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Author Archives: Leslie

Apple’s ready to enter the gaming world with its iPhone, but are consumers ready to welcome it?

Resident Evil on iPhone

After reading and researching Apple and gaming further, it seems pretty clear to me that Apple is trying to make a push to enter the portable gaming world with its iPhone/iPod/iPad devices.  There have been a handful of news articles concerning portable gaming and the iPhone since Capcom mentioned that Street Fighter will be coming to iPhone. Here’s my blog that more specifically details these stories as further background information. Two of the highlights include:

With these articles in mind, and since iPhone hasn’t overtly made a jump into the gaming world yet, I would like to use Web 2.0 to research and determine how consumers feel about the iPhone as a feasible gaming platform. I am looking to embed myself in the “gaming world” through traditional sources, like news media, as well as becoming an active member on gaming websites and forums, where I can talk to gamers and determine the overall point of view of the iPhone as a legitimate portable gaming platform. I also plan to download and play a few iPhone games, so that I may competently discuss them on the forums. Twitter will also be beneficial to my purpose of gaining information (I tweet for a horror film website; in my experience with horror, the genre of horror and that of gaming tend to overlap, with there being a shared interest in these two topics amongst those who follow either or both).

Those involved in the gaming culture are very “cliquey” and loyal to certain games and platforms; gamers tend to form emotional attachments to their brand/company of choice, ie, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo. For instance, even though I am not a gamer, I have grown up with my brother first playing Sega and then migrating to Playstation, and from there Playstation 2 and 3. Because of his loyalty to Playstation, I have also formed a certain affinity with the brand. Because of my own experience, I would anticipate that self-identified gamers would have an even stronger attachment to their system of choice. I’ve also observed that gaming websites arrange their forums/message boards into console-specific areas. So, I would expect that within these sites, you would find people discussing and debating different topics with a loyalty to said console . I would also imagine that this hypothesized loyalty to their brand of choice will make it difficult to persuade gamers to migrate to Apple’s iPhone as a new gaming platform.

Before, people had to purchase various personal portable items separately: $200 for a phone, $200 for an mp3 player, $200 for a portable DVD player, $200 for a portable gaming system, etc… Now, Apple is creating the opportunity for all these devices to be consolidated into one platform: the iPhone. In some of their TV advertisements, Apple even specifically states the idea of having all information in one place, at your fingertips. Most recently, this opportunity to consolidate has expanded into gaming, with  interest amongst 3rd party game developers. But, will gaming consumers show this same support? I’ll keep you updated as I traverse the gaming sphere!

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This Week in Gaming…

Hey everyone! I just wanted to give you an update on breaking news concerning portable gaming/the iPhone before I posted my question and initial assumptions about the culture of the gaming environment. Question to follow soon!

  1. February 17th: Two days after news hit that Street Fighter is to be released on the iPhone, Capcom made gaming news, yet again, by announcing its immediate release of Resident Evil 4 to the platform. The entire game wasn’t released, though. Rather, this game was specifically geared towards “beginners,” being rightfully dubbed “Resident Evil 4: for Beginners” for only $0.99. With this no-commitment, immediate release, maybe Capcom is attempting to warm up non-gamers and gamers alike to the idea of playing traditional games on the iPhone?
  2. February 21st: Apple announced that it increased iPhone 3G’s app download limit from 10MB to 20MB. Previously, iPhone users who wanted to download an app larger than 10MB had to switch over to a WiFi connection. Maybe Apple is gearing up for some bigger file-sized games to be coming to the App Store (Resident Evil: Degeneration has a file size of 13.6MB & Final Fantasy I has a file size of 72.1MB)?
  3. February 22nd (1): OnLive (a yet-to-be-released subscription gaming service that allows you to stream & play games on a personal device from remote computer hardware) announced that their demo of the game Crysis  being played on the iPhone ran, “fast and smooth.” Typically, Crysis requires super high-end computer hardware to run, usually costing $3,000+. OnLive also mentioned running their app on “tablets”…iPad to be their next adventure? Gamers having the option of subscribing to a service where they can stream games on a multitude of platforms could mean a whole new direction for Apple (and gaming platforms in general). Here’s more on how the “cloud gaming” console works.
  4. February 22nd (2): IGN.com released a “first impressions” article about Street Fighter IV for the iPhone, with video shots of the reviewer, Charles Onyett,  playing the game. Overall, he was impressed with it, saying that it’s “pretty, functional, and coming out in March.” He also mentioned that the game was created in a way that both beginners to the game, as well as avid Street Fighter fans, will have an enjoyable experience, noting that there are certain difficulty functions that can be turned on and off.
  5. February 25th: Final Fantasy I & II are released on the iPhone. While these are only PSP (Playstation Portable) games that were ported (rewritten to be compatible with another operating system, while the actual game, for the most part, stays the same) over to the iPhone, since they are such well-known, iconic games (in IGN’s review, they called Final Fantasy “not just a videogame,” but an “institution”), it’s been a legitimate discussion topic on gaming sites and forums. Furthermore, there was talk about Final Fantasy I & II coming to the iPhone previously, but there never seemed to be a set date for when it was to be released. So, did Square Enix (the company that makes Final Fantasy) see that Capcom was releasing Street Fighter and decide that now would be as good of a time as ever to release the game?

It’s interesting to see how things have developed since Capcom’s mention that Street Fighter will be coming to iPhone. I haven’t followed gaming in the past (before this week) to know if there was a significant change in talk about portable gaming, but it seems as if there has, at the very least, been a steady flow of developments concerning iPhone as a portable gaming system.

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Apple vs. Nintendo & Sony: Round 1- FIGHT!

GPS, MP3s, Telecommunication…can Apple integrate yet another market into it’s iPhone? Nobody knows for sure as of yet, but it certainly seems that a new trend has slowly been emerging on the iPhone – video games.  It started innocuously enough with simple pick-up-and-play type games made by small companies and indie developers. And, if iPhone users did want to tap into more in-depth gaming, many times they had to “jailbreak” their iPhone. But, over the past few months, well-known developers have slowly been revealing plans for and releasing bigger budgeted  games on par with those traditionally seen on dedicated gaming handhelds produced by companies with established video game market share- namely, Nintendo and Sony with their DS and PSP, respectively. Furthermore, Apple has been allegedly bringing gaming experts into the company. The implications were there in the past, but this week seemed to have more concretely defined where the iPhone might go next.

This past week, big game developer Capcom proved to up the ante for the gaming industry with its game Street Fighter IV set to be released for the iPhone this coming March. What makes this release different from past big game releases on the iPhone, such as Resident Evil: Degeneration, is the fact that Street Figher IV was “no quickie, banged-out port” (port = when a manufacturer simply rewrites a game’s code for a different operating system). Rather, it was specifically made for the iPhone from the ground, up, with visually stimulating graphics and an iPhone specific virtual pad. Furthermore, Capcom completely avoided developing this game for the more traditional, well-known systems (Nintendo DS and PSP); Street Fighter IV was first released on the home consoles Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 a year ago, and is now going straight to the iPhone for the portable version.

Street Fighter IV for iPhone

There are many implications that come with such a well-known gaming manufacturer so clearly and strategically investing in the iPhone as a new operating system. Will Capcom be the only gaming company that sees iPhone as a viable new gaming portal? Or, will others soon follow their lead? Furthermore, do avid gamers see the iPhone as an operating system they are willing to invest in themselves? For instance, a positive gaming experience can very much be a result of the system’s control pad. Will gamers enjoy this virtual game pad and look to see it recreated in other iPhone games, or will they reject it as not up to par with the traditional physical version?

While I might not be able to report back on how well Street Fighter IV for iPhone sells and is or is not accepted by the gaming community (since it’s not coming out until some time in March), I would like to research and explore how the gaming community, from both the producer and consumer side, reacts to this said course of action. I’d like to explore the questions above, as well as the following: How open is Apple to established gaming manufacturers making such in-depth games? What does this mean for the indie developers? Will Capcom follow up with announcing more games specifically made for the iPhone in due time (ie, does the company already have other games in the works that it will soon release, as well)? Or, will they wait and see how Street Figher IV does in the App Store before investing more money? If iPhone catches on as a viable gaming device, what does this mean for the future of traditional gaming systems?

While I do not anticipate answering all of these questions, these are topics I will keep in mind and explore while I travel through the gaming sphere. I plan on researching the questions through a number of different means: news articles, forum discussion boards on well-known gaming sites (www.ign.com, www.gamespot.com, & http://g4tv.com), talking to gamers, and trying out some current iPhone games, myself. I’m also open to any ideas you guys might have!

Ideas for Travelogue 3: Kevin Smith or Portable Gaming’s Future?

Hey everyone! I have 2 ideas I’ve been contemplating for the next travelogue, and wanted to get your opinion. The first has to do with Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines. The second, with portable gaming. More info below:

1) Kevin Smith vs. Southwest Airlines

This past weekend, film director/writer Kevin Smith was allegedly kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight for being too heavy. Since then, there has been a heated back-and-forth between Smith and Southwest on the Internet, being carried out on Twitter, in blogs, and on various websites. Especially with Kevin’s film Cop Out hitting theaters next week, and his interest in possibly crowdsourcing his horror genre debut film Red State, I thought it would be interesting to see how this further plays out over the next few weeks. Check out this NY Magazine article for more information.

2) The future of portable gaming

Just a few days ago, Capcom, a major game developer for traditional game consoles, revealed a visually stunning version of the hit game Street Fighter IV for the iPhone that will be available in the App Store in March. This game is created to the standard that has been present on traditional portable game consoles, as opposed what has been frequently seen up until this point on cell phones (casual, low-budget games). With this introduction, I’d be interested to see how other 3rd party game companies respond over the next few weeks, and whether or not others reveal their own plans to develop full-fledged games for iPhones, rather than exclusively for Nintendo and Sony portables. Check out this article for more info about Street Fighter IV hitting the iPhone.

Chat Roulette!

Have any of you heard about this new Chatroulette phenomenon yet? I keep reading articles on it and hearing people talk about it. Thought I’d share the new chat forum with you guys, in case you haven’t heard of it yet. The general idea behind it is that you can video/audio chat with any stranger at any given time, for any length of time.

Here’s the site: http://chatroulette.com/

Here’s an article about the founder (a 17 year-old kid!): http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/chatroulettes-founder-17-introduces-himself/

And an article posted today on Mashable, just better explaining the gist behind it: http://mashable.com/2010/02/17/chatroulette/

Geocaching: From Online to Outdoors

I cache because I enjoy it. It gets me out of the house to interesting places. It makes me exercise even when I don’t want to. It provides an activity that my wife and I both enjoy that we can do together…can be done almost anywhere, anytime and anyplace. It brought me here to the forums where I waste much too much time. But really.. I cache because I love the hunt. The idea of finding stuff that has been there for a long time but nobody realizes is there.”

Group of people geocaching

There are many different reasons why people get involved in geocaching (for anyone who needs some background information on geocaching, check out my video; here’s another video on how to geocache). One common reason that I found throughout my research, though, is that geocaching facilitates social interaction. This social interaction goes further than that of the traditional social media website, though. Rather, this social website not only facilitates virtual social interaction, but also physical social interaction. This integration of the two forms of social interaction is becoming more and more important in an age where the Internet has become the norm.

There are many different physical social aspects to geocaching, which helps connect users both on and off the www.geocaching.com website. Some motivations include:

  1. Social walking
  2. Exploring new places
  3. The challenge
  4. Collecting caches

While geocaching begins on the Internet, it branches off into a multi-dimensional activity of social interaction and geographical, goal-directed exploration. A term used to describe this interpersonal element of the treasure hunt is social walking. Essentially what this means is that it creates an opportunity to “get out and walk.” It’s important to note that the activity is not defined by the destination (aka actually finding the geocache). Rather, the physical experience of getting to this destination is an integral part of the activity. As such, geocachers tend to not do this alone.

This prospect of exploration often entices friends and outsiders to caching to join in on the hunt. Even if an individual is not a cacher, by participating, they can still see and experience things that they might not otherwise have. This is because often times, the location of the cache (chosen by the creator) has some sort of significance, whether it be the historical value or aesthetic appeal of the setting. Thus, for the non-cachers in the group, the actual journey is still appreciated, creating an incentive to tag along. This is a basis on which geocaching becomes a social group activity.

A geocache that looks like an acorn

A cache that looks like an pine-cone

Geocaching also presents the player with an intellectual challenge. Though the GPS can easily bring the player to the vicinity of where the cache has been placed, it is their responsibility to locate the specific hiding place of the cache through the deciphering of the hints/puzzles and creative searching. This aids in uniting the group towards a specific goal.

You had to solve the anagrams before working out the coordinates and I had the whole family over Christmas doing anagrams trying to work out these damns things-so you can get people to help you.”

Another important aspect of this physical socilization is that geocaching is an ongoing activity, where the cacher can keep a running total of how many caches they have found over time (there is even a website that keeps track of cacher statistics). The website creates a sense of purpose by keeping a record of one’s progress. This call to action pushes the cacher out to find more caches in order to build their collection/profile. For instance, this past summer, one of my friends who geocaches was determined to hit 300 caches found by the end of the season. There were a few times where I was out biking with him, when I’d find myself stopping at specific locations to help search for these geocaches. With 250 caches at the time and only a few weeks left in summer, he saw it as a difficult, yet achievable goal.

#1 ranked geocacher in terms of caches found

Through research on the topic and actually going out and geocaching myself, I can see that the physical socialization aspects of geocaching are just as important as the virtual socialization aspects of it. Because of this hybrid of the two, the culture of geocaching is a very unique environment. It’s not just a game and website that’s experienced, but rather something that’s lived, as well. For instance, within the community, a body of geocaching-specific terminology has emerged.

Accordingly, I wonder how friendships are maintained and cultivated through the website. Do users find other people on the website with similar interests, and then proceed to cultivate a physical friendship from that, rather than just keeping a virtual friendship? Or, do users mainly gain other geocaching friends just through outsiders (that they already knew from physical relationships) that they bring into the culture? The present research available on the topic is unfortunately too limited, and I could not find the answer to this question. I know with my experience talking to others that geocache, it has involved a little of both (but mainly leaning towards bringing outsiders in). One person I’ve talked to noted that he’s made  friends on the website that he’s gone geocaching with. But, also noted that this friendship has been limited to the activity of geocaching. So, with this in mind, is there still a stigma surrounding meeting people in physical space that one first met on the Internet?

Perhaps geocaching is an indicator of how the Internet is beginning to stabilize between both the physical and virtual world. Some of the first social networking websites that cropped up, such as Facebook and MySpace, were purely a form of virtual socialization. While these sites have proven to connect people from all around the world and all sections of society in ways that could not have been done previously, it has also been argued that these sites are physically disconnecting people from each other. Social networking sites like geocaching.com, though, are beginning to yet again shift how people are interacting with one another.

As the Internet has progressed and grown, so have these social networking websites. Mobile technology has been a large facilitator in this, allowing users to log onto the virtual world from anywhere, any time, rather than being stuck in front of a computer at home. Geocaching, much like FourSquare and the iPhone app Mob Zombies, looks to integrate the virtual with the physical. With the constant advancement of easily mobile Internet devices, such as most recently the iPad, and the continued migration of social networking sites towards the physical realm, it will be interesting to see what new mediums and contexts social networking and GPS are used for in the future.

iPhone Geocaching App

Handheld GPS

Geocaching 101

Since some people in class did not know much about geocaching, I wanted to post a video explaining the game/site before posting my concluding blog. If you guys have any more questions about geocaching after watching the video, just leave a comment and I’ll make sure to answer them. There are many different aspects to the community of geocaching, and a lot of the learning just comes from actually going out and participating in the activity. I’ve only gone a handful of times previously, but have learned quite a lot more about the activity through my research for this class the past couple of weeks.

(Also, I’d like to apologize upfront for the shakiness of the camera in the beginning of the clip. It was my first time using a Flip Camcorder, and I apparently need some practice!)

The Geocaching Powers That Be Have Disappointed Me!

As much as I feel like I have been finding a lot of positive aspects surrounding Geocaching through my research, I have to say that I found myself disappointed tonight in the way in which the actual company of Geocaching.com (owned by Groundspeak) is run. A few days ago, I had posted a question to the “Forums” section of www.geocaching.com, asking people why they geocached, who they geocached with, and what they got out of it, stating that I was interested for a university course I was taking. A day later, I received an email from a Forums maintenance person, saying that “polls” are not to be posted on the forums without permission; he gave me an email address at Groundspeak to contact in order to ask for consent. I just received a response today, stating that they will not allow my survey on the forum, even though I stated it was for educational purposes. I thought most companies are usually happy to help out for the purpose of education, so I was disappointed by this response and thought I’d share it with you.

On the plus side, though, the original contact was helpful and directed me to a thread where someone had already asked those reading, “Why do you geocache?” If you guys want to check it out, there’s some great posts in there that help to show the physical socialization aspects of the game. I had asked him if it would be okay to simply post “Why do you geocache?” to the forum, but he steered me away from this course of action, stating that getting permission is the best route- I guess he was already jaded by my ulterior motive of education :-( .

Do you guys have problems when asking companies for information for educational purposes when doing any sort of research? Did I just go about this all wrong? I usually receive pretty positive responses when I mention the research is for school, so I thought this would have been the best route to take. But I guess not!

The Treasure Hunt Begins!

Q: Does Geocaching Facilitate Physical Social Interaction?

Ahoy, me hearty! After sailing all seven seas of the World Wide Web, I have brought you a booty of information on modern day pirate treasure hunting, or “geocaching” as thar landlubbers call it!

Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind that this activity is much more than a simple treasure hunt, as hobbyists quickly discover upon becoming involved with geocaching (called “caching” by the gentlemen o’fortune). There’s a rich history to how the activity started and its successful growth through the years. An abbreviated version, though, will do for now: it started in 2000 with just 1 cache being placed right outside of Portland, Oregon; today, it’s a worldwide activity with 983,726 active caches and counting.

For a great explanation of Geocaching (and a brief discussion of my question at hand, at the end), check out this video where the founder of geocaching.com is interviewed: (if it takes too long to load, here’s the direct link)

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Blip.tv video.

Geocaching never would have become as popular as it is today, though, without the Internet (and the handheld GPS). Its online social community is integral to the way the game operates; like other more traditional social media websites, such as Facebook and Myspace, it has been able to connect people from all around the world through the ease of a mouse click. This Internet-based social community might be only part of the reason geocaching is successful, though, much unlike the more traditional social media websites. By its very nature, geocaching seems to also promote a sense of physical socialization, which many other social media websites fail to do.

The beauty of caching is that it takes the player outdoors, adamantly following clues, puzzles, comments, and the obscure ever-shifting arrow on a handheld GPS device. The cacher hopes that this information will ultimately lead him to the end prize: a hidden container with a log book (where people log their caching name as proof that they found the cache) and possibly “treasure” (ranging from little trinkets, such as a key chain, to $100 store gift certificates and even $60 in cash).

Though caching research begins individually on www.geocaching.com, a new social dynamic is opened once the outside search begins; others may participate by helping solve puzzles and clues, helping locate the cache, or simply to tag along for the trek. The average cacher seldom hunts for caches alone, often having a spouse or friend come for the journey. Thus, what may normally only be a virtual bonding experience also becomes one of physical bonding. In a research study on geocaching, it was found that participants regard it, as a way to spend time with partners, family and friends.” One interviewee from this study discussed how geocaching helps get their children away from the computer:

“…but if you are trying to get them out of their darkened bedroom where they have got World of Warcraft to play on – so in order to entice them out it was just another thing – …not just to go for a blind walk but to actually go and find a geocache.”

Geocaching thus becomes a bimodal medium of communication, creating opportunities for members to communicate in a richer and more diverse fashion than that of traditional social media.

Avast! For me next excursion, I be contemplating between 3 different adventures in order to search for me burried treasure and answer me question. They be:

  1. Delving deeper into the motivations behind why people geocache and what they get out of it, in terms of the physical act of geocaching
  2. The geocaching community in the physical realm, i.e. meetings that are held
  3. Exploring what social media websites with both this virtual and physical means of communication could mean for the future

I hope to cover at least 2 of these topics, but feel as if the blog post might become too lengthy. What would you like to hear about?

Until next time! Yo, ho, ho!

Does Geocaching Facilitate Physical Social Interaction?

Social networking websites are quickly changing the way people interact with each other. In the article “Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?” that we are reading this week for class, Danah Boyd notes, “New social technologies have altered the underlying architecture of social interaction and information distribution.” It’s widely thought that these new social networking websites are forming an environment where people are no longer interacting face-to-face, creating a sense of disconnection. Since geocaching requires the players to not only log their finds on a designated website, but to also physically go out into the world and take part in the game, I would like to explore the implications of this.