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  SXSW 2008 Notes:  Jane McGonigal’s Keynote  
Posted 2008-03-11 by Tony Walsh
Rough notes liveblogged from Jane McGonigal's keynote presentation at SXSW...

The Lost Ring has been in pay for a week, there are already over 100 screen grabs from the game trailer posted to flickr.

We need more alternate realities... the real world needs to be redesigned as a game...

Slide: "A game designer's perspective on the future of happiness"

Research around the subject of happiness... the science of happiness... we've started to see a backlash after a period of happiness study... one area of study looks specifically at what makes us happy and function well... it's been all over the popular press...

There's an amazing parallel between what makes us happy and the core tenets of game design...

Continue reading: SXSW 2008 Notes:  Jane McGonigal’s Keynote
  Guy Parsons On Rock’n’Roll Storytelling  
Posted 2007-10-09 by Tony Walsh
Former Perplex City ops-team member Guy Parsons has posted a web version of a recent presentation entitled "Text, Drugs, and Rock'n'Roll," wherein he engagingly argues that stories can become more participatory by injecting rock'n'roll--loosely defined in the context of his presentation as "jumping off the author's stage and diving headlong into the crowd..." -- a crowd Parsons knows (as do others in the ARG, live-game, and participatory fiction space) from first-hand experience is capable of "waiting to catch you with open arms" and co-authoring the experience.

I'd like to see more rock'n'roll in more forms of media, but I don't think that sort of mashup is necessarily a superior form of culture. I'm a bit tired of futurists telling us how one-way media is "dead," but I think Parson's barking up the right tree in explaining why participatory culture is an attractive and satisfying option for engaging contemporary audiences.
  links for 2007-09-28  
Posted 2007-09-28 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-09-26  
Posted 2007-09-26 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ Tabletop Goes Digital  
Posted 2007-08-21 by Tony Walsh
I first started playing the legendary tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons around 1980 with my grade-school friends, so it's with a veteran's eye I've watched the game morph over the years and through its various editions. Although I haven't been following D&D closely, my understanding is that the game has been "dumbed down" in recent years in order to lower the barrier to participation. In the last year or so, it seems to have returned to its roots as little more than a miniatures-based battle game.

Earlier this month the 4th Edition of D&D was announced, including D&D Insider, an internet-based platform for the game allowing players to connect remotely. Today, technology developer Vivox (about which I've previously written) announced it will be bringing voice communication to D&D Insider. So much for the venerable tabletop.

Maybe I'm wallowing in nostalgia, but the best role-playing game experiences usually involve face-to-face participation. I ran a 3 year-long D&D campaign using Neverwinter Nights a few years ago, and while the digital environment is great for bringing people together from all parts of the world, it lacks the visceral quality that tabletop and live-action gaming is drenched in. Scenes painted by the human imagination trump the best computer graphics any day of the week.
  Digital Cameras Reveal Hidden Messages?  
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
David Fono introduced me to Kameraflage, a display technology that takes advantage of the fact that digital cameras can "see" infrared light. Content rendered in infrared light--normally invisible to the naked eye--can be viewed and photographed digitally.

The Kameraflage web site indicates the technology will be used in cinemas, facilitating per-person subtitling (viewers watch the movie through their camera-enabled device), but I don't think much of this application. Why watch a movie while sitting in a theater through a cameraphone? In my view, the killer app for Kameraflage is in stamping cinema screens with a geo-temporal watermark so that pirated copies of movies can be tracked more effectively (or obscuring the screens completely to digital cameras). I'm not sure why Kameraflage technology would be needed for this--if there's such a thing as infrared lasers, it'd be trivial to use existing technology to paint over the screen.

Continue reading: Digital Cameras Reveal Hidden Messages?
  ‘Pirate Master’ Walks the Plank  
Posted 2007-08-07 by Tony Walsh
So-called "reality" TV show Pirate Master has been fed to the sharks. While it started out promising enough, the show ended up sailed into Uninteresting Territory after a few episodes--really, it was a pity the producers didn't just mount a piratey live-action role playing game instead of a TV series.

Skotos Tech's Shannon Appelcline provides a detailed account of Pirate Master's game play, finding that the use of real money as part of the in-game rewards system invited human jealousy (creating dramatic tension) and the introduction of barter added pleasing variety to game play. Applecline's analysis pairs up nicely with a few brief observations I made about the show's design last month. I'd still love to know how games like Pirate Master are play-tested.
  Wii Workout  
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
Even a little wiggling around is better than no wiggling at all, which explains how the Wii Weight Loss guy and Wii Sports Experiment guy have melted some fat, or why the game Dance Dance Revolution was added to the State of West Virginia's school curriculum.

Adding fuel to the fat-burning fire, Nintendo has reportedly revealed new Wii hardware and software intended to increase gamer health. According to TG Daily, players stand atop the Wii Balance Board, which measures body weight and balance. The Wii Fit software will use the Balance Board to chart the results of a fitness regime over time. Nintendo will apparently be adding Wii Balance Board support to future games. I can see surfing games working really well with this, or relaxation games which require stillness, or (obviously) dancing games.

I'm keen to try out the Wii Fit system: It seems like a great example of the productive play I wish more game companies would get involved in.
  How Is A ‘Reality’ TV Game Play-Tested?  
Posted 2007-07-11 by Tony Walsh
Maybe this is too early to call, but it seems "reality" TV game show Pirate Master is suffering from a bit of a positive feedback loop issue--the better the leading team performs, the better the leading team performs. This apparent flaw results from the intersection of game's design with the live human and environmental aspect. What's happening is that the lesser of the two teams (the "crew") works harder, eats less, drinks more alcohol, and has drastically lower morale than the Captain and his mates, resulting in a physical and mental downward spiral for the underdogs. Perhaps this is all part of the plan, or perhaps there's a design team standing by to make changes to the game as it progresses--obviously if the show continues as it is currently, it won't be very dramatic.

I don't know a thing about how "reality" TV game shows are designed and developed, but I'm curious to know if and how they're play-tested prior to deployment. I hope testing consists of more than just a dry-run on paper--it seems prudent to involve live testers in the same environments as the game will be staged in, as environment can easily trump game mechanics. Anyone have an inside scoop on how testing is conducted?
  Are Computer Games Really That Different From Non-Digital games?  
Posted 2007-06-25 by Tony Walsh
Michaël Samyn of Tale of Tales (maker of The Endless Forest) lists ten differences between computer games and traditional ones. How well do computer games and traditional ones contrast? It depends on your definition of "traditional."

I always enjoy reading the Tale of Tales blog, even if I rarely agree completely with the team's strong opinions. Given today's post, I think a tighter definition of "traditional" is needed--Samyn doesn't seem to have considered tabletop role playing games, but says in the comments section of the blog that all non-digital games are considered "traditional." Although I use the term "traditional" to refer to non-digital games, I feel it would be useful to break this down into subcategories "classic" (e.g. Chess, Mah Jong, Solitaire) and "contemporary" (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40k, Magic: The Gathering, LARPs, ARGs). Faced with contemporary, rather than classic non-digital games, computer games aren't as unique as Samyn argues.

Continue reading: Are Computer Games Really That Different From Non-Digital games?
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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