Ed Castronova (or is this in fact Ron Meiners’ text?) is making interesting comments on Jane McGonigal’s discussion of ARGs, based on such experiences as her involvement in “Last Call Poker”, how the social experience is framed in a way that sets these outside the rules of normative reality — and how all this strikes a chord with age-old utopian pursuits. See: Terra Nova: ARGs and Utopian Dreams. Poker or WoW — is it really an escape from our socially-determined selves, a sort of ritual or even religious-mystical transgression we are after in all this game playing activity? I am again reminded about how handy it is to keep the work of Victor Turner close by while analysing the social anthropology of games as culture.
There is an interesting news story about game education spreading in the academia in
the New York Times online (registration required). Even with the US-centrism and development emphasis, it is still interesting to read about how the games related academic developments are getting press attention. Sign of times?
There is an obvious subcultural and popular cultural overlap between the world(s) of comics and the world(s) of games. 1up.com has published a nice feature exploring this frontier. See: Will Strip For Games: Gaming Comics Online from 1UP.com. Have run out of your daily doze of Penny Arcade already? There is more out there.
Now this is something that interests us in Tampere Game Research Lab, and me personally, since in addition to working in future-oriented game research projects, I have been involved with a three-year project researching the future of home from the perspective of proactive computing (which pretty much means combining embedded, distributed systems with autonomous behaviours) — the Phillips AmBX group claims to incorporate a scripting language, software engine and architecture, designed to deliver feedback through enabled devices such as LED colour-controlled lights, active furniture, fans, heaters, audio and video”, according to this story. This is all very fine; but how about an open standard for “smart home” functionalities first, letting a large developer community to come up with this kind of means for designing orchestrated experiences?
See http://www.ambx.com/ for more.
This Tuesday, Gonzalo Frasca visited us to make his Games and Storytelling lecture on serial micro-games. I even took a nice picture with my Picoblogger of our Game Research Lab team with him, before the local Eastern Orthodox Church. But but: this time it is Picoblogger failing me. And despite installing new Bluetooth software and trying to hack into the memory of my Nokia 6600 camera phone, it seems that I am unable to get into that picture before Picoblogger decides to work again. And they do not answer my mails or web form inquiries — is there something wrong with them, or is this just normal?
Meta-note: I have been told that inordinate amount of my blog space is dedicated to whining about dysfunctional technology, and I do agree. The point being that as long as these tools, hardware and software, do not work even in the hands of a one who actually even enjoys some minor tweaking with one’s systems, how can it ever reach out and become a truly popular and mainstream phenomenon? The problems are still just too large: unreliability, non-compatibility and un-usability are there, to counterbalance all these fascinating possibilities new technologies and media offer us.
Mirjam Eladhari has posted nice summary of the Austin Game Conference 2005 in her blog — thanks for doing service for all of us who couldn’t travel.
You all fellow WoWians out there must already know this, but Blizzard has published a preview trailer video of their coming expansion set, see World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade web page. It highlights nicely what they see as the double key attractions of the game: the expansive and nicely designed fantasy world, and their loving investment in the monstrous and the marvellous in creature design. Any monster freak should have festive time among the expansion, I hope.
Google Print, the new controversial service which is among those which aims to digitize the traditional printed books, and thereby lower the barrier between digital and analogue worlds, went finally online. Making a test search on words ‘digital’ and ‘game’ yields these results. I find it quite easy to be in favour of this kind of undertakings; I have already found several books via this system that I aim to buy, so the class-action lawsuit by organisations of US publishers and authors seems counterproductive to my mind.
My working life and other such trivial things have been getting into my way, and keeping me from spending all my time in World of Warcraft, like any proper MMORPG addict should do. I have realised that you actually do need some hours of sleep too (at least if you are closing on to your fortieth birthday, like I do). But the design of WoW is not ideal for such concerns. Many quests are structured to be achieved by teamwork, and social collaboration and joint adventuring with your friends is that little thing which makes all the difference between mindless grinding or endless running through of FedEx quests. But what to do, when you are falling behind in experience, due to spending less time in that achievement-rewarding environment? At some point it becomes apparent that you are so much lower in levels that it is not worth hanging in the same adventuring party any more.
We have been investigating “socially adaptable game design” within IPerG with Interactive Institute, Nokia and other partners, and the ability to stop and return to game as needed, without social punishment is one important criteria to consider.
And now I just have to run; I am severely behind in all those 20 quests that my quest log can hold…
Edit: Actually my Saturday night was spoilt by Blogger.com. I tried three hours to post these notes, reloading the screen, and only getting message “Error. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are unable to process your request at this time. Our engineers have been notified of this problem and will work to resolve it.” Or the even more common variant: “Not Found. Error 404.” And I had only reserved three hours to use for online access, total, so there was my adventuring time, gone. Apparently they are upgrading their network access in Blogger.com this Saturday; it is just unfortunate that you get no such explanation when you are trying to use the service. – I have just got so tired of Blogger, there has been too many of this kind of incidents lately. But the move into Movable Type or similar system would in practice mean that I’d also have to do the transfer into a Linux server (because of PHP, Perl, MySQL, and similar basic services, that I can currently do without, running all from this Windows XP Pro machine). Surely, that could be done, but I just do not have the time; already, the hours used for debugging technology and these unreliable network services are just taking way too much time. (Update: It is now 4 am – the case closed.)
Autumn is getting very gloomy here, indeed. We were out today, and at early afternoon in Armonkallio (a nice, old district in Tampere, really), it was as dark and wet as you can see in these pics. Luckily, there was Emma’s second birthday party also, so we got some colour and cake in our life from there. Some of the birthday pics are in here.