Philanthropic Gaming?

April 28, 2008

From TechCrunch (thanks Bernie):

Akoha, a startup working on a “new type of multiplayer online/offline social game”, has raised $1.9 Million in funding from angel investors. The company won’t release details about the exact nature of their game until this Fall, but they have stated that it was inspired by “elements of social entrepreneurship, massively multiplayer and reality-based games.” As far as we can tell, it will mix user-generated content with casual gaming elements, both online and in the real world (think geo-tagged photos taken on a cell phone). People will play for both fun and charity.

The Akoha site promises “meaningful play” “kuz karma’s contagious.” I’m looking forward to seeing how this shapes up. I just signed up for the beta, in fact.

A librarian friend recently told me that people in her field are talking about how Alternate Reality Gaming can benefit libraries. She was musing on how a local ARG could drive involvement for summer children’s programs.

With ARGs being designed for charity, making an impact at librarian conferences, and McDonald’s sponsoring an ARG which is not even branded McDonald’s (and this being reported in a NY Times article), it’s clear that ARGs have a mainstream appeal which has captured people’s imaginations.

What’s unclear is if they are financially viable as standalone ventures, and not as part of a marketing campaign for another product.

  • “Harmful to consumers’ health.”
  • Encourages “the subversion of public order.”
  • “An attack against the democratic state and the law and against public security”.

Way to go, Judge Carlos Alberto Simoes.

This article says “it’s alleged EverQuest is harmful because players are asked to accept both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ quests, the psychological burden of which is said to cause problems.”

… and later replaces Mario with with a swarm of small Marios.

According to boingboing:

“Japanese hackers merge an old (pre-EyeToy) hand-recognition system with Super Mario Brothers, and screengrab several rounds of bonkers Mario, nudged along by a ghostly, giant hand. In the climax, over 100 Marii are unleashed into pale-blue-sky-land and set to running and bouncing by the Barely Visible Hand.”

I’ll let game-design god Raph Koster do the talking:

This is the future of the internet: open-standard virtual environments. “Anything that you do on the web… just works in Metaplace, because we work the way the web does.”

Alpha application ends Monday.

Perpetual Mario Machine

August 26, 2007

I’m not sure if this is an existential dilemma or a physics marvel. Maybe it’s just what happens when you beat the Minus World.

Thanks, Raph.

The BBC reports that West Nottinghamshire College has incorporated a modified version of Atari/Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights into classrooms as a teaching tool, and achievement scores have tripled (trebled if you’re a fussy Brit).

…before they set off in their galleon they have to fill it with the things they are going to need. This requires them to work out the area of the ship and how much they can manage to bring.

Some students managed it, others sank on the way and never progressed to the next level. They would come knocking on the staff room door and wouldn’t let us go until we had taught them how to calculate area.

Some analysis by Raph Koster:

“Games work best at teaching when the challenges are organic to the experience, rather than out of left field. This is why so many educational games suck — just strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to instead building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way. The ‘fill the hold’ example works because the students have a goal that isn’t learning.


December 14, 2006

Regarding multiplayer in Elebits for the Nintendo Wii:

Fuck. Yeah.

Thomas picked this up and we played tonight during the VGAs. You control a “gravity gun” to trash your house and zap little energy gnomes for points.

Elebits Multiplayer
“Don’t cross the streams!”

Points in Elebits are called Watts, which strengthen your gun, power the lights, and activate electronic devices in your home. See, in the world of Elebits, the little buggers have gone on strike and refuse to provide energy to the world. It’s up to you to drag, drop, push, throw, and smash your way through your home to uncover more and more Elebits.

Raising the roof
We did not make it this far.

This is the first title whose core gameplay really centers around the unique capabilities of the Wii remote. Like many Wii games, you’ll have the most fun playing in a room full of people. So blow the Gamestop manager if you have to, but get some extra controllers and laugh away your shame with an evening of multiplayer Elebits.

Video Game Awards Tonight

December 13, 2006

Spike TV loves the UCB this year. Tonght’s Video Game Awards feature two comedy shorts starring UCB mainstay John Gemberling and directed by yours truly. UCB Harold-teamer John Gabrus is a staff writer for the show, and comics Brian Berrebbi and Nick Kroll play costumed gamer nerds. had a “liveblogger” at the VGA taping last Fri. Here’s what he had to say about my “MoCap” segments:

9:42: Mocap skit with balls. A chubby dude in a blue suit covered in giant balls plays “the bitch” in Saint’s Row. Nice.
10:53: [update 7] More motion capture skit action. This stuff has been the best of the show so far, by far. Someone might be pitching Mocap: The Show to Fox already. Sarah Silverman comes out… Besides the mocap dude, she’s the funniest thing in the show so far as well. (Full link)

Leeroy goes Viral

December 13, 2006

The Live Action Leeroy virals have truly gone viral, including a front-page mention at

Thanks to Mark Frauenfelder for blogging them (along with some kind words) at

They even made it to the front page of Digg.

Goddammit Leeroy

December 11, 2006

This is one of three promos I directed for Spike TV’s Video Game Awards. The others are

Stacy’s Birthday

These were written by the hilarious Johnathan Gabrus, who also stars as Leeroy. That’s Brian Fountain as the unfortunate client and Andre du Bouchet as the group leader.

Many thanks to Kara Klenk and Ethan Rom (as Stacy and Stan), Christine Lu, Adam Wade, Kari Kim, Val Bontrager, and Chris DeLuka for all their help.