Thursday, June 14, 2007

First Life

Eve Online is "not a computer game. It is an emerging nation, and we have to address it like a nation." This comes from the chief exec of the Icelandic company, CCP. It looks like nation, too, with a population scratching 200,000. Within these diverse groupings of characters, alliances are forged, each vying for control of the game.

The "game" in this instance has digital real estate, not unlike Second Life. What separates Eve, though, is the mode in which you gain real estate. Rather than float blithely through safe zones, such as SL offers, in Eve, while it does have neutral territories, is primarily made up of 0.0 space -which means zero security or policing. Alliances control systems and battle each other to expand them.

A far cry from Pac Man, yes?

Recently CCP, owners of Eve Online, has been accused of corruption. Some alliances are convinced that CCP rigged the game to favor Band of Brothers, one of the most influential groups in the game. A rival faction, Goonswarm, has even gone so far as to say that the Band of Brothers are engaged in espionage and theft of game secrets. Because of these accusations, it turns out that a majority of players do not trust CCP to run a fair game.

In response CCP plans to hold elections this fall: nine player-overseers will act as ombudsmen for the game's subscribers.

"I envision this council being made up of nine members," says the chief exec, "selected by the players themselves, where you announce your candidacy, and if you win the election, they come here to Iceland, and they can look at every nook and cranny and get to see that we are here to run this company on a professional basis.

"They can see that we did not make this game to win it."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Generation Now Redux

You've probably already heard about this: dotcoms for the wee ones. Kids are getting into some online fun with sites like Club Penguin, where your avatar is a self-designed... you guessed it, a self-designed penguin. Who amongst us has not wondered what it would be like to be a penguin? Certainly I cannot count myself exempt from this group, and so many were the nights when I as a child lay awake on my pillow dreaming of life as a penguin, it's a wonder I slept at all. And hey, the frosting on this cake of nostalgia is that my sense of lost childhood is compounded by the fact that it is now more obvious than ever that I was born too soon.

Other sites let "small people" (as children are sometimes considered, in lieu of simply calling them "pint size consumeroids") they set it up so you can collect and dress media celebrities like they were dolls. and Stardoll "your paperdoll heaven" are places where you can finally achieve your dream of creating Hillary Duff's wardrobe. Not only this, you can wrap her up in the smartest garb and take her out for a night on the town at

Being a kid was never so much fun!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Remembering Tiananmen Square

This week is the eighteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where Chinese soldiers indiscriminately slaughtered students protesting for democratic rights. Eighteen years since that horrible event. I was in college when it happened, and when news reached us here, it had a profound impact on my life. I would go so far as to say that it was the spark that set off my social consciousness. Previously, I was content doing and living by a narrow set of strictures, rules handed down by my mom and aunt, boundaries that, until that point, I had been happy to ignore or rail against. Something about Tiananmen broke open my shell and I began to take notice of a larger world beyond the borders of my ego. Eighteen years since then... I wonder how much has really changed, cynically, perhaps, but certainly with an eye that horrors like Tiananmen continue to be enacted daily, in Gaza, Darfur, Grozny, Baghdad... the list goes on. But what power there is in the image of the single student stopping with his body the advance of four tanks, cannons aimed forward and at the ready, his annihilation seemingly at hand yet doing nothing to shake him from the spot: it is as inspirational today as it was the day we first saw it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Arrest all Smart Alecks

To follow up on yesterday's bit about cellphones being seized at New York school's, there was an incident I came across during further reading: In October of last year, a large contingent of NYPD arrived unannounced at Wadleigh High School for the Performing Arts, in Harlem, to set up a metal detector and herd students through it, ostensibly to search for weapons. One student, vp of the school government association, nervous that his cellphone would be taken away, called his mother and waited outside the school for her to arrive. When officers approached him and wondered what he was doing, the student explained that he was waiting for his mom. Their response was to call him a "smart aleck", seize his phone, handcuff him and book him into the local stationhouse, where he was detained for several hours in a jailcell.
Where's John McClane when we really need him?!?!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Electronic Contraband

That's what cellphones are called now: electronic contraband. At least according Middle School 54 on the Upper West Side of New York City. Check it out, we're accustomed to having metal detectors at schools now, sure, but probably nobody ever gave much thought that they would be used to confiscate cellphones.
Yet this is exactly what police -yes, NYPD was there in person- did at Middle School 54 this week. "People were crying," says one eighth grader.
I'm being serious.
Any child caught with a cellphone on their person after passing through the metal detector was detained and had their contraband taken away. A tearful scene, evidently.
The Education Department first banned "communication devices" in 1988. In those days such devices were beepers, the cellphone revolution still several years off. More recently, New York's mayor took action to prohibit cellphones specifically in the area's schools -forbidden items also include headphones, batteries, and can openers.
From the sounds of it, the kids were traumatised by this week's event. "I feel naked," another eighth grader reported. "I feel like I lost something very important to me."
Parents are up in arms. Oftimes, it appears, the phones are not owned by the student but by their parent. One outraged mother says that she is getting her lawyer and "filing a criminal complaint that they stole my phone."
In all, four hundred cellphones were taken, plus sixty nine ipods, two knives and one imitation gun (always a good thing to have in eighth grade). They will be returned to parents (and parents only) no earlier than next week. Which means mobs of preteens roaming the city streets without cellphones.
Could be trouble.