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Well, better late than never!

When I was attending the Media Jeunes Conference 2010 last November as a guest panelist, I was asked by Dr. Lise Renaud from the Comsante’ Research Centre at the University of Quebec if I would sit down for an interview about videogames. Modest fellow that I am, they had to twist my arm! I recently received the URL for this interview.

Comsante’ hosts a blog at Cestmalade .

I hope you enjoy the interview!

AllianceThis week the good doctor observed that not one – but two – stories about video games caught the attention of national news media in Canada and the United States. The media frequently reports about video games and the the game development industry. Seeing two titles make the national news on the same day is a bit unusual and deserves special mention.

On Thursday morning, May 7th,  CBC Newsworld aired a two minute video segment on their website that discussed medical researchers studying the Corrupted Blood incident in World of Warcraft to learn about human behaviour in a simulated pandemic (Note: Could it be they listened to Doctor Arkanoid this past Monday on CBC Radio in Vancouver? Hmmm…)

CBC Newsworld Corrupted Blood

Six Days in FallujahIf you visit this blog regularly, then you’ll know that in Power Up 4! and Power Up 7!, I wrote about Konami Digital Entertainment cancelling the development of their upcoming video game Six Days in Fallujah, developed by Atomic Games in North Carolina. The title is based on the battle for this Iraqi town that happened in 2004.  Veterans who served in the Iraq War from the United Kingdom and the United States voiced their concerns about making a game based on this recent military event. The story was originally reported in Japan by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. On Thursday evening, May 7th, ABC World News broadcast a feature about the game and the controversy surrounding it.

ABC News Six Days in Fallujah

I find it interesting to see how one story presents a video game as being helpful to medical research; the other game is presented as insensitive to the emotions and experiences of veterans from the Iraq War. I don’t think the game review editor from IGN was a particularly good choice for that interview, but I’ll cover that in a future article.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

HakkarYesterday afternoon (May 4th), the CBC Radio program ‘On the Coast‘ aired a ten minute segment about virtual pandemics in video games and how they’re being studied by epidemiologists to learn about how people behave (or misbehave) during a large scale viral outbreak. The segment focused on the infamous Corrupted Blood incident  in World of Warcraft that took place September, 2005, when the troll city of Zul’Gurub was opened up and players faced off against the winged primal serpent god Hakkar. Thanks to a programming bug with animal pets used by the hunter class, players returned to their home cities infected with Hakkar’s Corrupted Blood spell. The result was a rampaging plague that killed millions of players across many servers. Blizzard Entertainment tried to set up quarantine zones; however, many players ignored them and deliberately infected others. This event provided an extraordinary opportunity for medical researchers to study how people behaved during an unexpected virtual pandemic.

CBC Radio invited the good doctor to join the discussion and share his extensive knowledge of Azeroth’s diseases. You can listen to the segment here:

CBC Radio Digital Flu

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Disclaimer: If you play World of Warcraft and are in league with the Horde, then don’t read this story. Of course, who said the Horde could read?

If you’re a PROUD member of the GLORIOUS and NOBLE ALLIANCE, then you know Azeroth isn’t exactly the healthiest place to live. It’s bad enough that the goblin and gnome engineers are constantly trying to one up each other in the “Who can build the biggest, baddest explosive devices” department. And don’t get me started about the deathknights and warlocks tossing about disease afflictions and summoning creatures that leave bits and pieces of themselves on the streets of Stormwind trade square! But when it comes to filth and pestilence, no one beats the HORDE for living in wretched squalor and unhygienic conditions! So it won’t surprise anyone that a SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC is running rampant outside the Warsong Hold in the Borean Tundra of Northrend!

Swine Flu!

This particular strain of Swine Flu first appeared approximately one year ago during the beta test for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion released last November. It’s carried by Undead Living Swine. Once infected, the player is susceptible to ‘Outbreak’ – it lowers player health and temporarily slows you down by 30%. It’s an annoying, but not terribly dangerous condition, unless you’re suffering from low health during the fight.

Outbreak!

News of this plague quickly spread from the virtual world to the real world. Game Politics mentioned it. A member of the Vancouver media also heard about this flu and called me to learn more about Azeroth’s wonderful pathology of disease and plague. Of course, it’s all the Horde’s fault!

Here’s a brilliantly funny piece of comedy from Craig Ferguson last week that nicely sums up the media hysteria about Swine Flu.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Once upon a time a wise old game developer wrote a one page sheet that he called ‘The Ten Commandments of Game Design’. There are other game developers who have since written their own interpretations, but the  commandment I always tried to follow was this one:

‘Thou shalt design the game for the player and not for thyself.’

It’s really quite simple: Design the game for the person who will be playing it, not for your own gratification. Unfortunately, there are a goodly number of game developers who still make games that they want to play and therefore they assume everyone else will want to play. Every year several thousand game titles are released; the overwhelming majority of them are financial failures. Video game publishing is like any other entertainment industry. You churn out a mountain of dreck and hope some real gems will turn up.

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Lara CroftThe Power Up! cup overfloweth this week with a veritable cornucopia of interesting stories. Take a sip at your leisure!

Darn that President Obama! He’s everywhere these days. As the Protoss would say in StarcraftWe feel your presence‘. Game Politics has a short piece about a series of  famous videogame character images inspired by the Obama posters created by Shepherd Fairey. Here’s an image I like to call ‘The Audacity of Lara’. There’s also Niko Bellic (Grand Theft Auto 4), Gordon Freeman (Half Life), Master Chief (Halo), Pac Man, Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid), and several others.

In recognition of Earth Day 2009, National Geographic just released Plan it Green, (do you see the word play?), a Sim-City style strategy game that takes place in the picturesque town of Greenville and lets players develop their own ecologically sustainable community. You can download a trial version, or buy the full game.

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NASA Computer Kids Image

NASA Computer Kids Image

Time to celebrate the first weekend of spring with another installment of ‘Power Up!’.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is developing a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) called Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond. The game is being developed by Virtual Heroes in North Carolina and uses the Unreal Tournament 3 software engine. Players will be able to create astronaut characters that take part in missions using real NASA space technologies.

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Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum!, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.