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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in April 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Second Skin at IFFBoston 2008

From April 23rd through April 29th, cinema screens near the MIT campus will flicker to life with the 2008 Independent Film Festival of Boston, and one film in particular has caught our eye: Second Skin, a documentary about the lives of gamers. From the film's website:

Second Skin takes an intimate look at computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by the emerging genre of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Everquest allow millions of users to simultaneously interact in virtual spaces. Second Skin introduces us to couples who have fallen in love without meeting, disabled players who have found new purpose, addicts, Chinese gold-farming sweatshop workers, wealthy online entrepreneurs and legendary guild leaders - all living in a world that doesn't quite exist.

The press I've caught about the film so far has been intriguing. From The Austin Chronicle:

The doc is a car wreck in rush hour, even from a gamer's perspective: You can't look away no matter how depressing, unbelievable, or grotesque the story becomes. But this isn't just the pitfalls of the gaming industry; it's a hell of a lot of fun. Mixing expert opinion with amazingly true testimonials, Second Skin might just be the most accurate and entertaining glimpse of the economy and psychology of technology since Tron.

And, according to The Escapist:

Documentary nuts walk away having seen a window into yet another strange world. And gamers walk away feeling like they had seen seen their life story, with slick editing, a peppy soundtrack, and the seductive polish of an Apple commercial.

Not all the reviews are positive, as in Gamasutra:

Beyond my disappointment that the film never even mentioned Second Life, I was bummed that the most interesting aspects of this new medium were barely explored. How we experience ourselves is unarguably impacted by our relationship with virtual worlds and MMOs. The physical world still waits, however, for a film that fully explores these issues.

Despite some possible flaws, however, the film still sounds like it's worth seeing. The film is 95 minutes long and will be playing at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square at 9:30 PM on Thursday, April 24th. Tickets are available from IFFBoston website, and a trailer is available at

We hope to see you there!

Jesper Juul speaks at Columbia University April 10th

GAMBIT's Jesper Juul is speaking on casual games at Columbia University on Thursday April 10th at 6pm.

Title: What Makes Casual Games so Appealing, so Attractive: Looking for 'the Casual' in Casual Video Games

Abstract: Given that video games are as wonderful as they are, why would someone choose not to play video games? It seems that video games for a long period of time have alienated a large part of the population by way of their themes, their assumptions about the player's familiarity with video game conventions, and by the demands games have placed on the player's time. With the Nintendo Wii, Guitar Hero, and downloadable games like Diner Dash, however, video games appear to be reaching beyond the traditional game audience. In this talk, I will discuss why many people do not play video games, and identify the broader appeal of today's casual games.

Thursday, April 10
06:00 PM to 08:00 PM
Columbia University
2960 Broadway
New York, NY - 10027
Directions: Thompson Hall, Room 510 at Teachers College, Columbia University, between Broadway and Amsterdam on 120th Street. Check in with security (located in between Broadway and Amsterdam on 120th) and they will direct you the correct room.

GAMBIT Singapore Open House

Last Friday, we had a Open House for the GAMBIT Singapore Lab, where we invited guests from the government, industry and academia to come down and see what we were doing at the lab in the afternoon, and then the previous GAMBIT generation and some friends during the evening for a reunion. It was a very very busy day, decorating (and cleaning up) the lab in the morning, showcasing the games in the afternoon and getting some valuable testing feedback, and then catching up with everyone at night. You can view the pictures at the Flickr blog.

In the afternoon. we showcased the original versions of AudiOdyssey, Wiip and Backflow, as at the end of the MIT summer program, as well as the new and improved versions of Wiip and Backflow. We also showed off the first playable of our new XBLA game, CarneyVale: Showtime. Backflow now has its multiplayer component removed, but expanded single-player gameplay, including a new UI, improved music, and streamlined scoring. Wiip now is shifting to an arcade-style game, with simpler controls and a timer-based scoring system. And Showtime continues to impress people, though a couple of industry guys managed to break our ragdoll character within a few minutes of play.

In the evening, many of the old GAMBIT generation came back for a visit, including those who have just graduated from polytechnics, those who are currently working (including GAMBIT's now-famous new couple), and those who are still studying. Almost two-thirds of the last generation of GAMBIT students came for a visit to the lab, and it was a good time to catch up with what everyone was doing. And now, back to work...

Or, in the words of Warcraft II's infamous Peon: "Work work..."

Rag Doll Kung Fu and the rough path to innovation

This "flashback" review of an independent game released in 2005 was written originally for the Indiecade blog.

Of all the games I have purchased, I have only been asked for an ID to prove my age once (which actually says a lot about what kinds of games I buy, but that's another story), and that was for Rag Doll Kung Fu. It's rated M (17+), because there's blood and gore, violence, "language" (whatever that is) and use of drugs. I find it amusing, because while it is true that this PC game actually includes all those elements, it is also true that there is an important parodic tone to the whole game that differentiates it from, say The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (which has the same rating with similar elements according to the ESRB).

Persepolis for Xbox 360?

Last week I bought a game I swore I wouldn't buy: Just Cause. I swore I wouldn't buy this game when I read that its politcal premise--the overthrow of a corrupt South American regime through guerrilla warfare--would involve the typical American rhetoric that, it would seem, no war-themed game can exist without: the protection of American interest. Thus a game that could have been, provocatively, Che Guevara meets Grand Theft Auto became yet another emulation of Chuck Norris barf bag cinema, the kind where some helpless country needs a swaggering yank to pull it, kicking and screaming if necessary, to democracy. This is why in Just Cause you are some CIA dude, and not just a suffering citizen of the (fictional) country who's finally had enough. One might imagine that a horrific dictatorship would be reason enough to go guerrilla, but in Just Cause we need the threat of WMD's which could possibly be used on America to justify ass kickery. Viva la Revolucion!

The notion fills me with disappointment. I know better than to expect a serious, documentary-like experience from a mainstream videogame, and yes many games are just elaborate power trips. But what's wrong with a power trip in which the indigenous population gets empowered in a way that isn't filtered through America's big brother mythology? Ugh. Still, I bought it last week.

I bought Just Cause because I played it at a friend's house, and it turned out to be pretty fun. The American aspect of the story is more or less in the background. Your avatar is Latin American at the very least, though he does appear to work for the CIA. The story itself is still moronic, full of Hollywood cliches. But those cliches make for fun gameplay at times, like when you perform all manner of ridiculous stunts. My friends and I had a ball riding cars, boats, and even planes like surfboards as we ran from government stooges. After that, I decided to swallow my political angst and pick it up for cheap.

Then, yesterday, my girlfriend and I went to see Persepolis.

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