MonthDecember 2008

What’s wrong with ARGs and how to make them better

args are story games

ARG company Six to Start‘s CEO on the problems with ARGs and how to make them better.

Don’t have enough players
The people who play are weird
The people who play have no money
They’re not mainstream
We make games for the hardcore
We’re too expensive
We don’t scale
We lie (“this is not a game”)

His basic suggestions:

No more:

* viewing source code
* “de-stegging” (which, to be honest, sounds a bit like tea-bagging, and you don’t want to know what that means if you don’t already know)
* waiting for stuff to happen
* breaking codes
* breaking more codes
* making use of esoteric knowledge (for no apparent reason)
* viewing more source code
* solving stupid puzzles (for no apparent reason)
* (encouraging me to) buy stock in UV torch companies (because of above stupid puzzles and esoteric codes)
* more waiting; and importantly
* not telling me what to do

And more:

* short, snappy, fun gameplay (which may be entirely appropriate in the context of a longer, less snappy and more involved arc)
* stuff like what 42 Entertainment did with Last Call Poker: which was embed the game of Poker, something a sizeable proportion of the normal human populace understands, into a game that not many people understood
* stuff like what Jane McGonigal did with The Lost Sport, which was create a playground game that anyone, anywhere, could play, any when. Ignore all the rest of the stuff for The Lost Ring like the amnesiac sportspeople, that’s just a red herring. Ignore the blog network too, that was just a diversion. And the classy, expensive trailer video. Just concentrate on the game. You know, the fun bit.
* Oh, playtesting. That’s good. Because, you know, you’re making a game. So test it. Just like you’d test your user interface.
* use proper game design. That means thinking and not going “Well, I guess if we just ROT-13 this piece of text, then it’ll be fun!”
* make your games repeatable. A non-repeatable live ARG (ie one that starts at one time, runs for a period of time, and then finishes and is only really playable while it’s live) is the equivalent of investing a sizeable proportion of money on a big budget prime-time tv show that you demand everyone watch at the same time and can’t record to watch later. In the world of I WANT EVERYTHING NOW, that’s known as Being Stupid.
* Oh, and be social. You know, with your friends.

Full Talk: Six to Start

(Thanks Public Individual)

World Orgasm Day cancelled due to threats

The Israeli branch of the UFO centred movement known as the Raelians was planning something special to commemorate ‘World Orgasm Day’, a huge orgy in downtown Tel Aviv, the largest city in Israel. The event was going to attract at least 250 participants of all sexual orientations: Straight, bisexual, gay and lesbian and was meant to make a powerful and highly relevant statement in this most troubled part of the world: that it is far better to make love rather than war. Sadly however the organisers have been forced to cancel this year’s event due to numerous violent threats made towards both the movement and the venue. The threats are believed to come from ultra-orthodox Jews who feel such celebrations violate the sanctity of the Holy Land and go against the morality of Judaism.

Full Story: allnewsweb

(via Jon Lebkowsky)

Benoit Mandelbrot and Nassim Nicholas Taleb think the financial crisis may be as serious as the American Revolution

(Thanks Clifford Pickover)

Headache for Mass. Cops: How to Enforce New Marijuana Law

“Back in November, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot measure — called Question 2 — that, on Jan. 2, will turn possession of an ounce or less of marijuana into an offense on par with a traffic violation. Now police and prosecutors are wondering how the heck they’re going to enforce it. Here’s the story from the Boston Globe.

Among the questions enforcers are trying to answer:

  • What should police do with people caught with several joints who refuse to identify themselves?
  • Will state-run laboratories that test drugs seized in criminal cases continue to do so for small quantities of marijuana?
  • Will police chiefs discipline officers who spark up a spliff after work?
  • Can a judge summarily revoke the probation of a convicted offender on the basis of a citation for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana?

“I’m not suggesting that officers are doing it,” David F. Capeless, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, told the Globe. “But what you’re doing, whether it’s officers or other public employees – transportation workers, bus drivers, teachers – you’re removing a disincentive by saying: ‘We won’t be able to do anything to you. You won’t get disciplined for this. It won’t mean your job. It may mean a $100 fine.’

Proponents of the change – including financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana – said it would ensure that those caught with small quantities would avoid the taint of a criminal record.”

(via WSJ Law Blog)

Project Censored: Top 25 Censored Stories

“Story #1: Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by U.S. Occupation
By Sebastian Kunz, with Danielle Stanton, Tim LeDonne, Kat Pat Crespan, and Heidi LaMoreaux
After Downing Street, July 6, 2007
Title: “Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is It More?”
Author: Michael Schwartz

AlterNet, September 17, 2007
Title: “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda genocide, Cambodian killing fields”
Author: Joshua Holland

Reuters (via AlterNet), January 7, 2008
Title: “Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey”
Author: Luke Baker

Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008
Title: “Iraq: Not our country to Return to”
Authors: Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail

Student Researchers: Danielle Stanton, Tim LeDonne, and Kat Pat Crespán
Faculty Evaluator: Heidi LaMoreaux, PhD

Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.

ORB’s research covered fifteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. Those not covered include two of Iraq’s more volatile regions—Kerbala and Anbar—and the northern province of Arbil, where local authorities refused them a permit to work. In face-to-face interviews with 2,414 adults, the poll found that more than one in five respondents had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, as opposed to natural cause.

Authors Joshua Holland and Michael Schwartz point out that the dominant narrative on Iraq—that most of the violence against Iraqis is being perpetrated by Iraqis themselves and is not our responsibility—is ill conceived. Interviewers from the Lancet report of October 2006 (Censored 2006, #2) asked Iraqi respondents how their loved ones died. Of deaths for which families were certain of the perpetrator, 56 percent were attributable to US forces or their allies. Schwartz suggests that if a low pro rata share of half the unattributed deaths were caused by US forces, a total of approximately 80 percent of Iraqi deaths are directly US perpetrated.”

(via Green 960. h/t: Heyoka Magazine)

Psychics and astrologers say business is booming thanks to the struggling economy

(thanks Public Individual)

See also: Wired: In Troubling Economic Times, Consumers Flock to Online Psychics

Joel-Peter Witkin: Tribute to a Genius

joel peter witkin le baisier

I first came across Witkin’s work years ago via the Process mailing list. I was just reminded of his work today while discussing NIN’s “Closer” video. Amazing stuff.

Joel-Peter Witkin: Tribute to a Genius (NSFW)

Joel-Peter Witkin – Wikipedia

See also: alex cf

Neighborhood geothermal experiment

When Douglas Worts learned that the City of Toronto was going to fix the pavement on his street, he knew what he had to do: he called his councillor to get it stopped.

Worts has nothing against good roads. But he looks at his street – Laurier Ave. in the Parliament-Wellesley area – as more than a roadway.

He thinks it has the potential to heat and cool his house and others, by providing the footings for a geothermal heating system.

Now the city is interested in the idea, and has given $25,000 to Worts and his neighbours, through the Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association, to carry out a feasibility study.

Worts had never thought much about geothermal heating and cooling until he happened to hear that it was being considered for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

He talked up the idea at the Laurier street party in 2007, and some neighbours expressed interest.

He explained that down past the frost line, the Earth keeps a temperature that’s warmer than winter air and cooler than summer air.

Geothermal systems take advantage of that by pumping fluid through underground pipes to carry the seasonal warmth or coolness to the surface.

Full Story: The Star

(via Global Guerillas)

History of computing, from hierarchy to web 2.0

Ted Nelson, creator of the web pre-cursor Xanadu and author Computer Lib, has a new book out called Geeks Giving Gifts – it’s a history of computing from ancient times until now.

-27 Hierarchy (ancient beginnings)
-26 Alphabets (ancient beginnings)
-25 Punctuation (ancient beginnings)
-24 Encryption (ancient beginnings)
-23 Making Documents Hierarchical (18th Century)
-22 They All Invented Computers (hardware) (1822)
-21 They All Idealized Computers (software idealizations) (1843)
-20 Database (1880s)
-19 Voting Machines (1892)
-18 Intellectual property (1923)
-17 The Mainframe Era
-16 Computer Sound and Music (1947)
-15 Computer Graphics in Two Dimensions (1950)
-14 Computer Games, 1951
-13 Disk Drive Wars (1956)
-12 Engelbart’s NLS (1958)
-11 Xanadu (1960)
-10 Computer Graphics in Three Dimensions (1960)
-9 – The ARPANET – Getting the Message Across (1962)
-8 Instant Messaging and Texting (1960s)
-7 Computer Movies (1963)
-6 Shared Texts (1965)
-5 Email, 1965
-4 Hypertext Goes the Wrong Way (1967)
-3 Object-Oriented Programming (1967)
-2 Local Networking (1970)
-1 Datapoint– the Personal Computer with a Mainframe Mentality (1970)
0 UNIX*– Modern Computer History Begins (1970)
1 Malware and Security (1973)
2 The Era of Dinky Computers: Kits and Stunts (1974)
3 The PUI Dumbs Down the Computer (1974)
4 Paperdigm: the PUI Dumbs Down the Document (and Turns the Computer into a Paper Simulator) (1974)
5 The PUI Takes Away Our Ability To Write and Organize (1974)
6 Personal Computing (1977)
7 The World Wars (1977): Consumer Operating Systems: Microsoft Versus Apple Versus Everybody
8 Spreadsheet (1979)
9 The Domain Name System, DNS (1983)
10 Open Source (and Linux) (1983)
11 The Internet– Enjoy It While You Can (1989)
12 The Simple Early Web, 1989
13 PUI on the Internet– the Browser Salad (1992)
14 Cyberfashion (1993)
15 The URL Rejiggers Net Addresses (1994)
16 Web Biz: The Dot-Com World and the New Monopolies (1995)
17 Streaming Goes Private (1995)
18 Google (1996)
19 The World Wars Go Mobile– PDAs, Cellphones
20 Web 2.0– Walled Gardens, Cattle Pens, Collaboration Places Sort Of

Geeks Bearing Gifts Chapter Summaries

(via Robot Wisdom)

Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home

he Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.

Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly. […]

Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.

Cowell said such unfettered creativity could produce important discoveries.

“We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game,” he said.

Full Story: AP

(via Cryptogon)

See also: Biopunk: the biotechnology black market

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