatever). Is there a captive audience awaiting commercial messaging through these podcasts? Yes, provided the advertisements aren't obnoxious. Should MMOs come with built-in radio functions? Sure, provided such a function makes sense. Any game genre that supports radio-style broadcasts would be suitable. Can a third party pick up this idea and run a gaming-radio application? While players can and do already tune in to fan-created audio streams, I don't doubt an official server-specific radio station would be a welcome addition to games such as comic-book-themed City of Heroes. It's also worth mentioning that a tournaments in a number of first-person shooter games are broadcast with sports-style flavour commentary. It can be gripping stuff if you're into the game.
  SL Future Salon on ARGs/VWs Podcasted  
Posted 2006-12-04 by Tony Walsh
The recent SL Future Salon event on the intersection between Alternate Reality Gaming and virtual worlds has been packaged as an audio podcast via Listen to my squeaky, awkward outbursts as I join fellow speakers Dan Hon, Adrian Hon, Elan Lee, with host Jerry Paffendorf. Previous commentary on the discussion found here (post-event) and here (pre-event).
  Feedburner Paints Poor Podcast Picture  
Posted 2006-10-05 by Tony Walsh
Frank Barnako does the math on a San Francisco Chronicle audio interview with a Feedburner rep, finding that while podcast subcriptions via Feedburner are growing 20-30% monthly, there are only 70 subscribers per podcast, on average. That's some serious suckitude. So much for podcasts replacing radio. I'm guessing that there are thousands of subscribers for 1% of all podcasts, given that 99% of everything is crap. Another way of looking at this is how Feedburner's podcast subscriptions compare to subscriptions requested through the iTunes store. Maybe it's not podcasts that suck... maybe it's something about Feedburner.

Earlier this year, Forrester blogger Charlene Li told us "only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts." The Feedburner numbers seem to back this up, albeit in a loosey-goosey fashion.
  Another Look at ‘Second Life’ Copyright Issues  
Posted 2006-09-11 by Tony Walsh
John Swords, ringleader of the Secondcast podcast pertaining to the virtual world of Second Life, has posted an interesting analysis of some seemingly new portions of SL's Terms of Service (TOS). Second Life is a world that is filled with and formed by user-created content; Linden Lab, maker of Second Life, relinquished its proprietary interest in the creations of its users some time ago. The way Swords slices it, though, ownership of user-created content is still quite murky: "[W]hat rights do content creators retain? Don’t expect Linden Lab to say. Aside from the fact U.S. copyright and intellectual property rights are outside of their jurisdiction, Linden Lab takes measures to distance themselves from helping to figure it out within their TOS."

Swords might not be a lawyer, but he raises some points worthy of clarification by Linden Lab. Swords supposes that "The TOS grants all users royalty-free rights to everyone else's content," which, if true, would be a disaster for virtual world business-owners, many of whom rely upon customers paying for specific rights. Swords notes, as I did earlier this year, that while Linden Lab doesn't claim to own user-created content, it does assert ownership of one's account and "related data"--essentially one's means of existing in the virtual world and one's inventory of virtual posessions.

Continue reading: Another Look at ‘Second Life’ Copyright Issues
  ‘Metaverse Sessions’ Launched  
Posted 2006-05-16 by Tony Walsh
Podcaster John Swords (SecondCast) and journalist Mark Wallace (3pointD) converged upon the Metaverse Roadmap Summit in San Francisco this month, interviewing selected attendees for a tag-team effort launched as "Metaverse Sessions." The first of these podcasts features the engaging Jerry Paffendorf of Accelerations Studies Foundation and the Electric Sheep Company.

Future interviews will include Reuben Steiger of Millions of Us, Sibley Verbeck of The Electric Sheep Company, Robert Scoble of Microsoft, Dr. Douglas Englebart, and Cory Bridges of Multiverse. Eventually, presentations from the SDForum on virtual worlds will be added to the Metaverse Sessions.
  Azerothian World News  
Posted 2006-04-15 by Tony Walsh
Lately we've heard of a live-blogging effort from World of Warcraft's Blackwing Lair, and the addition of the lands of Azeroth to real-world locales covered by the Metroblogging group. Today, I bring you a machinima newscast (below) that straddles the border between in-game fiction and out-of-game commentary. It's a bit long, but has some amusing moments.

Continue reading: Azerothian World News
  North American Podcast Adoption At 1%  
Posted 2006-04-07 by Tony Walsh
Forrester blogger Charlene Li summarizes some recently-released data on Podcast adoption in North America: "Our survey showed that only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content."

This is hardly encouraging for podcasters and those considering getting into podcasting, and while I think podcasting is overhyped, I am surprised the adoption rate is so low. I can only guess at the reasons for the low number:
1) Nobody knows what a "podcast" is, or thinks it's Apple-exclusive technology.
2) 99% of podcasts are crap.
3) Even if someone knew what a podcast was, and knew of a good podcast to listen to, usability/interface barriers are too high.
  Killer App for Podcasts?  
Posted 2006-03-02 by Tony Walsh
Podzinger uses time-tested speech-recognition technology to convert podcasts into text transcripts, allowing podcast content to be search on a word-by-word basis. While I'm sure the conversion isn't perfect, it's applications like Podzinger that vastly increase the functionality and usefulness of podcasts. One of my chief complaints about podcasts has been that they haven't been searchable on a granular level. That's all changed now.
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Clickable Conversation
on 4159 entries

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