Feb 262010

Dan Terdiman at CNet engages in some handwringing over the fact that kids worlds and social games are taking over the hype that used to belong to virtual worlds.

But to someone who cut his virtual world teeth on more immersive, 3D environments like There and Second Life, these never-ending announcements of new companies trying to jump on the social gaming bandwagon have left me with one nagging question: Where is the innovation?

The innovation lies in making something that matters to ordinary people.

Now, I am a virtual world person, obviously. I don’t see much distinction between the game worlds and the non-game ones like Second Life. I have been working with them since the text muds, for over 15 years, which doesn’t exactly put me in the true old dino category where Richard Bartle and Randy Farmer reside, but I think it is fair to say that I have been closely identified with the space for a long long time now.

And I think that they aren’t over, but the form that they have taken is.

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Placeness is a feature, not the point

 Posted by (Visited 14911 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Feb 242010

so rather than worrying about getting a virtual world in a browser has #slviewer2 side stepped by becoming a mixed media browser?

– Ian Hughes aka @epredator


Plenty of analysis is out there now on the new SL viewer — which is, undoubtedly, a big step forward. Full web functionality on a prim including Flash — check out Habbo Hotel running on a wall inside SL! A usable interface! Non-programmery design!

But the answer is still no, because for better or worse, virtual worldness is increasingly a feature of a website, not a destination in its own right. Placeness is a value-add to something else — a game, a community, etc. And adoption is driven by the something else, not by the placeness.

To phrase that differently: The new viewer makes Web integration a feature of SL. Which is a great value-add for SL people. But it is not a value-add for Web users. Wagner James Au breaks it down into a series of questions, but fundamentally the question a new user asks is “why?” And for a web user, the first question is “why go somewhere else?”

The SL experience might be a value add for Web users, but for that to happen, SL would have to be a feature of “something elses” on the Web, and as Mitch Wagner points out, it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong — a great step. But I would be surprised if Linden isn’t working on the larger problem.

Gameifying everything

 Posted by (Visited 15701 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Feb 182010

Just a little meditation here…

Lots of chatter this morning already over a speech given at DICE by Jesse Schell (author of the excellent Art of Game Design) on games Beyond Facebook: How social games terrify traditional game makers but will lead us to gaming everywhere.

I have a long long article brewing on Facebook game snobbery by traditional gamers… and Jesse touched on this in his speech. But he also touched on something that folks like Jane McGonigal have been talking about for a long time: the gameifying of the world.

Where is this going? Schell says that the achievements and incentives that have wired us into playing Facebook games compulsively will soon be built into everything. Your toothbrush, for instance, will give you 10 achievement points for brushing your teeth in the morning, Schell said. Then it will give you more points for brushing for the right amount of time. Then it will give you points for brushing every morning in a week.

You may also get credit for eating your Corn Flakes. If you take the bus to work, your local government will give you 10 achievement points for reducing traffic. You will get credit for walking to work, as your digital shoes will testify. If you kid gets straight A’s on a report card, he or she will get 2000 points. And the Obama administration will give you 5,000 points for being a good parent.

The quote starts someplace that sounds amusing to innocuous, and ends on a note that probably sounds disturbing (“good parent by whose definition?”) to many, particularly to those who are freaked out by the microscandal over Cass Sunstein’s behavioral economics approach to politics.

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Where’s kids MMOs are at

 Posted by (Visited 12039 times)  Game talk
Feb 172010

VW traffic for kidsThree years ago at a GDC panel, I said that big media companies were coming into the MMO space hard and fast, and would be the authors of the most significant releases. At the time, I was pointing at kids’ and youth worlds as the big area to pay attention to.

Daniel James replied on that same panel saying “I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag” and Rob Pardo of Blizzard and WoW fame said “I don’t think the most important MMOs will come from big media.”

Well, here’s the Toy Fair (!) charts on MMOs that VentureBeat has published. The article breaks it down in tables — 7 from toy companies, 8 more from entertainment and media companies, and 20 more from independents. Oh, and two from established game companies. Kids’ worlds are by far the dominant form of MMO today, and many of them are rather not Diku-like.

Compare the below chart to the number of AAA MMOs released, and how large they have managed to get from 2007 to today. Note that below does indeed say that Poptropica is at 4.5m monthly users.

Was I right? Well… depends how you slice it. But I think that in terms of impact to the genre… yeah, these kids worlds and media-driven worlds are probably more important than most all the AAA MMOs released 2007 to today. Whether that’s a good thing… exercise for the reader.

Soccer ball that is a generator

 Posted by (Visited 12274 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Feb 172010

Brilliant, simple idea. Kick a soccer ball around, have it capture some of the energy, then give a plug so you can get the energy back out. Then give it away in Africa.

The ball uses inductive coil technology–similar to flashlights that power up when shaken. Each 15 minutes of play with the ball generates enough power to light up an LED lamp for 3 hours, so a soccer game could easily provide light for a day.

In most African countries, 95 percent of the population is living off-grid with no access to electricity. With sOccket, people in developing nations will no longer need to walk 3 hours simply to charge their cell phones. The power will—quite literally—be in their hands. The sOccket ball can be used to light an LED lamp, or charge a cellphone or battery.

Jessica Lin is a Changemaker | Changemakers.

(Via Jane McGonigal @avantgame)