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  ‘Xbox 360 Family Timer’ Babysits Your Kids  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft announced today that new parental controls will soon be made available for the Xbox 360 game console. According to an emailed news release, the "Family Timer" can monitor and restrict screen-time for kids on a daily or weekly basis, turning off the console when the time-limit has been reached. The new system will be made available for download via Xbox Live in early December.

Microsoft cited a telephone survey it recently commissioned, which found "62 percent of [800 surveyed] parents would welcome a tool to control the amount of time children spend using the video game consoles in their homes." Personally, I don't know why a machine is doing a parent's job here. If a child can't be trusted to follow household rules, there are bigger problems afoot than any "Family Timer" is going to solve.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Twitter Application For Facebook: I Don’t Care If You’re ‘Twittering’  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I've been done with Twitter for about 4 months now. It just didn't gel for me. But for some reason, Facebook status updates were easier to make. Thanks to an update to the Twitter application for Facebook, it's possible to update one's Facebook status through Twitter, killing two birds with one stone--perhaps enough reason to twitter again.

The downside is that Twitter seems to think it's important for people on Facebook to know you've posted from Twitter, adding "is twittering" to your status update. Example:
Stowe Boyd is twittering: Lying in bed this morning, before really awake, I had several good ideas almost at the same time. Odd. Good.
What we have here is information overload in a Facebook status update, and a source of potential confusion for Facebook users who aren't familiar with Twitter: Why is Stowe twittering? What's twittering? Why do we need to know he's twittering instead of doing something else? Bad.
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  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?
 
     
 
   
 
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  I Could Catch A Monkey  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-24 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Word has it that Delhi is crawling with aggressive monkeys. I heard on the radio last night that there are 15,000 monkeys and only three monkey-catchers in India's capital. Apparently Delhi is desperate for more monkey-catchers. With the knowledge that aggressive monkeys are a real and sometimes deadly problem, and with no knowledge whatsoever about the qualifications or specific responsibilities of a monkey-catcher (outside of the obvious), I respectfully submit that this has "video game" written all over it. Here's my high-level pitch...

Continue reading: I Could Catch A Monkey
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  NFL’s Virtual World Missing Real Roles To Play  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A cartoony role-playing world isn't what I pictured when I first heard about NFL Rush Zone, the official virtual world of the National Football League. I was expecting more of an Empire of Sports in my head--a sort of square-jawed, die-hard, "Just Do It" virtual world filled with rippling pectorals and taut calves. But that's not even the kind of world I'd like to role-play in. The NFL Rush Zone I wish for is gritty, sweaty, and sleazy. Something I could sink my scarred helmet into.

Forget about what happens on the field--that sort of action can easily be a subset of a greater role-playing experience. Can you make it from high-school hero to national football star without resorting to steroid use? Can you handle the pressures of fame? Resist the temptation of alcohol and drugs? Be a role-model to legions of young-people? Choose appropriate sponsorships? Make a positive impact on your community, or even on the country? When I think of a football role-playing game, I wish for character-building personal choices a player might have to make. Not goofy cartoon characters.
 
     
 
   
 
  6 comments  
  A Brain-Computer Interface For ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-16 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Throw away your keyboards and mice: Second Life avatars may now be controlled directly by the brain, thanks researchers at Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory. According to blog Pink Tentacle, which translated a news release from Nikkei Net, a user wearing an electrode-studded headpiece can control an avatar in 3D space simply by thinking about moving. Based on a YouTube video of the process (below), control over the avatar is very precise--not what I pictured based on early brain-computer interface experiments.

Continue reading: A Brain-Computer Interface For ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
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  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.
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  Meta Social Networks For Virtual Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-09-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
In an age where online social networking services are a dime a dozen, two more have recently arisen from the primordial muck of the metaverse. Koinup aims to provide a social network for residents of "all virtual worlds," where users can meet, mingle, and share media. Ning-based Virtual Worlds Connect describes itself as "The community for professionals involved in virtual worlds." With genuine respect to the creators of these latest online two networking services, I don't see the need for either. Virtual worlds already facilitate social networks, and I've already sunk dozens of hours into forming in-world relationships. Neither Koinup nor Virtual Worlds Connect will import my relationship data from virtual worlds. Why join a network about networks if the networks aren't working together?

Aside from the lofty promises of the recently-announced Metaplace, virtual worlds don't seem to want to play nicely with third-party services, instead relying on users to kludge things together, like Rupture, which harvests profile data from participating World of Warcraft players. I just can't stomach the idea of re-friending my contacts every time a new social network comes along. Nothing personal, Koinup and Virtual Worlds Connect--we just weren't made for each other.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Virtual World Meetings As Replacements For Real Ones  
 
 
Posted 2007-09-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Cisco's Christian Renaud thinks that virtual worlds exemplify collaboration technology capable of "drastically [reducing] the need for travel and the resultant emissions." While I agree that virtual worlds could reduce or eliminate travel emissions, I'm not as enthusiastic as Renaud. Leaving aside the environmental impact of actually operating a virtual world, any "drastic" reduction in travel emissions could only result from a "drastic" increase in virtual-world meetings as a replacement for real-world ones. And I don't see that happening in the short term. Longer term, perhaps, depending not only on the quality of the virtual world experience, but on public and private demand.

Replacing real-world meetings with virtual ones--whether via a "world," or some other telepresence environment--is going to take an effort. Meeting attendees will need to demand it, and meeting organizers will need to facilitate and promote it. I don't see any indication this is happening today, having flown via jet plane to Austin, NYC, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tasmania this year--primarily to discuss new technology such as virtual worlds. In particular, I find it mind-boggling that conferences about virtual worlds are not held in virtual space. The "Virtual Worlds" conference slated for this October actually features Cisco's Christian Renaud as a keynote speaker. This would be a great opportunity for Renaud to walk the talk and show up via an avatar instead of in the flesh.
 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
  Happy Blogiversary To Me:  8 Years!  
 
 
Posted 2007-09-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I started blogging in 1999 with a personal journal called "Bites," which soon morphed into more of a technology/culture journal--ultimately becoming the Clickable Culture blog you're reading today.

Skimming through past entries, I found the first date with my wife (we were meant to play Frogger on her Atari 2600), a worried post about the Y2K bug, and a startled reaction to the 9/11/2001 tragedy. Things got a lot less personal from around 2002 onwards, when I started writing a lot more about technology-specific issues (such as the perennial bloggers vs. journalists debate). I started blogging regularly about Second Life in 2004, the year that my virtual-world and games writing really ramped up. Today, it's mostly virtual worlds, video games, and how these ripple through our culture.

I'm looking forward to another 8 years of acidic commentary and assorted windbaggery. Thanks for tuning in.
 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
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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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