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by L.B. Jeffries

25 Feb 2009

About two months ago I made a few loose predictions about the future gaming trends for 2009. One of the things I pointed out was that the most wide-open genre of gaming for the entrepreneur was the forum game. The primary goal of this game would not really be the typical stats and sense of accomplishment that games provide. It would instead use these to encourage clicks on the website to generate ad revenue.

The closest thing I’ve seen really start pushing this agenda was Facebook’s 25 Random Things. Write 25 facts about yourself that no one knows, tag 25 friends who will be notified about it, and encourage them to do the same. The article cited goes into the various reactions to the phenomenon, some found it therapeutic while others decided it was an excuse to protest the existence of the internet. What is interesting about this Facebook note is the notion of calling it a game instead of a chain letter. I tend to change my definition of video games every couple of months because some indie game will challenge it, but for the moment I’ve been relying on Corvus Elrod’s stab at it: A game is a set of rules and/or conditions, established by a community, which serve as a bounded space for play. In that context, I’d say the 25 Random Things fits the bill nicely.

A recent title from the Global Game Jam has taken this concept of a forum game and moved it one step further. Wikipaths is an add-on for your web browser. It starts you out on one page of Wikipedia and then challenges you to use only links to get to another unrelated page. The game is timed rather than count links since presumably everything in Wikipedia links to itself eventually. As Greg Costikyan notes in his review, there is immense room for improvement here. A spider program could count the minimum number of links it actually takes and challenge the player to reach it. There is also the choice of Wikipedia as a website and the aimlessness of randomly selecting another unrelated page to link towards. The application of such a program to any website is going to be generating clicks and ad revenue, but you still need a carrot on the stick to get it working.

Future iterations could simply take this program and apply it to Facebook. Off the top of my head there are already a few games I personally play with the website when bored. How many clicks does it take to get to a blonde? How many clicks to get to someone from high school? Beyond that is applying the concept for more useful applications such as research. Going back to Wikipedia, a spider search could generate a series of documents that are all applicable not based in word content but in their connections to one another. Whether or not this produces a better search remains to be seen. As noted in the article about 2009 predictions, by the time someone nails this concept it’ll be too late to copy them.

by Rob Horning

25 Feb 2009

Some Ash Wednesday-inspired blogging: At PSFK, Dan Gould points to a few articles (here’s one from WSJ, one from CNN, one from Cnet) about people giving up Facebook for Lent. At the very least, this suggests the ambivalence people feel about using the site. They consider it a sort of vice, but worry that they will lose friends if they don’t participate in it—that their social life can’t continue normally at this point without Facebook’s mediation. (Luckily, there’s a support group to help with Facebook withdrawal—on Facebook.)

What makes Facebook an entirely appropriate thing to give up, aside from its creepy voyeuristic element, is how convenient it makes friendship maintenance feel—it removes the requirement of attentive presence, of real-time reciprocity. This clearly still feels weird enough to people to seem vaguely sinful, a retreat from real life into an addictive fantasy world. Consider this, from the WSJ story:

Ms. Wentland paused to ponder the point of such ephemeral connections. They were fun, yes, but they took up more time than she cared to calculate. It had been ages since she’d sat on the floor and played trains with her six-year-old son or baked cookies with her three-year-old daughter.
“I have a real life here, with children, a husband and a job. They need my attention and energy,” Ms. Wentland says.

But it probably won’t feel wrong like that for much longer, as the attitude toward social networks of the tweens and teens now growing up with it becomes the norm. The idea of giving up Facebook for Lent may seem as crazy as giving up friendship itself for Lent a few years from now. (And then we’ll know for sure that friendship has become fully integrated into the culture industry-media company-telecom nexus.)

It’s worth considering, though, whether it’s a good idea to have so much of our personal life and well-being riding on what’s a commercial site (one that has yet to turn a profit). In theory, it could simply close down one day and then we’d all be friendless, I suppose. Or we’ll have an experience similar to this rather casuistic college student quoted in the WSJ story:

College students who have abstained from Facebook for Lent in recent years say it was brutal, but valuable. Whitley Leiss, now a junior at Texas Christian University, slipped up only once, on her birthday, when she was desperate to see the well-wishes posted for her. She asked a roommate to log into her account and read them aloud while she averted her eyes from the screen. When Lent ended, she logged on to find dozens of messages waiting and strangely little desire to answer them.
“I saw all that I had missed,” Ms. Leiss said. “And I realized I hadn’t missed anything.” She also learned, she says, who her true friends were—those who would take the radically retro step of calling or emailing to stay in touch.

As much as I sympathize with the idea that “true friends” transcend Facebook, it seems an arbitrary distinction. There’s something unfriendly-like about making everyone else accommodate one’s own self-imposed restriction. Imagine if she decided not to answer the phone for Lent, and then waited for her true friends to come knocking on her door. Facebook is just a means of communication, albeit an insidious and totalizing one that aims to conform the nature of friendship to suit its commercial purposes. But it wouldn’t have any traction if people didn’t want some measure of that conforming to take place. We want a kind of rolling yearbook for our lives, and a central dumping ground for our life updates so everyone can see them if they choose, but we don’t necessarily want our friend network being leveraged as a means for targeting ads at us and our loved ones, or being strip-mined for entertaining reality-entertainment content that makes a profit for someone else. (Whether social networks can exist without promoting the temptation to manage friends like one would a iTunes playlist is another question.)  Perhaps a more sophisticated, noncommercial social network will come into being that will enable us to extract the useful features of Facebook from the invasive, controlling, reifying, commercializing aspects. And then no one would ever even think to give it up this new service for Lent.

by Alan Ranta

25 Feb 2009

This is from a new Videos Remixes Rarities DVD set the legendary Ninja Tune A/V duo is coming out with.  They have a habit of making videos for most of the songs on their albums, so of course this little taste is positively tweaking.

Hexstatic vs Kris Menace - “Invader”

For further proof of their skills, here’s one of my favorite videos from 2004’s Master-View.

Hexstatic - “Distorted Minds” feat. Juice Aleem

by PopMatters Staff

25 Feb 2009

The Black Lips released 200 Million Thousand yesterday and just premiered a video for the first single, “Short Fuse”. Look for Matthew Fiander’s CD review next week on PopMatters.

 

The Black Lips
“Starting Over” [MP3]
     

“Short Fuse” [MP3]
     

by PopMatters Staff

25 Feb 2009

K’naan’s latest album Troubadour released this week and we’ll have our take of the album for you next week. In the meantime, enjoy the new video “The Great Depression.”

TOUR DATES
2/25 New York, NY SOB’s
2/27 Washington, DC Kennedy Center- Millenium Stage
3/01 Allston, MA Harper’s Ferry
3/02 Philadelphia, PA World Café
3/04 Atlanta, GA Vinyl
3/05 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbit’s
3/06 Orlando, FL Social
3/07 Miami, FL Bicentennial Park
3/09 Portland, OR Doug Fir
3/10 Seattle, WA Neumos
4/17 Indio, CA Coachella

//Mixed media
//Blogs

The Moving Pixels Podcast Discusses 'Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2'

// Moving Pixels

"Our foray into the adventure-game-style version of the Borderlands continues.

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