The latest Virtual Shackles comic just nails it.
Go to their website for a larger version and give them a Digg if you approve.
The growing reliance of the U.S. military on high-tech recreations of foreign villages and their inhabitants has some social scientists concerned.
A Boston.com story on the subject begins by outlining the work of University of Pennsylvania engineer Barry Silverman, who has been funded (by an unnamed U.S. agency) to the tune of over $500,000 in order to recreate a 3D computer model of an actual village in Afghanistan. Silverman is supplied with data from U.S. Army social scientists, who interviewed residents of the actual village.
Dubbed “human terrain mapping, it’s hoped that this technology can assist the U.S. in fighting terrorists and insurgents, but the whole idea has Hugh Gusterson, a George Mason University anthropologist, concerned. Gusterson asked, “Are we going to detain someone if a computer predicts that he will become an insurgent?"
As part of its support of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), airplane manufacturer Airbus recently conducted a survey of over 10,000 kids between the ages of 5-18 (from ten different countries) in a bid to explore the youngster’s perception of nature.
Asked what their favorite pastime was, 17.2 percent indicated it was watching TV, while 34.3 percent said it was playing computer games. 30 percent said that spending time outdoors was their favorite activity.
When queried on what was most important to them, 26 percent answered “playing on the computer,” and 14 percent answered “watching TV,” while saving the environment was tops to only 4 percent of the kids polled.
A generator-powered arcade in Kabul, Afghanistan provides the city’s inhabitants a welcome respite from the ongoing war and helps keep wayward kids off the street and out of trouble.
14-yeard old Ubaydollah Sharafian spoke to the Christian Science Monitor about the arcade, saying, “We come here to play games and relax from street-begging.”
All such forms of entertainment were banned when Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, perhaps leading inhabitants to embrace the ability to forget their troubles for a few minutes even more than might be the norm.
As a youngster in the midst of a game succinctly stated, “I don’t want this game to finish, I want to keep on playing forever.”
Another passage from the CSM article:
In a bid to drum up community involvement among residents of Boston’s Chinatown, local leaders commissioned the development of a videogame.
Participatory Chinatown was developed by project partner Muzzy Lane Software, in conjunction with the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), Emerson College’s New Media program, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Funding was provided by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition.
A description of the game via the MAPC:
The Harris Teeter chain of supermarkets has teamed up with recycling advocate MyBoneYard in order to debut a program that offers rewards and cash for unused electronic devices, including videogames.
Harris Teeter will reward recyclers with store gift cards for recycled items, or those discarding unused items can choose to donate the money received to the supermarket’s Together in Education program, which provides funds to public schools.
A handy website informs consumers of the value of their used goods beforehand. For example, a working original Xbox console, with all power and A/V cords, will bring a recycler $8, while a similarly outfitted PlayStation 2 is worth $7 and a Wii brings $78. Cell phones, MP3 players, GPS units, computers, cameras and monitors are among the other acceptable items. Harris Teeter will also provide prepaid shipping labels for items.
A new game, designed to “explore the limits of pervasive gaming,” takes place in real airports and prompts players to plant drugs on other travelers in a bid to get the contraband through security.
Blowtooth is the work of the UK-based Lincoln Social Computer Research Center and relax, the drugs are virtual, though the airport security forces a user is trying to dupe are real. The game operates like this: once in an airport—and before passing through security—a user fires up the Blowtooth application on their smart phone. The application will scan the nearby vicinity for Bluetooth devices, allowing the player to “conceptually dump or retrieve contraband,” on other people’s devices.
The goal is to then retrieve the “contraband” on the other side of security, with points being awarded for how many “couriers” "drugs" can be retrieved from and how fast the roundup was. The “couriers” or “mules” remain blissfully unaware of their involvement in the game.
Ubisoft is introducing a pair new initiatives for packaged games that will cut down on waste and improve the company’s green factor.
First, the company will eliminate the process of packaging paper game manuals in with their games, a move that would save about 180 tons of paper per year, or 2,300 acres of small forest, reports FastCompany. Manuals will go the digital route and will be able to be accessed through a game’s menu, which, in turn, will open up the design to become more interactive, as, "It will be up to individual developers making the games how rich the digital manuals will be."
Philippe Cousteau, the grandson of late French Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, has teamed up with the University of Virginia to produce a game that shows off how day-to-day decisions impact the Chesapeake Bay region.
UVA Junior Avery Paxton plays a farmer in the Chesapeake Bay game, and described to NBC29.com how his avatar’s actions can affect change in the game, “The measures that I take for farming can either increase or decrease the nitrogen or phosphorous that are going into the bay watershed and eventually creating anoxic regions.”
Players can also take on the role of fishermen, developers or policy makers. The game uses actual scientific data to simulate the health of the Bay, which Cousteau said is “in a steady decline.”
Speaking to UVA paper The Cavalier Daily, student Michael Villalobos said the game is so realistic, that, “There’s plenty of validity in making it useful for policymakers.”
A group against the development of Canada’s oil-rich Tar Sands is attempting to draw attention to their stance through the release of a simple online Flash game.
Thought up by the Polaris Institute and created by Insidious Design, the game, named Tarnation, lets players shoot oil at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff. Once the pair has been doused with enough light, sweet crude, players can sign their name to an email to the two pols, which states that “The tar sands represent the wrong direction for Canada.”
A game in development at Michigan State University was designed to teach Cambodian kids, and others around the world, how to avoid landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) that might be scattered about their countries.
Undercover UXO is funded principally by a $78,000 grant from the U.S. State Department and via a partnership with the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation. The game is intended to run on the One Laptop Per Child $100 computer.
The State News offers a description of the game:
Players use directional buttons to guide a character, accompanied by a pet, through a series of Cambodian landscape pictures in search of food. Players must avoid land mines and other artillery, called unexploded ordnances, or UXOs, by following warnings…
If you were to propose a multi-million dollar, 46-acre development project, which included a new mass transit system and hydrogen energy plant, you probably wouldn’t use an image from Sim City for illustration purposes in your master plan, would you?
That’s exactly what Duane Faust, of ESNA Corporate Realty, did however, according to MLive.com. The would-be developer used a Sim City image to illustrate a planned hydrogen energy plant in his 27-page proposal (PDF), which is part of a sweeping redevelopment plan for Grand Rapids, Michigan.
MLive.com also notes that Faust’s plan lifted an image used to illustrate a proposed hydrogen-powered subway system from hydrail.org, a “program designed to promote hydrogen-powered rail systems created by Appalachian State University.”
City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz called the project “a long shot,” adding, “It could be anything from an April Fool's joke to testing the waters to see if it's a legitimate project.”
Mayor George Heartwell labeled the proposed subway system “absurd.”
Members of the UrbanPlanet community have been picking the project apart, even going so far as to compare Faust with Simpsons character Lyle Lanly, who duped Springfield residents into paying for their own monorail system.
It was also reported that, "Faust could not be reached for comment. Telephone numbers connected to him and his firms in Atlanta and California have been disconnected."
The Minnesota Zoo and Eduweb have released the latest installment in their downloadable game designed to teach the public more about ecology and the lives of wolves.
The original WolfQuest game was released about two years ago for the PC and Mac. Episode 1, entitled Amethyst Mountain, was set in the Northern Region of Yellowstone and allowed players to hunt elk, find a mate and “harass” grizzly bears and coyotes.
The just-released Episode 2, named Slough Creek, introduces an additional four square miles of Yellowstone and lets users select a den site, raise pups and mark their territory with “raised-leg urination and howling.”
A multiplayer aspect further allows players to form online packs containing up to 5 player wolves and to work as a team to hunt humongous bull elks.
The newly released version combines both episodes and was developed for “tween-agers” aged nine-thirteen.
The game’s development was assisted by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The Minnesota Zoo is home to a pair of Gray Wolves and four Mexican gray Wolves.
The game does not contain a mode for hunting wolves from a helicopter however.
We would like to assure customers that we take our environmental responsibilities seriously and are rigorous in our commitment to comply with all relevant laws relating to environmental and product safety, including avoiding the use of dangerous substances in our manufacturing processes and ensuring the safe disposal and recycling of materials.
We consider the environmental impact of our products over their entire life cycle, from planning to disposal. In the planning phase, for example, we make every effort to design energy-efficient products and select materials for component parts and packaging materials with careful consideration for the environment. We also consider the importance of reducing environmental impact at end-of-life disposal by clearly indicating the materials used in each product to make recycling easier.
We also work to eliminate harmful substances from our products right from the initial stages of material selection and have established strict environmental control standards, with our 340 production partners all co-operating with us in our efforts.
In Nintendo’s defense, the company, while still finishing in last place in 2007 and 2009, did improve its score each year.
Also, a Eurogamer user comment on the story was too good not to share:” It also probably helps a lot that all these Wiis are rarely turned on anyway ;)”
As part of its annual Guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace has issued detailed ratings on just how well electronic manufactures are doing in the race to become environmentally friendly.
Nokia rated first overall, with a 7.3 rating out of 10. Of the console manufactures, Sony fared the best, coming in with a 5.1 ranking.
Microsoft and Nintendo game in second to last and last respectively, with ratings of 2.4 and 1.4.
Nintendo actually showed improvement when compared to past years: the company earned a 0.0 score in 2007 and a 0.8 score in 2009.
Details from the report on Nintendo:
Nintendo scores most points on chemicals; it has put games consoles on the market that have PVC-free internal wiring. It has banned phthalates and is monitoring use of antimony and beryllium. Although it is endeavouring to eliminate the use of PVC, it has not set a timeline for its phase-out. It continues to score zero on all e-waste criteria.
The full report (PDF) can be viewed here.
Put on your thinking caps for a discussion revolving around the political philosophy theory “state of nature” and its relation to videogames.
As outlined in a Baltimore Sun column, state of nature was first put forth by philosopher Thomas Hobbes who believed that a lack of civil restraints on society would turn people into savages that would do anything to preserve their own liberty or safety, with an emphasis on life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Hobbes’ view is contrasted by fellow philosopher John Locke, who held a more optimistic view that people are generally reasonable and would not seek to harm others, even when left to their own devices.
The Sun author writes that “Readers of online material already know how the anonymity afforded by the World Wide Web enables nasty and slanderous exchanges rarely seen in face-to-face conversations. More tellingly, video games often encourage this phenomenon.”
He goes on to offer a juxtaposition of state of nature as witnessed in two online games. In the first example, Runescape is offered as adhering to Hobbes’ view. When first launched, the game allowed more skilled players to attack newer ones that were unable to defend themselves. Developers eventually had to step in and restrict player-versus-player combat to particular areas in the game.
On the other side of the fence, a game similar to Runescape, named Armies of Gielinor, was able to utilize an unwritten rule that protected newbies from veteran players, giving more credence to the views of Locke.
The author concludes his article by noting, “The path we choose - in video games as in real life - is up to us.”
GP: So, what does all this mean? Unfortunately philosophy is not known for offering concrete answers. As mentioned in the article, if you have a computer, you have witnessed Hobbes’ views in action online, probably multiple times a day. Earlier this week I was struck by something that could be linked to Locke’s views, though it’s not game-related. As a fan of Boston.com’s Big Picture photo blog, I checked it out earlier this week only to read that the blog’s author was sick and taking the day off. Every single user comment on that post was positive, something rarely seen online.
Share any examples you may have witnessed—from either side—in the comments.
While most of the video game world's attention next week will be focused on the Los Angeles Convention Center and the glitz surrounding E3, a small group of industry professionals will meet to tackle environmental concerns.
On Monday the Greener Gaming Gathering, billed as a "video game sustainability luncheon" will take place in Burbank. The event is sponsored by AGI Polymatrix, which manufactures media packaging and is being held in association with game retailers trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association.
Speakers at the invitation-only event will include Wal-Mart's senior buyer for video game software, Darin Dickson. Cody Sisco from Business for Social Responsibility will make a presentation and an expert panel will discuss sustainability issues related to replication, packaging and transportation of video games.
GP: It's encouraging to see the video game industry thinking proactively on environmental issues.
Homeowners will soon be able to monitor their residential energy usage with a game-like interface which employs avatars similar to those found in Second Life. earth2tech reports that the OpenShaspa Home Energy Kit is now available:
The kit comes with a system that can monitor and control home power output with wireless sensors, and connect this data to mobile phone and Internet applications... Sensors for gas, water and other utility resources can be integrated into the control system, as well...
In what could be a first, OpenShaspa can be hooked up to a virtual world created with OpenSimulator, an open-source spinoff of Second Life... Shaspa’s developers believe that modeling energy consumption data in 3D could make it more comprehensible and easier to manage.
GP: As of this writing, no price or distributor info is listed on the Shaspa site. While the tech is exciting, as one earth2tech commenter points out, it will need to have serious security measures built in, lest a hacker crank the heat up to 90 and overflow the bathtub while you are away.
Today is Earth Day and National Geographic is celebrating with the launch of Plan It Green, a city building sim with an appropriately environmental theme.
National Geographic is touting the new offering as "the first green casual game." A description on the Plan It Green website sketches out the details:
As the Mayor of Greenville, players have the opportunity to create a green city... As mayor of your hometown, you have vowed to bring about a new green future by changing the ways of the past,. You are working with close supporters to restore Greenvile to its former glory and beauty.
Watch as Greenville transforms before your eyes as you build eco-homes, apply green upgrades and bring new clean jobs and industry to your hometown! Plan It Green is the first game that leverages the resources of National Geographic, an organization that was green when green wasn’t cool.
Features of the game include:
A free demo is available. The full version of Plan It Green sells for $19.95.
The increasingly game-aware People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will hold a save-the-virtual-baby-seals event in World of Warcraft at 1 P.M. EST on Saturday.
According to a post on the PETA site:
Activists from across the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are banding together to put a stop to the atrocious seal slaughter. Anyone who slaughters baby seals for their fur must surely be in service to the evil Lich King.
You must be in the WhisperWind realm in order to fight... go to Northrend, where you will find a zone called Howling Fjord, where the baby seals live on glaciers and boats float in the fjords. This will be the battleground to stop the slaughter.
Unfortunately, casual WoW players will not be able to check the event out since characters need to be level 68+ to enter the Howling Fjord zone. One of the reasons why the Ron Paul WoW campaign rally was so successful was that it took place in a starter zone.
In addition, hardcore WoW fans have posted comments to the PETA article and its Facebook event listing pointing out other concerns:
I actually do find this somewhat ironic, as there is soooooo much animal killing involved during the levelling of your characters.
I am a little aghast that you chose Alliance; if you want to be environmental you really want to be looking at the Tauren mythology. They are one with the earth and they are very environmental. As someone who plays mostly Horde characters, this just comes off as prejudiced.
Whisperwind is NOT a pvp server, most likely you are just going to be a witness to the biggest in game seal slaughter and you will be powerless to do anything about it.
Whisperwind is already a very high population server, which means most PETA members are just going to see the queue screen like the Ron Paul people did.
GamePolitics first reported on Harpooned: Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator more than a year ago.
The protest game, designed to raise public awareness of the fight against commercial whaling, has now received a 2009 update.
New features include
With Earth Day on this month's calendar, environmental group Greenpeace has issued its latest Guide to Greener Electronics. The report documents how well consumer electronics manufacturers perform in relation to the environment.
In Nintendo's case, nothing has changed; the Wii and DS maker remains dead last. Apparently, the phenomenal success of the Wii has contributed to an increase in Nintendo's CO2 emissions.
Among other console makers, Sony showed improvement, while Microsoft regressed, according to Greenpeace. The organization dinged MS for poor handling of e-waste.
From the report:
Nintendo remains in last place with a pitiful 0.8 points out of 10, scoring zero on all e-waste criteria. The company has banned phthalates and is monitoring use of antimony and beryllium and although it is endeavouring to eliminate the use of PVC, it has not set a timeline for its phase out.
Nintendo discloses carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its own operations and commits to cutting CO2emissions and other greenhouse gases by 2% over each previous year. However, Nintendo admits that an increase in business led to a 6% rise in CO2 emissions in 2006.
Grab a PDF of the Greenpeace report here.
by Dennis McCauley
Last week, an environmentalist protesting the expansion of Heathrow Airport threw a cup of green custard at British Business Secretary Lord Mandelson outside the Royal Society in London.
The protester, Leila Dean, 29, has been arrested by Scotland Yard over the incident.
T-Enterprise has now posted an online game lampooning the Mandelson sliming. Players toss custard at Lord Mandelson to score points. Hitting former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, however, may earn the player a punch in the nose. Prescott once slugged a protester who threw an egg at him.
Could your addiction to World of Warcraft help green up the planet?
Possibly, according to Prof. Byron Reeves of Stanford. Appearing recently on the Living on Earth radio program, Reeves suggested that Smart Meters, which monitor household electricity usage, could be linked to WoW:
So imagine that you're in your home, you're signed into [the] game… and you make a decision in the game to turn off the lights in an unused bedroom [in real life]. As soon as you do that, the Smart Meter recognizes that, sends the information through the network to your computer and your house [in the game] turns a shade of green that it wasn't before.
And if I'm using less electricity, my team might do well. I get gold pieces and points… whatever the game designers think is fun. You get feedback in an entertainment game about what you're doing in the real world.
GP: There is, of course, no player ownership of houses in WoW, at least not at this time. The prof was apparently brainstorming possibilities that could be applied to MMOs in general. That's an old screenshot of my WoW character, by the way...
British political figure Lord Puttnam wants people to know about global warming, and he wants video games to help teach them.
As reported by Edge Online, Puttnam, who is also a film producer, issued a press release promoting the nexus of games and climate change education:
Serious games based upon real-life geography should be vital tools in our fight against climate change. Educating people about the impact of prolonged changes to our climate in an accessible way is the best catalyst for action I know.
Lord Puttnam previously chaired the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill and is the founding Chair of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.
He also delivered the closing keynote at last September's Handheld Learning 2008 conference in London.
In November, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report showing that game consoles consume enough electricity per year to power every home in San Diego.
More recently, ecology-minded site Planet Green offered tips for more environmentally-friendly gaming:
Turn Off the Console When Not in Use... An Xbox or a Playstation 3 left on 24/7/365 uses as much energy as two modern fridges.
Buy a Wii - The Wii uses only 16 watts of energy while in Active Mode. The Xbox uses 119 and the Playstation uses 150...
Use the Power Saver Mode - If you have a Playstation or Xbox, you can reduce the energy use of these consoles by digging around the menus and finding the auto-power down option...
Don't Watch Movies on Your Game System - Watching a Blu-Ray movie on the Playstation 3 uses 5 times more power than watching it on a standard Blu-Ray player.
Dispose of Mangled Systems Properly - ...never throw the [unrepairable] system into the garbage. Most modern video game systems contain toxic chemicals... dispose of it with other hazardous materials...
My wife already thinks that I waste too much time on video games. Wait until she finds out that I'm wasting energy, too.
A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council maintains that game consoles can significantly add to consumers' electric bills. In fact, across the United States, consoles consume as much juice in a year as the combined total of residential electricity users in San Diego.
The solution? One piece of the puzzle is not to leave your system on when you're done playing. NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz commented:
If you leave your Xbox 360 or Sony Play Station 3 on all the time, you can cut your electric bill by as much as $100 a year simply by turning it off when you are finished playing. With so many struggling in today’s economy – it’s important to realize there are simple steps gamers can take to lower their energy costs. And if manufacturers make future systems more energy efficient, they’ll be doing the right thing for consumers’ pockets, for our clean energy future, and for the environment.
Among the big three, the PlayStation 3 is the energy hog of the bunch, consuming 150 watts per hour in active mode. The Xbox 360 isn't far behind, at 119. The Nintendo Wii, on the other hand, is the console of choice for the conservation-minded, drawing just 16 watts in active mode.
The NRDC claims that a combination of more efficient console hardware and educating gamers to use power-saving features currently built into the 360 and later PS3 models would save consumers a billion dollars a year and cut down on the type of pollution that leads to global warming.
Other goodies from the must-read report:
Grab the full report here.
Game consoles may be full of noxious stuff, but game packaging is green, baby.
At least, that's the word from the Entertainment Merchants Association, the trade group which represents hundreds of video game and DVD retailers.
In partnership with the Content Delivery and Storage Association, the EMA has just released the results of a study into what consumers do with game and DVD packaging. Conducted by the NPD Group, the research makes games seem environmentally friendly:
Of the results, EMA CEO Bo Andersen commented:
In packaged home entertainment, consumers view the packaging cases as part of the product and not something to be tossed. The cases provide product protection, allow easy title identification, and carry the artwork that is integral to the consumer’s association with the title.
GP: An interesting and obvious conclusion is that trading in used games is not only good for consumers, it's good for the environment. Now, about that landfill full of E.T. cartridges...
So, GP readers, what do you do with your old games?
Gaming consoles are finally getting some attention from Energy Star, whose new 5.0 specifications will take a look at the power consumption of these devices and set more stringent standards.
Starting July 2009, PlayStations, Xboxes, Wiis and similar consoles will at last have some requirements on how efficient they must be to earn an Energy Star seal of approval... With an effective date of July 1, 2010, manufacturers should have some time between the new standards set in 2009 and the next round of consoles coming off the lines in 2010 to create energy efficient devices.