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  Eleven Fit Teens Fail Wii Fitness Test  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
MedPage Today reports that Wii Sports, a game for the Nintendo Wii console, wasn't found to contribute to recommended daily exercise standards set in Britain, according to a Liverpool University study. Nintendo has been hoping its console would be seen as a fitness aid, releasing the Wii Fit controller and Wii game in Japan earlier this year (due out elsewhere in 2008). A number of academics, researchers, and consumers around the world have been looking at the console as a potential fitness device, with varying results. A Canadian hospital is even using the game console as part of a physical rehabilitation program.

The Liverpool study--ironically, funded by Nintendo's UK marketing arm--might have dashed the game-maker's health-hopes if it wasn't for the fact that only eleven subjects were reportedly involved. The teens--six boys and five girls--were physically fit to begin with, and were studied playing only two games: Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox 360, and Wii Sports. The study found that active games like Wii Sports burn about 50% more calories than passive games like PGR, but that ultimately this only represented a 2% increase in energy expenditure in a typical week.

I'm no scientist, but it seems clear that a larger-scale study might be in order. A more diverse, and larger group of subjects; a wider range of games, particularly some which could be considered more active than Wii Sports. In my own experience, playing 30 minutes of Raving Rabbids on the Wii reminded me how atrophied my spaghetti-thin arms are. While the Wii may not appear to affect fitness levels according to this study, I'd rather play an active video game than a passive one, and I suspect most parents would rather buy an active video game for their kids. Perhaps the next study will involve the Wii Fit peripheral, hopefully with more promising results.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Electric Sheep’ Herd Culled  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Second Life's largest third-party developer became substantially smaller earlier this week. The Electric Sheep Company cut 22 staffers on Tuesday (reportedly about 30% of its workforce), as announced by COO Giff Constable, and reported by Sheep client Reuters. Unofficial blog Second Life Podcast broke the news on Monday with word that the Sheep's planned Virtual World Ad Network was also canned. According to Constable, the company will continue to work on its OnRez client software and shopping site as well as "some other cool initiatives."

I'm not surprised at the news. Although I haven't been able to follow Second Life like I used to, my impression is that business interest in SL has been waning, barely a year after a boom for metaverse developers. Since that time, it seems the developers with the most sense are investigating other platforms rather than concentrating solely on Second Life.

Having met a number of enthusiastic Sheep staffers in the past, I found the company reminiscent of a 1990s Dot Com--seemed like folks were being hired left and right. Although the timing is really unfortunate, trimming staff and refocusing the company is the sensible thing to do--lessons learned from the Dot Com Bust.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  ‘I Am Legend’ In Saintly Style  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Almost 7 years ago, a team of creative Canadians launched Broken Saints, an online motion-graphic novel which evolved over 24 chapters and garnered a massive international fan-base. Series creator Brooke Burgess described the series as "cinematic literature" in a 2002 interview. I'd call the series "groundbreaking" in that it pushed accepted boundaries of web-based storytelling as well as the technical limitations of Flash as a production tool. Unlike cartoon "webisodes," Broken Saints used a painterly, textured approach more at home on film than the web.

The award-winning series has since been remastered and released on DVD through 20th Century Fox, but the project team hasn't stopped there: The "band" reformed to produce a series of mini-films as part of a promotion for the Will Smith sci-fi thriller I Am Legend.

According to a press release Brooke Burgess sent my way, he and cohort Ian Kirby have been secretly producing the animated shorts since last spring, when they were approached by Will Smith's production company. The mini-films range from 3-9 minutes each, and feature original music, sound design, and voice talent from the Broken Saints audio team. Apple is hosting "Awakening" and "Isolation," which echo all the best Broken Saints production values in the I Am Legend universe.
 
     
 
   
 
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  2008 Producers Institute At BAVC  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Applications are due February 1, 2008, for next year's Producers Institute for New Media Technologies, a 10-day program designed to give eight teams of documentary-makers a taste of new media, gaming, and cross-platform possibilities. Hosted and organized by the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) in San Francisco, the Producer's Institute is intense, energetic, and highly productive. The program runs May 30 - June 8: For complete information, or to submit an on-line application, please go to: bavc.org/producersinstitute.

I was a mentor at the 2007 Institute (held earlier this year), and thoroughly enjoyed working both with BAVC and the invited documentarians. It was a fantastic opportunity to teach, learn, and cross-pollinate, and I'm sure the 2008 event will offer more the same.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
American watchdog group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood isn't happy with how popular kiddie-world Webkinz has begun running external ads atop its already-commercial service. According to GamePolitics.com, "A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie." Virtual Worlds News reports that Ganz, maker of Webkinz has since pulled one of the ads, although it's not clear to me if this is a response to public pressure.

The ethics of advertising to children aside, Ganz's choice to blast ads at kids whose parents are already paying for Webkinz access comes off like a crass cash-grab . It's the same story with in-game ads found in many of today's video games--the consumer isn't sharing in the publisher's increased cash-flow. A more reasonable approach to advertising via Webkinz (again, irrespective of the ethical issues) would be to offer a discounted or free service in exchange for client-side ads.

Continue reading: Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Quick Links for 2007-12-12  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Toronto Indie Games Conference Shrivels  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The Toronto Independent Games Conference will not be going ahead in 2008 as was originally planned. Essentially, the conference was too indie for its own good--my impression as an occasional adviser to the organizers is that there wasn't enough motivation, time, or interest from behind the curtain to stage a robust event. Although it drew an enthusiastic crowd of developers, students, and academics last year, failure to hold the event annually will probably kill any momentum the conference might have been building.

Fortunately, TIGC is not the only games-related meetup in town. Unfortunately, I'm not connected with any of the local people organizing these things, and am often the last to know about indie game events in my own city. For example, GameCamp Toronto happened this past weekend, but I didn't hear about it until a day previous. How many other events like this are hiding in the shadows? I only know of one more--the T.O. Game Jam, which was staged last May--no word on a 2008 date yet. I'd be happy to publicize local events, but I can't do that if I don't know about them ahead of time.
 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
  ‘Xbox Live’ Friends To Be Publicized:  Opt Out If You Like Privacy  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft announced via its Gamerscore blog today that as of December 4, 2007, adult members of the Xbox Live gaming service will have their friends lists exposed to the rest of the community. Previously, friends lists were private. Members will automatically be opted in to the new system, and will have to manually opt out if they'd like to keep their friends list protected.

According to Microsoft, Xbox Live members can opt out of the loosened privacy system by visiting an administration page and setting either "Friends Only" access or "Blocked" access. By default, the friends lists of all members aged 18 and up will be set to "Everyone" access. Minors will be disallowed from making their lists open to all, and are automatically given "Blocked" status.

Continue reading: ‘Xbox Live’ Friends To Be Publicized:  Opt Out If You Like Privacy
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  ‘GameON: Finance’ Inhospitable to Small Indie Developers  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"GameON: Finance," a just-announced Canadian event described by its organizers as an exploration of "financial models for independent games companies," has been scheduled during the same two days as the Toronto Independent Games Conference. The events will overlap on January 17 and 18, 2008.

GameOn:Finance is operated by industry group InteractiveOntario, and will be hosted at a swank downtown Toronto location. Registration starts at nearly $500 CAD. The Toronto Independent Games Conference is operated by a handful of dedicated indie gamers, and will likely be hosted at a local college. Registration starts at $50 for students.

Continue reading: ‘GameON: Finance’ Inhospitable to Small Indie Developers
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Do Gamers Make Better Baggage-Screeners?  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"Security screeners at airports might do a better job spotting weapons if they spent their downtime playing video games - specifically, wasting aliens in lurid first-person shooters like Halo 3," The Boston Globe's Christopher Shea wrote yesterday. The 3-page online article resonates quite well with my quickly-written 2006 proposal "Airport Screening Is A Badly-Designed Game."

Specifically, Shea finds, as I mentioned last year, that even trained security professionals have trouble distinguishing harmful from safe objects; the human people have trouble finding exceptional objects (like guns) amid a sea of common objects (like toiletries). Additional information Shea gleaned from scientific sources shows that moving objects are easier to spot--yet X-ray scanners show stationary objects; first-person shooter gamers erred less in threat-identification tests than non-gamers. A number of interesting solutions are summarized in the article, none of which seem to involve making airport into an MMO (that was my semi-serious proposal), but some of which suggest that gaming might not be as unrelated to crucial security tasks as we might have thought. Sweet, sweet validation.

Also see my proposal for turning prison surveillance into an MMO and Dave Edery's article "Using Games to Tap Collective Intelligence."
 
     
 
   
 
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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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