Posts tagged “games”

The game of life

Better than Sims [] – This interview with Kwestr game creator Frank Yu contains a vision for the future, when things like Kwestr will help us connect “online life” with “actual life.” Kwestr aims to gamify life to facilitate this. I started up on Kwestr beta to give it a try. It feels a little silly at this stage, like a cartoonish, aspirational to-do list. Kind of nice that you can break goals into the steps you need to achieve the goal or kwest. I’m not sure this kind of stuff begs to be shared and socialized. I can vaguely imagine sharing a kwest with friends to compete to achieve it. It hardly feels game-ish though at this stage. I didn’t see a way to add rewards or prizes. Badges? Hm. Yawn. I’m sure they’re working on that aspect of the game. At this point, it comes across more like another means to try to motivate myself to be a better person, which I would probably ignore and feel guilty about. I didn’t pick up on a competitive vibe at all (then again I didn’t connect with anyone on it). Thinking bigger, though, when I consider his goal to partner with brands to provide on-location Kwestr integrated experiences, and this thing might have some spark! Sounds a lot like what foursquare and etc aim to achieve as well (and they’ve done a remarkable job of making it competitive – for instance, don’t even try to be Mayor of Portigal Consulting, or we will bring it). In any case, this iteration has a honey-badger as a mascot. OK, it’s just a regular-badger. Which they admit looks like a raccoon.

“We can make anything into a role-playing game experience, whether it’s going to a party with your friends, going to a museum, or going on a trip. We can make any kind of event into an RPG experience. You can bring your friends into it by challenging them to be part of your kwest. Once you’ve completed your kwest you receive a badge. The kwest can be anything from “Lose Weight,” “Be a Vegetarian for a Day,” “Learn Chinese,” or it can be fun stuff like “Have a Beer on Fridays.” We have kwests already built into the site, but you can also create your own…I want to help people accomplish their goals and their dreams. I want to help people break down their goals into steps, stay motivated, and help them follow up. For instance, buying a house is hard. How do you do it? We can help people break it down into steps and stay motivated along the way. Also, allowing these kinds of journeys to be shared with other people opens up potential for others to help support you.”

Speaking of the game of life, just for fun here’s a commercial from the olden times for the Game of Life, by Milton Bradley who, according to this ad, makes the best games in the world. That’s how we used to think about gamifying life!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Sherry Turkle is Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and a sociologist. – She has focused her research on psychoanalysis and culture and on the psychology of people's relationship with technology, especially computer technology and computer addiction.
  • apophenia – danah boyd's blog – danah boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
  • Michael Wesch's IA Summit 09 Keynote – Even though the presentation itself uses a lot of visuals and YouTube examples, I found the podcast to be extremely interesting and provocative. Wesch takes many examples of Internet and social media culture that we're familiar with but wraps them together to create a new and exciting story about the kinds of new things that technology is enabling. While I might have thought I knew it all already via danah boyd and Sherry Turkle, I learned a lot (that's not to say that boyd and Turkle haven't covered this material, I have no idea; but for me this podcast was a huge leap forward in my grokking of the issues).

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Hallmark Cards to feature licensed audio content from NBC Universal – NBC Universal has sealed a new licensing deal with Hallmark Cards that includes the use of the company's film and TV content. Sound cards from Universal films such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Sixteen Candles" and "Jaws" will be included as well. Ditto "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Battlestar," as well as NBC News archives. Beyond cards, the deal includes "a wide range of social expression products."
  • Escapism in Minutiae of Daily Life – nice NYT review of Sims 3 – It is almost impossible to avoid the temptation to make a Sim version of yourself, either as you really are or as you wish to be. In that sense the game presents basic but important questions: What kind of person am I? What kind of person would I like to become? How do I treat the people around me? What is important to me in life? What are my core values?

    Children usually form their tentative answers to these questions without considering them explicitly. Adults, by contrast, often confront such issues, even tangentially, only in the context of intense emotional involvement, some sort of crisis or high-priced psychotherapy.

    Most video games exist to allow the player to forget completely about the real world. The Sims accomplishes the rare feat of entertaining while also provoking intellectual and emotional engagement with some of life’s fundamental questions. I love aliens and zombies, but a little reality in my gaming once in a while is not a horrible thing.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The McGangBang: a McChicken Sandwich Inside a Double Cheeseburger – (via Kottke) Another awesome example of customers co-opting (or trying to) the corporation. It's a user-generated menu item and people are trying to order it by its (rather unpalatable) name and then documenting the results. Like the obscene Skittle comments on Twitter, this is people taking a brand (and an experience) and playing with it. And then using the Internet to bring energy to that small piece of celebratory rebellion. If we ever needed another example of the brand being created by the customers not the producers, this would be it.
  • Chinese Internet meme about Grass-Mud Horse is a form of social protest – An online phenomena features a mythical character is built on the name – in Chinese – sounding close to an obscenity, but presented as an innocent song (with some fable-like plot twists) that the censors (so far) can't/won't remove. “Its underlying tone is: I know you do not allow me to say certain things. See, I am completely cooperative, right?” the Beijing Film Academy professor and social critic Cui Weiping wrote in her own blog. “I am singing a cute children’s song — I am a grass-mud horse! Even though it is heard by the entire world, you can’t say I’ve broken the law.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • What were arcades like? – This thread is making the blogosphere-rounds. The video game arcades that I and many of the posters grew up with are gone; gaming takes place in the home. But the question has produced a lot of good (if not yet thick) descriptions of the environment, the participants, and the social rules that developed. Personally, "arcade" suggests a dedicated business that would provide video games, pinball and billiards. But in high school, we would typically go to local merchants and hang out. Variety (or convenience) stores were obvious candidates, but we spent a lot of time and money in a laundromat/laundry service place. I opened my first ATM account at the bank next door and would take out $5 and get change from the laundry proprietor and play after school for a few hours. Even though we had computers at home with games on 'em, this was more fun.
  • WonderCon: Comic book subculture now mainstream – "This is popular culture now," said Ferioli, 41, of Oakland, who attended his first comic book convention in New York when he was 16. "Look at Heath Ledger winning an Oscar for playing the Joker (in 'The Dark Knight'). These things that used to be fringe are now icons. It's not a subculture, it's the popular culture."
  • Steve's photos from WonderCon 2005 – There's something utterly delightful seeing an Imperial Stormtrooper at a drinking fountain

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Wired on the big big money being made selling virtual items in online games – With about 30 workers on staff, Liu was able to keep a gold-farming setup running around the clock. While the night shift slept upstairs on plywood bunks, day-shift workers sat in the hot, dimly lit workshop, each tending three or four computers. They were "playing" World of Warcraft, farming gold at an impressive clip by hunting and looting monsters, their productivity greatly abetted by automated bots that allowed them to handle multiple characters with little effort. They worked 84-hour weeks, got a couple of days off per month, and earned about $4 a day, which even for China was not a stellar wage.
  • Wired on Ray Ozzie and cultural change at MSFT: At first, the skunk works-like nature of Ozzie's operation engendered suspicion and resentment – Previously, a big part of any development team at Microsoft was making sure its new product worked in lockstep with everything else the company produced. While that approach avoided annoying conflicts, it also tended to smother innovation. "This philosophy of independent innovation…is something Ray pushed very strongly," Ozzie's approach was to encourage people to rush ahead and build things. Then he'd have a team of what he calls the spacklers fill in the gaps and get things ready for release.
    He spent a lot of time on the physical workspace for his team. He had workers rip down the labyrinthine corridors on one floor and called in architects to create a more open design. Now, walking into the Windows Live Core group is like leaving Microsoft and visiting a Futurama set. Office windows open onto hallways so that quick eye contact can trigger spontaneous discussions. Whiteboards are everywhere. Pool tables, mini-lounges, and snack zones draw people toward the center of the space.

Two great presentation – art + games; cyberculture as counterculture

Last week’s BayCHI program featured two exciting (if poorly attended) presentations. First, From Counterculture To Cyberculture: How The Whole Earth Catalog Brought Us Virtual Community by Fred Turner of the Stanford Department of Communication, and Be the Ball by Greg Niemeyer and Joe McKay of UC Berkeley.

Fred Turner gave one of those presentations that lulls me into thinking (for a mere moment) that it’d be fun to go back to school and be exposed to fast-moving big-thinking folks who can stream ideas at my head. His talk was a lot of fun and there’s no way to capture much of it. Maybe the associated book (note comments by Stewart Brand) would be the best suggestion? I haven’t read it but will be curious to hear from anyone who has.

Turner provides a highly synthesized historical/social/cultural perspective on the shift in computer technology (and Silicon Valley as the home for said technology) from a military, hierarchical technology to a green, revolutionary, participatory movement. He focuses on a specific set of folks like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, John Perry Barlow and the connections between them, as well as the connections they had to other parts of culture (i.e., Barlow and the Dead scene). He referred to Ronald Burt‘s notion of a network entrepreneur as a better model for thinking about how these people all interacted.

With the Whole Earth Catalog going back to the 60s (basically a large format print publication that would catalog many items that would be useful to those living in a commune, from tractors, to tools, to how-to books, to fiction, and much more – interestingly picked up in Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools) setting some sort of foundation, a catalyzing event was a retreat that Brand convened right after the 1984 “Hackers” conference, spawned in part by Stephen Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (another point was the inclusion of journalists in these networks was very effective in growing them in just the right way), helped transform the public perception of hackers from destructive geeks to techno-revolutionaries.

He continued to described the creation of The Well, an early online forum that attracted much of this same culture – DeadHeads, Burning Man people, artists, hackers, and so on.

Underlying this great story was some interesting points about social forms of power versus rule forms of power. In other words, granting access or opportunity through merit versus who you know that is like you (and likes you). It was interesting to see what this group could build through those connections, but Turner himself acknowledged that he preferred the rules over the social power. All of which raises some big issues for me; that our culture claims to be merit-based, but clearly is hugely dominated by social power. How could children of presidents end up so prominently in politics if that were not true?

A final quote from Turner: “To be cool in America is to be granted the power to speak.”

For more academic seduction, check out the interesting course taught by Greg Niemeyer at Berkeley, including podcasts.

Along with Joe McKay (who seemed to play an engaged-but-thinks-before-he-speaks-slow-talking Paul Shaffer to Neimeyer’s fast-talking-can’t-slow-down-yet-collaborative David Letterman), they talked about games, but not as game designers, rather as artists. They showed a variety of interactive environments that were playful in nature and maybe illustrative of some point (i.e., the container filled with bamboo that monitors the oxygen flow in the space and generates jazz music where the energy level corresponds to the breathing pace of whoever is ihe space). It was a refreshing way to think about games and seemed to dovetail with John Seabrook’s recent profile of Will Wright in the New Yorker.

I enjoyed their quick personal history of the games they played throughout their life (no mention of Hotel Room Olympics, however, let alone the Ungame) and especially the demo they set up of a simple game where one stands on a platform and simply shifts weight (subtly) to move an on-screen paddle and shoot a ball into hoops that encircle it (hence the talk’s title Be The Ball). We got to try the game (something I’ve never seen at a BayCHI presentation).

Joe made a reference to Snakes and Ladders which was gratifying since I had recently been discussing the Chutes and Ladders title (more common with the Americans I know) versus the Snakes and Ladders that I encountered as a kid in Canada (where Joe also grew up). Wikipedia confirms that this is a US vs. UK difference.

And finally, Joe mentioned that his mother discovered “The Google” but is disappointed not to see new hits for him when she looks up, so hopefully Joe’s mom will find this!

The end of tagging

Relax, information architects and folksonomists, this story won’t stop your quest to crowdsourcingly identify attributes of every virtual and physical artifact. It’s the other kind of tag that’s a problem now.

Tag is now banned from the playground of Willett Elementary School in Attleboro. Touch football, dodgeball and all other unsupervised chasing games have also been taken out of play.
The ban is setting the stage for a schoolyard knock-down-drag-out between parents, some who believe the playground police have gone too far by calling a time out on the time-honored children’s play, and others who feel that it’s about time the whistle was blown on these competitive games.
The rule was championed by second-year principal Gaylene Heppe. She claims the rule is nothing new. It is part of a broader playground rule that has been in effect for five years banning hitting and inappropriate touching.
Willett Elementary School joins a growing list of schools across the country where kindergarten cops have taken aim at classic children’s games, citing the risk of injury and litigation. Cities like Charleston, S.C., tackled touch football, while Spokane, Wash., and Cheyenne, Wyo., ousted good old-fashioned tag from their schools.

LEGO Star Wars

Doesn’t the core of Lego’s brand reside in the physical meatspace interaction with the bricks themselves? The tactile, the auditory snik? But this Star Wars Videogame recasts Lego as an aesthetic (granted, something the underground has done for many years), a style of animation, and a proxy for kid-friendly. Sure, it’ll sell a jillion units (as will anything Anakin-tastic these days) but is this good for Lego in the long, long run?

Videogames to promote car brands

New York Times story about car manufacturers using video games and other gimmicks to promote new models

DaimlerChrysler’s research found that one-third of all gamers are 35 to 49, with an average age of 28, up from just 18 a decade ago. Women also have increasingly picked up on gaming, particularly online, in which they play against other people around the world. “There’s a growing wave of women gaming,” Mr. Bell said. Even though many of the corporate-sponsored games mimic ones that do not carry a commercial message, they are primarily a sales tool – just like traditional television campaigns.
But unlike television, which is virtually impossible to track in terms of actual sales, Mr. Bell said he has been able to match people who download games with sales results. For example, of the first 1,000 people to buy the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon when it was introduced, he found that 500 of them had downloaded and played the computer game created for the new model.


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