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.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Games with global appeal

South Korea is ruling the online game market. The sales of Korean online games is 31.4% of the global market. Korea is nr 2. in mobile game market with 13.3.% (According to NewTech Korea 2006 report).

The triumphal march of South Korea started in 1996 when Nexon published Kingdom of Winds. The system allows a local server, consisting of servers for each area, to accept 3 000 simultaneous users. It is no doubt that Kingdom of the Winds and two years after Lineage consolidated the foundation for Korean game business. The interesting thing is as Koreans put it: "The things most Korean are becoming the things most global".

Lineage has been the torchbearer of Korean game industry in many ways. Lineage adopted an assymmetric distribution server system that was later adapted more broadly. Also the game system was aggrandized with episodic updates, user power over community titles and the large-scale battles - siege warfare (which became the hallmark of Lineage). As a results to this type of innovativeness, Lineage was truly the first game gaining unprecedented popularity. Its heyday was in 2001, when it recorded 200 000 simultaneous users.

After that Korea truly has mastered massive online game world in many ways. Lately the focus have been spread to social and casual games. E.g. Crazy Arcade BnB by Nexon has boosted the change. Crazy arcade has attracted 350 000 simultaneous users. This has been the highest number ever recorded in Korea. Because of that many game developers have turned towards casual games with shorter development time and better possibilities to introduce bright new ideas.

Korea will be presenting its dominance in MMOGs (and ICT, semiconductors etc.) in Helsinki, Finland this weekend.

The two influential changes in the history of Korean online games were the introduction of distributed server system and the transition from 2D to 3D.

Online Games Market to Hit $4.4 Billion by 2010

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


There is life after Ars Electronica still!
Today I visited Heureka to see&play MoFun's circus installation. MoFun alias Marjuska Kaukomies, Sami Laakso, Petri Ruikka & co have developed an exciting physical game installation. Tuned video camera follows movements of a group of users and projects the activity to the screen (in a form of a pair of clowns holding a trampoline). Clowns try to catch every falling item/animal/thing.

The cool thing about MoFun circus game is that a) it calls for co-operation (if you want to master the game, you have to co-operate). B) It is suitable for "all". The youngest players have been 4-5 year olds! Also 3) it is physical (a group of players really have to run around the floor to catch anything that falls... and oh boy, it is soooo much fun! I quess you could name circus game to be one sort of a stealth exercise.

If you have a chance: check it out by yourself!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I wanna be an media artist ;D

Four days at Linz did the job: I have become a Ars Electronica fan. The event was exciting, diverse and rich nicely mixing workshops, lectures, exhibitions and other events. Linz and St. Florian were pleasant places, the weather was good and the city full of digital media art & music enthusiasts. I did not agree with jury about all the Golden Nica winners and I did not like John Maeda’s session at St. Florian but that was about all the minuses I can share with you.

"The technology of the modern media has produced new possibilities of interaction. (…) What is needed is a wider view encompassing the coming rewards in the context of the treasures left us by the past experiences, possessions and insights."

My top 3 of Ars Electronica06:

1) Tmema (Drawn & The manual input station)
…because Mr. Lieberman & Mr. Levin highlighted that enchanting and wonderful media art work does not have to be a huge indigestible system with fluids, flashing lights and GPS information. Tmema pieces utilize people’s natural creativity – linked with interactivity plus easy composition of music and visuals. Tmema pieces both reproduce old ideas by e.g. Myron Krueger (Videoplace) and mix them with fresh solutions. Also Tmema feat Erkki Huhtamo lecture-performance was great.

...because the presentation was great! But why haven’t I heard of Greyworld before? I am puzzled. Or actually I have but I didn’t know that they have done way more exciting works than the one (‘hanging balls’) at the London Stock Exchange. Especially I liked the idea of ‘a living wall’ doing all magic tricks. One of their ideas was to use bouquet ( the similar kind of what magicians use) and push the flowers through the wall to make different patterns. It might sound weird but it was super!

3) Toshio Iwai
...because I have been a fan of Toshio Iwai since Prof. Erkki Huhtamo presented his works to us (his former students) at the end of 1990s. Electroplankton (for Nintendo DS) might be the most well know art work of Mr. Iwai. One of his public art pieces can be experienced at Bloomberg show room in Tokyo.

Media art students / media artists from Helsinki University of Art And Design were also well presented. They had set up nice mixture of their works from 2001-2006. QuiQui & Animaatiokone (Perttu Hämäläinen &co), UMBRA (Markku Nousiainen & co) and ‘What you do is what you hear’ (Kalle Mäntsälä & Matthieu Savary) were the top three of Mlab works (IMHO). Also Petri Kola & Minna Nurminen had a hilarious Sankari talk karaoke show at the Rothen Krebsen.

Those four days at Linz were full of benevolence and excitement.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Das Wunder von Linz

Greetings from Ars Electronica! I finally made my way to Linz -- and I am super-super happy about it. Ars Electronica is an interesting event in many ways. This year the theme of Ars Electronica is simplicity. Today we were at St Florian, some 15 km from Linz. I listened three 'lectures' that were [I quess] somehow linked to the theme. Morning session was a huge disappointment. The session was chaired by John Maeda and the panelist were relatively interesting but the discussion about 'simplicity' was lame, uninspiring and dry. Luckily the following sessions were better.

The following lecture-performance by Tmema guys featuring Erkki Huhtamo was working well. The basic idea was that Erkki chatted about 'magic hands' in audiovisual media. 'Whether intended or not, these hands evoke the cultural acts of sleight-of-hand they had been trained to perform.' Between chat sessions, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman presented some of their exciting and rather simple audio-visual art works.

Third lecture was given by media art superstar Toshio Iwai. Mr Iwai was once again very symphatic and charmingly passionate about his work. The session was horrible because the lecture room was way too small for the lecture. As a consequency of the room size, tens of listeners had to standstill throughout the 2 hour session. And they did! I quess that pretty much gives you an idea how exuberant the lecture was.

Actually I quess exhibitions, installations and other activities were more interesting than the lectures at AEC. Jus to name a few... 'Moonride' sounded pretty dull but was pretty nice, also exhibitions at Ars Electronica Center and O.K Centrum were excellent. There are lots of things going on all the time from electronic music spectacles to fireworks, Sankari chat karaoke to playful media art pieces. Suberb, excellent & supa cool :)