Apr 072009

Boy, am I neglecting blogging lately. Even my Twitter has gone mostly silent.

There have been several stories that caught my eye. For example, this one about musicians making decent gig money in Second Life was interesting, in part because some of what a virtual environment provides is an easier way to do marketing. As I have said before, I think the future of a lot of the arts is around personal relationships with their fans because of the way the landscape is shifting around information and money, and there’s something about virtual worlds that helps build fandoms.

Speaking of personal relationships, while at the IGF and GDC awards, I was struck by the clear signs of “celebrity” that some of the event had. Some of this was due, no doubt, to the fact that Tim Schafer’s performance as emcee was funnier and more entertaining than that of the emcees for any televised awards show. Some of it, though, was the evident fact that the creators of indie games are getting known as names, in large part because they produce quirky and individualistic games at a rapid rate. Which brings me to mention The Croopier, just because it’s a neat project.

Which reminds me that there’s a new documentary premiering on journalism in virtual worlds — talk about a profession that is in upheaval thanks to changes in business models and the value of information! I’m halfway through a galley copy of Cory Doctorow’s upcoming novel, in which a journalist figures pretty prominently… and struck by how prescient Bruce Sterling was when he said “information wants to be worthless.”

Which leads me to idly speculate… if anything that can be digitized will be, and anything that is digitized becomes worthless, then what will eventually remain both undigitizable and therefore monetizable?

Aug 231999

So I went to Seattle to visit the Microsoft Hardware Lab and upon arriving at the hotel found a message from my wife to call her– even if it was in the middle of the night (3am Seattle time, in fact). Turns out that a smoldering fire started by an electrical short had pretty much destroyed the kitchen, and smoke and soot damage had gotten the rest of the house. Kristen and the kids weren’t there–they were in fact dropping me at the airport while the house was burning–so the family is fine, except for our dogs, all of whom died in the fire.

Amazingly, the book collection, music collection, musical instruments, etc, all survived intact and largely undamaged. So in an odd way, we came out largely unscathed (we’ll still max out our insurance though).

I was going to write a long and eloquent essay about this, kind of a way of clearing it all out– “My God, what if it had been during the night when we were home” “What must it have been like for the dogs trapped in the house as the air slowly went bad and it got hotter and hotter” “Look at what we invest with value and what we care about losing” “Boy, I really feel guilty over terribly missing my dog Mika, and not terribly missing the other dogs” “Aren’t the connections you make with people you never met amazing” — this latter after getting an anonymous letter written in a childish scrawl, from An Ultima Online player, with three dollars cash enclosed…

But in the end, I never did write it, and doubt I ever will.

Mostly it reminded me again of the fragility of life, and the value of the connections we make, and of how important stuff is to our sense of identity (it’s amazing how panicked you can get over losing a stack of books you read when you were a kid and haven’t read since)…

I do really miss Mika, my dog, though. I’ve put up another MP3 for a guitar instrumental I wrote about her in the Music/What I Play section. She got my wife and I through some very tough times emotionally a few years back and was the smartest dog I’ve ever had. I’ll miss her.

In other news, I may be giving the opening address at the Online Games ’99 conference in London. Have to sort out the plane ticket yet, but if that gets worked out, I’ll be there! My first trip across the pond… and Richard Bartle and I will finally get to meet after trading emails for years and years…

Bruce Sterling tells me that he’s going to be posting the Laws of Online World Design to his Viridian mailing list, of which I am a member. These Laws sure seem to keep getting around…

Oh! Almost forgot. I’m not working on Ultima Online anymore. I’m on a new project, and no, I can’t tell you anything about it yet. Be patient! We’ll redefine online gaming if you give us time. 🙂

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May 081999

Brief aside:

Sometimes having a website can be a bit disturbing.

To wit, recently I was asked permission by someone affiliated with a UO fan site to have images and material from this site used in Windows wallpaper. About me. For public distribution.

Scary. Not sure I have much more to say about that, other than it made me rather uncomfortable and I asked that the wallpaper not be distributed…

I’ve reproduced a recent interview on online community building that I did for the VaultNetwork, with their kind permission.

Along the lines of the above, the blurb at IGN.PC said it was an interview with “one of the legends of online game design.” Eep. Do those guys happen to be affiliated with the above UO site? Anyway, the interview is under Gaming/Interviews.

Haven’t written the essay on “computer games as art” yet. Bruce Sterling was encouraging me to do it at the museum talk, and then Littleton happened, and a whole slew of new issues arose that I wanted to talk about involving censorship of games and social responsibility in their design… so who knows when I’ll write anything about it. There’s enough commentary about Littleton without adding my two cents.

Lastly, my wife Kristen has posted a whole bunch of new pictures of our kids, you can reach them thru the Bio section.