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  Spam Headline Uncovers ‘Productive Play’ Dungeon  
 
 
Posted 2008-08-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Got the following spam email today:

"BREAKING NEWS: Video Game Designer Forces Children to Play Mini-Game for Lunch Money"

At first I thought it was an auto-generated email, but then I searched for the phrase on Google and found the real article (or a copy of the real article). Summary: Game designer tests out game mechanics on his family members.
"Mr. Neil's wife says he finally crossed the line when he made their children put the families CD's back into their proper CD cases in order to earn lunch money for the day. The task had to be accomplished before the school bus arrived at 7:30 a.m."
Evil taskmaster, that Mr. Neil.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Back From BAVC’s ‘Producers Institute’  
 
 
Posted 2008-06-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I had the privilege and pleasure of mentoring 8 teams of talented and open-minded documentary filmmakers last week as part of the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies for BAVC in San Francisco. This is the second year in a row I've been invited down to share my game design experience with the Producers Institute. While last year was a fantastic experience as well, this year focused on projects acting as catalysts for real social change--this emphasis sets the Producers Institute apart from other cross-media labs and workshops I've participated in over the last couple of years.

Most of the work I do is commercially oriented, so it was a nice change of pace to work with people with a genuine interest in positive social impact. I spent most of my time consulting with Susana Ruiz (best known for creating Darfur is Dying) and her team--they're working on a game about the death penalty, imprisonment and flaws in the U.S. justice system. Not only is the game "about" these issues, but Susana's company Take Action Games specializes in actual results--what can a game motivate people to actually do? Darfur is Dying showed that game play resulted in communications sent to the U.S. government. It will be interesting to see what positive action this latest project will result in.

Continue reading: Back From BAVC’s ‘Producers Institute’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Jumping Through Hoops  
 
 
Posted 2008-06-05 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Had a fun chat with Erik Loyer this morning while breakfasting in a hotel restaurant. We were discussing how Portal forces the player to jump through the designers' hoops--it occurred to us that in Portal's case, the expression "jumping through hoops" becomes quite literal. Insert collegial chuckling here.

Also had the chance to meet up with security expert and game-guy Steven Davis last night over dinner. Much discussion of tabletop gaming's relevance to digital games and other frothy matters ensued. And then I had to run back to help out at BAVC's Producers Institute. Insert whip-cracking sound-effect here.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Catch Me in San Francisco May 30 - June 6  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-27 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
At the end of this week, I'll be flying from chilly Toronto to chilly San Francisco to reprise my role as a mentor for the Bay Area Video Coalition's "Producers Institute." Last year's institute brought teams of brilliant and enthusiastic documentarians together with a squad of knowledgeable mentors under the nurturing guidance of BAVC's staff to explore the intersections of linear narrative and designed interactivity--I expect this year to be just as productive and energizing.

On June 3 I will be moderating a panel entitled "The Gaming (R)Evolution" as part of BAVC's Innovation Salon series, featuring panelists Cathy Fischer (ITVS Interactive), Alice Petty (Discover Babylon Project), Susana Ruiz (Take Action Games), and Richard Tate (HopeLab). The main topic of discussion will be so-called "serious games" and their application towards social good.

While I'm in town, I should have some time to meet up--drop me a line if you're interested in grabbing a drink some evening. [tonywalsh at phantomcompass dot com].
 
     
 
   
 
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  What’s Wrong With the World, Tom Waits?  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Tom Waits (long-time hero of mine) on Tom Waits (also a long-time hero of mine):
Q: What’s wrong with the world?
A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made 12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Donkey Kone  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 

Apparently Donkey Kone is an ape who will punch you in the face with a fistful of ice cream. Something tells me Nintendo had nothing to do with this.

[Update: I'm not the only one to have spotted the elusive Donkey Kone truck.]
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Links for 2008-05-12  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Policing Role-Play In ‘Age of Conan’  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The operator of the upcoming adult-oriented Age of Conan MMO intends to establish strict rules about role-playing on designated servers, according to an official community bulletin. This might be great news for role-play enthusiasts, but I have to wonder if AoC's operator has a plan to police and enforce its own proposed rules. Any such plan must involve human moderators at some point along the chain (software isn't smart enough for the job), which is an awfully costly investment in role-playing, if you ask me.

Names from outside the 'Conan' universe (as in, from another fantasy universe, such as Pokemon) are not allowed. Names from inside the 'Conan' universe (such as Conan) are also not allowed. Neither are derivatives or sound-alike names. Out of character chat is to be "avoided." Making fun of role-players is not allowed. Using role-play to justify immersion-breaking actions and exploits is not allowed. Interfering with in-progress community-driven role-playing events (such as a wedding) is not allowed.

These rules are setting the game operators up for major headaches. A good rule is one which doesn't need to be discussed--it's simply incontrovertible. These are bad rules. Not only do they require human supervision, they are open to interpretation. Who's going to moderate player names, and when will that moderation occur? How much out of character chat is acceptable, and when is it acceptable to speak OOC. What if the sight of weddings drives my character into a berserker rage--isn't it about my immersion, too? What if my entire clan of players has an in-character grudge against that wedding?

Unless the rules are tightened up, enforced transparently, frequently and consistently, the whole system's going to spiral out of control. Transparent enforcement (i.e. we see who was busted for what, and how the policing or punishment was carried out) and frequent enforcement are expensive. Consistent enforcement is sure to be a joke--I can't even go to a bank and get the same answer about the same question from 5 different tellers.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Is The Cartoon Network Confused, Or Is It Just Me?  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Clipped this from a Cartoon Network email I received minutes ago, talking about how awesome its upcoming FusionFall MMO is going to be:
"How is FusionFall different from other online games out there?

The biggest difference is that we are combining two play styles: platform gaming with RPGs. That hasn't been done before in an MMO and it's really exciting."
Hasn't MapleStory combined platform gaming with RPGs in an MMO format since at least 2005? Someone tell me if I'm wrong, this Cartoon Network assertion is making me dizzy.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Mixed-Reality Sweatshops  
 
 
Posted 2008-04-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Annie Ok sent word that Invisible Threads, a video she co-directed and shot in Second Life is available on the interwebs. The 8-minute film outlines "10 Simple Steps to your very own Virtual Sweatshop with Telematic Manufacturing."



The film is satirical in tone, but actually, worlds like Second Life which allow user-created content and real/virtual currency exchange are viable places for hiring out "sweatshop" labor, depending on what sort of work product you're looking for.

So-called "camping chairs," which pay Second Life users to linger in specific locations (known as "camping" in gamer parlance), pay a very low wage to workers in North America and Europe, but could actually provide a decent income in some countries. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that most Chinese gold farmers make under $0.25 USD per hour. The sweatshop featured in Invisible Threads pays in virtual currency equivalent to $0.90 USD hourly.
 
     
 
   
 
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5224 comments
on 4159 entries

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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