Congratulations to Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern on their award! (Ian is reporting live from Slamdance at WaterCoolerGames). In case you have been living under a rock for the last year, here's a link to Façade (I assume you can still get Wi-Fi signal under your rock, right? Otherwise it would be really uncomfortable)
Have you ever dreamt of working at Kinko's? No? Me neither. But like it or not, now you have a chance to try what it is like to be an alienated Kinko's employee. Ian Bogost doesn't give a damn about your dreams. He just puts this game into your face and under your fingers. Games as a portal into fantasy life is such a crappy concept (we already have movies for that). Force yourself to do something so real it hurts, play Disaffected, Ian's new anti-advergame about a famous photocopying corporation. The gameplay is fun but that's just a detail. What is even better is that it is unexpected (new catchphrase: Nobody expects the Kinko's anti-advergame!)
When I started my research on videogames I was puzzled about the relative lack of French ludological writings. They have always played a major role on literature, drama and film theory and research but not on videogames. Certainly, this has been changing in the last few years and that's a reason to celebrate. Now there's a brand new book with plenty of articles, including some by people like Stéphane Natkin (from the Enjmin), Emmanuel Guardiola (Ubi Soft) and Bernard Perron (co-editor of Video Game Theory). The book is out now and was edited by Sébastien Genvo.
The great folks at Georgia Tech are hosting another edition of Living Game Worlds. Will Wright is keynoting again which, as usual, makes this event a must attend if you happen to be close to Georgia on February 16th. The list of speakers is impressive and to that you have to add the whole LCC crew. Gee, I'd love to attend -and have some great Mexican food at Buford Highway- but I am too busy writing my thesis. If you make it, have some tacos for me at El Taco Veloz, would you?
Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun has been translated to Japanese and Parappa The Rapper's Masaya Matsuura has written the foreword, which is available at Raph's website. I met Matsuura briefly in Tokyo a few year's ago, at a conference in Makuhari. He was kind enough to authograph Aki Jaarvinen's copy of Parappa's soundtrack. There is one thing that I kept from Matsuura's speech that morning, the description of a cell phone game so outrageously original that I now think that I dreamt about it (Aki, are you there? Please refresh my memory). rI haven't found any reference to this game, so if somebody heard about it, please let me know. It was a game that was played purely through audio, using a phone as interface. The game had a funny title (maybe it was the English translation what made it funny). Something like "10.000 speed girl" or "10.000 speed grandmother". Yes, I know it's a wild title. Anyway, the game worked as a 24-hour Tamagotchi that you could call and talk to. Once you started the game, you were able to call a girl. She would be born at the moment that you started and she would age and become an old lady within 24 hours (and eventually die). Her life would be accelerated so it would last 24 hours (hence the game's title). rSo, the first time that you called, you would just hear some baby sounds. If you called a couple of hours later, you would interact with a girl. The process would go on and you would have different conversations with the same person through different ages. I am not sure how complex the interaction was but I think some sort of voice recognition was involved. On your last call, rthe woman would have became an old grandmother. She would say things grandmothers say (Matsuura said something like "Oh, it's so nice that you called me. You don't call me very often lately"). rGiven Matsuura's musical genius, I am not surprised that he could pull out an all-sound project like this. I guess that the game is not available anymore (and even if it was available, it was in Japanese language). After reading his foreword to Koster's book, I remembered this story and thought that it was too good not to be shared with you guys.
If you have a brand new PhD and want to spend some time hanging out at MIT, this piece of news may be what you have been waiting for. There's a call for a postdoc on Comparative Media Studies. The deadline is soon, so hurry up.
I am sure that the title of this post caught your attention. Well, it was supposed to. Last year Amnesty Spain published a report about videogame violence that was so bad that it was laughable. Disclaimer: I didn't laugh because they messed with my games, too. Anyway, it seems that it's an Spanish tradtion to publish reports about videogames on Christmas. Now it's the turn of the Minor Defense League of Madrid, that published a website with plenty of information about games, geared towards parents. rPlease do not get me wrong. They did a good job, this is exactly what parents need: a guide showing which games are suitable for which ages and stressing the fact that many games are not meant to be played by minors. The guide (pdf, Spanish only) is well-written (by people who obviously know about the games, which is great). Along with the guide, there is a research report called "Videojuegos, menores y responsabilidad de los padres" (Videogames, minors and parent's responsibility). The report is well-done and clear. Basically, it's the data gathered through 4.000 forms completed by children between 10 and 17. That's the first thing that it's a bit troubling. Many children younger than 10 years old are indeed minors and play videogames, but they are not included on the sample. Since the report is called "minors" and explores issues of game and violence, it's really easy to assume that a 6 year old player would be included. So, the sample is certainly geared towards "older" children, a fact that -unsurprisingly- hasn't been picked up by the press. Here's a google cache link to a El Pais article that keeps talking about "children" rather than "minors", which distorts quite much the results of the research. rBut this is just a minor (no pun intended) comment. There is a totally unexcusable aspect of this report that trashes completely all the goodwill that was behind this project. The report concludes that "20% of minors admit playing videogames where children, elders or pregnant women are damaged, tortured or killed". I am sorry, but I have no option than to think that the phrasing of this conclusion is done in bad faith. Ok, please, tell me, how many videogames available today in the market feature pregnant women? The only one that I can think top of my mind is Little Big Adventure, a game that is more than 5 years old. And The Sims 2. Any other popular games that you know? (please let me know). I am positive that we can hardly find more than a few examples. Ok, within those potential examples, on how many of them can the player torture the pregnant woman? The phrasing of that section of the report is equivalent to ask children "Have you recently played any games where your character jumps and/or worships Adolf Hitler?" rI am sad to say this, but at least the report is overall well-done. Still, these unbelievably biased elements make me really, really sad.
Creating Games and Simulation in Learning, in Long Beach, CA will take place on January 23rd, 2006. It's organized by Stanford University Medical Media & Information Technologies, SUMMIT. Speakers include Noah Falstein, Joe Henderson and Anders Larsson. You can learn more about it here
The NYTimes has an article on all things cute. It's main argument has been around for a while -and makes perfectly sense to me: cute things and designs bear resemblance to human babies. Still, the article is worth a read if you are into videogames. Anybody said Nintendogs? rElegance and patterns certainly go together. We know this well from poetry, painting, dancing and music. Do we have an equivalent in games? Certainly Tetris comes to mind as a game that flows very well, even though it's a bit too obsessive compulsive to be compared with dancing. Probably elegant gameplay is rather within the realm of play: the repetitive movement of a hand combing the doll's hair; the rush of running while extending your arms, pretending to be a plane, mimicking the repetitive sound of the engines. The pure pleasures of the unchallenging activities, maybe those are the cute actions of playing, soft and adorable like babies. Either that, or blowing heads off in Resident Evil.