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March 31, 2007

Bill Moggeridge on WMMNA

Sascha at We-Make-Money-Not-Art writes about a presentation by our hero, Bill Moggeridge, in Potsdam. His themes were simplicity and clarity. The timing is a bit serendipitous. I've just ordered Moggeridge's book, Designing Interactions, due to arrive on Monday.

Posted by SWEAT at 02:46 PM

Teaching how to make games that will teach at SCAD

SWEAT collaborator Francisco Ortega has brought this article from the Savannah College of Art & Design campus newspaper to our attention. Board games teach information architecture basics

Professor Kolko's class is nestled within a graphic design curriculum. He is working in a realm of information translation and information visualization, as well as information architecture. I'm hoping that we can get a closer look at some of his students' games to see if and how they work.

Posted by SWEAT at 10:54 AM

Casual Board Games?

SWEAT collaborator Francisco Ortega has brought this article from the International Herald Tribune to our attention. Busy lives, short attention spans prompt speedier board games for Americans

From the article:
. . . analysts say game makers are more aggressively concentrating on fast games and even retooling classic games so they do not take so long.

The Game of Life: Twists & Turns Edition lets players determine ahead of time how long, or short, they want the game to last. Monopoly is getting an optional "speed die," rolled in addition to the regular two dice. Certain rolls will move the player to the next available property, moving the game along.

Hasbro's Express games incorporate concepts and pieces from the classic versions of the games, although game play is entirely different. In Monopoly Express, for example, players roll dice labeled with properties and the "Go to Jail" policeman of the classic game. Players get points for building blocks of properties — but lose their turn and their points if they roll three policemen.

We ran into different version of this dynamic through teaching. In a class on game design we were time-bound. Each paper-based game had to have the potential to be completed within fifteen minutes. Without this parameter it would be impossible to test and assess all of the games created. We were forced to fit within specific and explicit time-frames by external pressures.

The article points to other kinds of pressures, both internal and external, that equate efficiency with efficacy. Fun, enjoyment, engagement will have to be achieved within seconds. So long as we don't collectively forget how to shape complexity and derive pleasure from it, we should be okay. If, however, we lose that capacity in favor of this new - high speed - fun, then we may be in for trouble.

Posted by SWEAT at 10:15 AM

Videogames conquer retirees [NY Times]

SWEAT collaborator Glen Carlson brought this article from yesterday's New York Times to our attention. Videogames Conquer Retirees. The article highlights the growing popularity of videogame play among people at or approaching retirement age. The article points to a prevalent, though untested, belief that playing videogames may help keep the mind sharp and hold off the onset of Alzheimer' s disease. This belief is an echo of the findings that show crossword puzzle solvers have lower incidence of dementia. The article points to the existence of two small studies now underway.

The article also mentions an interesting tidbit. The Norwegian Cruise Line is going to equip all of its ships with Wiis. All I can say is that the game is the thing.

Posted by SWEAT at 09:17 AM

March 30, 2007

Webkinz by Ganz

Friend and colleague Alvaro Arias brought Webkinz to our attention a couple of weeks ago. I immediately went to a local toy boutique to try and find one to no avail. Alvaro's two children are absolutely smitten by the combined visceral + virtual experience offered by their Webkinz. Each adorable plush animal doll comes with a unique code allowing the owner membership into the Webkinz virtual community. Benefits of membership include online interaction with your doll's avatar, which can be guided through games and adventures, and a kind of junior social networking space. A quick search for commentaries revealed that the Webkinz are beginning to suffer from their overwhelming success, Webkinz have been banned from a school in Connecticut, and the Webkinz website is offering reassurances to kids that nothing or no one will be allowed to harm their pet, leading one to believe that either a virus or a malicious user was rumored to be present. That said, the FAQ affirms that Ganz is trying to make the safest envrionment possible. Purchase of a plushy, with prices currently ranging from US 13.00 to US 100.00, includes a one year membership to the online community. CNN and Money magazine will publish an article stating that the Webkinz online site is twice as sticky as YouTube. I need to get in touch with my inner six-year-old and explore the experience. If I can only find the right pet. I'd love to have a Webkinz platypus!

From the FAQ:
How did you come up with the Webkinz world?
GANZ Inc. has loved stuffed animals for a very long time. So we thought, wouldn't it be great to have a place where your stuffed animal came to life so that you could care for it like a real pet? To make the pet more real, we decided it could be happy or sad, healthy or sick, hungry or full. Taking care of your pet matters!
Of course we wanted it to be as fun as possible so we added games and trivia and lots of fun items that we thought Webkinz owners would enjoy working for to purchase for their pet!
Webkinz World will continue to grow and expand so that fans like you can enjoy your pet to the fullest.

When did Webkinz world begin?
Webkinz World began on April 28, 2005. It is getting bigger and better every single day! We've got a huge team of technical wizards, creative writers, awesome artists, and terrific support people who work hard to make Webkinz World wonderful! We hope you're enjoying your time in Webkinz World...you never know what might happen next!

Webkinz commentaries:

Posted by SWEAT at 09:40 AM

March 29, 2007

Poze'ms by Nathan Tabor

We are late to the party finding Nathan Tabor's original action figures called Poze'm with 32 points of articulation, and cast metal parts. OAFE has a review of Titanium, a precursor to Poze'ms.

Posted by SWEAT at 09:49 PM

Perplex City Stories development blog

Perplex City Stories development blog gives some insight into the process of creating the second season of this Alternate Reality Game. More behind the scenes information is available at the Perplex City Season One Retrospective

Posted by SWEAT at 08:38 PM

Acrobots at ThinkGeek

Minimalist metal figurines with fifteen points of articulation! And magnets for hands and feet! Only four inches tall. Acrobots at ThinkGeek via Uncrate.

Posted by SWEAT at 01:13 PM

March 28, 2007

Soccer season has begun again

R: Soccer season has begun again. It actually began a couple of weeks ago, with evening practices. My older son has decided to play again. He was enticed to join a team with several of his friends. He had stopped playing for a couple of years. Now he's excited again, and I think he will have fun.

I continue my commitment to assistant-coaching my younger son's team. I learn so much from trying to teach them the multiple layers of team-play, individual skill, and imaginative dynamic creativity.

My friend and colleague Bill Depper has told me he continues to play soccer and hockey for the flow experience. He means it in two senses. Both in the sense of pursuing a state of optimal performance, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposes; and, in the sense of an organic and dynamically emergent gameplay experience shared among a group of players. One could argue, I realize as I write this, that both senses are manifestations of the same experience. I haven't heard many talk about the former sense as a shared experience. Instead I've only heard it spoken of as a deeply subjective experience. Perhaps the shared manifestation can be described by the same sense of collective flow.

I posed to Bill - who also has coached for his children's soccer teams - the question of how to teach the latter dynamic flow. Soccer has developed a set of vocabulary terms that are necessary, but that I find insufficient to the task of developing this collective sense of spatial and temporal awareness. "Move to the open space", "follow your pass", "square pass", "wall pass", "through pass", are all descriptors that - combined with appropriate actions - should help build this embodied knowledge. Children who play in the streets of latin america figure it out (perhaps I idealize here). The knowledge I seek here is an aesthetic one. The brazilians have called it "Joga bonito", or beautiful play. How can I share with kids the idea of beautiful play.

Beautiful play is filled with joy as well as with skill. It is both individual and collaborative, even as it is performed in an environment of competition.

Posted by SWEAT at 09:25 PM

March 27, 2007

Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby, and Critical Design Practice

Regine at We-Make-Money-Not-Art has posted an interview with Anthony Dunne, head of Design Interactions at London's Royal College of Art. Dunne and his creative partner, Fiona Raby, have been making provocative artifacts whose existence question and challenge. A favorite is the Globally Positioned Table from 2001. The work is a side table, a cotidian piece of furniture. The table has been enhanced so that it always knows where it is. It has been embedded with a global positioning system tracker and the readout is centered nicely the table's surface. It is a clever domestic piece that will never be lost. It will forever be able to know exactly where it is.

Criticism has been (had been?) the domain of literature in the arts. It has been (was?) logocentric, which is to say, it has been expressed by and through text. In the past fifteen years several camps have forwarded proposals that practitioners should evolve critical practices, in addition to critical vocabularies and critical languages. The thought is that writing is necessary but often insufficient when critiquing practices and media other than writing. One opinion famously describes a situation where writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Dunne and Raby's work takes up the challenge to make critical artifacts, and to engage in critical practices. We at SWEAT have likewise attempted to take up this challenge. We have been attempting to critique the medium of the videogame through and with videogames. We've done this as a kind of a test, to find the expressive and critical potential of videogames. This has all been terrifically experimental, in the truest sense. We've had no idea of what the potential outcomes could be. We don't yet know the limits of the domain of practice. We're all learning together, at the same time, how to engage in a critical practice.

Regine is an exceptional chronicler of the emerging scene(s) in Europe, and she has found another exciting development in the formation of critical design practices. She is covering an exhibition entitled Designing Critical Design, in several posts:
Jurgen Bey, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby and Martí Guixé have in common their critical stance towards mainstream product design. While they seem to keep their distance from the commercial design world, they use its mechanisms to ask questions about their own discipline, technology and society. The "citical" designers are the protagonists of an exhibition staged by Z33, a gallery located within the charming surrounding of the Beguinage at Hasselt (Belgium).

Designing Critical Design part 1: Jurgen Bey
Designing Critical Design part 2: Marti Guixé and Dunne and Raby

I want to go deeper into critical design practice in another post.

Posted by SWEAT at 12:58 PM

Mayor of Ciudad Juarez orders the seizure of videogame set there

&tSWEAT collaborator Glen Carlson brought these news item to our attention:

GamesSpot reports that the Mayor of Ciudad Juarez has ordered the seizure of all available copies of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2). GRAW2 is set in that town on the US-Mexico border where we set Crosser and La Migra. GamesSpot announced earlier this month that the Mayor denounced the game at the time of it's release for giving a horrendously wrong impression of the citizenry. Yesterday, Gamespot reported on the subsequent seizure of the games from store shelves. The original, spanish language, report from El Diario de Juarez was cited by the latter article.;/a> The comments to the GameSpot articles are illuminating for their impressions of what life on the border is like, and for the faith - or lack thereof - that games should be taken seriously.

Posted by SWEAT at 10:16 AM

Jonathan Lethem on the Ecstasy of Influence from Harpers

Jonathan Lethem on the Ecstasy of Influence from Harpers

It is simultaneously a text and a metatext. It claims to be a plagiarism, but that claim is specious. All is cited. The connection to archives are the connections to memory. I doubt that Lethem could have "authored" his text without a keen memory, a good library, and access to google. If archives are time bound, curated things; and, if all (hu)mankind is of one author, and is one volume, then those things that are not archived are forgotten memories that will have to be (re)lived and (re)written, in the hopes of being (re)membered.


Posted by SWEAT at 09:55 AM

March 25, 2007

Arianna Huffington denounces the War On Drugs as a War On Minorities

The war on drugs' war on minorities
Democratic presidential candidates crave the Latino and black vote, but ignore the Drug War's unfair toll on people of color.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, a contributing editor to Opinion, is the editor in chief of huffingtonpost.com.
Huffington denounces War On Drugs in the LA Times

Posted by SWEAT at 03:55 PM

March 24, 2007

QR Code for SWEAT home page


Posted by SWEAT at 04:45 PM

Invisible Infrastructure updates

I've just improved the tags on the blog. It should take a while for them to propagate through Technorati. Henceforth collaborators on a project will be tagged by name, both first and last. This should create/improve everyone's Technorati profile in an honest and genuine way. As a test, there is currently nothing tagged "Rafael Fajardo" in the technorati tag cloud. This post should remain tag free as a control. SWEAT equity shareholders will all be tagged henceforth, and have been retroactively tagged. Let's see how it goes.

Posted by SWEAT at 02:00 PM


We've been exploring Greenfoot, a new development environment for teaching programming in Java since December. We plan to use it in Pixels Programming & Play, the videogame development camp for high school freshman and sophomores which we are running this summer. We piloted the camp with a different teaching tool last summer, with generous support from the University of Denver's School of Art & Art History and the Colorado Council on the Arts. Pixels Programming & Play is now supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the continuing support of the DU School of Art & Art History and the Victoria Myhren Gallery.

Posted by SWEAT at 01:45 PM

March 23, 2007

Will Wright at SXSW Interactive 2007

Alice in her Wonderland blog took close notes of Will Wright's SXSW Keynote speech. In it Wright takes a close look at the contentious issue of storytelling in videogames. He states that "stories are about empathy and games are about agency". There is so much more stuff there that you have to read it for yourself, at least thrice.

Posted by SWEAT at 12:34 AM

March 22, 2007

French Government creates tax incentives for vanguardist games

Bruce Gain reports on Wired News today that the French government, which has already knighted game designers, has shown another level of support for videogames. Here is a snip: And at the beginning of this month, France signed into law generous tax breaks for video games made on French soil. (Final approval by the European Commission is pending.) For some French officials, games are beginning to serve as an outlet for France's creative energies, but will need nurturing and state patronage to flourish.

Posted by SWEAT at 04:01 PM

Clickteam's Game Factory 2

A new tool for making videogames "without programming" aimed at empowering kids has come available from Clickteam. Alas, it is pc-only. Game Factory 2. Wired's Geekdad, Chris Anderson, brought this to my attention. I'll have to get a copy to review.

Posted by SWEAT at 03:49 PM

unhistory + alternate reality games as a model for participatory culture

Sebastian Mary of the Institute for the Future of the Book has written a nice entry about Sean Stewart and Elan Lee, and the emerging field/domain/genre(?) of alternate reality games. The idea of trust is currently central. Here is a snip:

Stewart and Lee describe the process of unfolding an ARG as a dance between players and puppetmasters, in which players are invited to suspend their disbelief for the duration of the story. Within the invitation, they explain, is a promise that you won't be made to feel stupid for playing along. And behind all this is trust on both sides.

This is important, he says, because no-one really knows how this genre works. Printed books bring with them a whole host of familiar protocols around how you read. People are familiar with the physical conventions of a book and the formal conventions of particular genres of book, and hence the experience is codified in a way that allows for a degree of detachment between producer and consumer. In contrast, ARGs as a genre are (in their current form, at least) less than ten years old and have very few established generic or formal codes. So in lieu of a tradition, the genre needs trust between participants.

Posted by SWEAT at 03:23 PM

Teddy Cruz and The Architecture of the Borderlands

Teddy Cruz's publication on The Architecture of the Borderlands was important for our preparation of Crosser and La Migra. Our friend Hugh Graham had the good fortune of seeing Cruz lecture at the New Museum in New York recently, and has brought Mr. Cruz back onto our radar. Mr. Cruz spoke on a panel called Location! Location! Location! [mp3] available from the New Museum website under "Hot Button!". The AIA hosts a provocative essay by Cruz entitled Border Postcard: Chronicles from the edge on its website. Architecture Radio hosts both video and audio by Cruz further exploring the edge conditions of the US-Mexico border. In looking closely at these boundaries, Cruz helps us to understand that they are never clean, nor clearly demarcated. They are as much points of contact and interface as they are points of separation. Purists would have them be hygienic barriers, but they are shown to be more like semi-permeable membranes. Cruz helped us to understand that these edge states don't have to rely on geographic proximity for their definition.

Posted by SWEAT at 01:24 PM

Hugh Graham explores the intersection of storytelling and experiential play for interactive experiences

Our friend Hugh Graham has written a nice essay where he explores the intersection(s) of narratology and ludology, and how they both affect and influence design processes. Check it out at Hugh Graham Creative.

Posted by SWEAT at 10:58 AM

Andreas Zecher and Understanding Games

&Games by Andreas Zecher (a.k.a. pixelate), with music by Martin Snuggles that hope to act as a primer for issues surrounding game design, using the medium of games. Expository "cut scenes" are included. I heard about it from BoingBoing, which heard about it from Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun. Greg Kostikyan critiqued them. There are three of a planned four episodes available, published on Kongregate, an online hub for independent game developers using Flash.

Understanding Games, episode 1;/a>
Understanding Games, epsiode 2
Understanding Games, episode 3
Understanding Games, episode 4(UPDATE: It's here!)

Posted by SWEAT at 10:05 AM

Irma Boom designer of beautiful books

Metafilter has a post about Irma Boom who is a designer of beautiful books. Words fail me to describe the visual strength and sensitivity of her work. The comments to the Metafilter post are an illuminating reaffirmation of the conservative nature of the act of reading. Each of the links in the post are worth following. Ms. Boom has been so busy that her website remains under construction.

Posted by SWEAT at 09:19 AM

March 21, 2007

McKenzie Wark asks for help making new visualization of Gamer Theory 2.0

McKenzie Wark and the Institute for the Future of the Book are launching a promotional contest in anticipation of the publication of GAM3R 7H30RY 2.0 by Harvard University Press (also indexed as Gamer Theory 2.0). This presents a nexus of my interests of such density that I may achieve singularity. The contest asks participants to create a digital, webby, visualization of text so as to add another iteration number to the title. Version 1.1 is live online, and is the result of collaborative authorship. Version 2.0 of the text will be very Book 1.0, published in ink on paper between hard, cloth-bound, covers. Presumably that version will have a stabilized and attributed authorship.

Posted by SWEAT at 09:38 AM

be George Soros for twenty bucks (microphilanthropy with an edge)

This article from Slate where the reporter rates Microlenders "from worst to first" rubs me the wrong way. She wants to pursue micro-philanthropy, and then hold the recepients of her largesse accountable for their actions. It seems a bit of a stretch for twenty dollars.

[section title] shopping: How to be the best consumer you can be
A Good Run for Your Money
What's the best way to loan a poor entrepreneur $20?
By Jude Stewart

Posted by SWEAT at 09:24 AM

Bruce Sterling + Lev Manovich and Soft Cinema

Lev Manovich, new media culture critic, was name checked by Bruce Sterling in his SXSW keynote.

Manovich states on his site for Soft Cinema:
At the heart of the project is custom software and media databases. The software edits movies in real time by choosing the elements from the database using the systems of rules defined by the authors.

University of Denver film professor Tony Gault has been doing this type of algorithm/logic driven remix/montage with film for many years

Posted by SWEAT at 09:15 AM

Bruce Sterling + Yochai Benkler + The Wealth of Networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom

Yochai Benkler, legal scholar from Yale, was name checked by Bruce Sterling in his SXSW keynote. Sterling spoke in awed tones of Benkler's scholarship. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet. In good open source fashion, Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks, is made available as a downloadable PDF on his site

Posted by SWEAT at 09:08 AM

Bruce Sterling vs Henry Jenkins at SXSW Interactive

Henry Jenkins was name checked by Bruce Sterling in his SXSW keynote. Jenkins has been a vocal proponent of fan generated content. Sterling distinguishes fan culture as a folk culture wherein there will no real "art". Jenkins will likely differ in his opinion. The differences -- at first blush -- seem to stem from Mr. Sterlings heritage of writerly craft and authorial imaginative innovation.

Prof. Jenkins has some comments on fan fiction as critical commentary online. This is the first time I have heard Mr. Sterling make a remark of this sort about differences between high and low art forms. I don't know how long it's been since anyone asked him to speak about the craft of writing. It's interesting to see/hear an artist's response to crowdsourcing of culture, and mass amateurism. It is a deeply conflicting and contradictory theme for any creative person working in the digital realm.

Sterling maintains several web presences: The Viridian Design Movement, Beyond The Beyond blog at Wired magazine online

Jenkins maintains a prolific, well written blog: Confessions of an Aca/Fan

Posted by SWEAT at 08:49 AM

Bruce Sterling keynote at South by Southwest Interactive conference 2007

Bruce Sterling talks about convergence, crowdsourcing, remix culture (critically), and explores the intersection of the ideas of Henry Jenkins, Lev Manovich, and Yochai Benkler, all in his closing keynote address at the 2007 South by Southwest Interactive conference

Download the mp3 file of his talk from their site

Posted by SWEAT at 08:44 AM | TrackBack