December 20, 2008

Crumble Away

Category: Games — Biella @ 6:18 pm

I consider myself a fairly creative thinker but not even close to outrageously creative. I do have a few friends that fit that later category and one of them is my ex-roommate, Zack Brown (of kernel traffic fame.

After many, really too many months of not seeing him, I met him for dinner last night under very snowy NYC conditions and as is always the case, he opened our evening meeting with an unusual and compelling story (and I usually am skeptical of his claims but my skepticism is most often totally unwarranted).

Last night, his declaration was the following. He let me know that he has been working on a game, since before we met in 2001, which I was never knew about, and just recently all the pieces–and this is metaphorical and literal for there are many pieces in the game–have come together and has filed a patent for the game (news to me that you could patent a game).

After thinking about it for 7 years(!!!), he has invented a game that I have to say looks stunningly interesting Crumble. It is simple in its rules and format but the strategy is quite demanding and complex. It is requires deep thought but also, it seems, a very visual mind.

If you are interested in following its development and marketing (he is looking for manufacturers), you can keep track of developments on his blog. If you are a daring and patient soul (who can refrain from sneezing and laughing) you can make your own pieces and play sooner. And if you work at Google (NYC office) apparently, people are already playing, so you can join and Crumble Away!

September 16, 2008

Playing for social good

Category: Games — Biella @ 3:30 pm

When I was in Montreal in August, I got to spend some time with Simon Law, one of the first Free Software/Debian developers I met in full flesh and blood back in 2002. In August he was a bit worn but there was a definite sparkle in his eye. He was working at a new company doing some interesting development but he could not reveal just what had been up to.

Just recently he clued me into what he was spending his night, days, and dreams working on. I have to admit, I am at once intrigued, puzzled, and surprised by this new reality based game, which won’t fully come out until 2009 but they are accepting beta testers. As you can read here, Akoha it is a social reality game which uses real world, mobile, and web technologies to engage people in game, play, and do-good type activities.

As many others have written about, games are not just about play but they are economically lucrative enterprises. But economies are not only built around finances, money, and gold but can be moral economies based on reputation and also doing good. Akoha is thus directing the energies of fun and play in a combined digital and non-digital environment to build up just this playful moral economy. I look forward to seeing its path develop once it is finally released.

If you are still confused as to what Akoha is, this video will shed some additional light on this social experiment.

April 8, 2008

Digital Kriegspiel Creator Under Fire From Dead Marxist

Category: Games,IP Law,Tech — Biella @ 5:31 pm

IP, as a field of law, sometimes strikes as one unbelievably large and profitable game of make believe and this case, concerning a digital adaptation of chess-like game, a dead (famous) Marxist, his estate, and widow, makes this “game” all the more absurd (but somewhat entertaining, as all games should be)

September 9, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Category: Documentary,Games,Tech — Biella @ 5:40 am

I spent much of my early childhood at the video arcade. I was fortunate enough to have a best friend who 1) Lived in the old quarters of San Juan where you could walk everywhere 2) Had three older teenage sisters who would take us when we were still quite young to the arcade, which also doubled as a fantastic ice-cream parlor.

My favorite game there was galaga, and I played it incessantly (and had to use a foot stool too!!) As a result of all that childhood gaming, I am still pretty half decent at it. For example, I more often than not beat my partner (except under less than auspicious conditions, like being sleep deprived), which is pretty unbelievable as he is much more of a video game wizard than I and otherwise beats me in everything.
Back in my first year in grad school, a cohort of us would play Galaga after our large theory class, and I would also always win (and by a lot and then get crushed at foosball).

So of course when I heard that there was a documentary on the very genre of arcade games that consumed so much of my early childhood, King of Kong and a movie that was rumored to leave you at the edge of your seat (which seemed like an impossibility to me), I decided to fork over the cash and check it out in the movie theatre last night.

And it was well worth every penny. The movie somehow managed to capture a story and set of subjective experiences that I think are incredibly hard to portray via film: the individual and social intimacy that comes with machine interaction. The story lines revolves around two very different characters who are masters at conquering one of the hardest video games in the world, Donkey Kong and are trying to clinch the world record. The tale of rivalry between them is really good in and of itself and probably without this drama, the movie would have not worked. But what I also found amazing was how the movie conveyed the persistence of the (older) game. They live on in the lives of individuals and collectives, despite the rise of a whole, new class of games that are much more popular today. I am not sure how much longer they will live on, or if the movie was also inadvertently portraying the rise and slow decline of an era that will, in another 50 years, become part of the archive of dead history.

Whatever the case, if you had a loving relationship with these games (or your friends or parents did), check out the movie. It really has some incredible footage and moments and will make you want to run to that old arcade, once again.