Daily Hilarity

Things today that made me laugh until I snorted:

  • Translating a boring work conversation into hula
  • Faygo Rock n’ Rye soda exploding in a Last Stand sort of way inside Chuck’s motorcycle case
  • Blurting out “stranger danger!” when surprise-hugged by my friend Rayne in the subway
  • Getting my butt handed to me by the office Galaga machine
  • My father-in-law’s introduction to the tapioca lumps in bubble tea
  • My new Frog Hat
  • Wearing my new Frog Hat on a video conference and demanding to be taken seriously

Discussing geek speak with The Austin Chronicle

A lovely fellow from The Austin Chronicle wrote to my fellow South by Southwest panelists asking for a definition of our enigmatically titled presentation. He wanted to know what a “Funologist” was, and rather than sadden him with the news that our moderator made it up, we all took a shot at defining it for him.

The full article is available here: How to Speak Geek – SXSW Interactive has landed. Can you talk the talk?

I’m quoted about halfway down. Fame!

A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

SXSW Interactive 2009 – Funologists live and in person: Guerilla Game Research

Happy news! I was invited to be a panelist at the South by Southwest Interactive conference next month, as part of their ScreenBurn track. bendoverbackwards.jpgI’m on a panel called “Funologists live and in person: Guerilla Game Research.”

I’ll share my experience starting some low-budget user research cycles for Second Life, and my work translating those frustrating observations into shippable engineering requirements.

There will be pretty pictures, and possibly cake.

The cake is a lie, but you should stop by anyway. There could be cake.

There certainly won’t be cake and not cake. Not at the same time, I can assure you.

Arr! Yahoo, prepare to be boarded!

pirate-flag.gifWith the recent news of Yahoo’s potential acquisition by vile Microsoft and its prior layoff of 1000 hardworking geeks, there was a bit of an air of piracy in the office last week.

Linden Lab is going into another round of recruitment, focusing on web developers, QA folk, and other nerdy types. If any web developers out there (you, yes, YOU Joy!) want to work in a more stable, hilarious, and weird environment, you might want to fill out an application to work at Second Life. Free beer, the Love Machine, and a frightening amount of RockBand can all be yours!

Linden seems to be where the socially-developed nerds go to work. There’s a much larger % of women, extroverts, parents, and charmers working at Linden than is considered industry standard. Which means you tend to not find yourself in conversations with dudes who can’t make eye contact with a girl, or folks who get REALLY EMOTIONAL about their code.

It’s good to be a god, too, even if it’s only in-world. You can read more about our wickedcool office culture in the Tao of Linden.

A Self-Aggrandizing and Slightly Anti-Intellectual Anecdote

Erica and Gus on the plane

Gus, housemate, and Erica, me, were having a discussion on the airplane to Michigan.

Gus is getting her PhD in something nifty, like Education and Video Gaming, or MMORPG Search Behavior. Or something. I dunno. I kinda tune out a bit. Ever asked a social scientist about her thesis? Don’t. At least not before 10am on a Sunday.

Gus was bewailing the lack of Practical Research available in her chosen field of SomethingorOther, and how the interdisciplinary nature of the subject made finding Solid Evidence difficult…something something…did I mention it was early?

I tuned back in once I put together what she was talking about.

“Wait a minute…” I said, blearily. “A PhD in something Practical?”

“Isn’t that called a job?”

Yahoo! Games picks up video game based on Macauly Library sounds

snapshot.pngNYC game developers Large Animal Games have created a downloadable PC video game based on bird sounds and expertise provided by the Macaulay Library at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology.

Which is where I work.

The game is called Snapshot Adventures. It was recently was acquired by Yahoo! games, which is a great for both the Lab and for environmental education, since part of the money it earns will directly fund our ecology work.

picture-3.png You can play it for free here.

I will shoot you with my Barbie Gun

Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m coming out. As a gamer.

I game. I play video games. I enjoy shooting digital things. I have the ability to navigate three-dimensional space. There, I said it.
I don’t know what I was afraid of. I’m not going to be stereotyped. As far as I can tell there are no stereotypes of female gamers. It’s not like admitting “Hey you guys I love to shop” or “Gosh I love me some Jesus.” There are no social assumptions about being a female gamer because up to a few years ago, female gamers didn’t statistically exist.

These days however, I’m in good company. New generations of tech-savvy women are reshaping the game industry. According to the charmingly titled 2004 ELSPA report Chicks and Joysticks, female gamers make up 39% of US gamers. We’re only at 25.1% across Western Europe, but in Japan we rule a whopping 65.9%. Plus, in the US, women buy 53% of all PC games. We love The Sims. We love World of Warcraft. We can whoop you at Dance Dance Revolution. Female gamers exist, and we’re starting to eat up market share.

So what’s the problem? Nothing we haven’t handled before. The success of first-person shooters has left the market flooded with Uber-violent 3D games that don’t appeal to women (Well – women who aren’t me. Battlefront, anyone?) And, of course, decades of male-dominated gaming have left a legacy of seriously sexist game characters. Big-boobed wasp-waisted mistresses of the martial arts still grace the covers of RPG manuals and fighting games. I’ve included a few here for your amusement.

In a great article titled Why is my girl repellent chasing off all the hot chicks? Mythago describes the lament of the clueless male gamer: “Why aren’t there more female gamers, especially when we go to such lengths to make it clear they aren’t welcome?” He claims that the abundance of porn ladies gracing video and RPGs sends a simple message to potential girl gamers: “You don’t exist. We only think of females as sex toys.”

This whole rant got started because I just attended a nifty lecture here on campus by Michigan State Communications prof John Sherry called “Sex Differences in Video Game Play: What the Industry Doesn’t Know About Why Girls Don’t Play First-Person Shooters”. MSU is doing some cool cognitive psychology-type research on the relationship between game preference and cognitive abilities. It made me nostalgic for East Lansing, Midwestern accents, and Social Science research with its delightful openness to interpretation. It’s pretty damn difficult to say why most women seem to prefer one type of game over another, but I had a good time listening to the theories.

To finish off, and perhaps cleanse your eyeballs from all those huge electronic breasts, why not have a go at the fully girl-created online game Sissyfight 2000 which lets you become a bitchy schoolgirl fighting on the playground. Scratch, tease, and gang up on other girls, then try and look innocent. Then shoot them with your huge My Little Pony gun.