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  ‘Second Life’ Maker Warns Media Against Former Customer  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world Second Life, has warned Canada's national public broadcaster against interviewing a former customer. Earlier this month, CBC Radio reporter Lindsay Michael announced her interest in contacting Toronto-area members of Second Life through several independent web sites rather than directly through Linden Lab. The company often acts as an intermediary between the media and its customers in order to present interview subjects that bolster the Second Life brand. A response to Michael's announcement on popular tabloid The Second Life Herald indicated that at least one candidate was willing to give an unfettered opinion.

"I e-mailed her, maybe I can expose just how filthy [Second Life] is these days," wrote Second Life member Plastic Duck. Not only did Duck contact Michael, but so did a concerned Catherine Smith, Linden Lab's Director of Marketing. In an apparent bid to discount Duck as an interview subject, Smith told the reporter that Duck had been banned from Second Life for a number of bizarre offenses, including "griefing and generally anti-social behavior," harassing the "furry" community, and "spamming" with "penis images". Smith added that "You probably won't get a very balanced interview from [Plastic Duck]. And he is certainly not representative of our community." In order to verify the charges, Michael forwarded the letter to Plastic Duck, who in turn posted it publicly. The entire letter was re-printed by The Second Life Herald.

Linden Lab's move to discredit one of its customers is an interesting approach to public relations. The company can hardly be blamed for attempting to control its portrayal in the media, but such efforts are best left to the arena of press-releases, advertisements, and other public messaging. Contacting a reporter with a series of lurid and cryptic charges against a former customer is only likely to result in confusion or worse. From my perspective as a virtual-world reporter, Linden Lab's move is somewhat insulting to the craft: every experienced journalist already knows that relying on a single interview subject only provides a single viewpoint--it's neither necessary nor appropriate for Linden Lab to reiterate this. Furthermore, the company assumes Michael isn't looking for a notorious, controversial, and/or colourful interview subject--a potentially-incorrect assumption (and one the company shouldn't even be making). Lastly, as a customer of Linden Lab, I wouldn't stand for the company meddling in any of my affairs that take place outside its virtual-world gates. In Plastic Duck's case, Linden Lab's efforts are all the more awkward--Duck isn't even a customer of the company any more, therefore Linden Lab literally has no business interfering in his personal life.

As it happens, Plastic Duck might be soft and rubbery after all. In a comment to the Herald two days ago, Duck wrote "Lindsay from CBC Radio said she will probably be contacting me in January to schedule some kind of interview. They want me to go to their radio station and tell them about [Second Life] and help them set up an avatar and such. Should be fun! I do genuinely like SL if you guys didn’t know that. I plan on showing them a fair perspective of the game." And to the credit of our embattled reporter (who is rapidly learning the peculiarities of online communities), Lindsay Michael is pursuing a number of interview subjects for her Second Life segment, just as one would expect of a true professional.
 
     
 
   
 
   
  24 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Plastic Duck
December 20, 2005 @ 2:52 am
     
 
I'm still a customer, Linden Labs just don't know about it yet.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 20, 2005 @ 9:21 am
     
 
Thanks for the info. Is it fair to say the avatar named Plastic Duck is banned, but that the person behind the avatar is still a customer?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 10:46 am
     
 
Tony, are you aware that Plastic Duck is part of W-HAT, and that it is W-HAT members who are accused of crashing the grid. That is, Plastic Duck himself might well be under FBI investigation himself for DNS attacks, right now and *gasp* maybe you, the CBC, and God knows what else!. Just to put it in context, lest we focus too much on the media freedom issues here exclusively.

A difficult in covering this story is that W-HAT members constantly dance around their actual instigation of these grid crashes and other attacks, constantly have fake "plausible deniability," constantly put on the Eddie Cleaver, "Gee, Mrs. Linden you have a pretty dress" act. Urizenus has been very good about exposing what he rightly calls this 'post-modern word salad' that these losers get up to each time one of their own is found to have heeded the call on the Something Awful website to engineer menace and mayhem in SL.

I want to just put a little more finer point on all of this, lest PD begin to seem like a martyr of the evil Kremlinden Lab to you and others.

Recently, in SL, on his account aptly titled Griefer Overlord, PD verbally harassed me, pushed me, put up an installation with a giant cock, then took my RL picture (off the SLH site), cut it up, and turned it into spewing particles so it was on the "cutting room floor" blowing all over the sim -- very creepy, let me tell you, seeing your RL face cut up like that in a game. VERY creepy.

The Lindens found this to be a TOS violation --imagine! Gah, you never know with them. But verbal harassment/RL disclosure were the offenses.

Another one of his alts or colleagues from the same group, Rotten Thatch, crashed a plane into my event in Baileya some months ago, shouting inane fake Islamicist slogans, then appeared carrying a giant World Trade Center replica, and proceeded to chase me around the sim, shouting at me and bumping me. I appeared to have been singled out for this attack because I quested the taste of the WTC "conceptual art" in SL on the forums as someone who lost neighbours and one of my jobs on 9/11 -- and as most New Yorkers and Americans would question the taste of this hideous display.

In RL, journalists ask themselves questions about whether they should publish "night letters" from terrorists, whether they should give terrorists the microphone on radio or TV, whether they should be featured in news print stories, etc. -- at least without framing the context, so as not to fuel them.

Please ask yourself those questions.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 10:47 am
     
 
Oops I mean Eddie HASKELL. Wallace Cleaver would never behave that way : )
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 20, 2005 @ 10:57 am
     
 
Prok, I'm aware of Plastic Duck's rap sheet. It bears little relevance to the point of this story. This is a story about Linden Lab meddling in the personal affairs of their customers outside of their jurisdiction. What's worse? Griefing the grid, or getting griefed outside of the grid by a private corporation? We have yet to see if many real-world laws apply in-world. But Linden Lab acting outside of its virtual reality definitely falls under real-world law.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 11:48 am
     
 
Now this is interesting. We have, in addition to both the RL media meddling and the virtual anti-social activities mentioned here, witnessed RL pressure brought to bear on LL in the form of certain individuals/avatars threatening to reduce tier (RL financial threat) if the Terms of Service are enforced against them (i.e. their RL financial involvement puts them above the law). Virtual fascism or "Leave It To Beaver" harrassment? I can't help but wonder which is really worse and does either approach a developer's efforts to unduly influence the media? I tend to put the Eddie Haskell stuff a distant third to either of those other activities.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 12:36 pm
     
 
I "got it" about the "point of the story" Tony, and my comment at SLH is basically that this is overreach, unacceptable, and like the Soviet government jailing people for speaking to foreigner reporters or criticizing the motherland while abroad, etc.

You're right to cover it, right to condemn it, but coy little links to "Thought Police" type wikipedia stuff isn't persuasive.

"Kremlinden Lab" isn't the "Thought Police" just because they spin a story. They're just spinning a story.

I agree that it has a chilling effect on anyone who has good or bad to say about SL to the RL media, who leaves the game or stay in it. But we're not one to suffer chilling effects, lightly, are we Tony? We push back and we laugh at silly stuff like Catherine Linden trying to pre-empt what would have probably come as a normal phone call from the CBC reporter, in which she could have said the normal company-type stuff.

Still, I think you owe it to readers to say -- btw, the reason "Kremlinden Lab" is seeking to spin-meister the story of Plastic Duck is because they believe he and his pals crashed their grid. They actually don't even claim that in their PR sheet (the investigation is still underway). Some of the things they claim are completely undefinable even in their terms (what is "anti-social"?).

Still, this isn't just "any player" -- it's a player they believe crashed their grid and cost them thousands of dollars in lost business and overtime for staff, etc. Not trivial!

I really don't see a moral equivalence here or a "which is worse" choice, Tony. On the one hand, you have a RL person who uses their avatar to harass others, grief them, violate the TOS, and even (it is suspected and fairly amply documented) crashing the grid, to cause actual business harm and loss of income -- whether you look at the larger issue of grid-crashing (which they may or may not tie to this avatar) or the smaller issues of event disruption, destruction of the value of entire sims and peoples' property on them (as Plastic Dusk demonstratively did on Calleta for months) and so on.

On the other hand, you have the owner of that grid, Linden Lab, doing a clumsy, silly, inept swipe at this evidently grid-crashing griefer by trying to spin a story and tell CBC something more about this story -- some context they feel CBC should have. (Silly, because CBC is a good news organizations and would get the LL official spin quote as part of the story most likely anyway.)

Gosh, Tony, but I know which thing I can see is "worse". A terrorist who disrupts a company, people's businesses, people's Second Lives. Or a clumsy overreaching game company whose only crime at this point is engaging in its own freedom of speech and own right to spin the media -- they haven't caused any harm, because any court of law in the land will throw out any fake "libel" case PD might trump up in a heartbeat, as his harassing of avatars, disruption, griefing, etc. is all amply documented.

Please. Let's not salivate TOO hard in trying to find not only anti-Bush stories but game stories that seem to frame up the issue as OMGZORZ AMERIKA IS EVIL AND HAS THOUGHT POLICE EVERYWHERE 11111!!!!!

No, Csven, it's not about "RL pressure brought to bear on LL" in the form of a "financial threat" if the "TOS are enforced against them". That's silly. Um, read the transcript on my blog. Kenny Linden says "well somebody else will buy the island." So obviously, there can be no "financial threat" to this company that one voluntarily subscribes to and voluntarily participates in developing of one's free will, when they ALWAYS have "another guy to buy the island."

Trying to characterize is that way is just an insult gambit -- no sale. And trying to doing any moral equivalence of that incident with PD's griefing is going to make you look bad, Csven. Your zeal to harass and insult me definitely overtakes any legitimate points you have in the debate here.

Rather, the Jaunita incident is about demonstrating to the Lindens that life is about choices. They can chose to do low-level narrow-minded enforcement of the TOS on the issue of 4-sided enclosures of properties (that people use to try to fight back against sign griefing that destroys their property values and destroys the enjoyment of SL).

Or they can zoom out from their tekkie-wiki and look at the larger issues here *right in their own TOS that they could be enforcing* which are no "disturbance of the peace," no "spamming" or "verbal harassment" -- any or all of which could be used to address the Lazarus Divine signs problems instantly had they but the same will they use to ban people "for any reason or no reason".

Anything to whip up and provoke, eh? You're just not grasping the larger picture there, and I guess you don't understand *anything* about civil disobedience, or about the notion of just law.

But that's OK, Csven, support Plastic Duck and be politically correct, support grid-crashers, and dis people who invest in the grid and urge them to be removed from the game -- that's fine, keep doing that, and we can see exactly what you stand for.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 12:43 pm
     
 
Basically, as much as I am critical of LL's media policies and such, I object to your characterization of Catherine Linden's letter as "warning CBC against interviewing a customer" when she doesn't actually do that. All her letter says, if the SLH reprint of it is accurate, is "You probably won't get a balanced interview. And he is certainly not representative of our community." Feh, that's not a threat of a libel suit lol.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Plastic Duck
December 20, 2005 @ 12:56 pm
     
 
Tony Walsh, yes, it would be fair to say that I still play Second Life.

Prokofy, you know fully well I'm not responsible for those things you mentioned, seeing as you wrote a nice long rant about it here.

I think this quote applies well:
Vague Speculaas: Profoky I remember when there were times when 78 year old women didnít argue with a bunch of 20 year olds over the internet

Go outside Prokofy.

Finally, the Second Life community as a whole really needs to look at the definition for grief.

grief
n.
1. Deep mental anguish, as that arising from bereavement.
2. A source of deep mental anguish.

Linden Labs is not griefing me. I'm not sitting at my computer crying over this. I didn't grief anyone in SL. If someone genuinely felt 'deep mental anguish' because I laughed at their huge PRIM tits then maybe they should rethink their values.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 20, 2005 @ 1:03 pm
     
 
Prok, nowhere in my article do I mention the phrase "Thought Police" or "Kremlinden Lab."
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 1:26 pm
     
 
Plastic Duck=Griefer Overlord, as far as we can tell, and Griefer Overlord was the recent grid-crasher. Go outside yourself, Plastic, we don't buy the Eddie Haskell act. And even though I'm not 78 lol, I still get to argue with 20 year olds over the Internet.

Mental anguish is a good description of how I felt seeing my RL picture hacked up to bits, blowing around like particles all over the sim. It was damn creepy.

Tony, of course you don't use those terms. I didn't say you did. But you did a) link to the SLH "Kremlinden Lab" piece and b) use the term "thought police" in the OTHER piece about Homeland Security and it was making an ANALOGY -- that in THAT piece you did (where it was over the top) and in this piece -- on similar issues, i virtual format -- in which you implied that Catherine Linden is trying to muzzle the press.

She didn't tell CBC not to interview Plastic Duck. She said they would get a biased interview. And she's right about that.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 1:31 pm
     
 
In case you haven't really read recent exchanges, Tony, details like those you cite don't matter to some people. And if you ask for a quote or anything of equivalence, you'll get the same obfuscation and denial I encountered. That's the price one pays for freedom of speech (and which sorely tests it's worth at times, imo).

Just look at how my generic comments have been internalized here by someone brimming with self-importance (quick, notify the media - Prokofy Neva is now available for interviews!). What makes Prok believe I'm referring to some activity about which I really wouldn't know involving him and... Kenny(?)... (isn't that some South Park cartoon character)?

There is something self-delusional in Prok's postings. And to me, THAT is "creepy".
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 1:32 pm
     
 
"She didn't tell CBC not to interview Plastic Duck. She said they would get a biased interview. And she's right about that."

What? And they won't get a biased view from you or LL? hahaha
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 2:10 pm
     
 
Geez, Csven, do you think I'm stupid? And don't tell me you're another Eddie Haskell???

Re: "witnessed RL pressure brought to bear on LL in the form of certain individuals/avatars threatening to reduce tier (RL financial threat) if the Terms of Service are enforced against them (i.e. their RL financial involvement puts them above the law). Virtual fascism or "Leave It To Beaver" harrassment?"

RL financial involvement puts no one above the law.

And frankly that includes the venture-capitalized company of Linden Lab, regarding its own obligation to enforce its own TOS.

Read this:

http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2005/12/random_takes_a_.html

Gosh, you weren't referring to that, Csven? Geez, boy, silly me, I have NO idea what you are referring to then.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 20, 2005 @ 2:28 pm
     
 
The part that i find interesting in all this is that Prokofy Neva equates whoever is doing the crashing of the grid in SL a terrorist.

"...Gosh, Tony, but I know which thing I can see is "worse". A terrorist who disrupts a company, people's businesses, people's Second Lives..."

Emphasis added.

I'm not trying to single out prok, but i worry that we are all loosing sight of the meaning of "terrorist".

Merriam-Webster defines it as "terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion".

Now, i'm not a user of SL, but are people feeling terrorized by the people trying to crash the servers? And what do they, the crashers, want, since it seems that to be a terrorist you have some kind of goal. Other then simple chaos and destruction.

Its a pretty heavy term to label someone with, and i just feel that its been used, in the past 4 years especially, more liberally then it once was. These people sound more like black-hat hackers, vandals or criminals, then terrorists.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 2:32 pm
     
 
"Geez, Csven, do you think I'm stupid?"

I prefer words other than "stupid". But if that is the only option, then "Yes" would be my response.

"Read this:"

I avoid your site like the plague. Bad enough you've infected this place.

"Gosh, you weren't referring to that, Csven? Geez, boy, silly me, I have NO idea what you are referring to then."

No. You can only make assumptions. The world does not revolve around you.

However, are you suggesting that on your site you have documentation of virtual fascism; of tier reduction threats being made in order to get the developer to act in a preferential way? leveraging one's RW investment to effect VW terms??? If so I might be tempted to once again venture into that dark spot on the web. Please explain further.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 2:33 pm
     
 
Well said, Jos.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 2:44 pm
     
 
In virtual world terms, a person who utterly destroys the world -- makes it go black, makes it shut off, makes it crash -- is indeed like a terrorist. I don't equate RL terrorism morally with griefers in a game (and SL is more than a game and griefing there is more than play). I make an ANALOGY, however, sure do!

Vandals, criminals, and not terrorists? No. Because vandals and criminals have localized goals, like "I'll just extort from this one business rival" or "I'll just steal this one casino table from this one partner" etc. etc. It is localized in intent and scope.

Terrorism, however, strikes at innocents, not the target of a perceived or real grievance or the target from whom one can get something specific. Terrorism often just exists for the "propaganda of the act" as well well know. It exists to, well, terrorize. To keep off balance. To disrupt. To challenge the very foundations of the world.

That's why Plastic Duck is so banal (as is most evil). There isn't something he wants. He doesn't want, oh, to save baby whales or something. He isn't pushing for more freedom of expression or something (that's just a by-product). In fact, he's not even pumped up with some wierd ideology that we can see. He just likes attention, griefing, and disrupting because he can do it and he has contempt for the wooses that make such a vulnerable system that he can crack, I guess. I dunno. I don't spend my days speculating too much about what drives Plastic Duck -- forgive me.

Yes, indeed, people feel terrorized. I've even given up holding large events because I know dollars to donuts the W-HAT or similar people will grief them. So have others. Of course, that doesn't stop me from holding smaller ones and hoping to use ban tools.

But you have only to go to something like the winter holiday festival the Lindens held to see that even with Philip Linden there (or especially because Philip Linden is there), there is an attack with C-4 crashing the sim, people's games, bumping them -- just a damn nuisance. You cannot live in the world.

Land terrorism and extortion is particularly grievious because let's say you spend $100 or $1000 US on land -- and you can't protect it or use it or run a business on it because some asswipe is constantly harassing you, bombing you, and if one of your neighbours caves for some reason, buying little 32m2 squares from which to mount an annoying sign.

Sure, this is entertainment for most people, on both sides, and I um *do* get the difference between my RL place of work being closed, with rubble inside of it due to terrorism, and a place of play closed for the day due to griefers.

Still, I think it is EXTREMELY USEFUL to have this debate with liberals and among liberals particularly when you can see the issues more sharply in a virtual world where things accelerate and can become evident more quickly.

The huge hole in liberalism is always that for the sake of liberal goals, liberals are willing to allow the world to become illiberal for all or some people. This has to be challenged.

It's what the liberal Lindens did with their world of Second Life.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 20, 2005 @ 3:16 pm
     
 
Um. I'm still confused. Which is probably my own fault. And i'm sorry i even brought this up.

In virtual world terms, a person who utterly destroys the world -- makes it go black, makes it shut off, makes it crash -- is indeed like a terrorist. I don't equate RL terrorism morally with griefers in a game (and SL is more than a game and griefing there is more than play). I make an ANALOGY, however, sure do!

Ok. So, crashing a virtual space is like someone who is engaged in causing the death of people? This is really a rhetorical question. I'm sure you don't. I just think you using this as an analogy sucks. It reduces the importance of the real thing. It bothers me in the same way as those who use the term 'rape' as in-game smack talk. It wouldn't be so easy to say if it happened to your mother, brother, or lover.

Vandals, criminals, and not terrorists? No. Because vandals and criminals have localized goals, like "I'll just extort from this one business rival" or "I'll just steal this one casino table from this one partner" etc. etc. It is localized in intent and scope.

Well, i think there are many criminals that go well beyond "localized ... intent and scope". Like any organized crime group. Now, there may be an argument to make about them being terrorists themselves, but i'll leave that to another post (j/k! I really don't.).

We tend to bring real-world terms into the virtual, and sometimes it just doesn't make sense. The use of "terrorism" and "terrorist", in this context, is one of these cases.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
December 20, 2005 @ 3:24 pm
     
 
I couldn't resist. Holy crap, Prok! Are you really tiering completely down after you're attempt to leverage your virtual wealth and media influence! Or is this just a way to jump to another alt that doesn't carry your baggage?

And threatening Kenny Linden's paycheck!!! You out-FIC the FIC!!!
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 4:37 pm
     
 
Jos, terrorists destroy property and disrupt transportation and make buildings fall over and cause many people to lose their jobs and cause business loss. They don't just kill people.

It doesn't reduce the important of the real thing, and trust me, I have a REAL healthy respect for the real thing, let me tell you. What I want to get at is these liberal flaws that let liberalism create illiberalism.

The problems governments face is trying to ensure civil rights while they also chase terrorists. Civil rights activists push very hard on this, and are right to. The rhetoric really gets out in front of them sometimes tho, as it does with the leftist/liberal media covering the story, which starts to identify and sympathize with "victims". Here we are winding up to develop a real "sympathy" for this "victim" of "Kremlinen Lab" -- and I'm having none of it.

Try to step aside from the fixation on "virtual world as ultimately meaningless cartoono or mindless entertainment". I think that's what's bothering you at root. Try to strip that away and see at essence the same problem is at stake here -- balancing the rights of creatity/programming/civil rights with state security which should ultimately be about security for people. A platform provider like LL has to balance this as well. If they make light of grid-crashing, like it's a sport and a cartoon, if they don't prosecute it, the word is out that they are saps and a soft target. Which they have been.

oh, and sorry to disappoint, Csven but of course I'm not tiering down completely, I just shed development projects that are hard to justify like the railways project.

Um, Kenny Linden's paycheck is *hardly* threatened, if anything they'll give him a Christmas bonus and, as they say in Russian, some "moloko dlya vrednosti," i.e. some antidote for the occupational hazard of having to deal with Prok. And I don't *threaten* it --I make the very salient point that LL revenue comes at least in part (we're told a significant part) from tier-payers. So please, get a grip there, champ.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Plastic Duck
December 20, 2005 @ 4:44 pm
     
 
Prokofy I hear wal-mart is hiring maybe you should get a real job instead of trying to make petty change scamming newbies out of first land.

I hate to say this to you because I'm 18 and you're in your 60's so it really doesn't make you look that good but you need to seriously think about doing something with your life that isn't trolling the internet about really silly issues. Get married, start a family, enjoy life. You still have time, make it atleast somewhat worthwhile.

Also I am still able to say I've never crashed the grid, no matter how many times claims of me crashing the grid are made, you'll never find evidence of that, because it's not there. I'm not in SL to maliciously harm the game or anyone in it, I play SL because it's a great source of entertainment.

Stop watching Michael Moore movies.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 20, 2005 @ 4:54 pm
     
 
Hi, I don't scam newbies out of first land. If anything, I subsidize newbies.

Um, I have a real job, thanks lol. Also, I'm not in my 60s (wow, at least I've now gotten younger than "78" lol), I have a family and plenty of life to last me a lifetime : )

It's not up to me to find evidence about grid-crashing, I guess the FBI will be doing that : )

Um, yeah, you could say you've "never crashed the grid" because you no doubt set up others to do that for you so you can leave no fingerprints.

Your notion of entertainment is destructive. Go get a life yourself, young fellow.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 20, 2005 @ 5:00 pm
     
 
I closed this thread as it's gotten firmly into crap-flinging territory.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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