Tuesday, September 28, 2010

IR 11.0 program update

I am stuck in an EU ICT conference in Brüssels, which, ironically, offers an outrageously bad internet connection both at the conference center and at the hotel. This means that I can not respond to the many email I keep getting about the conference program.

The program is as finished as I can make it until I know more about who are withdrawing from the conference. This draft should have been published last week. This is the responsibility of the local chairs. I can not help you on that regard, and I am as eager to have this published as you are to see it.

All I can say is: This draft of the program should have been made public last week, and as far as I know it will be, any second.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blame the woman

I am currently stuck at Kastrup, waiting on a flight to Paris which is already severely delayed. Now, this is no fun, but some people just can't take it. The lady informing the passengers was still delivering her message as a man stormed up to her and started telling her off. Another employee of Norwegian, the airline, told him they were really sorry, and the man backed off for a moment. 20 seconds later, he ran back, and started yelling about the crappy service, and how he never got an apology from Norwegian. The male Norwegian employee offered very polite apologies on behalf of the company. The complaining man brushed him off with: "I am not talking to you!" to keep yelling at the female.

What was that? It's not like they had different jobs, it just happened to be the woman on the loudspeaker, not the guy.

Having too much time to think about it, I have realised it's simple. It's a matter of "blame the woman." She is more vulnerable, even when she speaks with the voice of authority (the loudspeaker). Hence, she is the one to attack.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hedonism in August

One of the topics I have been working on for a while concerns hedonism as a moral philosophy of gaming. This is, of course, frightfully ambitious, seeing that I am not philosopher. I am certain my arguments can be ripped apart quite easily by somebody who have actually studied philosophy, and not gaming. If so, feel free to find my article The player as hedonist in the Journal of gaming & virtual worlds. But for those of us who are more concerned with new ways of thinking about games and game research, I am trying to poke some holes in the idea that pleasure can be planned and designed for.

A counter-productive claim, if you are looking for a formula to make winner games, but if you're trying to gain insight into the wider processes of gaming it's very important to keep looking for different viewpoints. And so I have thrown one of mine out there, going out on thin ice for the sake of trying to carry an argument across.

It's hard to be evil

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

CPH p.2: So you think you can ride?

Moving to Copenhagen meant bringing my bike - of course. After all, Copenhagen has a strong bicycle culture and an eager biker population, with their special interest advocates, such as Mikael at Copenhagenize.com. I used to ride my bike to school in the summer half of high school, rushing past the stuck cars at home, I went biking around the fjords and mountains for fun (and love - strong motivator, that) during the summers, and I rode my bike to work down the steep Bergen hills - and back up, to regain strength after a car accident. When I went to Umeå as a visiting scholar, I brought my bike, riding through the winter on spiked tires. I thought I knew about riding a bicycle. It's a motor skill you don't really forget, right?

Well, Copenhagen has revealed several of my bad habits.

At first glance, it's extremely easy to ride a bike in Copenhagen. There are the famous Copenhagen lanes separating cars from bikes and pedestrians, and the cutest little traffic lights with red, yellow and green bikes to tell you when to go and when to pause. You go to the tourist information or your hotel or the parking authorithy, and you ask for a bicycle map to find all the best biking routes, and you have donned your helmet - preferably, since you're as vain as me, some fashionable version camouflaged as an elegant hat or a fancy cap, or a smooth helmet painted to match your bike or your outfit. After all, biking in the city, you want to look chic.

Now, off you go - and suddenly you discover the Copenhagen bikers' glare. Danes are pretty polite, and tolerant of tourists, but do mind that glare. Did you pause in the wrong side of the lane? There will be a tingling bell - and a glare. Did you forget to signal your slow-down and stop? There's that glare. Did you turn the wrong direction? A muttered "shit" and that glare, again. Slowly, you'll be getting it: you're doing something wrong, and it's time to figure out what before something happens.

First: signals. If you like me learned about traffic safety and biking in school, then you know about using your hands to signal right and left. However, Copenhagen has a third signal: stop. It's used for stopping at the curb, for turning off to the side to wait for the crossing light, for having reached your destination and stopping to park your bike. You lift a hand (optional which) and hold it straight up, either open or as a fist, doesn't matter. And you preferably do it early, or somebody will hit your from behind, and you'll get a lot more than a glare.

Next: attention. At the beginning you're happy to avoid being hit by cars. Then you start congratulating yourself that you don't hit any pedestrians. Then you discover all the bikers glaring at you, and you realise it's time to look out for other bikers. This is when you learn to look before you turn. You see, the lanes are not one-track lanes, but two and sometimes three or four-track lanes. It works just like with cars, slow to the right, faster to the left. Once you have passed your obstacle, you fall in to the right again. Unless you're chatting with your friend at your side. Danes can talk and bike at the same time. Astounding capacity. When you're at that level, you stop caring about the glare, because you're riding with that easy balanced arrogance that comes with knowing you're looking better and getting stronger and more healthy with every turn of the wheel. Yeah, they look good.

Anyway, about that attention. Don't let those good looks distract you. What you're looking for is traffic, and you need to learn how to anticipate it. See that group of people and the bus just pulling in? They will pass through the bike lane in a second. See those tourists messing around, waiting to cross? They don't know about the bike lane, and they will block you. And behind you - catch that faint hum? You're being overtaken, and you need to check for that if you plan to shift out to pass the biker in front of you. And DO mind the red lights. Biking like a maniac to the next light just to have to stop is a waste of energy. Ease up slowly, and hope it shifts to green before you have to stop. It's not like there's always a railing to hang on to. But you're learning.

Soon you'll discover the more subtle signs of Danish biking culture. Like the turned up or tucked in right pant-leg. In the summer half of the year it's mostly turned up, to avoid getting the pants into the chain. That's when you'll notice another little subtle thing: when you wear sandals and your pants are short or tucked up, your ankle tattoo will show! That is, of course, given that you have biked around in Christiania or downtown for long enough to decide you really want a nice little decoration on your right ankle. I have never before seen that many ankle tattoos as I saw this summer, tucked neatly between the shoe and the short or turned-up pants.

Now you're ready for another difficult biking exercize: finding a parking spot. I know people who don't bike in Copenhagen because it's such a hazzle to park. Yeah. But don't despair - despite the many angry glares you'll get if you put your bike in front of shop windows, there are thousands of designated parking spots all over town. And some of them are pretty damn good. Like the ITU basement, which is to a large extent dedicated to parking bicycles.
Parking itu 2
And yes, my bike is there, today as most days. Sometimes sore, sometimes soaked, sometimes just happy to have gotten here on time - but I live 10 minutes away by bike, and I love it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Is there a rythm to gaming?

All who have played games know there is a rythm to them, an ebb and flow of activity and energy, back and forth, sometimes like a tango where the participants are evenly matched and push, give and counter with intense focus, sometimes like the inexorable march of the invading feet as the stronger participants lay waste to all opposition. From the lighthearted singsong of easy togetherness to the complex concert of a well-rehearsed team, yes, there is a rythm to play and to games.

But to gaming, as a phenomenon? Is there a flow and counter, an emerging patterns of back and forth, intensity and slack? I don't know, but Tom Apperley is looking for it. In his quite new and fresh book Gaming Rhythms: Play and Counterplay from the Situated to the Global the topic appears to be an assumption of interconnectedness of gaming practices, globally.

It is an extremely interesting thought, and I am looking forwards to seeing there Tom Apperley takes it.