Archive for November, 2007
Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007
Why can’t I stop writing about games? Well, I saw another great post from a gamergrrl, Kat@ttack, Female vs Male MMORPGs.
It turns my stomach to see some of the stereotypical marketing to girls for toys, games, and TV. But I’m glad to see more strong heroines popping up all the time: Handy Manny’s Kelly, Dora the Explorer, (you can tell how old my kids are, can’t ya?) Lara Croft, Diablo II’s amazons/sorceresses/assassins, the reinvented BSG’s Starbuck/Roslin/Boomer/Six/Cain, the reinvented Bionic Woman, The Closer’s Brenda Johnson, and anything from Joss Whedon’s body of work (Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Zoe, Inara, River, Kaylee).
It’s too bad none of these strong heroines are moms. It seems you have to be single to explore your options and save the world. Moms in epics and games are always the lesser characters who sob loudly, protest against their sons being taken away, or roll their eyes and get back to mothering. OK, there’s an interesting exception in BSG’s Sharon “Athena” Valerii (not Boomer, who tried to snap the child’s neck), and I look forward to more there.
I’m a gamer mom myself, and so is my neighbor, who looks and talks conspicuously like Morgan on G4TV. I don’t have girls to raise; between dear hubby, dear sons, and dear dog and cat, I’m surrounded by testosterone.
But I’ll thankfully stand on the shoulders of the feminists from former generations who made a difference. Because now, all we really have to do is confidently, quietly do what we do best and it will earn the respect of our fellow gamers and colleagues, or at least those who matter. We can confidently, quietly widen our circle of influence. Will that change the tide of the stereotypical marketing machine? Maybe not immediately, but there’s hope.
If I’m too Pollyanna about this, or missing some heroic moms in entertainment, feel free to squawk back at me.
Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroines, marketing | Tagged: , amazon, assassin, Battlestar, Bionic Woman, Boomer, Brenda Johnson, BSG, Buffy, Cain, Closer, Cordelia, Diablo II, Dora, Dora the Explorer, feminist, G4TV, Galactica, gamer, games, generation, girls, Handy Manny, heroines, Inara, Joss Whedon, Kaylee, Lara Croft, marketing, MMORPG, parenting, River, Roslin, Six, sorceress, Starbuck, television, toys, TV, Willow, Zoe | Leave a Comment »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007
I ran links to a gamergrrl’s manifestos in my post about misguided gift shopping lists of games. But what appeals to gamergrrls about actual gameplay? Developers and fellow gamers, I can offer my own likes:
- I love customizing my avatar. Oblivion has some great tools to customize facial features and other characteristics that make up the personality. Even the Tiger Woods game did a fair job with avatars, and gives you the option to buy new clothes. The faces, hair, and physical proportions still need work, and the wardrobe is definitely appropriate for the golf course (not in a good way). My dear husband recreated himself, me, and our young sons in his game. I kick total butt on all courses onscreen, even if I refuse to pick up a putter in real life.
- I love building a well-rounded character. In Baldur’s Gate, I hated when my husband focused on one characteristic like strength to the detriment of charisma and agility. That may be the influence of my time management training, between Franklin-Covey and the Paul J. Meyer system. Even though Diablo II had a rather limited set of characters, I loved building up points so I could use some of the treasures. Lara Croft seemed fairly well-rounded already (;^), but I would have liked to build more than just quest stats, and build skills. A well-rounded character should be rewarded; I think Oblivion did this well, as did Torment.
- I love an intuitive interface. I keep seeing these getting better and better: navigation through movement and physical skills, interaction with the environment, talking with other players and non-player characters, selecting spells and weapons, and shopping for stuff. Oh, and thanks for letting me customize the keys I use. Now if only I could use those Lara Croft or basketball moves in real life.
- I like beautiful gamescapes, but not to the detriment of gameplay. It’s another thing that makes a game immersive. I won’t say I love beauty and art and graphics, because lately a lot of engines favor looks over substance.
- I love clever music. Portal’s closing credits are a hoot (see it on YouTube). Diablo’s themes for various levels haunted me all the time.
- I love allies. In Planescape Torment, they gave me much more than your standard fighter/wizard/archer mix of allies. I could actually have conversations with these allies, learn more about the world, discuss the pros and cons about what our troop was doing and could do next. I could even learn new skills (like thievery, weaponry, magic, eloquence, and so on).
- I love a story with a good plot. I want to immerse myself in a story. Again, I’ll use Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the Myst series as good examples. Actually, Star Wars Academy was another. You move the plot forward by the choices and actions you make.
- I love both laughing and crying. This may be an extension of plot, but it comes up with dialog as well. Planescape Torment actually moved me to both laughter and tears, and not just because I’d been awake for far too long. (BTW, laughing and crying are my litmus tests for a good movie, and extremely rare in a game).
- I love dialog that moves the plot. Not the “Wait, I’m a Medic” or “Thanks” and “You’re Welcome” of the new Crysis that Morgan reviewed last night on G4TV. I have to admit that I like the multiple-choice dialog from Baldur’s Gate II, where you made friends and enemies and affected your charisma points by the dialog choices you made. And I’ll say again about Oblivion, while I love using humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion to win over non-player characters, I’d much rather have a good Whedonesque screenwriter write the actual banter, which would give me some better examples that I might want to try out in real life. Oh, and the voice acting has to be good. Sure Lynda Carter (of the original WonderWoman) can do well as an Orc in Oblivion. But some sound bytes are downright annoying.
- I gotta touch everything. I want to explore every square yard/meter of a level or landscape for treasure, and clean it up by killing all the Big Bads and their minions. In that, I differ markedly from my husband (and young sons). Have you seen that comedian, Defending the Caveman? It’s the difference between Hunters and Gatherers, and I am the latter.
- I love puzzles that make me think and apply what I already know in new ways. Go Portal. Go Myst. And, to some extent, go Tomb Raider, in terms of using Lara’s skills to get to where she needs to go. But most games are still limited when it comes to what you can pick up and use in the environment; a recent exception is Half-Life, where you could break all sorts of things, lift them, push and pull, with a very user-friendly interface.
- I love when the game’s karma rewards or punishes moral choices. Baldur’s Gate punished you for selfish choices by dropping your Charisma so low you couldn’t get anybody to give you information or sell you stuff. Oblivion lets you explore being a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, and so on, all in the same game, but completing each faction’s quests definitely has its rewards, and I’m not sure I want immorality rewarded so much; I’d like to see something decremented like your ability to restore life force or mana when you disrespect property, life, or earth. As much as I like Grand Theft Auto as entertainment, it puts a knot in my stomach for how rude Tommy & CJ are, the foul language they and their NPCs use, the disrespect for women, and oh, yeah, the stealing, killing, and outright destruction. There are games where you get to play the cop, but he’s usually an anti-hero, one who’s out to get speeders or break all the rules. Are there any good detective or FBI profiler or spy games? I haven’t really looked.
- I love learning something that reflects real life. I’ll say again, my absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay, dialogue, and plot. I also learned about biology and ecology in an old Gaia simulation. I actually learned a thing or two about using golf clubs from Tiger Woods. I’ve even learned a few things about combination shots and English from the old Virtual Pool. It’s too bad that Guitar Hero is only a dumbed-down version of the Dance steps. It doesn’t actually teach you how to play chords. If it did, I’d be all over that. I could really get into a sim for learning how to sail or fly a small plane. I was even lucky enough to be involved in developing simulation training for telecom field network troubleshooting for SBC, now at&t.
Any other manifestos around?
Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroes, heroines, humor, learning, marketing, persuasion, What They Play, writeroll | Tagged: allies, archer, art, assassin, avatar, Baldur's Gate, banter, Big Bad, character, charisma, choices, computer games, Defending the Caveman, Diablo, dialog, dialogue, Dreamfall, Elder Scrolls, explore, fighter, Gaia, gameplay, gamer, gatherer, girls, golf, Grand Theft Auto, graphics, grrl, GTA, Guitar Hero, hunter, Lara Croft, learning, level, litmus test, Longest Journey, manifesto, marketing, minions, music, Myst, Oblivion, Planescape Torment, plot, points, Portal, puzzle, reviews, serious games, shopping, software, thief, Tiger Woods, treasure, Virtual Pool, Whedonesque, wizard | Leave a Comment »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 27, 2007
Lately, everybody* has an article on using LinkedIn to build a professional network. The obvious — public profile, colleagues, and recommendations — are moot.
The real answer may lie in Answers. Here are ten ways you can use Answers to work that network to its fullest potential (without coughing up for premium features):
- Subscribe to the RSS feeds for relevant Answers Categories. I subscribe to Web Development, Project Management, Writing, and Marketing. But if I were selling my company’s product, I might subscribe to E-Commerce and Enterprise Software. Every day, My Yahoo! gives me a list of the latest questions in those categories.
- Answer questions from people who could use your services or knowledge, or that of your colleagues.
- Recommend colleagues from your network who might also be experts; when you do, make sure you give them a heads up by forwarding (Sharing) the question to them. Listing your expert colleagues will get their names out, and may encourage people to consult them for more information.
- Share Q&A to forward to your colleagues who might find them of interest. You can Share a question asked by someone else, and highlight an answer that your friend might find useful. It can instigate a conversation, which can get the ball rolling for other opportunities.
- Ask private questions that you ask only people in your network to answer, and nobody else can see the details or the answers. This might be helpful if details in your questions might be more proprietary than you’d like the whole world (and your competitors) to see.
- Look up people who are asking and answering questions in your area of expertise. Sometimes you can strike up a conversation about how you both know several people in common. It’s like playing six degrees of separation (six degrees of Kevin Bacon) or less! For instance, Zach Miller was looking for software similar to what my company is offering, and we happened to be one of their customers for insurance.
- Ask questions where you think you know the answers. The question might draw people in, and your additional explanation, clarification, or individual responses can help convince people to think your way. For instance, Gerred Blyth asked about interactive design for some research, and offered to send contributors his research.
- Clarify your Qs & As. You’re not allowed to edit a question or answer you’ve submitted, but you can add clarifications, including expert people from your network and links. It looks thoughtful and lively.
- Boost fellow members with Best Answers and Good Answers. When you ask a question, follow up later by identifying the best answer and other good answers. The more people who thoughtfully use this rating, the better for the people who thoughtfully contribute.
- Drive traffic to your site or blog. You can blog about something that answers the question in detail, and post the link to your specific blog article, as I did for a freelancing question. Or just include a link to your site or blog whenever you answer a question.
* “Everybody” includes Lifehacker, TheSimpleDollar, FreelanceSwitch, WebWorkerDaily, Brazen Careerist, and the list could go on…
Posted in citizen, community, marketing, persuasion, writeroll | Tagged: 6 degrees of separation, Answers, best answers, blog, Brazen Careerist, clarifications, colleagues, FreelanceSwitch, good answers, Kevin Bacon, Lifehacker, LinkedIn, networking, private, professional, profile, public, questions, recommendations, research, RSS, services, share, site, six degrees of separation, TheSimpleDollar, traffic, WebWorkerDaily | 4 Comments »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 26, 2007
Yesterday, I happened to watch both Disney’s Peter Pan with my preschoolers and SciFi’s Battlestar Galactica Razor with my husband. And I realized that the films are oddly related.
At the beginning of the Peter Pan movie, the narrator states, “All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again.”
It’s a line that comes up in Battlestar Galactica again and again. In the Razor movie, a Cylon hybrid (possibly a god?) said it to Kendra Shaw before she blew them up. And other characters (Leoben, Six, and Roslin) have said it or paraphrased it, according to one fansite, Sacred Scrolls – Battlestar Wiki.
And the Peter Pan Wikipedia entry has this note:
Ronald D. Moore, one of the executive producers and developer of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, has cited this film as the inspiration for one of the recurring themes of the T.V. series concerning the cyclical nature of time. The first line of the film, “All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again,” has been featured prominently in the Battlestar Galactica series as a piece of scripture often repeated by characters.
In J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan The Original Story, the prose opening is “All children, except one, grow up.” All children who live, that is; every family I know has lost a child in the last few generations. And all children who are not autistic or otherwise developmentally retarded. And all who are not Cylons, born and resurrected fully grown.
I like the film opening line better. And I like the way it manifests in Battlestar Galactica. It signifies how most of us go through the same stages, finding and losing a sense of magic, dreaming the same archetypes from our collective unconscious, working our way through a spiraling cycle of time throughout history.
Posted in culture, heroes, heroines, learning, writeroll | Tagged: archetype, Barrie, Battlestar, collective unconscious, cycle of time, Cylon, Galactica, happen, Leoben, magic, Peter Pan, Razor, Ronald. D. Moore, Roslin, sacred scrolls, Six | 9 Comments »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 21, 2007
Just in time for the holiday shopping rush, I ran across one lazy AP news item. It paid lip service to how little the industry knows about what girls like in games. Then without further ado, was a short list that had no surprises: Sims, Guitar Hero, Disney Princess, Imagine Babyz, and Hannah Montana Music Jam.
Yes, I know that a large number of girls are still brainwashed into emulating pink and purple princess rock star babysitters. But I would have loved to see more about why the industry knows so little about girls and women, and markets so little for them. I’ll leave the rant to others: There is some research about how game makers are dissin’ the women. And then there’s the GamerGrrls Manifesto, Part One and Part Two.
What about Portal? It’s a great puzzle, set in a first-person shooter world, but instead of shooting bullets, you shoot portals and use gravity and momentum to avoid obstacles and projectiles, and make your way to the next level. My character was a female form, and the system’s voice was a fun female voice. Even if that system voice got increasingly neurotic, it was intentionally funny. And the music and lyrics over the closing credits is totally hilarious. My only problem with this game was a little bit of nausea that has been the norm in any game where your perspective changes from moving from 2-dimensional maps to coming in from above and having to reorient yourself. Just like in Descent’s spaceships (from the ’90s). The nausea probably means it’s time to take a break. But if my 4-year-old son can play it, so can any girl or boy of any age.
What about Tomb Raider Anniversary? Forget that Lara Croft’s physical proportions are modeled after every Barbie doll and superheroine that ever was. Lara’s got skillz. And the play control is so much more user-friendly, that after only a little bit, you can get over the mechanics of how to control movement, and dig into exploring those tombs. And even if you played the original, you’ll be surprised by what’s new.
What about Dreamfall and the original Longest Journey? It’s got plot. It’s got great characters, and pretty good dialogue. It’s got great puzzles. It’s got incredible immersion into another world. And both games feature commendable heroines.
Speaking of puzzles, you can’t go wrong with Myst (1995), Riven (1998), Myst III Exile (2001), Myst IV Revelation (2004), Myst V End of Ages (2005), and Myst Uru Live Online (2007).
For Role-playing games, I’ve played the heck out of Diablo II Expansion (2001), where I liked building up my character and treasure chest and Baldur’s Gate II (2000), where I liked the dialog, plot, characters, and team strategy play.
I’ve got to give Elder Scrolls Oblivion (2006) marks for character building. You can go with a less combative character of any sex or race you wish. One of my favorite features is getting people to reveal more information or give you better prices: you win them over either with humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion; I’d never really thought of my encounters that way. It’s a bit of a roll of dice, though. I’d rather see them come up with real dialog examples that you could model in real life.
My absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay and plot. And dialogue (OMIGOSH what fun colloquialisms)! I loved having a little guide who’s always with you to talk about what the next step might be.
I hope you don’t mind that I’m so PC-oriented. Coming up, I’ll talk up some games my kids love to play for free.
Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroes, heroines, learning, marketing, music | Tagged: Baldur's Gate, Barbie, Diablo, Disney Princess, Dreamfall, Elder Scrolls, games, girls, grrly, Guitar Hero, Hannah Montana, Imagine Babyz, Lara Croft, Longest Journey, Music Jam, Myst, Oblivion, PC, Planescape, Portal, puzzle, Riven, Sims, Tomb Traider, Torment, Uru | 7 Comments »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 13, 2007
I can’t believe it. My little subscriptions to GovTrack.us finally showed me the story I’ve been looking for on federal procurement. And it gave me the impetus to find other sites that are fun to use as a citizen, including FantasyCongress’ play on FantasyFootball.
With GovTrack.us, I like the ability to subscribe to actions by specific representatives or senators and specific topics related to legislation, since from year to year and House to Senate the actual titles and numbers are unlikely to stay the same.
GovTrack. us Nov 7, 2007 – Bill Action
Passed Senate: S. 680: Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007
Passed Senate by Unanimous Consent.
Washington Watch focuses on a bill’s cost per average family (or person, and so on), has space to comment on the bill, vote for or against, and find more information.
With FantasyCongress, the same way sports fans play with their teams, citizens can play with their government. “Only at Fantasy Congress can you draft, bench, or trade a Member of Congress. ” A Senator’s page shows his or her stats, legislation, amendments, maverick votes, and so on. A bill’s page shows the party slant based on votes, and a shiny graphical representation of its stage in the legislative process (it looks like a sport league bracket).
The example I’ve used in comparison, S.680, is only of interest to me for a story I’m writing. Similar legislation has been proposed for many years, and I was surprised to see action on it.
Federal Contracting Rules. S. 680 would amend various rules on using noncompetitive and sole-source contracts, including restrictions on the contract period for noncompetitive contracts and limits on the use of sole-source contracts. Imposing restrictions on the length of noncompetitive contracts and limiting the use of solesource contracts could increase the costs of administering contracts but also could lower procurement costs by encouraging the use of other acquisition practices.
The site for Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., has an article that gives some good detail. S.680 includes provisions for a more professionally trained acquisition workforce, stronger competition in federal contracting, and accountability for the resulting value of the purchases, and more transparency to curtail waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ money. Two key provisions affect software system houses (like the company who writes my paycheck) and trading partners (like our customers and my audience):
- Strengthen effective oversight and transparency when “sole source” contracting is appropriate by requiring publication of notices at the “FedBizOpps” website of all sole source task or delivery orders above the simplified acquisition threshold within ten business days after the award.
- Rein in the practice of awarding contracts missing key terms – such as price, scope, or schedule – and then failing to supply those terms until the contractor delivers the good or service, by requiring contracting officers to unilaterally determine all missing terms, if not mutually agreed upon, within 180 days or before a certain percentage of the work is performed.
The senators also touted the bill as an answer to the Department of Homeland Security’s reliance on contractors, which was possibly why it got enough attention to pass.
Posted in citizen, games, heroes, heroines, marketing, writeroll | Tagged: citizen, contracts, FantasyCongress, federal, games, government, GovTrack, homeland security, legislation, procurement, purchasing, S.680, solesource, statistics, Washington, watch | 1 Comment »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 12, 2007
A few days ago, I wrote about an interview I did with an LA Times technology reporter, “scoop on new parent site on games the kids are playing“. Here’s the LA Times article where I’m quoted:
But for games, there are few places for parents such as TereLyn Hepple to turn to that don’t have social or religious agendas.
“In cases where I’m looking to see if there’s objectionable content, I just don’t see many reviews talking about that,” said Hepple, a mother of two in Fort Worth. “I would love a place that actually has all that information in one place and has a real community feature where parents can contribute and get advice and recommendations.”
I’m not sure where the reporter (Alex Pham) got the social and religious agendas. I don’t disagree. I am skeptical of social and religious agendas. I might not see myself as the voice speaking for people looking for objectionable content. Of course, mentioning that I’m from Fort Worth places me squarely in the Bible belt. And while she misquoted me a bit, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and blame it on her editors.
I would have said,
“Oh, there’s a lot of information out there about video and computer games, along with hacks and cheats. And there’s that ESRB label on the retail box. But when it comes to objectionable content and the details I want to make good decisions about the games to buy? Those details are certainly not all in one place. And it’s not necessarily in the places that most parents — and aunts, uncles, and grandparents — would look. “
So I added these words to the launch feature’s comments.
Here’s the actual parent game search site, launched today: http://www.whattheyplay.com/. There’s a gentle glossary, some excellently written reviews from what I’ve seen so far, and an easy way to comment or add a review yourself. Here’s an example of a review with which I would definitely agree: Oblivion.
I was slightly wrong about the founders of the new site. I originally thought it was a Ziff-Davis company, which hardly seemed odd since ZD already has so many great gaming resources.
Today I confirmed they are ex-ZD. Co-founder Ira Becker is indeed from Ziff Davis’s 1up.com. I found a news release of his appointment March 6, 2006, to SVP/GM on ZD’s 1Up.com. He and co-founder John Davison, left Ziff Davis’s 1up.com and helped to fund the project. I’m adding these guys to my list of heroes.
Posted in community, culture, games, heroes, marketing, persuasion | Tagged: 1up, child, community, computer games, culture, games, heroes, Ira Becker, John Davison, parents, video games, What They Play, Ziff-Davis | 1 Comment »
Posted by contentgrrl on November 11, 2007
Management likes to be able to monitor employee performance and development. And to do that, sometimes they need to be able to quantify personal IP. By “personal IP” I mean personal Intellectual Property, and not Internet Protocol. ;^)
It’s simpler than you think, especially with a team of people who know their jobs. Make a list of measurable skills and competencies, assign a value, assess your people, and add it up. It helps identify skill gaps, training needs, expertise, and compensation rankings.
You’re looking for concrete behavioral objectives, using verbs and objects and success criteria as needed. What should they be able to do, using what tools or methods, (and maybe under what conditions or limitations)? For example,
- “Given a corrupt file or file needing conversion, runs XXX program to compress the file into fields based on Data Dictionary”
- or, in the project management arena, “Explains the criteria of selecting a stakeholder or subject matter expert to approve various deliverables throughout the life of a project.”
For the software help desk at DDMS, we’ve made a list of the concepts, procedures, and troubleshooting methods that our techs should be able to explain and do, and assigned a value to a group of skills related to the software we support. Some skill groups are for Level I or II techs, and some are for specialists at each level. Our managers currently use a spreadsheet as an annual assessment checklist, reviewing calls, self-assessment, and asking spot questions.
Ideally, you turn those competency items into test questions or lab activities, assess your people’s performance, and periodically monitor their individual advancement. There are systems out there that incorporate a database with user rights and more objective assessment tools, such as online tests or 360-degree peer & workgroup feedback. I have used such a system for a former company’s clients.
And two organizations in particular have helpful resources on this topic:
Posted in learning, performance | Tagged: assessment, behavioral objectives, competencies, development, employee, intellectual property, learning, performance, skills | Leave a Comment »