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  Military Expert Weighs In on War Games  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Keith Stuart of the Guardian gamesblog has posted an interview with military expert Dr. Malcom Davis and explores how contemporary military-themed multiplayer video games compare and contrast with the real thing.

According to Davis, similarities include realistic environments, real-time communication between roles, and an emphasis on networked battlefield forces. Davis said "This is interesting because in the real military, there is a great deal of effort to bring such a capability about - its called 'Network Centric Warfare' or NCW. NCW is seen as the basis for future military transformation and delivers a significant advantage to the networked force over the non-networked force."

On the other end, the unrealistic aspects are fairly obvious: Nobody gets killed or injured in any meaningful way, resulting in a lack of fear. Davis said that the chaos of battle is also missing (there are no civilians in video wargames), and pointed to movies like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers as an example of a more realistic portrayal, adding that the Call of Duty games for the Xbox 360 are closest to real life war.

From personal experience, nothing makes a modern military shooter more chaotic than turning "Friendly Fire" on, but I don't think most wargamers are interested in that kind of challenge or punishment (based on my 3-year run playing the Battlefield series of games).
 
     
 
   
 
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  Recent Snippets of Sexism, Racism, Homophobia in Gaming  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A handful of stories related to society and gaming have caught my eye this week, punctuated by an event which occurred in a Storytelling in Games class I taught yesterday. I was showing the students some cutscenes from the recently-released Xbox 360 title Crackdown--one scene described a scantily-clad female villain as "hot" and "dirty." The males in the class chuckled uncomfortably while the sole female student in the class was understandably nonplussed. I pointed out that none of the male characters I'd seen in the game were described in the context of their sexuality. I felt embarrassed not only personally, but for the mainstream games industry, which seems to be slower to evolve socially than society has evolved in its capacity to thoughtfully criticize games--consider this a theme when reviewing the following recent excerpts:

Richard O. Jones, BlackVoiceNews.com: "Psychologists agree that if your race is always the thief or killer, then after a while you start to think that's how you should be, or you think that's how your people are... the games that are being designed unconsciously include the biases, opinions and reflections of their creators. And obviously, whites see Blacks and Latinos as criminals and gradually that's how our children see themselves and behave according."

tiny dancer, GayGamer.net, commenting on Jones' article (quoted above): "It wasn't a questionable article because Jones is wrong, it's questionable because he used only one example (when there are dozens). The recent Crackdown prison-reality-check themed commercials have had me thinking about this issue, because they seem very strongly biased in favor of promoting racial stereotypes."

Continue reading: Recent Snippets of Sexism, Racism, Homophobia in Gaming
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Vanishing Point’ ARG: Toronto Live Event Recap  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I just got back from a live event connected with Vanishing Point, an alternate-reality-game-like promotion for Microsoft's doomed OS Vista. Since the event took place only a short walk from my lair in Toronto, I decided to check it out, despite the -16C weather (that's "goddamned cold" to you Americans).

A rental cop, two hydraulic lifts cloaked in black tarp, and a small group of bystanders joined me in waiting for the event, slated for 7pm local time. I'm guessing about 8 ARG-players showed up, and maybe about 3 photographers from local papers. The rest seemed to be in on the whole thing.

When the time was right, video projectors on the lifts splashed the Hockey Hall of Fame with the following image...

Continue reading: ‘Vanishing Point’ ARG: Toronto Live Event Recap
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ Endangered:  Act Now to Avoid Disappointment!  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Is folk-game Rock Paper Scissors (a.k.a Janken) in jeopardy of being co-opted? The self-identified World Rock Paper Scissors Society claimed today to be the game's "international governing body," announcing it has launched a service aimed at providing "professionally-managed" games for corporate clients. Previous patrons have included TD Waterhouse and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

Dear readers, I urge you to defy the World RPS Society by holding local, unsanctioned Roshambo tournaments exclusively for people free of corporate shackles. Rise up, citizens of Earth, and take back that which has been stolen! Rock Paper Scissors recognizes no master! Rise up with your fist, your open hand, your index and middle fingers! Shout it with me: Jan! Ken! PON!
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Waking City’ Now in Play  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Waking City, Toronto's first inner-city alternate reality game launched September 16, 2006, with a full roster of 20 teams (each team comprised of 5 people, I believe). The proceedings are being documented by the team behind the game and some of the players on an official gameblog, via the flickr tag "wakingcity" and through video posts. As an ARG designer and contributor to Waking City, I find the documentation a very useful way to dig further into the minds of ARG players. Seems like everyone's energized and having a great time so far--good luck to the Waking City team and the game's players.

[Note: I won't be publicly posting any spoilers, clues, or other vital game information until the game is completely wrapped up.]
 
     
 
   
 
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  Will the Real Superheroes Please Stand Up?  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Like something out of the movie Mystery Men, aspiring amateur superheroes are strutting their stuff in the hopes of joining a super-group. Wired News reports that Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, will be judging the costumed hopefuls, who have such awe-inspiring powers as climbing and balloon-shooting. Ten applicants will reportedly be selected for the show, and will live together for 2 weeks, during which time they will be challenged to demonstrate their superheroic qualities (integrity, courage, self-sacrifice, and honesty). The only thing that could make this show better is to audition supervillains for a competing league of 10 anti-heroes. The two groups would then compete head-to-head in a series of classic comic-style scenarios. I'd be rooting for the villains, naturally.

The upcoming show capitalizes not only on Hollywood's raging interest in superheroes, but also on what seems to be a growing trend of average people donning costumes and taking to the streets in the hopes of righting wrongs. Luke Pie Rocker, a Minnesota pizza-deliverer dressed as a superhero, foiled a purse-snatching last month. At the beginning of the year, writer Warren Ellis was contacted by Doktor DiscorD, representative of the Indianapolis-based crimefighting group Justice Society of Justice. Outside the U.S., there's a UK-based hero called Angle-Grinder Man, Mexico City's political agitator Superbarrio, and northern Canada's Polarman. I've previously blogged about where to find superhero tights and boots, but have yet to commit myself to costumed supervillainy. Lucky for you.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Waking City’:  A Toronto Game  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Waking City is a grassroots live-action game taking place this fall in downtown Toronto, Canada. I originally reported on the project early this year, and have since joined "TorGame," the capable team of volunteers creating and managing Waking City. I'm contributing a puzzle or two to the effort, which combines the story-driven mystery of alternate reality games, the frenetic intensity of puzzle hunts, and the passion for the public spaces of urban gaming.

According to the relaunched official site, "For two weeks in September, teams of 5-10 players will pound the pavement, solving fiendish puzzles, uncovering Toronto's secret history, and interacting with the agents of a vast and ancient conspiracy. They'll feel the tug of mystery, the fun of exploration, and thrill of being part of a dynamically unfolding plot." The game takes place between September 16 and 29, 2006. There's currently a public dev-blog available that will give a spoiler-free look at some of the inner workings of the TorGame team. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to work with well-rounded and talented group--it's a first-time effort for the team, although many of the individual members have prior experience relating to live-action gaming.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Major League Baseball Comes to ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-05 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The Electric Sheep Company has announced that it is officially bringing the Major League Baseball brand to the virtual world of Second Life through a mixed-reality Home Run Derby event. The action in a 3D stadium on "Baseball" island inside Second Life will be staged simultaneously with the real-life event being held in Pittsburgh. According to The Electric Sheep Company, "The event will feature a real-time Second Life re-enactment of the Home Run Derby, with live-updating scores and avatars for all 8 Home Run Derby Players." [July 9 Update: The real event will also be simulcast in Second Life--information only revealed after I wrote this article, thereby rendering portions of it moot].

Interest in the virtual event will be able to be measured through the sale of tickets, which will be put on sale for 1000 Linden Dollars (roughly $3 USD at the time of this writing) at 7:00 AM PDT on Thursday, July 6th through SLBoutique.com. Official, virtual MLB merchandise will also be sold through an in-world store. The event will take place Monday, July 10th at 5:00 PM PDT.

Continue reading: Major League Baseball Comes to ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
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  CCP to Broadcast ‘Eve Online’ Tournament  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-27 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
CCP, maker of the popular, massively multiplayer sci-fi game EVE Online, has announced that it will be broadcasting live audio and video programs across the `net from its offices between July 14 and 23, 2006. The broadcast coincides with a planned tournament, allowing viewers to see and hear all 95 matches with commentary. A high and low quality video stream will be provided, as well as an audio-only stream for those who prefer it.

Planned features include a tour of the CCP offices, information about the company's in-house magazine (which pays writers with in-game cash), and live interviews with CCP developers. A crew of colourfully-aliased assistants will be lending a helping hand, according to CCP: "DJ Xyliana will be directing the whole thing, with Urban Mongral as producer. Additionally DJ Xod, DJ Xman, JusJack, SpiralJunkie and Hinik will all be assisting us making this happen." Players are invited to contribute their high-quality in-game videos--details available in the game's official forums.

Continue reading: CCP to Broadcast ‘Eve Online’ Tournament
 
     
 
   
 
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  Physical Avatar Indicates IM Presence  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Physical Avatar Indicates IM Presence
London-based design shop Schulze & Webb has created a toy-like physical avatar that is intended to indicate the presence of an instant-messaging buddy. Dubbed the "Availabot," the USB-controlled avatar is flaccid when one's IM buddy is not available to chat, and stands at attention when one's buddy is chat-ready. Furthermore, the little critter is customizable, combining standard and rapidly-prototyped body parts. Thanks to currently-available 3D-ripping software and rapid-prototyping tools, creating out a custom Availabot based on one's virtual world avatar or videogame character shouldn't be too difficult.

Realistically, the Availabot less represents consumer-oriented technology than artist-level technology. Most people have too many IM buddies and too few USB ports to make the Availabot a practical tool.
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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