best when viewed in low light


Word Games

Two new words to add to your vocabulary, y'all.

Clitorati, n (from the English clitoris + illuminati) =

1. the unnamed group of women who rule the planet, unbeknownst to the rest of us, as in "911 must have been planned by the Clitorati",

2. women who use their pussies to attract otherwise unwarranted attention, as in "Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and that trashy woman who married Tony Parker are all members of the clitorati, having inherited their roles from the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Helen of Troy".

Douchebantics, n (from the English douchebag + antics) =

1. the behavioral tendencies of douchebags when demonstrating their douchebag prowess to other douchebags or members of the desired sex, as in "please take the conversation about when you bought your first polo shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch and how real that makes you to another location - we've had enough of your douchbantics here".

See also douchebag.


IGE Goes Down

One of the SWI folks forwarded this amended complaint against IGE.

Signs of things to come: "This case involves IGE's calculated decision to reap substantial profits by knowingly interfering with, and substantially impairing and diminishing the intended use and enjoyment associated with consumer agreements between Blizzard Entertainment and subscribers to its virtual world called World of Warcraft."

Let's get this straight: IGE acted illegally because it reduced the amount of fun that WoW players were having!

Important things to note:
Just like with every other technology developed in the US, reaping substantial profits is only ok if you are following the rules.
Some of the rules you have to follow are informal, behavioral expectations that exist within a community or culture that are so embedded that no one feels the need to formalize or overtly enumerate them.
Virtual worlds will only survive if there is a separation between Real Life and Game Life, because the agreements between parties are different.
This case - win or lose - will at least partly define the legitimacy of actions taken by all companies and actors in the virtual world gaming community.

For those of us that believe in the fun of profit and the profits of fun, the line that's drawn will basically dictate our game designs, or relationships to our games, our expectations of the gaming community, and the extent to which RL invades our imaginations.

Keep an eye out. [All the news and documentation available here.]

Top Games of 2007

Geek Sugar's top 10:

World of Warcraft
The Sims
Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo 2
The Sims 2
Madden NFL 07
Grand Theft Auto
Counter-Strike: Source

[As if these weren't totally predictable.]

Here's the best response I've seen: "That's a pretty funny list. Half of those games didn't even come out this year. One could use that to support a variety of outlooks on the state of PC gaming."


Need More Women

Absolutely right, Matthew Jeffrey! We need more women in gaming.

And, in case you're looking for a woman to work at EA, I'm available.

But you'll have to improve your IP policies and your reputation as a gaming sweat shop before any self-respecting female gamer/designer is going to step through your door.

It ain't all about having free Mountain Dew in the office.

While we're on the topic of the representation of females in the gaming industry, the issue of breast size seems to have caught everyone's attention. [Any more than it already does?]

Kotaku takes the prize for best title ("Mammarial Musing: Boobs as Driving Force in Games Development") in referring to the evolution of the breast in video game rendering.

I seem to have lost the link to the article that spurred the recent conversation [unfortunate] but the real deal is that, as a woman, I LIKE playing with hot girls. I mean, if I have to look at a woman on the screen, I'd rather that she look hot while kicking your pathetic nerd ass. It's not just a male fantasy.

And let me broach an unfortunate but truly controversial issue: hot women are more valued by men, and because men are the ones in charge right now [or, at least, we'd like to keep you thinking that you are because you're a lot easier to deal with that way] so do women.

And the other side of it: Ever seen a man interact with a hot woman? Y'know how his eyes glaze over and he loses all rational thought? Yeah? Well, we do that on purpose. And, if you think that isn't fair, let's put it this way -

If you're going to use your superior physical force to make us do what you want, then we're going to use our pussies for all they're worth. You want us, you need us, and if you're distracted by big boobs [or a big ass, small waist, dainty ears, thin fingers, painted toes...], so much the better. Easier for us to pwn your ass.

In case you haven't seen enough:


The Media Murk Clears?

Here's today's article on the raped Australian Aborigine girl.

Here's the summary:
People are outraged!
Important people are outraged!
The judge's superfluous comments are questioned.
Is this racism??

[The jury's still out on that one.]

And This Is Convergence

Leave measuring engagement up to the scientists, since advertisers and marketers are still hooked on frequency.

Have the media monoliths caught onto the idea that the number of bodies in the room is probably less important than what those bodies are doing there?

Really, this is just a shout-out:Multimedia Games Create TV-Show Buzz

By EMILY STEEL December 7, 2007; Page B4

Last month, hundreds of people around the country spent hours of their free time on the Web and out on the streets in search of clues that would help them solve a complex puzzle called "Chain Factor." [This isn't exactly the spectacular figure Ms. Steel might have us believe - consider the number of people who spent hours of their free time looking at porn.]

It wasn't some school assignment or the latest experiment in community building [because we have so much evidence that people choose to spend hours on that shit, right?], it was part of an elaborate promotion by CBS Corp. A game by the same name had been featured during a recent episode of the show "Numb3rs," and the network was using the real-world version of the game to help drive traffic to the show.

Not a garden, a plant: CBS billboard is part of a coded game for fans of the show "Numb3rs."

CBS and other networks see games such as "Chain Factor" as a new way to market TV shows and experiment with non-TV spinoffs for those shows, which they can then pitch to advertisers. The networks hope to package those sponsorships in various ways. Companies might embed one of the game clues in an ad, or one of the company's products might be integrated into the contest. CBS, which says it has yet to sign any advertisers, is operating a similar game to drum up interest for the drama "Jericho" before it returns to the air next season."

It's not the first time a TV network or entertainment company has ginned up a game to build buzz for a show or product, but CBS's effort is different in that the games draw on all of its entertainment units, from billboards in its CBS Outdoor division to its mobile properties. CBS plans to use these kinds of sprawling online/offline games to promote more of its shows. [This is what I'm talking about. They should be doing this all the time.]

For the networks and the entertainment companies, the games can be expensive to create and time-consuming to manage. Some marketers say the potential payoff is dubious, as the games may appeal most to people who already are fans of the show or to folks who are more gamers than TV watchers.

For many "Chain Factor" players, including Brooke Thompson, a 36-year-old Web designer in Atlanta, the game was kicked off by email from a character in a "Numb3rs" episode named Spectre. Working collaboratively, players found clues and shared discoveries via an online forum. Some of the first clues were unearthed on via error messages that popped up when people were playing the site's main attraction, a Tetris-like game. Clues took them on a quest from a digital billboard at the Mall of America in Minnesota to ads on mobile Web sites.

The error messages directed players to send text messages with the word "chain" to the short code 38383. The response looked like jargon: "Check these HOT* stocks! FOFN, NDGPF, COFI, TTWO, EBKLF, DADVF, RTHTF and FSPX. Info? Go 2 . or txt Help to 38383 *Not real investment advice." The game was designed by the New York-based company area/code.

Some players managed to decode that message by recognizing the capitalized letters as stock-ticker symbols and then using those company names to unlock other clues. That, in turn, led them to billboards in certain cities, such as a large red-and-orange sign in San Francisco that showed a woman planting flowers and listed the Web address (The billboards serve no marketing purpose beyond the game.) [Then that's just a wasted opportunity.] After weeks, some players unlocked the final clue last weekend and received an email from Spectre declaring their victory.

The goal with scavenger-hunt-like games is to build buzz among an audience that is hard to reach through traditional advertising. Designing such intricate games often is an adventure of its own, costing anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

One challenge: pumping out the clues fast enough to keep up with the players. Unlike regularly scheduled TV shows where networks decide when to roll out each episode, players set the schedule with these games.

With a game affiliated with ABC's "Lost," Ms. Thompson and others were able to decipher within minutes all the computer code used to build the site, and they solved a number of clues before they were supposed to be solved.

"You would be all excited because you would find something...but then if the designers aren't prepared, it's frustrating," she said. "We were just kind of hanging around and waiting for the next clue to be given."

Said Michael Benson, executive vice president of marketing at Walt Disney's ABC Entertainment: "I was amazed how fast this stuff was consumed."

With CBS's game for "Jericho," a handful of people work around the clock to monitor the Web sites where players are posting their discoveries, trying to make sure the network doesn't fall behind.

While the games are aimed at creating new audiences for shows, that's not always the way it plays out. Sean Stacey, president of gaming site, says he fell asleep during the episode of "Numb3rs" and probably won't watch it again, but he did enjoy playing the game.

"The 'Chain Factor' game actually is more interesting," he said.

Write to Emily Steel at


Racism By Any Other Name

It's shocking to be confronted by racism in another country. It's not that it doesn't happen all the time, but it appears even more obvious, and vastly more egregious in someone else's society. Mostly because, as outsiders, we aren't seeing it from the same set of assumptions (similar though they may be).

What's really fascinating (and by "fascinating", I mean: watching a car crash or an assault while it's actually happening) about this article is not that there was a 10 year old Aboriginal (read: black) girl raped by a gang of rich white boys, or that the judge appeared to let the perpetrators off with barely a rap on the knuckle, but that the "news report" on it is so clearly written to bias our opinions. To voice the liberal assumption of unfair interpretation of the evidence, and then a race- or class-based judicial decision.

With media like this, it doesn't even matter what the facts actually are!

And with deeply ingrained racism like this, it doesn't even matter what the crime is!

[It reminds me of the punchline from this early South Park episode. Preview from ComCent below.]


Arden Sucks, JK

So, I've let yet another week slip away without recording the relevant news.

I did have a major personal revelation, though! The only problem is that now I can't have one of those without Schlick standing in the kitchen at the back of my brain, banging a ladle and screaming "It's not a revelation! It's re-cognition!" [Ack! They call this "higher" "education".]

Ah, Arden! It's no fun!The gift of bard... [ahem] bald honesty is that other people can understand your little slice of reality, and can enter it. And I don't mean that in the strictly virtual way.

By "admitting" to the [questionable] failure of Arden, Castronova has allowed us all into the reality of doing research in virtual worlds. Or trying to. Or whatever. Because the goal - build an educational/entertaining virtual world, create social, economic and narrative systems that are persistent and simultaneously manipulatable by the all-seeing, all-dancing Game Design God to further the goals of social science research - is almost unachievable when people who supposedly know what they're doing are doing it!

You try doing that with $240K and a couple of grad students.
And now we know.

What this means, of course, is that the existing Game Design Gods need to chill the fuck out a little and let researchers into their worlds. And more GDGs need to build games that are persistent, but have narratives that incorporate worldwide structural changes. And social scientists need to design rubrics for study - qualitative and quantitative. And we need to make games that are more fun in different ways - but that's a whole other world.


Nepotism Is The Best!

I wish my dad were Rupert Murdoch!

(Except, then my dad would be Rupert Murdoch.)

But, I can't fault his strategy. I mean, imagine what happens when James fucks up!

Ring, ring!
James: This is James Murdoch.
Rupert: Boy, that was a really stupid thing you just did buying ________!
James: Gee, Dad, I'm really sorry about that.
Rupert: Sorry? Sorry isn't good enough! Now do what I tell you, or else!
James: Why should I?
Rupert: Boy, I brought you into this job, and I can take you out of it!


Star Wars Marathon

Last night, the Anthropologist [who I will now call Chief] hosted a Star Wars marathon party, followed by the Grace vs Harris Hax mud wrestle to determine (objectively, of course) whether Episodes I-III are truly a part of the Star Wars mythology.

[I won.]

The best part of the marathon was the commercials:

[I've only been able to find embedded versions of previews for some. Forgive me. The URLs are included.]

[Whole film here]

Gangsta Rap (Original)

[Whole film here]

Lego Darth directing the Clone LSO

Star Wars: The Election Edition [It's from Australia]

Silent Star Wars

Virtual Exodus

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but speaking of Ted's vision:
He's just published a new book!

Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun is Changing Reality

Get it! [Amazon, BN]

Here's the announcement on TerraNova

Synthetic Worlds Initiative, Part I

Initiative is a hard thing to hold on to, especially when things don't go the way you want them to.

This post on 3 point D about the Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University gives a great description of the vision formed and (partially) realized by Ted Castronova.

Only, they're a bit late off the line. Since the SWI was started, and their three-point platform formalized, a couple things have happened that no one anticipated:

1. Research in virtual worlds has now become synonymous (for all the wrong reasons) with Second Life. [There's nothing wrong with SL, but it's not the only place where humans are living online. The myopic nature of academia assumes a lot.]

2. Building a synthetic world takes money. LOTS of money, and the MacArthur Foundation (and many others) really aren't up to the task of $30 million projects. And, really, neither is IU.

3. Communities drive ideas forward as consumers, but communities aren't created at conferences. Plus, there's a passionate, involved and curious community living online already - and some of them are academics, researchers, scientists, inquirers...

None of these are the fault of the SWI. The vision and the man behind it are years before their time - maybe a few too many years ahead when the plan was being conceived. Look at Buckminster Fuller.

A little future stuck in the eyes is a good thing, but it's a lot harder to communicate with the rest of the planet from there, because most of us are living in the past.

In the past...