Doom on the $100 Laptop

Who needs textbooks when it’ll run Doom?  Engineers from the One
Laptop Per Child Project have posted videos of themselves playing the
videogame Doom on the new children’s laptop.

Up next: the Darfur game?

Link: OLPC News: DOOM on the OLPC XO!, via BoingBoing.

More: The NYT features the project again today: For $150, Third-World Laptop Stirs Big Debate, and also has an active reader discussion about it.

Monitor Kids’ TV Time with BOB

BOB is a new gadget that you hook up to electronic devices to monitor and control the amount of time kids watch TV, play videogames, or whatever.  Of course, if you need a gadget to accomplish this, your parenting problems may not stop here.

I assume the marketing wizards who named this device never watched Twin Peaks.

Link: Bob, Media Time Management Device,
via Wired: Gear Factor.

Second Life at On the Media

I find the whole Second Life phenomenon fascinating (and possibly a little disturbing).  It’s been getting news coverage everywhere lately; NPR’s On the Media had a good story about it this weekend.  They talked with Mark Warner, the first presidential hopeful ever to make a campaign appearance in a virtual world, and also with virtual-embedded reporter Wagner James Au and real-world journalist Clive Thompson.

You can listen at On the Media –September 22, 2006, or read a transcript there after Tuesday.  More at Wagner James Au’s site as well: On the Media, on Second Life.

Crashing the Army’s Video Game Party

Salon has a fascinating article today about "America’s Army," the US Army’s recruitment video game that simulates the Iraq War, and artist Joseph DeLappe‘s protest work.  An excerpt:

To streak entertainment with reality, DeLappe has turned "America’s
Army" into a war protest and a memorial to dead soldiers. Since the
anniversary of the Iraq invasion this past March, DeLappe, chair of the
art department at the University of Nevada, Reno, has been playing the
game under the call sign "dead-in-Iraq," which is also what he calls
his work of "performance art."

He logs on to the game and does nothing. While other online players
around him simulate war — and eventually shoot him — he types into
the program’s chat interface — typically used for gamers to strategize
with one another — the name of each service person killed in Iraq. As
of Sept. 14, he’d entered 1,273 names of the 2,670 Americans killed
there; he plans to continue until the war ends. "I’m trying to remind
other gamers that real people are dying in Iraq," DeLappe says.

The military funded "America’s Army" in part to interest kids as
young as 13 to join the Army. The virtual rifle range (free to
download) is also a training ground for real combat in Iraq. With 7.5
million users since its release in 2002, "America’s Army" has become
the main place where young people learn about the military, according
to a 2004 marketing survey conducted for the Army. It’s an
"entertaining way for young adults to explore the Army and its
adventures and opportunities as a virtual soldier," reads the game’s
official Web site, which links gamers to a military recruiter.

"It’s probably the only game out there on the Internet, where if it
draws you in and gets you to join the military, you could die," says

Link: Virtually dead in Iraq | Salon Arts & Entertainment.

See also Joseph DeLappe’s site, which has images from the game.

Violence and Video Games

Yesterday I wrote that I was eager to see how people might defend the existence of "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!", a game enjoyed by the shooter who went on a rampage at a Montreal college on Monday.

Sure enough, Techdirt is on the case, with "Media Making Sure You Know That Montreal Shooter Played Violent Video Games".  They never address the point I was wondering about, though; instead
they focus on "anti-videogame lawyer" Jack Thompson, and go on to
repeat their familiar speech about violence and games in "Dismantling The Research Being Used Against Video Games". 

Their argument is irrelevant, though.  It’s a straw-man argument, even if there does happen to be at least one real character who fits the description — this Jack Thompson, who I’m not familiar with.  Most people who are concerned about ultra-violent games probably don’t think they directly cause violence.  Everyone knows that events happen in much more complicated ways.  But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that extreme exposure to violence can influence people — probably in ways we don’t yet understand, which is why this is a legitimate topic of study.

Denying the mere possibility that violent media could influence people is as absurd as saying that advertising doesn’t influence people.  (I owe this comparison to an article I read recently, but I can’t remember where.)

Getting back to my original question, Techdirt doesn’t answer why "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!" should exist in the first place.  I’m sure it’s not illegal, but surely the game is in very bad taste, "artist statements" notwithstanding.  I would hope that even  the most ardent defenders of more mainstream violent games could admit that.