Friday, December 15, 2006

Plausible Future: Pervasive Games?

EU-project Iperg (started on 1 Sept 2004, has a duration of 42 months. It has a total of ~10MEUR funding from the IST Programme) organised a seminar in Helsinki on 13 December. Pervasive Computing is one of those technical trends that are adduced cyclically. First it was invented by engineers in 1980s, then utilised by artists in 1990s and lastly studied by cultural theorist. At the Iperg seminar the focus was on games and the discussion dwelled from media art to live action role playing (LARP) and using mobile phones as wireless links to pervasive cross media gaming.

Some of you might have followed the discussion of ubiquitous computing at the end of 1990s. Mark Weiser and his multidisciplinary research group from Xerox PARC developed tabs, pads and boards in the 1980s and come up with the term ubiquitous computing (in 1988) when articulating the shift from mainframe computers to PC world and further to situation of one person, many computers. 'It is invisible, everywhere computing that does not live on a personal device of any sort, but is in the woodwork everywhere.' Lately the term pervasive computing has grew into being the generic definition though it is a synonym for ubiquitous computing (&communications). The third related term would be embedded computing where the idea is to embed CPUs to everyday objects from sofas to wallpapers.

But back to the seminar. For me the Iperg event put forward rather conservative visions of pervasive computing/games. I expected to hear something new but instead the researchers talked about the same old same and presented three prototypes: Epidemic Menace (GPS + AR game), Day of the Figurines (SMS game) and Momentum (basically a LARP or did I miss something?).

So what was missing? What is this 'new'? (AKA Some remarks from the event)

How to make simple, enjoyable, gamish experience for an average Joe? What would motivate Joe to join the game? What Joe would play the game? Is a mobile phone really an applicable gaming device? Who would offer these games, whom? How to make a low-tech pervasive game? How pervasive games differ from locative media/games, cross platform gaming (PC <> mobile <> online <> console world is already here)? Why one should be interested in pervasive games?

Currently engineers are into 'users as co-creators of content', 'user centered design' and 'agile methods for project management and development'. I would gladly see these qualities and methods utilised in prototyping (in EU projects in general!). The good thing about Iperg is that there are only a few companies involved. Basically these industry giants (Sony, Nokia) could have a great chance to act as pioneers and utilise the research results commercially. But I quess that will not happen until there are some signs that an average Joe would actually play pervasive games or use WLAN, GPRS, GPS... qualities of their phones. One can never over emphasize the easiness of use and the criticiality of the consumers. Surely lead users, early adopters and enthusiasts exists but in able to really make profit out of pervasive games, the are several challenges to overcome. The value chain is still somewhat unclear as well as the questions of upkeeping such temporal, social and spatial games and making bilions of $ or €. (At the seminar pervasive games were defined to include social, spatial and temporal qualities.)

Jussi Holopainen from NRC was (once again) brilliant and entertaining. He hightlighted the divaricate development of a) pervasive games played with mobile phones (e.g. Botfighters) and b) mobile games with pervasive features (e.g. Hot Potato).

Sabiha Ghellal from Sony Netservices believed the revenues would come from advergames and event-based gaming/services (which btw has been a focus of another EU-project INCCOM). The Iperg-project has not yet developed any such games but they still have one year to go.

We are far from feasible mobile (Java, Brew) games. It is a tough job even for java game developers to generate revenue or at least cover the expences. Iperg game prototypes were funded by EU and it costed A LOT to build them. We talk about ~1 MEUR budget per game here. Of course the development includes a lot of EU bureucracy and research tasks so the budget does not go 100% to the actual development. Despite of that I would say the next challenge is to come up with feasible business models in able to put the research results into practise.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rupture --adding community-aspect to gaming

Besides Playstation party games (EyeToy, Buzz), Massive Multiplayer Online Games provide the most social experiences in (digital) gaming at the moment. Many MMOGs are about joining a guild and climbing up the ranks of players. Even though it is about playing together, many players consider it 'hard to communicate with other players, organize game playing together and learn about other gamers' identities, online and offline' (from BusinessWeek).

'Rupture taps into the game to automatically pull together character names, profiles, and resources, and publish them on a personalized site. It will also pull together stats to create individual and guild rankings and provide a place for guilds to organize their playing.' The Rupture beta-testing period is about to start -- so all you Wowers, put your guild together to enroll for beta-testing.

I am still not totally aware of all the features of Rupture but it reminds me of Dark Portal by Dynamoid. 'Dark Portal is a picture community, made for WoW-players, by WoW-players, to post their screenshots and real life pictures and interact through comments'. It is a sister portal for IRC-galleria which is the most used world wide web service in the Nordic according to TNS Metrix. Dynamoid or TNS Metrix also claim that it is the most active social media community in the world -- which is really-really hard to believe because there exist such services as MySpace, Habbo and Second Life. Anyhow -- it is good to be self-confident ;) And EVERYONE of the 400 000 registered users of the service spend approx. 18 HOURS per month at the IRC-galleria. That is quite a lot time for uploading /browsing photos and adding virtual 'stickers' and comments. Could these type of horizontal linkages be a new start for cross media services? Surely SMS-TV games and tv-formats like Big Brother exist but that cannot be the whole truth of cross media.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"This is how you breathe"

Quo Vadis Technology? was the theme of the first Technology Futures Forum. Peter Cochrane from ConceptLabs gave an interesting talk about the future of mobility and the challenge of prediction the future. There were a number of interesting issues he brought up but this time I'll concentrate on changes in workplace. The title "This is how you breathe" was a direct quote from Mr. Cochrane when he talked about changes the next generation will bring to the workplaces. Young people have learned to use IM, SMS, blogs, Skype, PDAs, P2P and social media solutions. The old fashioned "this is the pen you should use, this is how we do things" do not work anymore.

Similar findings were brought up in the Is Europe Ready For The Millennials? report by Forrester Consulting (November 2006) conducted on behalf of Xerox. The following example is already reality, it is a pity that many large companies still live in the 1990s with the super heavy centralised, press releases-only-by-me type of solutions and processes.

'She does not care whether she or her company has used a particular stationery supplier if she can find products cheaper and more conveniently elsewhere; and if a web site is recommended to her by a product comparison engine or a colleague, she will investigate it. She will then make a decision based on functionality and price rather than waiting to see whether the original supplier can source her order or match the price.'

The key take away points from the report were:

- Social media, social bookmarking, P2P and recommendations has a strong influence on decisionmaking for the Millenials.
- Own practises run over stiff and bureaucratic company practises 'cleverness and broad know-how counts'
- Technology will be an enabler for doing this efficiently, sensibly, globally
- In the 1980s-1990s people were career-oriented, not they are family&friends-oriented
- Technology increases the speed of social change
- Shift from guru-centered to learner-centered organisations
- From hierarcical and bureacratic practises to instant and open collaboration.

And what are those Millenials? Techno-savvy communication acrobats, who find it natural to multitask, use various digital channels to get entertainment and information. A generation after the generation X (on their 30s), Millenials are born between 1980 - 2000.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Computer mediated communication in games

Yesterday I attended an event focusing on social games. The event introduced new Playstation titles such as Jungle Party and Sport Quiz and a survey on playing habits and interests towards social gaming. Key take away points IMHO were: 1) the share of social games is already ~20% of Playstation Finland's turnover. 2) Girls have really got into gaming -- thanks to SingStar and Buzz games. 3) Gaming has been social but now it is Social 2.0 :D Sorry, I couldn't insist the lame web2.0 joke. 4) People seem to be open to new ideas: majority of the respondents were interested in a game on human relationships! (future of The Sims perhaps?)

Another ground for social gaming is of course the Internet. World of Warcraft is THE MMOG at the moment with its overwhelming number of registered users: 7,5 Million. While the yesterday's superheroes: South Korean games (Kartrider, Lineage II) attract 1-3 million users, UK-based company Galaxylife surprised me with their claim to shake the current conventions.

According to The Argus: "The game, also called Galaxylife, is part of a new generation of social or "community" games which focus on interaction and personal expression. Galaxylife allows people to play each other on any device - PC, laptop, Apple, mobile phones, Smartphone and PDAs. The game is free to download and free to play. Galaxylife will make money by selling virtual goods."

What I found especially interesting was that their CEO Tim Greenhalgh estimates sales could hit £11 million within two years - with net profits touching £7 million. That is a strong claim especially when the competition is really tight and Galaxylife Ltd is just about to launch Galaxylife MMOG at the end of January 2007.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Video games into movies

Media integration is no news. Boundaries between different media (video game, movie, book, tv, radio...) are flexible. Popular book are made into movies and movies formulated into books. Video game has been a marginal form of entertainment but as you can see, the number of video games put into movies is increasing. A common claim has been that movie based video games are equal to bad movies. I agree that it is a challenge to put straightforward games such as Mortal Kombat into a movie. The game is all about "Fight!" "K.O.!" Who would like to experience that ~2 hours without the ability to interact?

Currently the brand matters not a media format. Harry Potter is the thing. The original "format" of the idol is a by-matter. Harry Potter is a protagonist, movie star, hero, character in a book, miniture figure, idol, ... All in one. Thus it is interesting to follow the discussion of Doubutsu no mori (Animal Crossing) movie (will be showing in cinemas in Dec06 in Japan). People seem to have rather negative views of movies based on video games. "Why to make a movie of Animal Crossing?" "If not adapted it will be a boring one" etc. I agree that some video game movies have been rather weak ones causing low sales figures.

Maybe I am still charmed by Totoro but for me Animal Crossing - The Movie doesn't seem to be that far fetched idea. The game gives quite a bit of possibilities for the story (movie) and because this is an animated film the authors do not have similar challenges as the producers of Tomb Raider movie. If you don't remember, there was a lot of talk about choosing the perfect Lara Croft look-a-like heroire, an actress not too known but perhaps not too unknown either who will come up with the goods. Whatever the truth it is interesting to see what type of audience will go to see Animal Crossing the movie. And do they promote the movie as "based on a video game"? Who cares anymore?

Monday, November 20, 2006

1990s strikes back!

1996 was the peak of (the first) girl games' movement. Brenda Laurel, Theresa Duncan, Laura Groppe and others founded companies such as Purple Moon, Her Interactive, Girl Games Inc. and Rhinestone Publishing. First Girl Games came out in 1993, Barbie Fashion Designer became a first best seller girl game in 1996 and surprised the market. Some legends claim that Barbie beated Quake (the hottest game on earth at that time) in sales figures but that was not the case. Barbie Fashion Designer did well though. The game was the sixth best-selling CD-ROM game in 1996 and 1997. Mattel sold more than 200,000 units within the first month of its release. In the last two months of 1996, retailers sold $11.5 million worth. After the success of Barbie game entrepreneurs got aggressively into girl games business and nearly 200 titles for girls were published in 1997 according to market analysts. Companies such as GirlGames and GirlTech flourished and web pages were pinky and fluffy.

In 1997 Girl Games Inc. published Let's Talk about Me which had four major sections entitled "My Personality," "My Body," "My Life," and "My Future." With the exception of the latter, they all offer a mixture of information and fun. Now Exchange4media has launched an online community for girls in the 14-19 age group to share their joys and anxieties and get solutions to their growing up concerns. is a guide to knowing what a girl always wants to know, but perhaps never asked. There are various interactive sections – viz. Your Body, Your Mind, Beauty, and Love and Relationships. For serious advice on family, friends, school and health, one can click on ‘Advice for Life’. Personal advice can be sought by posing the problem to ‘Ask Nisha’, a girl’s virtual friend. Beinggirl looks much better and has better content than girlspace ( but certainly miss the gaming part).

For me Beinggirl sounds like a re-run of Let's Talk about Me?! The 1997 version failed but perhaps better interaction possibilities and community aspect would do the trick? It is somewhat funny to follow the current trends (second wave of girl games) -- Pink PSPs and NDSs are currently available and titles / services published are leaning to the same images as girlgames SMEs in the 1990s. What were the lessons to be learned -- or is it just a question of timing? What I know is that Mimi Smartypants (Rhinestone Publishing) was one of my favourites. Especially the PANCAKE songs were excellent! There were five-to-six songs... well... about pancakes -- and they were really funny ones :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Web2.0 = broadband?

On Friday I took part in SOMED workshop 'Social media in the Crossroads of physical, digital and virtual worlds'. The key note speaker was Petteri Järvinen. (For those who don't know, Mr. Järvinen was a PC-pioneer and published several down to earth books of micro computers, PC applications and viruses in 1986-1990. He has received several awards for popularizing ICT techology and currently continues writing books (current book: Improve Your Data Security came out in 2006) and works as a consultant. Even though he is an expert in ICT his 'In English' page on his website does not seem to work.)

Anyhow Mr. Järvinen gave a nice, provocative introduction to the topic. He pointed out the amount of hassle there is around social media and web2.0 but found it relatively hard to find clear definition of it/them. By bringing to a head: he made a conclusion that Web2.0 = broadband because minute based Internet rates do not bound the users no more, videos and multimedia seems to be at the core of the use of social media and people spend more and more time online. I just wonder is social media about content and services or participation and enjoyment after all, or is it just another technology-driven trend that really makes no difference in the long run?

Broadband certainly is an enabler but would social media happen without it? I think 'yes' because comparable trends have existed before the invention of web2.0. Eric von Hippel talked about user innovations already in the 1970s. Users have been creating content, annotating and promoting home made stuff way before computers became common. Content were not published globally but it certainly was published for a certain audience. Another example with a 'global appearance' is fanzines. I published Diarium Autopsia metal fanzine in the beginning of 1990s with my friend Heidi and we had subscriptions from over 20 countries (Europe, South America, North America, Australia and Asia). Our subscribers could easily answer to Mr. Järvinen's question: 'What do I want?'. It might be true that Petteri Järvinen would categorize Diarium Autopsia to the same class as digital games and TV series Lost or CSI -- trash. Which means that Mr. Järvinen does not belong in to our target group unlike hundreds of others. In the case of web2.0 we could give similar answer to the question 'What do I want?' -- and the answer is: 'Who are you?' In the case of 'everyone publishes' it is easier to reach sub-groups and minority audiences via the net. Which makes it even more difficult to define the target group.

The third issue I found interesting was about audiences. Petteri Järvinen talked about blogs and wondered what is the purpose of such 'write only' medium (again intensified by me). Shouldn't there be an audience for whom to write a blog? Exactly! There is expected to be a number of subscribers for newspapers but would a blog be a noteworthy medium even though it would be written just for me even though I would not mind if someone would find my blog while Googling? Is this a weak signal alluding to new demands for newspaper publishing as well? Newspaper will most definitely change because already now they are already full of old information when they are delivered. I have to think that though further. Until next time!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

People on the move

By 2009, just under one billion mobile phone units will be shipped, up from 743.2 million in 2006. Consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones to play music and games, gamble and access adult content. As a result, the global market for mobile entertainment is predicted to be worth in the region of $40 bn by 2010. This is good news for e.g. Ironstar Helsinki which is preparing a mobile multiplayer simulation game 'PocketPal' - a mindblowing mobile experience due to be launched soon. According to Business Insight (The Future of Convergence report) worldwide annual shipments of smartphones grew from around 14.6 million units in 2003 to 26.5 million in 2004, rising to 42.5 million in 2005. The worldwide smartphone market is expected to more than triple to reach sales of 153.5 million by 2010. What is also interesting is that according to the analysts in 2009 167 million broadcast-TV-to-mobile enabled handsets will be shipped, representing almost 18% of the entire 935 million handsets which are expected to be produced in 2009. This will give interesting opportunities to content developers if nothing else. I just hope it won't take another 2-3 years until mobile services start to fly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

TV+SMS = the beginning of Interactive television?

SMS TV games have been around for a while already. To my knowledge the first TV SMS games were aired in 2001 in Finland. Companies such as Frantic, Add2Phone, Fun2Phone and RedLynx have been active in the field. Also services by e.g. Yarosa, MIXTV and Two Way TV are currently on the air around the world.

Surely there have been interactive tv & movie experiments at technical and design universities already before 2001. Interactive tv experiment Cause and Effect (2003) by Teijo Pellinen&co. is one of my personal favourite. The experiments with audio interaction and unlinear storytelling have been funny ones but TV SMS chats and games were (IMHO) first successful itv products for mass market. The [first] peak of such interactive tv services seemed to be the year 2003. Besides Cause&Effect and other projects, TV SMS games were superpopular.

According to McKinsey’s report, in 2003, approximately 900 million SMS messages were exchanged through TV related services in Europe. The European SMS market generated more than 400 million euros in 2003, which is expected to grow to 750 million euros in 2004. At the same year Antti Seppänen gave a speech at the GDC on TV SMS services and the bright future of mobile entertainment. A year later a broader picture was put up at IST Event 2004 at The Hague (NL). Monique de Haas chaired a session at the conference and published a report of the discussion. She continues the discussion at her blog. What is interesting though, is that despite the development of digital television, itv experiments and fresh ideas, TV SMS services still are a sort of "killer app" of interactive television. Let's see if digital television or mobile television will bring something new to the picture. Join us at Dubrovnik Pub at 23rd November 2006 and chat about the future of mobile multimedia!

Read more:

Games are good for you!

Finnish media has (finally) understood that violent games are not the total picture of digital game cultures. Tomorrow morning YLE's AamuTV (Morning TV) will discuss about beneficial games (serious games) which educate e.g. about nutrition, world hunger or recycling. World Food Programme's Food Force is an excellent example of successful combination of play and education/edification. Helsingin Sanomat NYT published an article about it on Friday.

And this week SubTV will air documentary on The Sims. The Sims does not belong into the same category as beneficial games but it certainly enables people to play on social relations, fame/fortune or even life/death. The documentary nicely shows how virtual hobbies can have an influence to the real life even though the game would not be MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) or other ways networked experience.

Social, informational and physical games are developing into interesting sub-cultures of gaming. As most of you probably know The Sims is the ultimate best seller of digital games. The Sims and its sequals have sold over 25 million units. DDR (Dance Dance Revolutions) have some 2 million gamers worldwide and even informational games are on the rise thanks to Food Force, sites such as Nutrition Explorations and McDonalds. I should also mention PSP Lonely Planet guides as that is a KILLER idea. I really liked the interface and the whole idea of portable, durable and updateable Lonely Planet guide.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Foresight: 3rd generation game consoles

I went to a party arranged by Playstation to check out PS3 presentation on 28th October in Helsinki. The first PS3 console had arrived to Finland and Mr. Thomas Puha (editor of Finnish Pelaaja mag.) was invited to present PS3 titles Motostorm and Resistence. [[A bit late, you might think... Isn't blogging supposed to be super fast media, telling the news before anyone else? Oh well. I had my birthday, one of my friend adopted a boy and just brought him back to Finland, Halloween happened and all that have totally consumed my spare time :) Plus ex-ski jumper, ex-stripper and a singer Matti Nykänen's performance at the PS party left me out of words.]] Anyhow I was surprised how uninnovative and lame the PS3 games were. Besides the demos, we watched six minutes of PS3 trailers and IMHO Motostorm was the only one that caught my eye.

Thus Yankee Group's estimate that Sony would lead in next-gen market share by 44% in 2011, (with Xbox 360 taking a close 40% share, followed by Wii with a wee little bitty 16% share) at least raises some questions. It is true that PS2 have a solid lead but how much content actually matters? Why to buy a 3rd gen. console if there are no must-have titles? I am a fan of PS but I really admire Nintendo's boldness (e.g. NDS Electroplankton, Nintendo Wii) and am interested in novel ways of interacting with the games. Maybe Wii's tennis will finally displace Sega Dreamcast Virtual Tennis from the 1st position of 'the best tennis game'?

Discussions concerning PS3 vs. Wii vs. XBox360 can be found from the net, e.g. MercuryNews. PS3 and Wii both have qualities of expanding the users by supporting 'party gaming'. Digital gaming is partly developing towards social activity and spectator sport. That is an outstanding development even compared to the point of time Playstation was relased in 1995. Back then Sony's marketing strategy was a clever one (selling PS as a trendy and socially acceptable piece of consumer electronics instead of a computer) and now it seems that consumers are accepting PS as a home entertainment/media center.

For the last few days I have played EyeToy Lemmings and I am quite excited. I like previous EyeToy games but Lemmings is really bringing something new to the EyeToy gaming experience. I have some technical problems though. EyeToy games work well on my living room except Lemmings. Lemming is often interpreting dark shadow at the background as a part of the player (=me) which makes it practically impossible to play as Lemmings cannot go through the 'wall' (the shadow that is). I quess that's a question of lightning or background colours. Lemmings has nothing to do with 3rd gen. consoles but I sincerely hope that game developers and publishers have not totally abandon innovations when avoiding risks.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fill out our questionnaire: Mobile TV hot or not?

If you want to get an overview of the current state of Mobile Television business, I urge you to fill out Mobile TV Hot or Not? questionnaire:

The results will be published on 23rd Nov. 2006 at the IST Event 2006, INCCOM Congress and online. This questionnaire is done in open innovation fashion so if you want to get the Excel-files of the survey, please drop me a line.

The questionnaire is a part of EC-funded INCCOM project.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Finnish Creative Export

Innovation is THE word at the moment. Within the next 5 years VTT will transform from Technical Research Centre of Finland to Technology Intensive Innovation Organisation. Tekes (National Technology Agency) will be Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation starting from 1 Nov '06. How these politics / opinions / words appear in the real world?

It's no problem to generate new ideas or even innovations at the VTT. Tekes has done good job funding commercialisation of ideas, too but I think we are still somewhat lacking the enforcement of innovations. EU, Tekes and other research financiers surely have a significant role in enabling innovations to develop -- why actual enforcement happen most often at SMEs? maintains a list of TOP 30 Finnish International Companies in Creative Export. 'The TOP 30 list is based on company exports measured in terms of euros. The data are mainly gathered from within the companies themselves and partially also from financial statements delivered to the National Board of Patents and Registration of Finland.' Digital media & entertainment companies Sulake, StarCut and RedLynx are in the top 10 though this list is not inclusive. Actually it is surprisingly scattered. Even though the list might become interesting as soon as it will cover (at least) digital media companies more broadly. Another issue is how long one should reach for groundbreaking innovations? Sulake has been able to commercialise their solution/innovation of linking Lego type of characters and isometric perspective to online community when other developers were either doing 3D worlds or text-based communities. How large research organisation could experiment and innovate the same way?

Another relevant question would be: is 'Technology Intense Innovation Organisation' just a trend-sniffer, smoother of the path or an aggregator for SMEs or MNEs? VTT is trying to boost up commercialisation of research findings. It is still too early to say what role would suit for such an organisation but still one should strongly question whether to talk about innovations at all. Or if we do, how many innovations are needed to enable the creation of 'Innovation Organisation'?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mobile Games 2010

Nokia White Paper 'Mobile Games 2010' (due to be released at the end of 2006) will discuss about the near future of mobile games. This is a warm-up to the discussion.

Consumers are spending more time with digital media than ever before. In 2005, the use of television increased and online use continued to rival television as the most-used medium. Video games, containing everything from mobile and wireless to networked console and pc games, have established their role as a merchandising category with cross licensing between movies and video games providing a major source of revenue for movie studios and others.

The first defining factor of the current digital media is that the consumption of digital content is channeled through given devices: from iPods to mobile phones and PCs according to the appropriateness of users' needs. Currently, the digital device with its brand and image is a part of the total experience, as Nintendo, Sony and Apple have shown. This also has effects on content. For example Nintendo games can only be played on Nintendo devices and in the spirit of Buzz and EyeToy party games, Sony is integrating more beneficial content, e.g. advertisements, information and music, into video games. This development will have an effect on the entertainment market as well as total gaming experiences in the future.

The other defining factor is demographic data (age, location and gender). The assumption that gender would play a central role in the markets for video games has struck a strong chord with game developers. Before the evolution of more social or physical video game types, the generalization of the Internet has partly changed the situation with various online games and chatting communities, and faded out the differences between girls and boys when looking at the frequency and diversity of use. As a result of social media trend consumers are becoming multi-taskers utilizing several mobile and online channels simultaneously and communication acrobats with their variety of communications devices.

Three interesting aspects about current consumer behavior are: 1) leaving traces, 2) media acrobatics’ multi-tasking culture and 3) pleasure orientation. It is increasingly relevant to leave its own mark (tags, comments, modifications, patches) to the networked media communities and interlinking with mobile with online communities. Multitasking refers to a way of using several channels, devices and services simultaneously to link with other products and related themes. Media acrobatics refers to the fast reception ability of new technologies, devices and services, as well as an open-minded experimentation mentality and misuse (also known as “creative hackerism”). As a general effect of these, one can say that media use is in transition points. The change affects mobile games and the expansion and creation of new active consumer groups.

By 2010, mobile media will have developed into an integral part of a total gaming experience. The experience environment will no longer be device-specific but will cross different devices as well as social and physical contexts of use changing the experience into a continuum ”everywhere – all the time – by any device”. This development will boost the development of more fragmented games where users can take the game with them on a mobile phone and continue playing on any screen (public screen, at an Internet café, on a cruise ship or in a shopping mall), as well as having a clear role in supplementing and modifying the game content. Toolboxes will be widely available to users. Mobile devices will have become the controlling device for the total experience as well as acting as a payment channel.

Mobile users will use their wallet, wearable or jewel kind of mobile terminals when gliding from one network to another without even acknowledging it. Mobile users will get both selected and edited television and online content on their mobile devices when requested, according to their context and social profiles. The issues taking a strong foothold in the development of novel types of mobile games are: 1) agile methods in project and technology development, 2) utilizing context information in mobile solutions, 3) brand development through co-modification possibilities provided for various fan communities, toolboxes and modification tools, 4) tagging and marker technologies created by both professionals and enthusiasts that enable the social intelligence of the environment. Adaptability and modularity will be key issues when shaping future game experiences.

The device, the user, the context of use and the content are mobile. This enables more and more possibilities for users to act as co-creators of content. Web2.0 trends with mash-up from the Internet will quickly become common in the mobile world at the same time when cross media solutions evolve and different media are not considered as separate contexts of use but as one complex entity of different devices and channels. Hybrid media (combining printed with digital media) will be key solutions for flexible marketing of ad hoc and long-lasting games through different channels and various user groups.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Exhausted by EC

EC projects are problematic. At the same time they (or many of them) are interesting but usually they are a) reported by engineers which is no good and they are often b) badly presented. As it was at the 'Networked Audiovisual Systems Concertation (somewhat the same as cooperation between projects) Meeting', held on 24.-25. October is Brussels.

After warm weather and relaxed, inspiring and elevating days in Istanbul I landed Brussels. I exit Gare du Nord at the 'wrong' side and in the next breath I was looking through windows where girls were posing on their underwears. On my way to the hotel I got a snapshot of the situation in Iran. One guy was collecting money to hire lawyers for students who were arrested and tortured in Iran. Unfortunately I live in a country where one can/will pay literally everything with a payment card. Next morning I felt sick -- due to food poisoning or virus (?). So I was vomiting through the EC meeting.

Despite lack of food/sleep/energy, I managed to take part most of the discussions. This is a short summary, the hall of fame of EC projects :) presented at the meeting. So if you are interested in what's happening, check out these projects:NEMI, Citizen Media, Content and GamesatLarge.

NEM (Networked and Electronic Media) Initiative focus on an innovative mix of various media forms, delivered seamlessly over technologically transparent networks, to improve the quality, enjoyment and value of life. Citizen Media developes a solution to enable multiple non-professional users to co-create networked application and UGC. Content is a network of excellence focusing on content delivery networks and home users. GaL intends to design a platform for running interactive rich content multimedia applications.

It is a pity that most of these (1-15 Million €) projects do not really generate any solutions that will be commercially utilized. Certainly they generate some new information but unfortunately too often new ideas are disguised as academical mumbo-jumbo covered with technical details and blurry graphs. Europeans really have a lot to learn from the US (oral presentation and pitching) and Japan (visualizing information). For example OLGA project focuses on interesting issues but I doubt the results will generate the next Google or WoW. BUT perhaps the above mentioned projects will do differently!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Moments - Istanbul

Helsinki-Istanbul-Brussels all night long -- at least for the last few days. I spent (too) few but very fruitful days in Istanbul. I am part of the Aspectacles group which will start making multimedia / video art pieces which challenge our ideas and conceptualization of things. One of our core members is from Istanbul and Turkey will be one of the junction points of our work dealing with cultural stereotypes and prejudice.

I am qualified to discuss about prejudices as I had very strong opinions about Turkey until May 2006. I hadn't been there but of course I knew about 'sun&sand' charter trips to Alanya, human right issues and stories about Turkish men selling leather jackets, carpets... After visiting Istanbul for two times I have to say that I am enchanted by that city. I hope that Aspectacles will stir up the discussion further as well as open new viewpoints to foreign cultures and peoples more generally.

Turkey is not that backward country as many of us still think. It is true that Turkish media is heavily monopolised. Almost all of the major dailies are owned by a few cross media groups and it is highly nationalistic. The Doĝan Group, the largest and the most prominent of these media giants, owns a substantial part of the media landscape in Turkey: The major dailies Hürriyet and Milliyet, “the most selling” boulevard daily Posta, the quality paper Radikal which has liberal and left-wing authors, the sports daily Fanatik, the business daily Referans and the English daily Turkish Daily News are all owned by this giant media group. The other major player in the media business the Merkez Group too has a quite large share in the media market. The mainstream Sabah which competes with Hürriyet, the most prominent regional newspaper Yeni Asır, the boulevard paper Takvim and the sports daily Pas-Fotomaç do belong to the Merkez Group.' (Source: Media Landscape Turkey) There are still a number of issues to be dealth with -- one accelerator is EU.

Now I am at Brussels. Tomorrow I will join the Networked Audiovisual Systems Concertation workshop. At least one link between these two subjects is that Turkey is an EU candidate. EU has stated several requirements for the media in Turkey, e.g. prison sentences for journalism related offenses were replaced with heavy fines. Penalties of banning newspapers and the distribution of the newspapers and shutting down the media outlets were repealed. However, despite these improvements 157 journalists, publishers and human rights activists were prosecuted in 2005 for expressing their ideas. 29 of them were charged with “insulting the Turkish identity, the Republic and the institutions of the State” while 17 journalists commenting on the human rights issues were accused of “influencing the court decision” and “attempting to influence the fair trial”. 12 journalist-writers were charged with “disseminating terrorist propaganda” based on the TCK (Turkish Penal Code) or the anti-Terrorism Law. 15 journalists/human rights activists were charged with “inciting hatred and enmity or humiliation” based on TCK (Source: Media Landscape Turkey).

While the general media scene is still somewhat under (EU's) pressure, networked, audiovisual ways of communication: blogs, podcasts, online comics and other websites are raising different viewpoint to issues under discussion. Art will be just another way of challenging people's ideas and raising up new topics into discussion. I strongly believe that besides EU pull there will also be civil journalism/media art/blogger push to expand our thoughts and shake the stereotypes. Aspectacles will do its best to contribute :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

But seriously... 'Beneficial' or 'Serious' Games

Serious Games Summit is approaching but I am unable to attend because I will go to Istanbul and Brussels instead -- and will probably be discussing about similar issues as my colleagues at the Serious Games (SG) Summit. Why there suddently is so much fuss about socially acceptable games? Are SG's hot and topical or just overly hyped?

I would say 'yes' and 'no'. SG's 'are intended to not only entertain users, but have additional purposes such as education and training' (Wikipedia). But why are they called SERIOUS games, what's so serious about beneficial purposes and how to link them with pleasure? Has is something to do with categorizing things? The same way as girls are CASUAL gamers and boys are usually ranked as HC gamers? Are 'serious games' just another tendency towards presentability of games, an intention to make them mainstream?

I am not that fond of the term 'serious games' but I very much like the idea of utilizing interaction, structure and/or dynamics of digital (leisure) games in other fields. 'Everyone publishes' idea will increase the challenges of so called information overload: how to personalise content, how to deliver right information/data to right user(s) at right time and using most convenient delivery channels. I believe games really have a lot to offer to this discussion.

Currently there are several initiatives focusing on related issues (besides Serious Games Initiative): Games for Change, Games for Health, Games for Brain... Ok, ok the brain-thing is a bit different but the idea behind that site is definitely related to this topic. A big part of the development is still very much technology-driven; 'cool GPS, and 2D bar codes... should we create some UBIQUITOUS game out of it....'. There are also attempts to link sectors that have been quite far from each other, like technology development with social politics, welfare work or pedagogs.

After match-making, the next HUGE challenge is marketing. It took 5+ years to come up with plausible ideas how to turn Internet communities into money-makers, now it is the time to start considering how to promote serious games or at least push them from the shadows of fringe to the marginal of digital games.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bizznizz -- playful kidpreneurship

When I heard about Bizznizz, an intiative by Dutch Postbank, I was excited! Bizznizz is cool entrepreneur 'game' for kids. After setting up an account (I was able to do it despite my weak Dutch language skills but I quess my Easy Blue account will never be validated because this service seems to be only for Dutch. The registration form only accepted Dutch phonenumbers and postal codes which means that I made fake ones -- which means that I probably will not get user name for the system). Damn!

But this is what I know about the service and the reason to get excited: Kids who set up an Bizznizz account will receive a briefcase containing materials for printing their own t-shirts, stickers, letterhead, flyers, and business cards. First they will decide what type of a business will they start to run. After that they can create company's image/brand by designing a business card and printing supercool company t-shirts. Their business can be something in between walking dogs and moving lawns.

As far as I have understood, this kidpreneur 'game' links virtual with real. Kids have their virtual companies but they will actually be advertising their services to real life neighbours with real flyers! After finishing the job they can update their online account. But will they get real money? I don't know but the basic idea is super nice, I just wish Finnish Post would launch a similar service. I would be keen kidpreneur -- perhaps little overaged but who cares, I can be anything I want -- at least in the virtual world ;)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

MobiTV - Hot or Not?

I've already mentioned that we'll have a session at the IST 2006 Conference and a supernice event at Andorra on 23rd November (2pm>). Now I would like to urge you to fill out the Mobile Television questionnaire. If you are unable to meet us at Andorra (Helsinki Finland) in November remember to add your e-mail address to the questionnaire if you would like to get the results of the query by email.

The questionnaire is here, remember to share your opinion with us not later than 17th November!

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's all about "Mii"

Social media is greatly a matter of hype at the moment. Surely successful online community services exist and there are theories such as Prof. Orihuela's 'The 10 Paradigms of eCommunication' which are very nice abstactions of such a huge issue.
Orihuela's view(s) of eCommunication (very much related to the debate about web2.0 and social media) is:
Paradigm I: from audience to user
Paradigm II: from media to content
Paradigm III: from monomedia to multimedia
Paradigm IV: from periodicity to real time
Paradigm V: from scarcity to abundance
Paradigm VI: from editor-mediated to non-mediated
Paradigm VII: from distribution to access
Paradigm VIII: from one way to interactivity
Paradigm IX: from linear to hypertext
Paradigm X: from data to knowledge.

Many social media solutions --most of them online-- seem to be variations of a same idea. Developers create a platform (YouTube, eBay, Kaboodle, Flickr...) and wait for users to create content and make it a 'real' service. After gaining huge number of users, the developers try to attract companies like Google, sell their company and become millionaires ;). Why not if it works!? What I find interesting is that currently the whole issue focuses on Web2.0, even though there are mobile phones and game consoles in plenty not to mention other consumer electronics. Where are all successful mobile or console communities?

Even though digital games (pc, online, console, handheld, mobile) is a niche compared to online services, surprisingly few social / community solutions have been introduced to gamers. There are/has been XBox Live and NGage Arena but their fortunes are still far from the ones of WoW, Second Life or Habbo.

Reuters just (12 Oct 2006) published an article discussing about the community potential next generation consoles offer. It is a fact that gaming devices will be networked. But 'while Playstation 3 presumably follow a model similar to Xbox Live with a robust online component offering games, music and movies, Nintendo's Wii will include the tools users need to mint a "Mii," a customized, cartoony version of themselves. Mii Channel character creation software lets users choose from dozens of features, including eyes, hair, lips and eyebrows to create a virtual character, also referred to as an "avatar" in video game parlance'.

Is this any different from Habbo? Well, the innovations do not necessarily have to be brand-new ones. It seems to be more relevant to understand: when to utilize certain possibilities and how to utilize and market them. For example IMHO Second Life and There are not that much more innovative than Alpha World but still current 3D virtual community solutions are way more popular than somewhat similar services were in the 1990s.

At the moment Nintendo is a defendant at console markets. If their current position (3rd after PS2 and Xbox) has encouraged them to think different, innovate and take risks, the third position has been an advantage for Nintendo. Gamers are eagerly waiting for Nintendo Wii to hit the market. Social gaming, modern party games like EyeToy and Buzz and users as modders are the future of gaming. Hopefully Sony and Microsoft will learn something from Wii and Mii.

The number and spread of gamers (target groups) is expanding. I do not agree with research companies and 'leading media measurement companies' like comScore who (dare to) state that: In the US 'on average, gamers are 41 years of age with an average annual income of $55,000. Further, females account for 52 percent of the gaming audience. The average gamer has been online for nine years and 84 percent have broadband access at home.' Who ever the future gamer will be Nintendo Wii is nicely rebuilding the future business of interactive entertainment.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'Fame & Fortune' trading game

I was happy to come across Weblo -- a game/web2.0 service where players invest in real estate, websites and celebrities (that exist in the real world). It's a kind of virtual RMT-Monopoly. Weblo involves buying, selling, collecting and increasing own ranking. 'Everything you own can be turned into a website that you drive more traffic to, increasing your share of the ad revenue and thus increasing its sale price.'

Weblo players can buy e.g. the Eiffel Tower or half of Sydney. After buying enough land they can even become presidents. 'Properties, Celebrities and Domains have their own individual significance in our real-world lives. Properties promise us investments and financially secure futures. Celebrities become our role models and remain a constant source of fascination. Internet Domains are the source of global communication.'

Monday, October 09, 2006

Digital Games & New Territories

"The market for video games in the UK is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world, after USA and Japan." This has been the case for the last 20 years. In the beginning of 1980s the ZX Spectrum was released in the UK. It quickly became the most popular home computer in many areas of Western Europe. Arcade and home computer (console) games by Nintendo and Sega sprouted in Japan and many experiments were also under way in the US.

It is not that far-off days when the basement floor of E3 was full of 'innovators' and propeller heads from unusual countries such as Iceland or South Korea (since 1999). In 2003 the scene of digital games broadened when South Korean developers (/GameInfinity) climbed up from the basement and very visibly brought up their expertise (Mu, Lineage, Exarch...) along with their strong will to rule (at least) online game worlds.

Related to this -- Gamasutra pointed out in mobile editorial 'A vision of mobile gaming in 2016': 'Consider that by the end of 2006, 2.5 billion people or 38 percent of the world’s population will own a cell phone. Taken a step further, I believe the forthcoming tidal wave of advances in the wireless device and its network will soon allow it to become a “good enough” gaming console in regions such as India, China, Latin America and Russia.'

About half a year ago I came across a documentary about Brazilian game scene. Even though it focused rather strongly on [CS] tournaments type of gaming, it made me wonder how the future of digital entertainment will look like. Which countries will be the superpowers of game development in 2020? Instead of repeating current state, we should ask: 'What if?' and/or 'Why not?!" Could Brazilian developers bring something to the market that would change the scene? At the moment Brazilian game developers might work as subcontractors but I quess it is just a question of time when the innovations start to flow. And if you think Brazil will not be the next superpower of digital or mobile games, I'll repeat the question 'why not?' ;)

Few interfaces to Brazilian game scene:

  • According to Made in Brazil Games, the MIBG, is the first and only medium to deal with national games exclusively.
  • ABRA Games - Brazilian Association of the Game Developers is a non-profit organisation which object is to fortify Brazilian game (&development) industry.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

UCLA lectures online / game patches

Recently I came across UCLA Design Media Arts lecture series 'Games People Play'. UCLA has kindly videoed all the lectures and put them to the web. The reason I found that website was (googling and) my interest towards game patches (wads, add-ons, mods, misuse, hacking, skins...). A couple of posts back I wrote briefly about 'lead user/chasm' theories and the ways users' innovativeness has been supported e.g. in digital games.

"Patches range from a simple repair of a programming bug to intricate new game scenarios, replacing the characters, sounds, architecture and/or game challenges in the original games."

UCLA's lecture series is actually about games and art. (In 2005) they had really nice range of artists talking about their game related works. I think game patches can also be a work of art even though Anne-Marie Schleiner or other well known patch theorists/artists were not lecturing this time. Ms Schleiner is one of the 'patch art' pioneers. She collected an online art show of video game patches Cracking the Maze in 1999. ''More and more artists are becoming aware of the tools available to them offered by game software" (Schleiner 1999).

Chris Crawford blame current digital games for their uninnovativeness. Perhaps user innovations and game patches could enrich the scene of commercial digital games as well? And besides patches some sort of demo scene still exists, machinima is an upward trend and mod's are current state of the art. There are also some university seminars where modding has been under the loupe.

In my opinion social media&games and web2.0/mobile2.0/game2.0 what-ever is the future of digital content. I hope web2.0 developers understand the lessons to be learned from digital games. Games have been 'open' and user-created from the beginning. In the 1980s there was a direct connection between game studios and gamers (gamers provided ideas to developers), MUDs were user innovations from the beginning and currently there are various toolkits and editor software available also for non-programmers.

Check Arstechnica's article: Are player-driven games the future of digital gaming?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Habbo meets MySpace

Habbo Hotel (.fi) has relased Habbo-Home extension to the concept. Habbo Home is somewhat related to MySpace. Every Habbo character has their own personified 'home page' where they can put highscores, list of friends, funny animations and a lot more. This is rather interesting renewal and better position Habbo in between community services (MySpace, Second Life) and online games (WoW, Ragnarok, Kartrider).

My current favourite is Habbo-Home by Tuu but it is really interesting to see how the real innovators = users will adapt or misuse the Habbo-Home idea. What I especially like about Habbo- Home is that the concept seems to allow user 'innovations' flexibly. You do not just change the color theme or add a wallpaper, you can mix and match rather freely. This is a thing I expected to find from MySpace when publishing my own MySpace page. Possibilities to personify MySpace page are actually surprisingly limited (and I quess you cannot get rid of the ads/banners).

Dude, pimp my Habbo Home! My soppa-page (up/right) is still rather ugly but watch out! I will add some real soppa flavour to it within no time :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Matrix | sema | 2D bar codes

Semacode (Canada), VTT (Finland), Denso-Wave (Japan) and others have quickly understood the possibilities of mobile phone's camera and outlined range of solutions which utilize the camera. One direction of development is 2D bar codes -- you know those squares with black and white pixels in them (=tags). Tags can be easily captured with a mobile phone's camera and decoded to obtain a certain www address.

The first truly two-dimensional bar code was introduced by Intermec Corporation in 1988 when they announced Currently Japan is leading the development of 2D codes - no doubt about it. Interactive television programs have strengthened co-operation with mobile phone developers. TBS (Tokyo broadcasting System) and FujiTV have done co-operation with ColorZip Japan when developing server based color barcode reader technology. One can easily access sponsored websites, listen to music samples or win prizes by "clicking" the codes. Also NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) utilizes 2D codes, more precisely QR (Quick Response) Code.

A few years back Japan was practically the only country where 2D bar codes were in use due to the more advanced cameras. At that time VTT was already developing 2D code reader solution named UpCode. UpCode is an optical code reader that uses mobile phones/devices to add any electronic information or system to printed products. With the application it is possible to integrate all businesses, and all forms of eCommerce, with print media. Current trends are towards... content-wise 3D images, animations and technology-wise 3D or invisible codes.

There are still only a few examples where 2D codes have been utilized in games. Just to name a few:
- Conqwest (2004) & other treasure hunt games
- Gridlock
- MupeLand Yard

We (too) have developed our own solutions to link e.g. culturally significant spots with a orienteering and a problem solving game. We utilize both GPS and 2D bar codes. The really interesting and inspiring solutions are still on the way.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Edugames is a hot topic (once again)

"Play has historically been acknowledged as an important part of learning, and has been present in learning environments through simulations, role plays and quizzes. As digital versions of play have evolved, interactivity-savvy entrepreneurs,professionals, academics and teachers have naturally introduced the palate of technologies afforded them by the modern world into formal and informal learning spaces."
[From: Unlimited learning Computer and video games in the learning landscape]

Sidney L. Pressey and B.F. Skinner developed teaching machines in early-mid 1900s. In 1924 Mr. Pressey 'showed that automated-instruction facilitated learning by providing for immediate reinforcement, individual pace setting, and active responding '. B.F. Skinner was inspired by Pressey's work and in 1954 he developed a machine to teach arithmetic.

The next jump towards 'edugames' was made when microcomputers became a bit more common in the 1980s. At that time CAL (Computer Assisted Learning) and drill games for match and language were introduced in schools. The following development step was in 1989-1995 when multimedia computers and CD ROMs were introduced. People bought efficient computers with a CD drive, a sound card etc. Thanks to the edutainment trend, the time seemed right for edutainment or edugames.

The last exuberance started around year 2000 when researchers discovered that edutainment hasn't been succesful because the term entertainment is too vague. Thus the solutions is: Edugames (and to use best seller games e.g. Sim City and Civilization in schools). And here we go again...

So what's the connection with ELSPAs report? First of all I am surprised that the report start with some sales figures. So what if 'Over the past 20 years, the UK’s computer and video game industry has grown into a multimillion pound business.' Are sales figures that relevant when talking about educational games or ways to use digital games in teaching?

The other thing is that too often reports like this just try to glue two things together. 'Digital games may become important tools for encouraging personalised learning, using these technologies has highlighted that they enable social engagement and collaboration.'

Yes we have heard that many times already. Are there any best practise examples? How to force / persuade teachers to learn to use computers and promote gameplay as an alternative way of learning? How to fit games into rather tight curriculum? How to actually utilize games in teaching? Would Web2.0 / social media solutions be more efficient 'tools' for uncompelled learning? Communication, sharing ideas, learning by doing and giving support is in the core of teaching IMHO. Thus web services could pretty nicely offer tools to motivate and inspire to learn new things.

I find it hard to believe that commercial game developers 'appear keen to work with educationalists in the development of their products'. I don't say that they are not interested. But it is not a question of will, it is a question of money. The game should make a lot of money to the producer and distributor -- perhaps also to the developers. I quess it (still) is pretty hard to assure financiers to put money into 'supercool (!!!) math edugame targeted to GTA players'. Or am I just a small-minded pessimist?

I am no expert in teaching, I am no educationalist, I completed comprehensive school ages ago and I am definitely not against edugames / edutainment / edusoftware. I actually think that there are a few nice edugame examples (e.g. golden oldie History City). The problem I have with this edutalk is that too often it seems to focus more on politics than creating a concrete initiatives. Of course games industry tries to improve their public image but isn't this a bit lame way of doing it?

Games = Fun?

Yesterday I spent an evening at the Games&Storytelling lecture listening to Chris Crawford's provocative lecture of games and storytelling. Mr. Crawford repeated that a) game is about fun, spectacle and exitement. And in spite of market studies, b) games are (still) played only by boys and young men. c) Games are not innovative (sw products). They just repeate same patterns, same structures... invented already in 1980s. Due to these 'facts' games have and never will become mainstream.

I agree with Chris that there are certain elements which define games. I myself am more into experimental games at the moment so I would not define games JUST as fun-excitement-spectacle. But I agree with him that majority of games are still soooo '80s. And that is one reason why the majority of gamers are male. In the beginning of 1990s one challenge was to get girls to play with computers. Now -- thanks to the Internet (and mobile phones) -- geeky computers are suddently a cool thing. But still: the game producers are not totally sure of these 'NEW' target groups. Why to take a risk if you can sell Doom over and over again to current gamers?

In Finland (according to a survey we (VTT) did in January 2006 N=1489, participants were randomly picked Taloustutkimus Internet panelists) 20% of 13 - 18 year old girls played games daily or almost daily. But at the same time: 15% of 65-75 year olds played games daily or almost daily. Explain that! My explanation is that seniors are lonely and they kill time playing Minesweeper, Tetris or Solitaire. Girls on the other hand... well, some are really into LAN games, many girls play WoW, Habbo, The Sims, free online games... so there are broader variety of gamer types and also many girls define games differently compared to (teenage) boys.

Mr. Crawford's alternative to neutral/dull/uninnovative digital games is interactive storytelling. Those who have read Mr. Crawford's papers/books since The Art of Computer Game Design might not find this notion that surprising. One concrete outcome of his ponderings is StoryTron (ex-Erazmatazz) which has been under development for some time already. There are not that much stuff at the Storyton website but perhaps you can get more out of the idea by listening to Christy Dena's cool podcast interview with Mr. Crawford. I am not totally sure about interactive storytelling but I am totally sure that in able to make digital games a mainstream hobby one has to find another 'format' of.. well, interactive storytelling or games :). Serious games will most definitely NOT be the solution as those who are not into games are not into serious games either.

Besides interactive storytelling there are lost of experiments going on where game (graphics, structure, interaction) has been intergrated into other content. Once again media art has many fascinating examples of interactive storytelling (Note: not same as stories) and creativity. Also games such as Kick Ass Kung-Fu rebuild and challenge the definition of digital games.

Some ideas how the future of games/interactive storytelling/interactive software/computer installations/serious games/what-ever would look like, check out Wired Next Fest's list of exhibitors.

Another source of inspiration could be newest The Escapist mag. where Mr. Warren Spector discusses: Should Games be Fun?

Those into storytelling: check out Christy Dena's own blog 'CrossMediaEntertainment'.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Innovation methods

Suddently everyone is talking about innovations. At the work we are not doing research or inventions anymore, we are innovating. We even hired Innovation Director to coordinate (?) our innovativeness. But what do we actually mean when we talk about innovations.

(A bit) funny thing is that today's hottest innovation theories have been first introduced years ago. Everett Roger published his book Diffusion of Innovations in ´62 and Eric von Hippel Lead Users: A Source of Novel Product Concepts at the Management Science Journal in '86. Lately Geffrey Moore and Henry Chesbrough has provided new terms to the discussion: crossing the chasm and open innovation. Chesbrough's book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (2003) focuses on similar issues where we (at the work) are aiming at: buy or license processes or inventions (i.e. patents) from other companies (read: us!). Adina Levin's blog discusses about the differences between crossing the chasm and lead users theories.

Today user innovations and community innovations are at the core of innovation theories and ways of putting theories into practise. For example open source, (game) modding and demo programs (patch, plug-ins) all highlight the users' role in software development. Also hobbyist and enthusiasts have their motivation and will to modify content. Not to mention tuning which has become very topical through tv-programs such as Pimp My Ride.

Whereas open innovation focuses more on companies or institutes and their ways of opening their innovation processes, lead users as the 'extreme edge can tell you exactly what they want to solve their critical need.' Web2.0 and social media trends bring up the role of users in a new way. Web2.0 promote ideas put up at von Hippel's lead user theories: the people (lead users) have the deepest understanding of needs underlying emerging products and services. Often they make their own prototypes, using what resources are available to them, to address their own critical needs. One thing that lead users have in common is that they enjoy sharing their insights. They're aware of the potential benefits of the company's work and look forward to advancing a cause.

So what? (For example) web2.0 (and game) developers might be somewhat aware of the potential users have to offer but they do not necessary understand the ways and methods to utilize lead users (or users in general) in their innovation/product develoment. I have been discussing with web2.0 service developers and listening to their ideas of 'If you make a web service they will come'. Some companies even arrange user tests two months before publishing the product. Eh -- why? There are not that many issues to improve anymore. Users tests should be done iteratively and from the start of the process! For developers I sugget to spend some moments with von Hippel, Chesbrough or Roger Moore ;) books and get inspired!

Sources / more resources:
Lead users take innovation to the extreme
Wikipedia: Lead User
Wikipedia: Diffusion of Innovation
Joseph Schumpeter
Outside In Innovation

Friday, September 29, 2006


Elämä on Parasta Huumetta ry (Finnish assocation against drugs) is doing really interesting experiments with ICT (information & communication technology).

First they drove their Hubu Bus to Habbo world in 2002 and now they have released mobile game MobiHubu. Even though there are still a number of issues to be dealt with, there are several lessons to be learn from EOPH ry's efforts of approaching youngsters and utilizing ICT in new ways. There are many challenges with e.g. development, delivery and marketing of mobile games -- even leisure games -- but I think EOPH ry is on the right track. MobiHubu is one of the nicest 'edugames' (serious games') I have seen.

Another cool thing is that PS2's social (party) games are really taking off. Jungle Party, Buzz Sporttivisa (Sport Quiz) and EyeToy Sport are about to be released soon. Parents should worry about 'couch potato-kids' no more instead they should think about joining the party and taking part in Jungle Party or Sporttivisa!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Multitasking acrobatics

Communication acrobatics study (by Kaisa Coogan & Sonja Kangas) was published in 1999 / 2001. We studied... 'the use of the Internet and mobile phones by 30 teenagers, aged 16 to 18. At the study's preliminary stage the young people's user patterns were looked at from the
perspective of group and individual identities, electronic consumer culture and future expectations. In the follow-up stage the focus was on deepening the thematic approach, as well as on the formation of, and changes in, user trends.'

One of our findings (in 2001) was that youth are already communication acrobats. The youngsters get quickly accustomed to the idea of a multi-use phone, and are starting to see it as natural that a mobile phone will become, among other things, a portable web terminal.

Also Internet was widely used at that time. chat, ICQ and Habbo (Hotelli Kultakala at that time in Finland) was already gaining popularity amongst youth. Our conclusion was that while communication acrobatics focus on knowhow and broadmindedness (and devices) multitasking would describe well the process of choosing between online discussion channels and other -- mobile, IRL or online -- communities. The youngers have different circles of friends at the IRC-gallery as they have in Habbo, IRC, mobile phone or MSN. [ The study was conducted by doing depth interviews and focus groups in Helsinki area Finland in 2000-2001. ]

I was happy to find research released jointly by Yahoo and OMD which highlight similar trends:
'Multitasking aided by technology extends most people's day by several hours. The average day now amounts to 43 hours' worth of activities. In an early Yahoo study that looked at women, an average day equaled 38 hours of activity. Activities include sleeping; working; commuting; and technology and media-based activities, such as e-mailing; using an MP3 player; text messaging; and watching TV.' [ The study was conducted by polling over 4,500 online families globally in 2006. ]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Internet economies - RMT

Researcher Vili Lehdonvirta from HIIT has started Virtual Economy Research Network (VERN). Today they arranged a mini-seminar on item payment revenue models.

At the beginning of the 21st century online game and community developers were totally lost. They did not have a clue how to make money at the Internet. The first big success was Lineage. Also some trading had developed at the Ultima Online at the end of 1990s. Today RMT is suddently a huge issue as not only the developers but also users are making money out of the games. VERN mini-seminar discussed the issue through two "case studies" IRC galleria and Habbo. Also professor Leo Sang-Min Whang of Yonsei University was giving a talk of RMT covering a number of viewpoints from virtual theft to behavioural patterns.

RTM according to wikipedia:
- A player levels-up in the world of MMORPG and "loots" rare or valuable items that are hard to obtain.
- The player will then sell these items on online auction sites, such as eBay, or to companies such as Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE).
- Other players will purchase, or in this case bid, the item through transactions (usually online).
- The player with the item then hands the rare item to the bidder/company.

Lessons to be learned... well... Mr. Whang's presentation was pretty empty. He just shared some old numbers and (IMHO) light analysis on Lineage 'lifestyles'. Instead Mr. Taneli Tikka from Dynamoid (IRC-galleria) was really good. He explained insights how they try to make money out of IRC galleria. Basically advertising makes little less than 50% and VIP accounts, gallery products and other ways to personalize personal pages the rest. Sulka Haro from Sulake was the third speaker. Sulake is currently pondering whether they should allow or restrict RMT and selling rare Habbo items at the eBay. Currently they recommend not to do it but they are also developing a system to handle the issue.

I found it interesting to ponder how to employ users in online worlds (in the vein of 'users as innovators'), would online game developers be able to create viable eBusiness solutions (an alternative to credit cards) and how to add value of virtual brands.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Game Innovation Database

The Game Innovation Database (GIDb) has been developed by a team at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. The online database will be completed in a Wiki fashion. The goal is to make it 'the first complete online record of a rapidly changing industry and a useful resource for those who don't know their Pong from their PacMan'.

It is a nice resource for researchers but it could be even more useful for game developers who are trying to come up with next killer idea in games. New innovations and solutions are expected for the game industry to continue to grow. History of games is a perfect way to start the journey as there are many lessons to be learned from the history.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

SuperMarit rules ok!

...I have three words for you... "I.. LOVE... SUPERMARIT!" SuperMarit is a project which aim is to attract more girls and women to become active makers of computer games. "The project is comprised of three focal areas: SpelPlan (’GamePlan’): seminars and workshops for students and women within the games’ branch. SpelLab (’GameLab’): instructions and support to women games contractors and SpelRum (’GameRoom’): games community for 13-18- year old girls." Annika, Lisa & co have really accomplished a lot. This year they had SuperMarit SuperSchool at Nordic Game 06. A room full of people discussed about an idea of providing games education to women at a folk high school. The topic varied from design, technology and education.

Besides NG06 (and NG05) session(s) SuperMarit has done a lot -- and not only in Sweden. They are perfectly networked and doing diverse issues to boost discussion, provide alternatives / opportunities to girls and raise the visibility of girls in the industry. Show you support to SuperMarit!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The spirit of NG06

This year Nordic Game Conference was bigger and more international than ever before (this was the 3rd year of NGC). I was really delighted to see the presentations of Masuyama-san, Heather Kelley and Julian Dibbel. Masuyama was one of the first names which pop up at the mid 1990s when I started doing research on digital games. Masuyama & co had published a book titled TV Games in 1988. I remember grumbling how there were only a few books written of games and those book were either in Japanese or French (Le Diberder, A. & Le Diberder, F. L’univers des jeux vidéo. La découverte, 1998). I still can't read Japanese but at least I had an opportunity to listen Masuyama's talk of money games and his work as a curator.

Masuyama and Julian Dibbel both gave some fresh viewpoints to the discussion of real money trade (RMT). It is evident tha real world value system amongst other IRL activities effect to the virtual worlds and interaction between people (/avatars). Both of these gentlemen gave nice examples of RMT. Masuyama has made cash games for kids (playing cards) and Stock trading simulation for DS (Konami 2006). Mr Dibbel on the other hand had visited Chinese goldfarms and observed sweatshop workers taking two shifts: 8.30 am - 8.30 pm and 8.30 pm - 8.30 am when developing WoW characters. According to Mr. Dibbel they had 45 minutes lunch break and two hours for resting during the shift. And often during the two hour break they relaxed by playing WoW. How weird is that :)? Another noteworthy perception was that for example Americal Apparel had opened a store at the Second Life.
Check Julian Dibbel's book PlayMoney.

I can't say that much about Heather Kelley because I had my own presentation at the same time :( But you'll get an idea of her works from the Internet. She is great (see photo of 'Geeky girls' Heather Kelley and Åsa Roos (Sulake) at the Buddha Lounge).

Was Nordic Game worth of time and effort? Yes! Once again Scandinavian superman Eric Robertson had dragged an inspiring group of people to Malmö. I got some good (!) ideas and enjoyed delicious meals/good company :) The minus side was that there were too many parallel sessions. Also it was a bit difficult to choose between the sessions just on the grounds of a title of the talk.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cross media & Mobile television @IST Event 06

The largest European event in the field of Information Society Technologies will be held in Helsinki on 21-23rd November 2006. We (VTT) are organising a networking session which focus on cross media and mobile television. There is a lot of hassle going on around mobile television, but what problems are relevant and how to actually generate business out of it? What a term cross media has to do with this? Come to debate with us about cross media and mobile television (session: Mobile TV – the challenges for live interactive multimedia services) at IST Event on 23rd November.

We will continue the discussion at Andorra (bar) Helsinki city centre. There the focus will be more on actual prototypes, solutions as well as copyright and setoff issues. If you want to know more, please check the news from

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wisecracker browsing the blogs

There has been quite a bit of talk about the etiquette of blogging (blogger>reader>blogger, blogger>blogosphere>blogger) and how to quote, make cross-references, how often one should publish her/his blog or reply to the commentators etc.

This (is --- a kind of --- a Friday joke) is not related to that etiquette talk but just made me to think how relevant it is to update the blog at least once in a while... This blog (see the image) titled 'My(sex)life' is rather sad if the activities of the blog reflect her/his (sex)life IRL. The blog was revised ca. 127 days ago.

Lame joke, huh? Well I should be heading home already...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Secret agent at the Insafe seminar

I had an opportunity to join Insafe seminar at the Save the Children association's Tiukula house today. Insafe is a European Commission funded project to promote Internet safety and to help parents and teachers guide children in safe exploration of the web. What I learned is that currently there are no best practise examples on setting guidelines to online services (in any country). There are both techical and operational issues to be dealth with. Habbo and Finnish Irc-gallery shared their "safe internet" recipes but to be honest, there are still many issues to consider. I know that Habbo has done great deal to come up with good practises and satisfactory rules but unfortunately too often one has to learn things the hard way.

My suggestions:
a) To use a mobile phone to figure out the age of the user (after log in at the Internet one would get a password to her/his mobile phone). At least in Finland almost every teen has a mobile phone. That would also make it a bit easier to contact the parents if needed as mobile phone subscription is done by the parents and also their name can be found from the subscription agreement. I don't know how realistic this is, but its one issue which came to my mind.
b) Use type of reputation mechanism.
c) 'Plussa card' for teens -- are there any? Perhaps Neocard? To link membership card to identify the users. Belgium had an youth electronic ID card experiment in 2005 but it failed.

Perhaps these ideas are a bit lame. I quess the seminar did the trick in any case: it made me to think about child protection from technical and operational viewpoints.

Patent battle ahead

Novel types of game UIs are just about to hit the market but there is already things happeningn at patenting.

United States Patent 5516105 (assigned to Exergame):
'A video game user interface device that allows the user to play standard video games using realistic arm, leg and body movements which relate to the various activities portrayed in the video game being played. The device is sensitive to acceleration and outputs a signal to the video game controller when an acceleration is detected. '

This is not the description of Wii controller or EyeToy and related. But it surely sounds and looks pretty close to Nunchuk controller (Nintendo Wii):
'The Nunchuk controller and the accelerometer carries the burden of movement, freeing you to aim and fire using a more natural motion with the Wii Remote. You can make your quarterback elusive with the Nunchuk controller while you look for an open receiver to throw to using the Wii Remote.'

Also Sony tries to patent a game system to view a rodlike controller on a two-dimensional camera image and map its position in 3D space. The title of the patent specifically notes that the process is intended to let users control the action in a game. Technologies like this have been devised before, but they've required multiple cameras to work. It is not the guestion of innovation but ownership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Games / Art

The discussion of new media art (/games as art) will be discussed in books by Joline Balis&Jon Ippolito (At the Edge of Art) and Alexander Galloway (Gaming). Both explore new media art as an expanded field, that interacts and enliven disciples from design to art to video games to science.

According to
'Desktop computer technology and the Internet have opened up new possibilities for artistic creation, distribution, and appreciation. In addition to projects that might conventionally be described as new-media art, there is now a wide spectrum of work—unclassified until this book—by practitioners not normally thought of as "artists." In At the Edge of Art, Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito explore the convergence of creativity, science and technology, considering the kinds of new art forms that have emerged in the digital age. In Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Alexander Galloway considers the video game as a distinct cultural form that demands a new and unique interpretive framework. '

After high number of book on game design or game research/ludology, it is refreshing to get a bit different -- alternative -- viewpoints to digital games.

Related to the topic: Game/Play exhibition has ended but you can download a nice catalogue of the exhibition from the web.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Are you a gamer?

I will talk about "Understanding the Player" at the NG06. I kinda like the division done by Parks Associates as well as their notions that 'If you lump all non-core gamers into the casual group, you run the risk of losing focus'. Their basic idea is to divide gamers into six segments: power gamers, social gamers, leisure gamers, dormant gamers, incidental gamers and occasional gamers. I think this is a good start to try to understand the diversity of gamers -- as well as games -- if nothing else. I will discuss about these (and other) segments of users on 19th Sept. in Malmö Sweden.

But who am I really to talk about gamers? I decided to do some tests to make sure of my knowledge on games. This is SUPER serious...

First I did 'Your gamer type' quiz.

The positive thing is that girl gamer is not opposite to hc gamer. What type of a gamer is a girl gamer, I wonder. I am not really sure if I am 78% girlgamer but on the other hand if it is written in the Internet it must be true, right?

Next one: Ultimate game quiz.

Pretty good, huh? Out of 50 questions I got 84 % right :)

Besides NG06 I will also discuss about games and gamers at (web/tv) at least in the form of reviews.