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  Pirates Are the New Black—Now Even More Piratey!  
Posted 2006-02-20 by Tony Walsh
Pirates Are the New Black—Now Even More Piratey!
Image from Dogs of the Seas.
I had a chat late last week with author pal Liam O'Donnell, who informed me that kids are now meant to love the pirates. Yes. It's all about the pirates. Forget Harry Potter and Narnia--wizardry is no match for a bloody sabre, at least in terms of children's books. Judging by some upcoming and recent game titles, the game-o-sphere is about to get substantially more piratey, too. I've updated this list based on suggestions from n0wak.

Dogs of the Seas: Pirates, massively-multiplayer RPG style, built for web browsers with the Flash plugin.

Pirates of the Burning Sea: Less dogs, more burning. Massively-multiplayer pirate action, currently in beta-testing. Windows-only, I believe.

Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates: Cutesy, bloodless, multiplayer pirate game involving puzzle metaphors for crimson slaughter. A shame, really, but at least it's available for Mac OSX as well as Windows.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Apparently not at all based upon the Disney movie of the same name. Which is probably why this Xbox and PC game will walk the plank.

Pirate Battle: Coming out for the Nintendo DS and GBA, and involving fantasy elements such as monsters and the walking dead.

Sid Meier's Pirates!: Pirate strategy set in the 17th century Caribbean. Includes hot captain-on-captain action.

Tropico 2: Pirate Cove: Rule a secret 17th century Caribbean island full of Sea Dogs. Is there an echo in here?

Evil Stevie's Pirate Game: Invented by tabletop game overlord Steve Jackson. In his words: "This is a game, involving elements of both roleplaying and tactical combat, in which grown men and women sit on the floor and push toy pirate ships around, going 'Arrrr!'" First published in 1998. Obviously, ahead of its time.
  Hamlet: A Linden No More  
Posted 2006-02-08 by Tony Walsh
Wagner James Au is better known to the residents of virtual world Second Life as Hamlet Linden, "embedded reporter" at New World Notes, a blog partly owned by Linden Lab (makers of Second Life). Contracted by Linden Lab back in April, 2003 to cover Second Life culture and society, Au has produced many intriguing stories--so many, in fact, that he's now producing a book based on New World Notes... and, perhaps more significantly, concluding his contract with Linden Lab at the end of the month.

"New World Notes will go on pretty much as it is now, except as my own independent project, financed by ads and/or other forms of sponsorship," writes Au on his soon-to-be-indy blog. "I'll continue to chronicle Second Life's evolution from an emerging society (it's already emerged, really) to becoming what I believe is the next generation of the Internet. That's the story of my career, so no way am I letting it go." With Au severing his Linden ties, I believe his already-excellent reporting can only improve. He was previously in the position of reporting about the product and customers of the company he was contracted by--a point of contention for some. Now his voice will be indisputably free. Congratulations, and best of luck James!
  2006 Serious Games Summit Tidbits  
Posted 2006-01-23 by Tony Walsh
This year's Serious Games Summit will feature keynote speakers Philip Rosedale of Linden Lab (maker of Second Life) and ludologist Jesper Juul (author of the excellent book Half-Real). The summit takes place March 20 - 21, and is hosted by the annual Game Developer's Conference.

Highlights of the Serious Games Summit include a panel on advergaming by Ian Bogost of Persuasive Games (which recently released an anti-advergame called Disaffected!), a panel covering business-model case studies, and a panel on "Mass Audience Issues for Serious Games." This last panel should be interesting, considering the main mass audience issue for serious games is that there isn't any mass audience for serious games.

Disclosure: I am a contributor to GameSetWatch, owned by CMP Media, the company that puts on the Game Developers Conference.
  Lawrence Lessig in ‘Second Life’ Today  
Posted 2006-01-18 by Tony Walsh
Lawrence Lessig, revered and loathed author of such books as Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace and Free Culture, will make an appearance in the virtual world of Second Life today in avatar form. Official Second Life blog New World Notes has organized the standing-room-only event, and if you haven't grabbed an invite yet to sit within earshot--or if you aren't a member of the media or an "established blogger"--you'll have to find a vacant spot in the virtual world set up for simulcasting Lessig's golden chatter.

It was Lessig, apparently, who was responsible for motivating Second Life's maker, Linden Lab, to allow users to keep the intellectual property rights to their own creations. Lessig's idea was mostly implemented. Second Life users are not allowed to exclusively dictate the licensing terms of their creations--Linden Lab has the right to exploit user-created content for marketing and promotional purposes.

Lessig will reportedly be soliciting feedback from Second Life users for a revision of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which includes a section on virtual worlds.
  ‘Only a Game’ Pre-Orders Available  
Posted 2006-01-15 by Tony Walsh
The Second Life Herald reports that Only a Game, the non-fiction book about virtual journalist Urizenus Sklar may now be pre-ordered through Only a Game, an O'Reilly Media hardcover publication, was co-authored by Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace, both of whom are chiefly responsible for The Second Life Herald. Ludlow arose to infamy as a result of his exile from The Sims Online, where he had revealed true tales of virtual-world depravity through his Alphaville Herald. Today, The Second Life Herald bravely continues to examine the spicier side of Second Life and other digital locales. Both Ludlow and Wallace will be appearing on separate panels at this year's South by Southwest Interactive festival.
  Gaming in Libraries  
Posted 2005-12-29 by Tony Walsh
Jenny the Shifted Librarian has added a Gaming in Libraries blog to her stable, covering the 2005 Gaming, Learning, & Libraries Symposium and beyond. The presentations from that conference are grouped up and linked in a single post as PDF files, with potential podcasts possibly pending. Raw notes from the symposium are available from various sources via Technorati. It has been interesting to me to find out how libraries can interact with contemporary youth through video games and game culture. Video games arguably have more in common with movies than books, but I think it's possible for libraries to instill a respect for literature and literacy in young people through the medium of games. Perhaps future game designers will be more akin to authors than film directors.
  ‘The Machinima Reader’: Call for Papers  
Posted 2005-12-16 by Tony Walsh
If you've got a flair for writing and an understanding of the art, science or culture of Machinima, you may consider pitching an essay to Henry Lowood (Stanford U) and Michael Nitsche (Georgia Tech), editors of the forthcoming tome "The Machinima Reader." The Reader will focus on Machinima through a variety of lenses intended to appeal to academics, artists and critics alike.

"In a repetition of early cinema's history," write the editors, "many of Machinima's milestones are formulated as mixtures of artistic expression and technical achievements...Consequently, we are looking for essays that address a range of topics." The editors currently seek 500-word abstracts exploring such topics as culture, technology, communities, and art--you've got until April 3, 2006 to submit. Full details and contact information available here at the Stanford Humanities Lab.
  ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ (The Movie)  
Posted 2005-12-12 by Tony Walsh
I was hoping The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe would be a gripping and inspiring movie adaptation of the book, but it was no Lord of the Rings. Instead, it was the filmic equivalent of bad sex, going through all the motions without passion, soul, or real satisfaction. Granted there are some great little moments in the movie, but I blame the director and screenwriter for this lacklustre effort. The actors didn't have much to work with, although they certainly tried hard enough.

And, always with the video games angle, I noticed that at a key point during the movie, a monstrous leader of the "bad-guy" army bellowed two of the main sound-effects used for all of World of Warcraft's bears. Made me wish I was playing WoW instead of seeing a bland movie.
  ‘Game Design Complete’:  The Good Book?  
Posted 2005-12-09 by Tony Walsh
Paraglyph Press, publishers of Raph Koster's excellent A Theory of Fun For Game Design, has published what it proudly calls "the Bible for the game design industry." Properly-entitled Game Design Complete, the new book was written by Patrick O'Luanaigh, currently Creative Director for London's SCi Games. Game Design Complete aims to cover the game design process from concept to finished product (thus being "Complete," I suppose), and is supported by interviews with fifteen game luminaries of varying industry backgrounds.

Judging by Game Design Complete's seemingly practical/tactical focus (see a list of the contents below the cutline), it appears as though it may be a fine companion to Koster's Theory of Fun. But to rely on a single design book as Bible? In the game design pantheon, there's room for more than one god--it's the false idols you have to worry about.

Continue reading: ‘Game Design Complete’:  The Good Book?
  ‘Podcast’: Word of 2005  
Posted 2005-12-06 by Tony Walsh
"Podcast" has been annointed 2005's Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, and will be made available in the next update of the online dictionary in 2006. So, what exactly does "podcast" mean? "A digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player." This satisfies only one of my personal beefs with the term--that the only significant difference between podcasts and radio broadcasts is the delivery method--but it still doesn't address the "pod" part of "podcast," obviously yoinked from the iPod, but not addressed in the definition. Apple's pending trademark on the word "iPodcast," will clearly suffer from dillution now that "podcast" is part of every web-geek's vocabulary.
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