James Portnow wants to talk about how good games are

… and we should help him.

James Portnow from Extra Credits (and also much loved speaker at Konsoll 2012) has started a crowdfunding project called “Games for Good“. He wants to create a conversation about games that isn’t reactionary or in direct defence of games, but rather talk about the good that games do in a louder and more accessible voice. He’s observed that politicians in DC aren’t finding experts to educate and advise on game legislation and feels that we should become better at representing the industry. In this campaign he also wants us to start talking louder about games that do good and why. We’re doing something similar here in Norway with the Game Developers Guild – but I’ll write about that after Mr. Portnow explains his vision:

Honestly, I’m rather shocked that the computer game industry isn’t already heavily represented in American politics through lobbyists.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Is Facebook a virtual world?

I remember being absolutely gobsmacked when I first read about Edward Castronova and his economic analysis of the online game Everquest. And it all spiraled from there … do you remember? We all got caught up in the rights of the avatar. I remember being enthralled in discussions about what is real and what is not real and what rights avatars have in games such as Everquest. Because we  saw avatars as extensions of ourselves, therefore we should have the same human rights as we have in our own ‘real life’. Ownership issues and freedom of expression where things that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and debating.

Continue reading

Machinima, copyright and schools

I had an interesting phone conversation the other day.

There’s an organisation that promotes art to schools here in Norway, Kunst i Skolen. It’s completely new to me, but it’s existed since 1948 (way to go Norway!). So I’m still kinda dazed about this – but from what I can gather, they have these travelling exhibitions for schools (and I think members – although, I’m not sure if the schools need to be members). They’ve got loads of great stuff to offer, including CD-roms of collections and art for teaching purposes.

So why am I getting into this?

I was asked on Tuesday if I could put together a DVD of some Machinima films and I also offered to write a little summary of what machinima is. Now – ofcourse I’m having difficulty. Since they’re an official organisation they need all the copyright details to be in order – and I’m struggling. The game companies certainly have come around the last couple of years – but the music industry – hell no. So when trying to present an art that’s all about reproduction of media – fan art – remediation – or whatever we’re calling it these day – what to do?

It’s frustrating, and in my opinion needless, ridiculous and depriving so many of some great art. But I take comfort that they can be found online – which is just another rant waiting to burst out of me soon – but another time.

Anyhoo – I’m in desperate need of machinima with copyright issues in order. I have to play catch-up on my machinima copyright laws, but if memory serves me right Blizzard and Microsoft are fair – leaving it up to the artist as long as they don’t make any money off it. I’m unsure about The Sims, though, but I’m thinking they’ll be alright. What about Take 2?

Please let me know if you have any good ideas and machinima to offer.

I have a time limit on this that’s insane – I basically need to send this in the post on Monday. But how could I refuse? Machinima in schools? Are you kidding me?! I love it!

Virtual Worlds stuff

Just a little list of observations and things on my ‘to read’ list. I don’t know why – but I’ve been so incredibly unfocused lately. I’ve actually been very social this weekend – which has been lovely but I feel I’m lagging behind on my feedburning!

1) Finland’s Game Research Lab has had what looks to be a really great conference/seminar (I’m sure someday I’ll actually care what the difference is) – Breaking the Magic Circle. What really struck me first was Vili Lehdonvirta’s contribution, Virtual Worlds Don’t Exist. I was instantly sucked in yesterday but three pages in I was rudely interrupted – and look at me now – blogging instead of reading! Vili’s one of those people who manages to see clearly and keep both his feet on the ground when it comes to virtual worlds studies – and I honestly can’t wait to finish his paper. Because the dude’s definitely on to something.

The abstract:

I argue that much of MMO-related scholarship is implicitly based on a dichotomous “real world vs. virtual world” model, which is heavily influenced by the “magic circle” concept in game studies. I show a number of shortcoming in this perspective and propose an alternative perspective based on Anselm Strauss’s social worlds (Strauss, 1978). The alternative perspective unbundles users from the technological platform and places MMO-centered social worlds in context with other worlds like religion and workplace.

I think Virtual World Studies are growing up – and that suits me fine!

2) There are now more than 100 youth oriented virtual worlds live or in development. Look – Virtual Worlds Management has a list!

3) The virtual world VizWoz is launching a virtual cinema on April 18th, according to Virtual World News. I had a 15 minute test-run of the place and I pretty much hated it. But I’m not a teen and 15 minutes is never enough for true judgment.

I’m really tickled by the virtual world cinema concept. It’s something I’ve wanted virtual worlds to get into for a while now. I’ve always thought that this would be the way for stupid licensing issues to disappear. But I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I needed to register if I lived in the States or not while getting an account – I, of course, lied – we’ll see if I can get away with it. I’m also eager to see the quality of the films they’re going to screen.

I applaud the initiative.

4) Speaking of April 18th – Funcom is together with GameSpot offering to play PvP Age of Conan from April 18th to April 20th for 15,000 gamers. I’ll be unwired in Gøteborg that weekend so I haven’t bothered to have a look at how I can be a part of it. Yet another sign that Age of Conan won’t be delayed again, I think! I wish them luck!

5) Have to read Raph Koster’s “Is there such a thing as a casual online world?”

49% Casual Gamers play everyday

Chris Bateman’s got some interesting results from a survey they’ve done for a new player model, with 1040 responses.

Of those who classify themselves as casual gamers 49% play every day! Sounds like a statistic Jesper Juul would be interested in.

Also only 1.25% enjoy games without stories. I think that’s interesting.

We’ve received 1,040 responses to the survey, of which 55% (576) are from North America, 30% (317) are from Western Europe or the UK, 5% (52) are from Australasia, and a few responses from everywhere else in the world besides.

The majority of respondents play games every day (66%), with many of the others playing every week (26%). Interestingly, of those that self-identified as “Hardcore”, 81% play every day, and of those that self-identified as “Casual”, 49% play every day. It seems that even people who see themselves as a Casual player are still playing amazingly often.

The most popular approach is to play alone (40%), with just a few playing single player games with pad passing or some similar group play (7%). The remaining players all prefer some kind of multiplayer format, whether in the same room (17%) or over the internet (19%, of which 5% is team or clan play), with the remaining 16% preferring virtual worlds and MMORPGs.

On the subject of game stories, there is overwhelming consensus, with 93% saying either that stories are very important to their enjoyment of videogames (36%) or that stories help them enjoy videogames (57%). A mere 5% say stories are not important, and just 1.25% say they prefer videogames without stories. Clearly, story occupies a vital space in the modern world of videogames gamers love stories!

Protesting in a virtual world


Joseph DeLappe is an active artist protesting the war in Iraq.

On March 20th, the date of the US invasion of Iraq, DeLappe will enter America’s Army, peacefully.

America’s Army is an MMORPG designed by the US military which also functions as an active reqruiter. for the army.

He’ll be using the login name “dead-in-Iraq” and well…I’m almost tempted to download America’s Army to witness the action. But quite honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. Would I be supporting America’s Army or would I be supporting Joseph DeLappe?

“As of 1/17/08, I have input 3745 names. I intend to keep doing so until the end of this war. As of 1/17/08 there have been 3929 American service persons killed in Iraq” – Networked Performance

So he’ll be manually(!) writingthe name, age, service branch and date of death of each service person who has died to date in Iraq.

Does it all sound familiar? Well, it seems he started dead-in-iraq in 2006. It kinda gives you a perspective on matters when an artist repeats his protest 3 years in a row. That’s interesting.

I have to admit I’m feeling a tad sorry for the poor MMORPG players – I mean what are they suppossed to do? Hmmm – maybe they should join him somehow? Maybe he should invite them to. It would be lovely if someone documented the discussions this sparked in-world. It seems he doesn’t engage in any social conversation…well…who could blame him with 3745 US soldiers to memorialise.

It certainly made an impression on me. I think it would be cool if they could stream the protest but I worry about the privacy rights of the players.

Second Life Coca Cola vending machine

“Not Coca Cola but the essence of Coca Cola” – well that’s branding for you. But it’s really well thought out and has to be one of the best commercial ventures into virtual worlds I’ve seen so far. They’ve really embraced the collaboration era and that has to be admired. Clearly understanding that avatars are “thirsty for experience” – I’m impressed. I’ll be eagerly monitoring their success. Although I was rather hopeful that there would be more “set your brand free to be played with” as discussed in the Building Businesses in Virtual Worlds panel at State of Play V. This seems to be more restricted ehm…gameplay? interaction? from what I can see. But I haven’t taken the time to experiment with them myself yet – so I really shouldn’t be too critical.

Aesthetics?

Yesterday UiB hosted the “New Aesthetic Technologies Conference”, which I really would have loved to attend! Firstly because I really want to know what my (?) university department thinks about aesthetics and new media – because I’m not sure I know. Two years ago (good golly – has it been that long?) – the brilliant Rune Klevjer put together a conference called “The Aesthetics of Play” – it’s just such an excellent title, don’t you think?
Look what I found!!

Continue reading

Community Guidelines

I really enjoyed reading (via Raph Koster) Scott Hartsman’s “Beta Community Guidelines”. It was originally written for the Everquest II Beta in 2004 – but I think a lot is relevant now as well. In fact, I don’t think these rules apply just to MMORPGs – I think any online community would be smart in developing the same…I’m more inclined to use a word such as ethics and morals, than guidelines, but ok.

State of Play Conference

It was fun!
The conference started off with a bang. We got to see Glenn Thomas’ “Ideal World. A Virtual Life Documentary” – which is brilliant (Glenn’s also a super dooper, charming and smart man, by the way!). He’s really managed to get the full compass of The Second Life story into it and I applaud him for it!
The panels were exciting and from vast disciplines – which I thought was great! Some of the conference delegates (220 attending) had some amazing questions to the panels, which brought some great insight and discussion. I’m not too comfortable writing in detail here, as I’m in the middle of writing other articles for a serious publication. I’m not used to all this journalism thinking and I’m not sure what’s allowed and not in duplication matters on my own personal blog. So let me tread lightly till stuff gets published.
I’ve met some truly amazing people which I hope to keep in touch with. Lots of bright and colorful minds were present and I felt so privileged to meet them. All shall be mentioned when I dwell deeper into stuff here.
I found being a ‘journalist’ quite hard, however. Finding stuff that was news worthy for ‘regular people’ was challenging, which is why we’re holding off publication till it’s all in a lovely understandable package. It’s also quite hard finding the correct Norwegian words for stuff – any Norwegian readers out there willing to have a go at ‘in-world’? It’s such a great way to pinpoint what you’re trying to describe, “they met in-world”, “in-world business transaction”, I just can’t seem to find the right Norwegian wording for it. I have also found a great appreciation for the word ‘business’ in English. I think we have about alternatives in Norwegian and I find none of the satisfactory! Speaking of which, I need to get back to work.