Game talkGame Developers Choice Online Awards

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May 272010

GDC Online is getting its own awards, specific to online games! This builds on the Game Developers Choice Awards that have been given for the last ten years at the main GDC.

The award ceremony will honor the accomplishments of the sometimes overlooked creators and operators of online video games – from large-scale MMOs through free-to-play titles to social network games. Awards span excellence in live services, technology, game updates, online game design, and more.

via Game Developers Choice Online Awards official site

Game development professionals with a account can submit nominations in a bunch of categories. A big thing in the awards is that they recognize live operations as well as launches, so the categories include:

  • Best Online Game Design Award
  • Audience Award
  • Best Online Visual Arts Award
  • Best Community Relations Award
  • Best Online Technical Award
  • Best Social Network Game Award
  • Best Audio for an Online Game Award
  • Best New Online Game Award
  • Best Live Game Award

There are also a couple of special awards: an Online Game Legend award recognizing an individual and their career; and a Hall of Fame Award for a game.

May 262010

Researchers measured and tracked the participants’ brain waves via electroencephalography (EEG) — one group played the games, and a control group didn’t. The study found that subjects who played casual games for 30 minute periods showed an 87 percent improvement in cognitive response time and a 215 percent increase in executive functioning. This makes it, according to ECU, about as effective as other medical treatments for cognition.

via Gamasutra – News – Study: Casual Gaming Helps Cognition.

This comes on the heels of a BBC study challenging brain games’ efficacy. This new study was oriented around Popcap games like Bejeweled rather than custom-made brain games, though.

Game talkGDC Online reg open!

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May 262010

Time to go register! This is the same conference as GDC Austin, just renamed to “Online” and now covering all sorts of online games including social games and MMOs.

Ticket prices are at a 40% early registration discount until September 1st, with a 55% alumni discount for those who attended last year. Five different pass options and prices are available on the GDC site.

via Austin’s GDC opens 2010 registration under new name – Massively.

May 192010

Apps for Healthy Kids is partnering with the IGDA for game jams this weekend in 8 major US cities. The idea is that game devs, artists, and yes, local kids too, will work together to make game prototypes for the Apps for Healthy Kids competition — basically, the theme of the jams is “Health Games Challenge.” Here’s the scoop, with locations and all:

WHAT: Series of 48-hour game jams (Health Games Challenge) bringing together game developers, graphic artists, and local youth to pool talent and creativity while developing nutrition-related games and tools

WHO: Hosted by IGDA and USDA; sponsored by the Games for Health Project in conjunction with the Health Games Research national program; funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio

WHEN: May 21-23, 2010

WHERE: Details for each jam location are provided below:

  • Boston, MA: Microsoft New England Research and Development, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. Meals will be provided, but computers will not (so bring your own if possible). Boston announcement is here, if interested visit their registration page. For questions, contact the Boston organizer: Darius Kazemi (
  • Seattle, WA: Art Institute of Seattle, 2501 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA – Room 102 (enter at the main entrance on Alaskan Way, other entrances may be locked). Runs Friday 4pm-midnight, Saturday 9am-midnight, Sunday 9am-4pm. Be aware there is only street parking and paid garages in the area, so plan accordingly. Seattle organizer: Rusel DeMaria (
  • Orlando, FL: ZeeGee Games, 1 Purlieu Place, Winter Park FL. Runs Friday 6pm-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. If interested, visit their Facebook page for more info and to RSVP. Orlando organizer: Dustin Clingman (
  • San Francisco, CA: Google campus, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA, Building 46. San Francisco organizer: Mark DeLoura (
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, 700 Technology Drive. Runs Saturday 10am through Sunday 10am (overnight), with an additional Physical Game Jam from Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event page to sign up. Pittsburgh organizer: Jia Ji (
  • Troy, NY: Troy Boys and Girls Club, 1700 Seventh Ave, Troy NY. Runs Friday 6pm-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event website for more info. New York organizer: Ian Stead (
  • Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, Fairfax Campus, Art and Design Building RM 1018. Fairfax organizers: Joel Gonzalez ( and Scott Martin (
  • Athens, GA: Mowerks Learning, 130 Ware Street, Unit A. Athens organizer: Jordan Lynn (

This is a fantastic project overall, so I hope some great games come out it!

May 172010

Long ago I asked (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) whether American Idol was an MMO.

Today, I see that NBC is working on turning their entire TV schedule into a massively multiplayer social game.

Q: What is Fan It?
A: Fan It is’s affinity program where members are awarded points for participation and interaction. Members can choose to redeem these points for a variety of rewards and/or experiences.

Q: How do I earn points?
A: There are two different ways to earn points: events and challenges. Events are the activities you do on the site and on the social networks you’ve linked to every day, such as leaving comments, watching videos, playing games, posting links or updating your status. Challenges require you to perform specific events within a specific amount of time and are typically worth more points. Click here for more information on how to earn points.

— Fan It | Social Networking: Photos, Videos, Blogs | myNBC.

Of course, this has as much to do with traditional community management and traditional rewards points programs as with games. But note the prominent leaderboards, the featured members area on the home page, the badge system…

As with most social games, there’s an underlying viral agenda here, of course. But also as with social games, the marriage of fictional worlds that users care about with game mechanics and transparent sharing could be very powerful.

Now excuse me, I need to figure out what I need to do to get a Chuck badge…

Game talkGDC Online submission deadline soon!

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May 122010

GDC Online, formerly GDC Austin, is coming up on the deadline for submissions. Send in your proposals by May 19th!

The deadline to submit to GDC Online (formerly known as GDC Austin) is approaching!
Send in your proposal by May 19th. Full details here:

The conference is still online-focused, and this year will encompass social gaming and other forms of online games as well as its usual deep focus on MMOs.

The Game Developers Conference Online focuses on development of connected games including social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, large-scale MMOs, and beyond.  Conference tracks focus on business and marketing, design, production, programming and how to achieve success going live.

I am really looking forward to it this year. There’s a new track on Live, which includes community relations, Live management, metrics and A/B testing, and that sort of thing. And there’s a stack of cool summits too: iPhone, iPad, the long-running Game Writers Summit renamed as Game Narrative and broadening in scope, and even a 3d stereoscopic summit.

Game talkReadingFor The Win

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May 112010

For the Win, Cory Doctorow’s new novel, is out today (in bookstores and also as a free download). And it’s about gaming, and its consequences.

Now, you know I am biased, because not only is Cory a friend, but I even supplied a blurb for the book’s back cover. I also reviewed the manuscript for him and supplied gaming advice. That said, this is a book that people into MMOs and virtual worlds should read.

Why? Because it isn’t about what happens inside the worlds, it’s about what repercussions they have outside them. The story is sort of a large-scale version of his short story “Anda’s Game” (which was collected in Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present and also published on, in which guilds are organized on multiple sides of the gold farming wars: a guild to kill gold farmers to protect the game,  a guild to defend them so that they can earn their subsistence wage…

In For The Win all this is taken to a larger scale. Essentially, it extrapolates gold farming into a multinational corporate phenomenon, and looks at what this means for the lives of the people on the front lines — kids, usually, living in India or China, looking to make money but finding that the act of grinding gold “for the man” becomes all too literal in sweatshops. And the upshot is that they organize. As in unions.

As in unions modeled explicitly on the Wobblies, in fact. The novel wears its politics on its sleeve, certainly, and that may be a turnoff for those who don’t see unions as a natural stage in the evolution from free-for-all robber-baron economics to a more mature model. That said, the book comes down pretty hard on all forms of totalitarianism

The in-game stuff is dead-on. But as I said, the book is more about the ripples the games cause, than about the games themselves, because that is where the real psychological action is. It is more about the relationship between a gamer kid in San Diego and his parents who don’t understand his hobby, than it is about the stuff he does inside the game (which does include a pretty awesome boss battle near the beginning). It’s about the ways in which running a guild teaches a girl who barely has any education how to organize large groups of people in real life. In the end, the book argues a point similar to Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds: the characters come to know themselves better because of their hobby, and it enables them to take real steps into adulthood.

Game talkO3D becomes a JS WebGL engine

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May 082010

The Chromium Blog has announced that O3D, formerly a plugin-based system for rendering 3d in a browser, is instead becoming an engine for WebGL, using Javascript. And the bits that can’t be done in Javascript? Well, they will just move into the browser.

The JavaScript implementation of O3D is still in its infancy, but you can find a copy of it on the O3D project site and see it running some of the O3D samples from a WebGL enabled browser (alas, no Beach Demo yet). Because browsers lack some requisite functionality like compressed asset loading, not all the features of O3D can be implemented purely in JavaScript. We plan to work to give the browser this functionality, and all capabilities necessary for delivering high-quality 3D content.

via Chromium Blog: The future of O3D.