Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Soul of the Blogosphere apparently cats. From this NY Times piece:

"Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere."

I certainly don't disprove that. I blog. I have a cat.

Thanks for sending the article, Alice.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Childlike Wonder: Kobito

I've played around with AR (augmented reality) a bit, so the technology of "Kobito" doesn't strike me as complicated or out-there. However, the combination and application of several simple ideas/technologies is brilliant. Don't get me wrong, registering virtual objects with the real world isn't easy, nor is building a two-way feedback system between the two worlds. But to me, the real triumph of "Kobito" is the way it captures our facination with imaginary and invisible powers or beings. Watch the videos and tell me it doesn't excite your inner child.

Via Clive Thompson, who has some interesting observations too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Someone Else's Face

I enjoyed the movie Face/Off, but I had no idea how close we were to making it reality. Dr. Siemionow, one surgeon pushing the envelope, has nothing but the highest moral reasons for attempting this still risky procedure; she wants to help patients whose faces were disfigured.

Sci-fi imagining aside, I wonder what the psychological effects of wearing someone else's face would be? Surely, it must be better than not having a face at all or wearing a "living quilt." But what happens when you look at yourself in the mirror and see someone else? Skull shape and musculature will prevent a patient from looking like the donor, but it's still not the same face.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Hot Coffee

Anyone who pays attention to gaming will be aware of the "Hot Coffee" debacle. Greg Costikyan has some good thoughts, and as usual, the discussion at Game Girl Advance is excellent (see also here and here). Now that the ESRB has made its ruling, I consider the matter over, though there are several wider implications that have yet to be resolved (modding for instance).

In any case, I just read a nice (and somewhat sarcastic) editorial piece over at "There's Sex In My Violence! What's this lame soft-core porn doing in my ultraviolent 'Grand Theft Auto'? I am outraged!" Here's some choice bits:

Suddenly that downloadable patch you installed last night kicks in and there's, like, a lame and badly animated sex scene, right there, right between the graphic bloody part where you bazooka'd the police helicopter and the part where the gang-banger gets his lame ass beaten with a large handgun, and suddenly you're like, what the hell? Who stuck this lame badly animated sex in here? Where'd my soul-numbing ultraviolent racism go? I am outraged.

But the piece makes a more global connection:

Meanwhile, just down America's street, countless thousands of young U.S. soldiers are hobbling home from Iraq and Afghanistan, wounded and disabled and limbless and traumatized to the bone, eyes deadened to the world and permanently scarred to their cores and in interviews and documentaries and various news stories you often hear many of them say this one weirdly similar thing.


This is what they say: Oh man, you know what it reminded me of? You know what it was like over there, what with all the killing and the violence and the guns? It was just like, well, it was just like a video game.

UPDATE: Stephen Johnson weighs in elloquently. His op ed in the LA Times includes gems like "The national carjacking rate has dropped substantially since 'Grand Theft Auto' came out" and zingers like this:

Dear Sen. Clinton:

I'm writing to commend you for calling for a $90-million study on the effects of video games on children, and in particular the courageous stand you have taken in recent weeks against the notorious "Grand Theft Auto" series.

I'd like to draw your attention to another game whose nonstop violence and hostility has captured the attention of millions of kids — a game that instills aggressive thoughts in the minds of its players, some of whom have gone on to commit real-world acts of violence and sexual assault after playing.

I'm talking, of course, about high school football.


Sunday, July 10, 2005


The NY Times has an interesting article on the upcoming Godfather game being developed at EA. There were two things that struck me about the article:

First, the author, Seth Schiesel, recognizes the true importance of the GTA series. Schiesel writes, "What has made the G.T.A. series so revolutionary and successful is not its content but its form." It's nice to see a mainstream media source saying something intelligent about GTA and not decrying its violence out of hand.

Second, I really enjoyed reading about how members of the film cast engaged (or didn't engage) with the videogame version of their film. Coppola's well known criticisms of the game ("I did not cooperate with its making in any way, nor do I like or approve of what I saw of the result.") are balanced by Brando's interest in the new medium. Before he died, Brando clearly grokked the difference between films and games: "It's the audience, really, that's doing the acting."

Despite Brando's participation, Pacino declined to participate in the Godfather game in any way, which is funny because he licensed his likeness to Vivendi Universal for the coming Scarface adaptation. It's unclear exactly what his reasons were. James Caan, on the other hand, gleefully embraced the possibilities of the new medium. "When they asked me about it, my first thought was that I was going to finally try to get Sonny through the tollbooth..." Of course, that isn't the case; Sonny will still die, but I am heartened that some actors are embracing the narrative freedom of videogames.

It all makes me wonder what will happen when Hollywood actors get involved with a game that doesn't have the political baggage of the Godfather. Could there be an original game property that uses famous film talent in a way that isn't slave to a predetermined storyline?