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Monthly Archives: August 2007

I asked one of my favourite questions on Facebook: Toys or Stories?

I got some lovely answers, which I’ve rendered anonymous to share/store here.

So far, toys are ahead, by a narrow squeak at 14 ludological fundamentalists, to story-fans’ 12. Three respondents opting for the indivisible wave-particle duality of the Toy/Story.

“Toys beget stories. It’s only the other way around when capitalism comes out to play.”

“Toys that are not attached to a story (i.e. unbranded generic toys). Not Transformer toys (or Toy Story toys, for that matter)”

“The two can never be torn apart.”

“Toys. Will Wright’s TED demonstration of Spore as a ‘montessori toy to help kids think long-term’ blew… my… mind. ‘Tis the next gen’s literacy, and potency. But I do like to submit to a good story at times. Kind of geronto-therapy, these days.”

“stories. through stories comes the invention of toys”

“Toys so long as it is old Lego not new – my own stories are better.”

“Toys! Stories come with them for free!”

“Stories! Let your imagination run wild…”

“Stories. Stories stay with you, toys end up in landfill.”

“Stories, a toy is just a story in Vinyl form :)”

“Toys…cause you can make up your own stories with them ;)”

“it all depends on which kind of toys…”

“If it were J, toys and if it were N, stories. Depending on the time of day.”

“stories!”

“Toys. Most stories are just made up anyway.”

“Why has no-one said both, surely not an either/or question – not for my two boys anyway…”

“Toys. Because you can use them to create your own stories.”

“Narrative first always. Expanding narrative through imaginative play second.”

“Stories! The merchandising deals come after the original IP!”

“Toys!”

“toys then as i like plastic things”

“You can have stories without toys but not toys without stories. Maybe that’s where Pixar started from, there are always stories that go with the toys. Epic, life-defining stories. Now I feel the need to go get more toys.”

“Stories; as they force you to use your imagination more, and that’s richer than any manufactured experience. However, a crappy DVD could be a story and a stick and ball could be a toy, and the stick would involve you using your imagination more.”

“Life is stories. Toys are the friendly characters and landmarks. (My two-year-old says Jemima Puddleduck is scary… but he then admits he’s joking. Jokes — the shortest stories around.)”

“stories are always best – and most in demand – as they require interaction and contact. that said toys enable self produced narrative in the years before writing. mind you toys are cool and provide problem solving & physical fun (blocks/puzzles/autobots)”

“Stories, because they don’t precipitate the opening of out of town warehouses branded ‘Stories R Us’”

“Oral stories because even the worst ones can be mass-produced without causing waste. :)”

“Stories. They feed the imagination and can help you turn anything into a toy.”

“Object is story. Toy is object. Toy is story.”

“story-telling toys (like the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, not Teddy Ruxpin)”

“toys: the reassuring teleology of narrative appeals only to the weak of spirit (in a nice way)”

I’ve been using last.fm for a long time, and I’m a fan.

However, there’s one thing I find annoying, which is sometimes it seems to ‘fixate’ on a particular track by a particular artist and heavily-rotate it until it drives me crazy.

While I probably like the artist, and originally liked the track before I got sick of it – I have one option – to ban it.

Instead, I’d like to propose a ‘Snooze’ button for last.fm radio streams, that allows me to ‘rest’ the track or artist for an appropriate amount of time. (Illustration below with sincere apologies to the excellent last.fm design team)

Perhaps the amount of time the track ‘rests’ for based on my usage stats – but that could be presumptuous and annoying.

Better then to use a pattern that’s pretty well understood – a quick pop-up showing a few different ‘snooze’ options exactly like you get in PIM and calendaring software.

It wouldn’t negatively impact my rating of that artist necessarily, just give me a chance to come to the track with fresh appreciative ears a little (or a lot) later.

While I’m on the subject… And I’ve got photoshop open… Perhaps there’s room for an extra feature in upcoming.org too…

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Sometimes you have to grudgingly admire the nous of advertisers/marketers.

Reaching out to non-gamers by making a piece of gaming hardware seem appealling by

  1. avoiding all the games industry marketing cliches
  2. making it look (superficially) like a generic advert for pharmaceuticals / insurance / beauty products.
  3. advertising a boredom-destroying device on the tube where people are bored, by giving them something quite dense to read about said boredom-destroying device.

I have yet to see a rash of Nicole Kidman-a-likes on the Central Line however…

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This is a scheme called “Urban Freeflow” by Ben Stuart, of Nottingham University that’s featured in Blueprint magazine this month.

I can’t find it online anywhere, so apologies for the poor image.

It’s a training facility for traceurs – practitioners of Parkour, or free-running.

Beautifully-rendered – a Hugh Ferris production study for a Luc Besson straight-to-video movie.

I find it fascinating – an architecture specifically for superhumans.

Imagine designing a system, a city – of engineered environments and inhabitants.

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Just came back from the Edinburgh Interactive Festival – a curates egg, I think it’s fair to say.

Revealing, fascinating sessions such as an interview with stage actors about how they approached motion-capture work for Heavenly Sword on the PS3, bumped up against unrevealing corporate slideware and old boy’s club self-indulgence.

Apart, of course, from my boss at the BBC’s spiel (ahem), other stand-outs included Ren Reynold’s virtual societies panel (which wasn’t just about Second Life! Hurrah!) and Hilmar Petursson of Eve Online’s funny and thought-provoking talk on emergence in online societies and breaking the Dunbar number.

He also revealed he was on a secret mission from the Icelandic government to find the Scottish rats that had gnawed through a cable depriving Iceland of internet in the past…

But, it was often more frustrating than entertaining.

A few of us gathered over beers at the end of the first day and came to the conclusion that, now that in various forms there has been an interactive entertainment festival in Edinburgh for five years; it’s time for there to be a ‘fringe’ – where risks can be taken, old boys clubs can be left behind, and up-and-coming creators can have a platform.

Except.

It so happens that it already exists… Sort of.

Just before I had to go to the airport I skipped out of the last session and kidnapped a couple of colleagues to visit the Dare Protoplay event, where young teams of games creators were showing playable demos of their efforts – I guess a bit like the indie games jam.

Dare to be Digital ProtoPlay event, Edinburgh

There were some little crackers there too – ones that stand out for me right now would be the delightful heaven2ocean, a collaborative climbing game who’s name I forget but which I really do hope makes it onto Xbox360LiveArcade, a steampunk pilotwings-a-like using hacked Wiimotes, and a novel stealth game that used sound – amongst many others.

Dare to be Digital ProtoPlay event, Edinburgh

Enthusiasm, fun and actual punters (mainly kids visiting the Dynamic Earth centre) abounded… with a tinge perhaps of disappointment that they hadn’t seen that many industry delegates from the EIF come down there.

They missed out.

They really missed out.

The likes of the Dare Protoplayers should get the assistance for next to mount a real creative fringe to the EIF, where they can talk of SKUs and IP till the cows come home – while the new skool just gets on with delivering the fun that should be the lifeblood of the industry.

“I remember those nights, planning technologies that didn’t exist yet, outsider science, futurist dreaming, half-magical. The things I could do outside the unversity setting, now that I didn’t have to wait for the pompous fools at the college! I was building another science, my science, wild science, robots and lasers and disembodied brains. A science that buzzed and glowed; it wanted to do things. It could get up and walk, fly, fight, sprout garish glowing creations in the remotest parts of the world, domes and towers and architectural fever dreams. And it was angry. It was mad science.”

The words of Doctor Impossible, from Austin Grossman’s excellent “Soon, I will be invincible”

Warren Ellis, on his creation of another mad scientist: Doktor Sleepless:

“I was ready to do another big piece of political sf, and I knew what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the subsumation of authenticity into fiction. I wanted to talk about liars, on a grand scale. I wanted to talk about the end of the world, in the major and the minor. And I wanted to talk about where I think we are today, and where we could end up in ten or fifteen years. The motor of innovation and novelty is really kind of cranked up right now, but, in contrast, the general culture is still in a sort of post-millennial shock, just laying there and drooling over its nipples.”

The just-announced Call-For-Papers for Etech 2008:

At the 2008 version of ETech, the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, we’ll take a wide-eyed look at the tech that’s just arriving and cast a cynical one at some that have been emerging for too long. From robotics, health care, and space travel to gaming, finance, and art, we’ll explore promising technologies that are just that–still promises–and renew our sense of wonder at the way technology is influencing and altering our everyday lives.

A theme (ahem) emerging?

Ellis’ Tony Stark took a pop at Etech (and I joined in, embolded by the lead taken by a fictional alcoholic billionaire superhero) and the somewhat introverted web-centricity of it in his run on Iron Man a few years back.

Perhaps with Shellhead poised for mainstream glory, it’s time for science heroes again?

Perhaps, at last, some genuine outbreaks of the future…

PAGE ONE:

[scene] A kitchen, close-up on a clock on the wall. it's about twenty to eight in the morning. "Black Mirror" by Arcade Fire is playing.

PIC1: dolly back from clock to slightly wider shot of a room – a kitchen that's been turned into a mess of notes, lines drawn in string, marker pen on old 70s wallpaper, a Human League poster, equations, question marks, memorabilia from the 50s, a poster for international geophysical year.

DD: TODAY I CHANGE MY NAME

PIC2: dolly back further to see a kitchen table with someone – a slight man with unkempt dark hair slumped forward on it – seemingly asleep.

DD: ME – AND A THOUSAND AND TWENTY-THREE OTHERS, STOP BEING WHO WE WERE, AND BECOME WHO WE'RE GOING TO BE.

PIC3: dolly back further through the kitchen window to a typical suburban street.

DD: DURRAN.

PIC 4: dolly-back and raise camera to a wide shot of a surburban estate on the edge of a large, dense, dark, decadent and decaying city

DD: TODAY I CHANGE MY NAME, AND WE START TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

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