The Washington State Senate has passed a resolution commending Penny Arcade founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik as creative types, businessmen and philanthropists. The legislative body also noted the 10th anniversary of the popular site.
Both Holkins and Krahulik hail from Spokane.
From the resolution:
WHEREAS, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik recently celebrated the comic's 10th anniversary;
and WHEREAS, In 2004, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik launched the first annual Penny
Arcade Expo, a gaming festival... and WHEREAS, The Penny Arcade Expo attracts thousands of tourists from around the globe to visit the city of Seattle...
WHEREAS, In 2003, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik created the Child's Play Charity, an organization which raises contributions of money and toys to donate to Children's Hospitals worldwide; and WHEREAS, Child's Play Charity has raised over 4.5 million dollars for sixty different Children's Hospitals since it was established...
Writing for UK newspaper The Guardian, author Cory Doctorow offers an eminently sensible fix for those confusing, consumer-unfriendly End User License Agreements:
Here's the world's shortest, fairest, and simplest licence agreement: "Don't violate copyright law." If I had my way, every digital download from the music in the iTunes and Amazon MP3 store, to the ebooks for the Kindle and Sony Reader, to the games for your Xbox, would bear this – and only this – as its licence agreement.
"Don't violate copyright law" has a lot going for it, but the best thing about it is what it signals to the purchaser, namely: "You are not about to get screwed."
Cory also finds irony in the approach which content rights-holder take on the copyright issue:
The copyright wars have produced some odd and funny outcomes, but I think the oddest was when the record industry began to campaign for more copyright education on the grounds that young people were growing up without the moral sensibility that they need to become functional members of society.
The same companies that spent decades telling lawmakers that they were explicitly not the guardians of the morality of the young – that they couldn't be held accountable for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, for gangsta rap, for drug-fuelled dance-parties – did a complete reversal and began to beat their chests about the corrupting influence of downloading on the poor kiddies.
Ditto for the video game industry. As GamePolitics has reported in the past, game publishing lobby group ESA hopes to takes its anti-piracy "education" program into elementary schools.
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...
Valve founder Gabe Newell did some outside-the-box musing during his DICE Summit keynote, reports Stephen Totilo of MTV Multiplayer.
Among other topics, Newell ripped DRM for games:
Newell believes that [DRM] that is presented as copy-protection gives a game a stink. It leaves customers unsure about how flexibly they can access their games. So they turn to pirates who offer games with fewer strings, he suggested. “There is evidence anecdotally that DRM is increasing piracy rather than decreasing piracy.”
Valve’s solution: battle the pirates by providing better services than the pirates do. The effectiveness of pirates, he said, is to get content to people who want it more swiftly and easily than the companies who make the content do. An outfit like Valve, however, can get provide even better service, even by doing something as intrusive as data-mining their customers’ computers — as long as they are transparent about it and can prove to the customer that taking such measures will make the customers’ games better.
GP: Nice... We're adding Gabe Newell to our list of game industry white hats who are keeping the most important person in the business - the game consumer - in mind.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is offering citizens the opportunity to try their hand at balancing its budget - or not - via an innovative web-based tool.
I can’t help but wonder how many urban planners were inspired to enter the profession by computer games like SimCity or Railroad Tycoon... these programs convey information about arcane topics like utility maintenance costs and right-of-way clearance in a fun and accessible manner...
Now the Kansas Department of Transportation has come up with a neat way to both educate the public about its services and get valuable feedback about customer preferences, using a game-like format. The T-Link Calculator allows you to set transportation policy in Kansas and see the fiscal results of your choices...
By presenting the information this way, [KDOT] reaches out to voters (particularly younger ones) who are accustomed to interactivity and immediate feedback from their information sources. I have a feeling that many people who would never think of sitting down and reading the state budget will warm to playing “transportation god” on this site.
Moreover, the site makes it clear that we can’t ask for everything from our government; tough budgetary choices have to be made...
In most legislative offices, the most exciting thing you'll find are brochures.
In Rep. Joe Pickett's office, however, you can try your hand at classic Mario Bros.
As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, Mario isn't the only thing that's different about the Texas Democrat's office in the Capitol Building in Austin.
At his own expense, Pickett has remodeled his digs to look like a 1950s-era burger joint, complete with juke box. Visitors are offered free gumballs, soda and ice cream. As for Mario, the game helps keep state politics from getting too tense:
[Pickett's] chief of staff, says the old "Mario Bros. " video game is a mood elevator. One day a guy who wanted to argue some issue or other marched in with a fierce face, ready to rumble.
"He walked in and saw the old Mario Bros. video game," Chambers recalled. "He looks and says, `Awwwwwwww, I love that game.' It even destressed him."
Here's some holiday gaming awesomeness, just in time for December 25th.
The mp3 files are free to download and a physical CD, complete with appropriately retro cover, is available for a mere $15.
Here's the track list. Note the fun that the good doctor had with the titles:
Uh, I'd like to pay my property tax, sign up for trash collection and could the police department do something about that Orc who lives around the corner?
Well, it's not quite like that, but the City of Decatur, Georgia is evaluating the use of a virtual world interface to "encourage community networking, improve civic engagement, and promote economic development."
The project even has a name: Virtual Decatur.
A website devoted to Virtual Decatur references Second Life and World of Warcraft, although not necessarily as models. From the site:
Virtual Decatur will provide an environment in which residents, businesses, institutions and visitors can interact and connect... it is it is imperative that the project go beyond the features of traditional virtual environments. The overarching purpose of this project is to allow users to interact with the City in new and innovative ways that are not possible in the real world.
Possible features of the proposed Virtual Decatur might include:
• Opportunities to gather citizen input on policies, topics of interest, city services, and happenings
• A Virtual City Hall Tour with multimedia capabilities.
• Opportunities to earn coupons for use in real stores/retail establishments.
• Streaming video of public meetings, ideally with a chat room feature that allows viewers to comment.
• Access to visitors information (store hours, directions, weather, etc.)
A Request for Information (RFI) is available for download, with proposals due by February 13th. Among other requirements, the city expects Virtual Decatur to be "avatar-based" as well as "fun and intuitive."
This very cool holiday card arrived via e-mail yesterday from the nice folks at video game comedy site The -Minus World...
We love it when the good guys win.
A clever student at Missouri State University used the Xbox 360 controller's wireless capabilities to track down his stolen console, reports school newspaper the Standard.
It seems that someone swiped Ryan Ketsenburg's 360 from his dorm room after the sophomore forgot to lock his door. He managed to recover his system, however, with a tidy piece of detective work:
Ketsenburg... turned on his wireless Xbox controller and found that it was still connecting to his Xbox. Based on this discovery, Ketsenburg said he realized that his Xbox must be nearby...
The controller connected to the Xbox on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of Hutchens but not on the third floor and seventh floor, so through process of elimination, Ketsenburg said he figured out that the stolen Xbox must be on the fifth floor.
Following the controller's signal, Ketsenburg said he was able to pinpoint the room where his Xbox was stolen... The 5th floor resident assistant checked the alleged room where the stolen Xbox was and was able to find the Xbox, Ketsenburg said.
The controller was able to prove that the Xbox belonged to Ketsenburg, because the controller was able to turn on the console unit, he said.
This week's Child's Play Charity Auction Dinner raised more than $200,000 for worthy causes, reports Gabe of Penny Arcade.
Among the items auctioned off was the rather impressive statue at left depicting an Orc from World of Warcraft on his mount.
Simply awesome - both the event and the statue...
The Associated Press reports that Ultima series creator Richard Garriott aka Lord British has returned from 10 days aboard Russia's Soyuz TMA-12 capsule.
Garriott touched down at 9:37 a.m. local time today in Kazakhstan. After being picked up, Garriott said:
What a great ride that was... This is obviously a pinnacle experience... I'm looking forward to some fresh food and to calling my loved ones. I've got my father here, but I've got other family back home I want to get a hold of.
GP: Well played, Richard! Welcome back.