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Wall Street is being occupied, the glaciers are melting, and Justin Bieber is releasing a Christmas album. I’d say it’s long overdue for a new issue of Power Up!

Earlier this year, London Bridge was literally falling down. Many places in the old town were falling down and burning because of the riots . Not only that, the media establishment and Parliament were fanning the flames with the news about Rupert Murdoch and News of the World hacking into the phones of famous and not so famous people. You know videogames are part of the mainstream culture when they’re being used for political commentary.

 

Meanwhile, Sesame Street continued its long time domination of the videogame industry with this secretly recorded tape showing legendary game designer Tim Schaefer desperately trying to pitch Sesame Street’s hungriest venture capitalist on his latest idea.

Cookie Monster would make an excellent videogame critic. Here’s how you’d know if you have a surefire hit on your hands.

Doctor Arkanoid

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The doctor is astounded to report that flying pigs were spotted soaring over a snow covered Sahara desert today!

Unfortunately, it was still raining at Cypress Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore.  The organizers for the Winter Olympics are now planning to make mudboarding an official event 😉

The British Columbia provincial government announced on Wednesday that a 17.5% labour tax credit will come into effect starting August 1, 2010 for video game companies. While the Doctor is glad to finally see the industry receive a tax credit after many years, I can only say to the politicians ‘WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?

I have a hypothesis!

It’s fair to say that most politicians don’t play video games or understand the current state of the industry. Their experiences are primarily rooted in the days of Atari, Pacman, and Space Invaders. They are not exactly ‘technologically literate’. For several years, the industry lobbied the government for some form of tax incentive to keep companies from leaving and setting up shop in other provinces, or other countries. I spoke to a provincial cabinet minister in 2008 about why there were no tax credits for video game developers. The minister replied that because the industry was so successful in BC, there was no need for a credit. I explained at the time that BC video game companies generated more revenue than the highly tax credited BC film industry ($1.2 billion compared to $940 million). The minister waffled when I made that point

The doctor notes that Premier Gordon Campbell has used the video game industry for political advantage on several occasions. I remember him being filmed by CBC television on billionaire Jimmy Pattison’s yacht while schmoozing with homegrown video game titan Don Mattrick. Campbell was also filmed by CBC while visiting EA’s massive Burnaby campus during the 2009 election. When the studio was officially opened in 1999, former Prime Minister Jean Chretien was filmed there as well.

The BC video game industry began in the early 1980’s as a small cluster of  cottage companies. Today it is a recognized global powerhouse of creative talent. People who work in the game industry usually make better than average salaries. The current economic recession, the cost of living, the rising dollar, and increased global competition are affecting BC video game companies to attract and retain talent. The major BC game studios are controlled by publicly owned game publishers in Europe and the United States. If they and their shareholders feel that developing video games in this province is not a viable economic proposition, they will leave. Hopefully this tax credit will provide some measure of confidence for them to maintain their current level of operations.

The new video game labour tax credit is a start. But when you compare 17.5% to Quebec’s 37.5% labour tax credit, it is clear that more collaboration between government and the video game industry needs to happen for its long term health.

How about a new Olympic video game Grand Theft Muk Muk? 🙂

Doctor Arkanoid

It’s beginning to look alot like….time for a long overdue edition of Powerup!

First up, here comes another movie based on a video game! Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oh Gawd spare us! But wait! It’s Walt Disney and the movie is Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time! Jordan Mechner’s famous action adventure game is coming soon to a theatre near you! And it’s a Gerry Bruckheimer production! Now judging the merits of a film based on the trailer is always a risky affair (Cue deep voiced movie announcer guy: In a virtual world of danger and uncertainty, where one wrong mouse click can unleash horrors beyond imagining, comes a hero for our times…). But I digress. See what you think.

Once again the annual holiday retail video game demolition derby has started with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, published by Activision – Blizzard. The latest retail figures are in and developer Infinity Ward has a global hit on its hands. On Tuesday, November 10th, the game sold 4.7 million units worldwide and generated approximately $310 million USD. After five days, sales went past 8.5 million units and $550 million USD. To put this in perspective, Grand Theft Auto IV was released in May, 2008 and sold approximately 3.7 million units on its first day of release. After one week, sales reached 6 million units and total revenues were $500 million. Or to put it another way, GTA IV made more money in its first week than the movie Iron Man did for total box gross box office (it was shown in North America theatres the same week GTA IV was released).

At the same time, Modern Warfare 2 managed to generate controversy in other parts of the world. The Russian government ordered the game to be pulled from store shelves because of the way Russia was depicted. Infinity Ward quickly developed a patch to remove the offensive content. You would think by now game designers would ‘get it’ about international game localization for other countries, especially when they’re as large as the Russian Federation. Meanwhile in New Zealand, conservatives are all riled up that the country’s chief sensor has allowed Modern Warfare 2 to be sold in New Zealand. He also happens to be openly gay, which is fuelling the fire of debate.

No edition of Power Up! is complete without yet another story about that mildly successful little online game called World of Warcraft. Well, this time the fate of Azeroth is in the hands of…Chinese bureaucrats! A terrible battle rages on between the mighty Ministry of Culture versus The General Administration of Press and Publications. What’s at stake? Control of the lucrative games and entertainment industry for the Middle Kingdom’s 338 million Internet users.

Doctor Arkanoid


Anthony Gurr VancouverOn Saturday, May 23rd, the Vancouver Sun newspaper published an opinion piece written by Andrew Cohen called “Should We Adopt the Danish Way of Life?”. He wrote about how their society provides free tuition for students who decide to study  at university. Graduate students are also given a  salary if they study for a Master’s or a Doctoral degree. I almost dropped my coffee mug when I read those facts! What an enlightened approach to provide a university education to everyone that wants one! I have always believed that people who want to attend college or university to further themselves should not have to carry massive loads of debt in the process.  As a graduate student, you commit yourself to several years of specialized coursework and training about how to conduct research and engage in academic writing. The research thesis is the final test. It’s a demanding, rigourous assignment that isn’t for the faint hearted. Paying graduate students a salary is not only generous, it shows an appreciation and understanding of the commitment they’re making to their course of studies. Educated people are a society’s most valuable resource.

I was moved to write a letter to the editor about Cohen’s op-ed piece. Imagine my surprise to see it published in today’s edition of the Sun. You can read my letter here:

Canada Could do More for its Graduate Students

I think this passage from Chaucer’s literary masterpiece The Canterbury Tales sums up my thoughts about being a graduate student:

Yet, and for all he was philosopher,
He had but little gold within his coffer;
But all that he might borrow from a friend
On books and learning he would swiftly spend,
And then he’d pray right busily for the souls
Of those who gave him wherewithal for schools.
Of study took he utmost care and heed.
Not one word spoke he more than was his need;
And that was said in fullest reverence
And short and quick and full of high good sense.


Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid


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

Workers of the World Unite! It’s time for another edition of Power Up!

Six Days in FallujahIn Power Up 4! on April 8th, I wrote about Konami Digital Entertainment working with Atomic Games in North Carolina to produce Six Days in Fallujah, a Playstation 3 title that recreated this well known battle in Iraq. Now it appears that Konami is ‘bugging out’ of the project according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The company received many negative comments and e-mails from the United Kingdom and the United States that were highly critical of the company’s plan to publish this game. Game Politics also reports that the president of Atomic Games made comments at a recent Konami sponsored event that seemed to imply Iraqi insurgents were consulted during its development.

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Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the Power Up trail!

ToddlersHow young is too young for children to start playing video games? Take a look at some interesting stories from Citizen Gamer that deal with this controversial question. What do you think?

Speaking of kids and computers, there’s a news story from Kentucky about $300,000 USD in federal funding to develop a computer game that teaches middle school and high school students about protecting themselves from online predators.

Here’s a story that emphasizes why it’s important for parents to scrutinize what kind of video games they buy for their children. A mother bought a new Playstation Portable console for her six year old son at a Wal-Mart in Manatee, Florida. The little boy turned it on and discovered all kinds of pornographic images concealed in the PSP memory card. You can view the news report here.

There’s plenty of crude, offensive language to be found in online game chat. Microsoft’s XBox Live Channel recently came under fire from American gay and lesbian activists for its policies on this matter.

Should there be a ‘sin tax’ on video games because some of them are considered violent? In Europe and the United States, the issue is starting to receive more attention than in past years. Here’s a story from the Hartford Examiner in Connecticut.

It might surprise you to know that there are several billion people in the world who don’t play video games because they can’t afford them! But a San Diego based company called Zeebo is hoping to change that with their development of a low cost video game console that can be sold in countries like Brazil, China, India, Russia, and other emerging markets.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz. I wonder where that Power Up! is?

Voulez vous jouer Lara Croft? On April 1st, the government of Quebec introduced a new language law that prohibits the sales of new English language video games if a French version is already available. To give you a bit of context about adapting video games for the French Canadian market, 22 years ago, video game publishers were required to produce all marketing and packaging materials in French for titles released in Quebec. Plus ca’ change, plus ca’ meme…

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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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This week I’m introducing a new posting called ‘Power Up!’ to highlight interesting headlines about video games appearing in the media. I plan to do this each week.

The Sony Playstation 2 lives! Sony Computer Entertainment is reporting the sale of their 50 millionth PS2 console in North America since it was first released in 2000.

Sales of the Nintendo Wii did very well in 2008. The game console that perplexed many a die hard gamer and game developer when it debuted in 2006 is now extremely popular around the world.

There are now more internet users in China than any other country in the world. According to reports, there are 298 million active users.

At last week’s Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, the CEO of Activision Blizzard delivered a keynote speech where he talked about video games eclipsing other media to become a dominant form of entertainment.

There’s an interesting news story from the UK about the effects of using video games like Tetris to treat post traumatic stress disorder.

Video games are increasingly becoming a form of political expression. In 2007, the Lebanese political organization Hezbollah released ‘Special Force 2‘ – a game that dealt with its conflict against Israel. In 2009, there’s a game called Raid Gaza that deals with the current conflict between Hamas and Israel.

And finally…if you’re hungry for World of Warcraft, take a look at this new restaurant in Beijing, China for faithful players who just can’t get enough Azeroth in their diet:

Doctor Arkanoid

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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.