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  links for 2007-07-16  
Posted 2007-07-16 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-07-08  
Posted 2007-07-08 by Tony Walsh
  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).
  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, "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,, 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
  Tech Digest:  ‘Justin Bovington Was Not Misquoted’  
Posted 2006-12-13 by Tony Walsh
At issue: Whether or not Justin Bovington of metaversal branding agency Rivers Run Red said "'We did a block party with Reebok, and it was the first time we saw black avatars coming into Second Life." The quote appeared in a Tech Digest article on Bovington's Second Life efforts. I re-published the quote in a post about Bovington's alleged statements.

Bovington says he was misquoted by Tech Digest, and "doubly misquoted" by Clickable Culture. The author of the Tech Digest article, Stuart Dredge, stands by the accuracy of the quote.

Someone is not being entirely truthful here, and I am stuck in the middle. My position has been to update the relevant posts to reflect each party's position. However, this has been a pain in the ass for me, and possibly for my readers as well. It's also brought a lot more attention to Bovington's disputed quote than he would probably like. This situation could have been handled better from a public relations standpoint, methinks.
  Interviewed by Italy’s ‘La Stampa’  
Posted 2006-11-30 by Tony Walsh
Writer Ivan Fulco cordially invited me to share my thoughts on virtual world Second Life recently, and the results have been published by Italy's La Stampa. Fulco asked me about reasons to both visit and avoid Second Life, about the culture of the growing virtual world, about the platform's staying-power, and about virtual worlds generally. For now, the interview is available exclusively in Italian (I gave my answers in English), but I hope to print the original (English) version soon. Don't bother trying an online translator unless you want a good laugh :)

The last Italian interview I gave was for was for Videoludica (thoughts on that one here). Ironically, I get more play overseas as a game culture commentator than on my home turf.
  ‘Guardian’ Fails to Protect ‘Second Life’ History  
Posted 2006-11-08 by Tony Walsh
The living history of virtual world Second Life continues to withstand injury by outside business efforts and lazy reporters. The Guardian Unlimited's Berlin correspondent Jess Smee reports that Bild-Zeitung publisher Axel Springer is about to launch Second Life's "first" tabloid focusing entirely on in-world society and culture. Smee's report is not only incorrect, but it inexplicably ignores the living legacy of the Second Life Herald, a high-profile tabloid that's been happily raking mud in-world and on the web since 2004 (and earlier as The Alphaville Herald). Numerous mainstream media reports have used the Herald as a source over the years in order to bring catchy insider stories to the outside world.

What happened here? How could a seasoned reporter screw up so significantly? I couldn't find Smee's contact information to send an inquiry directly to the writer, so I'll indulge in speculation. Ultimately this boils down to laziness on Smee's part. A Google search for "Second Life tabloid" lists the Herald in the top ten results. So obviously Smee isn't doing even the slightest bit of research. The writer probably just reprinted whatever Axel Springer communicated. I can forgive publisher Axel Springer for being oblivious to existing Second Life culture (although how it thinks it can cover something it doesn't understand is beyond me), but it's insulting when companies try to rewrite community history. Further commentary at the Herald and Second Life Insider.
  An Open Letter to The Internet  
Posted 2006-10-26 by Tony Walsh
Dear Internet,

I regret not being able to defend you more effectively on live television last night. As you know, we have been friends for over a decade, through feast and famine. I've appreciated how you've disrupted culture, politics, and business, and I've come to your defense in small ways over the years, but never took time to write a book or extensive magazine article on how excellent you truly are. Conversely, your detractors Andrew Keen and Steve Maich have written a book and extensive magazine article (respectively) on how awful they think you are. In hindsight, I should have realized it would be difficult defending you when the assumption from the outset is that you "suck." It's easier to tear something down than to build it up. Although I was able to respond to demands for proof of your awesomeness, I was a ultimately drowned out in the scrum.

You and I both know you live a dual life, Internet. While I celebrate your excellence, I simultaneously recognize how other people have misused your powers. You're not the problem, Internet. People are the problem. Some people use you as a tool for plagiarism, for deceitful purposes, or to inflate corporate value--but on the other hand, some use you to bust perverts, break news, or to make crazy money. You're a bit like a knife: Whether it stabs someone in the heart or slices a birthday cake, it cuts both ways. So do you, depending on how you are wielded. I understand your capacity for great good and for great ill, but I'm not sure why anyone would focus only on your bad side. Except maybe to sell books or magazines.

Respectfully yours,
Mr. Tony Walsh, Esq.
  I Explain Why ‘The Internet’ Doesn’t Suck  
Posted 2006-10-25 by Tony Walsh
If you're within broadcast range of Ontario public TV station TVO today, you can catch me on The Agenda in a 40-minute discussion about the degree of suckitude present and/or lacking in "The Internet." The discussion was arranged after Maclean's magazine writer Steve Maich stole the cover of this week's print edition with the provocative declaration that "The Internet sucks." Maich's article takes an incredibly one-sided view, and there's so much I could easily pick apart here, but I'll wait until tonight's segment. Producer Daniel Kitts tells me that tonight's guests not only include Maich, but the McLuhan Centre's Liss Jeffrey (others TBA). The segment airs at 8pm Eastern Time, but will also be available as a podcast.
  Slow ‘Second Life’ News Day For ‘The Register’?  
Posted 2006-10-20 by Tony Walsh
UK tech site The Register raked CNET's Daniel Terdiman over the coals yesterday, insinuating that the correspondent's coverage of Second Life has been influenced due to ties with Linden Lab's CEO. Reg writer Ashlee Vance wrote that Terdiman "has spent years puffing up the Second Life online game with breathless coverage and grew close to Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale as a result." Vance claims that Terdiman "removed a reference from [Rosedale] on his resume after being confronted by The Register" and notes that despite the removal, "Terdiman continues to heap happy press on Second Life, and Rosedale in particular." Vance's article doesn't give Terdiman an opportunity to respond directly to the suggestions of a conflict of interest, leaving readers with a rather one-sided rant.

I contacted Terdiman via IM to hear his side of the story. "[Vance] emailed me to ask my why Rosedale was a reference on my resume," Terdiman explained. "So I told him I put that resume up about 2 years ago when I was a freelance journalist in the market for a new job. I had interviewed Philip several times for Wired News stories, and I felt he could be a reference about my reporting, interviewing and writing skills." Vance asked if Terdiman had accepted any payments or consulting fees from Linden Lab--he hadn't. "He basically accused me of being entirely one-sided in my coverage of Second Life," Terdiman told me. "I said I'm a culture writer and that, as such, I find SL fascinating, but that I had also written some critical stories. He asked me to prove it, and I told him about two specific stories: Age play, and one about looking hard at the infrastructure problems." Terdiman's Second Life stories can be found via a keyword search at CNET if you haven't had the chance to form your own opinion about his writing.
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