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  What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007  
Posted 2007-03-08 by Tony Walsh
What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007
Look for me at SXSW/Screenburn, March 9 - 14.
Larger image available here.
March 14 - 19, 2007 marks my third year participating in a South by Southwest Interactive panel, and my first year as an advisory board member of Screenburn (a component of SXSWi). I'm particularly excited about Screenburn's emphasis on virtual worlds this year, which will bring together some of the brightest minds in this evolving industry--including familiar cohorts and some folks I've not had the chance to meet in person yet.

This will also be the first SXSW where I'll be keeping an eye out for interesting contract telework opportunities in the social media, gaming and virtual worlds spaces (preferably a combination of all of the above). There just isn't enough going on in the Toronto area (my home base) to keep me engaged and challenged. I decided not to invest in a trip to the Game Developers Conference this year because I'm not interested in working in the mainstream "game industry" (imagine exaggerated air-quotes on that phrase). I'm also not going to the upcoming Virtual Worlds conference, it's simply too expensive and big-business oriented. I have found SXSW to be a well-rounded conference in terms of panels and attendees--more in line with my cross-platform interests than many other conferences.

Please feel free to contact me if you're in Austin during SXSW/Screenburn, or if you've got an event you think I might enjoy. I'll be there by mid-afternoon on Friday, March 9 and leaving mid-afternoon on Wednesday, March 14. You can reach me via email (tony at secretlair dot com) or via mobile/sms (+1 416 894 0894).

Following are the panels I am most likely to attend:

Continue reading: What I’m Doing at SXSW/Screenburn 2007
  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
  How do You Test a Game Designer?  
Posted 2007-01-23 by Tony Walsh
The latest issue of Game Developer Magazine contains an article entitled "Test of Design," by Cryptic Studios co-founder Jack Emmert. One of my students asked if the article's brief example test was a good measurement of a game designer. "Not really," I replied. "It's basically just a math problem." Although Cryptic's needs are very specific, I began to wonder if the test I'd administered as part of the student interview was a sufficient response to the question "What is a game designer?"

Veteran game developer Brian "Psychochild" Green provides an agreeable answer to the question, citing communication as a game designer's primary skill, followed by organization, research, and "jack-of-all-trades." Green notes that game designers are almost never "idea people," as the project is usually already conceived of by the time a designer's involved. Fortunately in my case, I usually work with small teams for web-based projects where I've specifically been called in to help develop the high-level concept.

Continue reading: How do You Test a Game Designer?
  Catch Me On CityTV Tonight [Updated]  
Posted 2007-01-16 by Tony Walsh
I'll be making a brief appearance on Toronto-based CityNews International tonight, chatting with tech reporter Amber MacArthur about Second Life. The piece should air tonight between 8:00-8:30 (Eastern) and again between 10:30-11:00 during a segment called "World Wide Web." For those who can't watch the live broadcast, the segment will also apparently be archived online by 9pm tonight and a longer (lightly-edited) interview will be posted on one of their videoblogs (this one, I think).

My last TV appearance earlier this month also involved Second Life. Must be something in the air.
  My Wii #: 5068 7235 1890 2015  
Posted 2007-01-13 by Tony Walsh
Can't talk. Making Miis. If you'd like to connect to my console at 5068 7235 1890 2015, make sure you contact me with your registration info so we can hook up.
  My Shady Past:  Not Unlike My Shady Present  
Posted 2007-01-09 by Tony Walsh
I was just cleaning out a few old boxes and discovered a dot-matrix printout of a sort of CV of mine, circa 1990, dramatically subtitled "New Media For a New World." Under the heading of Skills, I list "Illustration and design, digital graphics and computer-aided animation, game design, virtual reality and environmental design, world building. Under the heading of Ambitions, I list "To create virtual worlds using unconventional media. To experiment and entertain. To shock and mystify. To design the future." I probably should have aimed lower on those last two ambitions, but there you have it--the career aspirations of a 20 year-old at the dawn of the World Wide Web.

Finding this curious printout roughly 17 years later gives me a chance to reflect on the long and winding road that's brought me to where I am today. Certainly I've taken many detours into related areas (and don't regret any of those diversions), but my choices over the last year or two have brought me directly into alignment with my early goals. I'm glad I unearthed this piece of my past, it's a confirmation as I head into 2007 that my New Year's resolution to focus exclusively on virtual worlds and gaming is the right one.
  Help Me Round Out a SXSW Screenburn Panel [Updated]  
Posted 2007-01-08 by Tony Walsh
I'll be moderating a panel this March on "Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds" at SXSW's gaming sideshow Screenburn. I'm trying to keep the panel as balanced as possible with regards to gender and virtual-world interest. So far, I've got all the men I need, with Second Life and There well-represented, but I'd really like to include a woman who has experience with a third major, commercialized virtual world such as Habbo. If you're such a woman, or know someone who is, please drop me a line with an introduction. Thanks.

[Update1: see clarification below]
[Update2: Thanks for the responses, I've successfully rounded out the panel!]
  Five Useless Pieces of Trivia About Me  
Posted 2006-12-29 by Tony Walsh
Matt Mihaly and I don't know each other personally, but we seem to have enough in common that his invocation of my name while suffering from the "Five Things You Don’t Know About Me" virus makes a modicum of sense. Normally I don't get involved with such things as viruses, but I have been summoned by name in a public forum, and therefore must crawl out of my hole long enough to respond, lest my true nature as misanthropic hermit be revealed.

I have a deviated septum. When I was a toddler, I ran away from someone. When toddlers run away from someone, they often look at their pursuer rather than in the direction they're headed. I managed to plant my face into a tree by doing this. Twice. In a single day. The doctor told my parents that my bashed-in nose wouldn't cause long-term problems, but he was wrong. The fool. I've had a deviated septum ever since, meaning that the cartilage that should be running down the center of my nose pokes into my left nostril just enough to be confused for snot.

Continue reading: Five Useless Pieces of Trivia About Me
  Gone Ice-Fishin’  
Posted 2006-12-23 by Tony Walsh
Happy Holidays, folks. I'm offline for about 6 days, starting now...
  Buy My Comic Books Through ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-12-19 by Tony Walsh
Featured Item
Users of the virtual world Second Life may now order the He Is Just a Rat comic book series, written and drawn by Tony Walsh (that's me, you fool), exclusively through SLBoutique. Buyers receive not only a virtual T-shirt for their avatar, but 5 real-life comic books delivered to their door--and I'll optionally sign the comics in each package for the first 50 orders. Ordering details here.

Although I plan to test out virtual-item sales in 2007, this effort is mostly about clearing out my house of boxes of real comic books. Even though I sold thousands of the comics back in the mid-1990s, there are still a few hundred left of the various issues. I'm charging L$2000 for the comic orders, which covers postage, the envelope, and my time preparing each package. The He Is Just a Rat bundle is one of the few real-life items offered by, a service I've found to be very well designed and implemented.
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