MediaSapien Interview at GameScenes

23 11 2010

MediaSapien was recently interviewed by the folks at GameScenes, a wonderful blog dedicated to games and art.  In the chat we discuss virtual identity, interactivity and the future of the human/machine relationship.

Marque Cornblatt: From the earliest cave paintings through modern times, the self portrait has always been a means of establishing one’s place in the world – to say “I am here.”  In this new virtual territory, reputation has become the most important form of social currency, and we are no longer limited to a single identity.

Read the whole interview here.  Thanks GameScenes.


MediaSapien Interview with Interactive TV of Tomorrow’s Tracy Swedlow

6 04 2009

fe4f7f48-fb87-434b-9ba6-931868b8a99citvtradioiconMediaSapien has been a friend and supporter of the Interactive TV of Tomorrow show and conference since their beginning, and was recently interviewed for their weekly radio show by founder and host, Tracy Swedlow.  

We chat about being an independent content producer, landing ( and losing) a TV show deal, as well as tools and strategies offered by new technology.

Listen to the whole interview HERE.

Avatar Identity Theft: On Set With Boing Boing TV’s Xeni Jardin at the Game Developer’s Conference

27 03 2009


Xeni Jardin in Fallout 3

Xeni Jardin in Fallout 3

I just had the pleasure of spending 3 days with Xeni Jardin, Matty Kirsch and the whole Boing Boing TV crew as a part their live video coverage from the 2009 Game Developer’s Conference.  I got to put my art all over their set and had several on-air interviews with both Xeni and Matty.  We discuss avatar identity theft, video games, avatars, robots, and Fallout 3 as economic model.  Very cool.     

But what was even cooler was getting to be a fly on the wall for their webcast conversations with an incredible selection of guests, including John Gaeta (Matrix Bullet time guy) and Jane McGonigal – one of the smartest game theorists out there – plus live demos from a bunch of really cool indie game developers.  

Click here to see the archived clips from all three days.  My interview with Xeni starts at 10:05  in the clip titled “Lots of stuff.” Thanks Xeni!

Fallout 3 as Economic Stimulus Model

22 03 2009

Can Fallout 3 help fix America’s economy?

The New Wasteland

I like Fallout 3.  I’ve played the shit out of this game and I still can’t get enough.  After a brisk run through the main story as a ‘good’ guy, I decided to replay the game again, focusing this time around on all the side missions and alternatives.  Just to make sure I got the full range of experiences, my character is now an ‘evil’ girl.   I also consulted an amazing online guide,, to insure that I left no stone unturned.  I’ve lost track of the hours I’ve got in it so far, but it’s a considerable number.

To cover everything, this second pass required considerably more time and energy committed to scavenging, trading and resource management.  I’ve never been a huge fan of RPG’s in the past (too many swords, spells and orcs), so this is the first game that I’ve really gotten into the leveling and grinding required to hone my character just so.



One result of the hours of dedication is that I have now amassed quite a few Nuka-Cola caps (the in- game currency to you non-Wastelanders out there).   I’m so rich by the game’s standards that the primary reason for me to trade is not to earn money, like I needed in the early stage of the game, but to simply get rid of all the weight of the accumulated guns, ammo, meds, scrap metal, and other loot acquired during quests. I am in possession of so much of the circulating currency that the other traders in the game are usually broke from buying from me. But if the other traders are all already tapped out, how can they continue to buy the loot that I continue to amass?  

This question reflects the second reason I trade; Pumping cash back into the economy.  Since I seem to be the only person in the wasteland with spare caps, I feel a responsibility to free up some capital, so I have been buying up luxury items and expensive weapon blueprints every chance I get.  My home now sports a pristine antique Nuka-Cola machine, jukebox, infirmary, laboratory, workbench, a cabinet full of exotic weapons and a pretty cool retro theme throughout, plus a wide range of other unique and expensive items.  And I STILL have all the money.

Home upgrade

Home upgrade

So I continue pumping cash into the game’s economy.  True, it doesn’t seem to be having a huge effect upon the citizenry – they are still largely humans and ghouls scratching out a meager living in the nuclear wasteland – but it does allow them the chance to give that money right back to me in exchange for the weapons, drugs and other supplies that I have continually for sale. 

After a while of this economic cycle, the pattern started to look familiar to my cynical eye (My other eye, the non-cynical one, was busy shopping for a new household theme). 

Suddenly the Capitol Wasteland was a striking analogy for our whole nation – nobody has money, unemployment and homelessness are commonplace, the government is powerless, everyone’s got radiation sickness and huge mutated crabs attack at night.  Playing Fallout 3 is like America looking in a cracked, dirty mirror.  I start to think “Hey, maybe I AM an evil teenage girl with a gun that shoots nuclear bombs…”   The fact that the game allows me to steal Abe Lincoln’s top hat, rifle, beard and voice(?) and actually don them during my adventures adds another, somewhat twisted layer of meaning to this grimy doppleganger America – I’m just now sure what that meaning is anymore…

Wasteland Cutie

Does my character, with her wealth, power, winning smile and cute arsenal represent the Fed?  Or does she represent corporate America with her responsibility – or lack thereof – over the economic health of the wasteland?  Maybe she’s representative of American consumers, for whom shopping has become a patriotic duty?  Perhaps she is representative of all three, a symbol of the responsibility that we all collectively share. 

I don’t know.   I’m not a RL economic expert, and these days I’m often lost trying to keep pace with the news.  But I do know that in the world of Fallout 3, the economic health of the wasteland seems to hinge on my ability to continually feed a dribble of cash to a violent, hungry populous, simply so that they can buy my supply of guns and drugs.   Success in this activity encourages me to go out and rob, kill and plunder even more supplies from all the people, Mirelurks and Super Mutants I encounter.

I’ve recently noticed that over time, the other traders slowly acquire caps, presumably as a result of their other dealings, but in reality, the software itself is acting like the Fed by “printing” and distributing more cash to these NPC’s.  But even these cash injections are too small to ignite any real fiscal activity – I can still force them to spend every last cap they have on my sweet, sweet, meds and ammo.  The more money the game pumps into consumer’s hands, the quicker it ends up in my pocket.

This cycle, which essentially forces the fiscal growth of my character, is the cornerstone of the game economy, but it seems to me that it can not be sustained for long and will eventually collapse as my character amasses literally all of the liquid capital over the course of her adventures.

Mirelurks:  Wont you please help?

Mirelurks: Won't you please help?

It begs the question:  Is constant growth a good thing?  Is long-term unrestricted growth beneficial to society?  And if so, who really benefits?  Government? Corporations? The citizenry?  

At the very least, shouldn’t some of the money go to curing radiation sickness and establishing basic healthcare and job training for Mirelurks and Super Mutants, or does that very suggestion make me some kind of Wasteland socialist?

More thoughts on Fallout 3 and the value of bathrooms in video games.

Why I Hate Facebook, The Anti-Social Network

4 02 2009

Like the Borg, resistance to Facebook seems futile.

In the early days, it was easy to ignore. After all, Facebook was only one of a growing crowd of 2.0 websites and services.  There was MySpace, Friendster LinkedIn and other emerging technologies competing for my limited bandwidth, not to mention IM, texting and even a seldom-used email listserve for my Burning Man campmates.  With so many options for communicating to my tribe, Facebook was the least interesting of the bunch.  But somewhere along the way, many of these other technologies either lost their relevance or settled into a specific functional niche and seemingly out of nowhere, Facebook took the lead as THE social network to join.  This digital Darwinism, coupled with the ever-growing number of requests to join in my inbox finally worn me down.

So join I did, figuring Facebook was now a required card in the online poker hand that is my professional career.  A few months ago I registered, uploaded a profile picture and started exploring the features.  Since then I have friended a mix of about 125 people – current friends, younger family members, old school chums, ex-girlfriends and a few professional contacts.  I launched a Facebook fan club for Gomi Style, my online DIY video series, as well as a second group, dedicated to robots and telepresence.   I joined groups too, with shared interests like video art, Sarah Palin bashing and DIY.  I uploaded videos of my new projects and links, I wrote pithy and frequent status updates, and commented on a very small number of daily friends updates – Its hard to reply to every flake when one is buried in snow – and tried to give Facebook an sincere spin by migrating the bulk of my online networking to this (alleged) network.   I had to draw the line at playing Mob Wars, trading green patches, and otherwise embracing the hundreds of 3rd party applications that promised to suck away every last bit of my attention.  Games and widgets aside though, I committed, installing the Facebook App on my iPhone, and methodically checking and updating my status many times a day in an effort to master this social network and gain a realtime pipeline to some of the most relevant people in my life.  What I experienced was the opposite of what I expected. 

A technological lifetime ago, sometime around 2007, prior to the convenience of Facebook and social networks in general; people had a natural buffer of time and space between themselves and their larger circle of friends and family.   Sure, we complained that keeping in touch was a chore, but most of us secretly relied on these hurdles to afford us some measure of control over our personal interactions.  Over the last decade, these barriers have slowly been eroding as we become more accustomed to the ease of social contact via the web – and Facebook has emerged as the leader of the bunch, recently estimated to have one out of every 50 people on earth as a member.  How could anyone not find Facebook a stunning example of technology’s ability to flatten the world and allow that old friend currently working in Shanghai and the guy in the cubicle next to you to both be a single democratizing click away?

Given these facts, why do I consider Facebook the antisocial network?  For one, I can see the updates, comments and activities of far too many friends and acquaintances.  By any measure, do I really need to know that some guy who I was in the Boy Scouts with 25 years ago is considering gum surgery, or look at yet another photo album of drunken partiers I don’t recognize? Sure, the onslaught of updates can be funny, informative, surreal, or heart-felt.  Or just plain self-indulgent.  How quickly the novelty of always-on knowledge wears thin.

Often these updates, notices and invites beg a response, or at least an acknowledgement.  While it is pretty straight forward, even on Facebook, to wish someone a happy birthday, it gets murkier knowing the correct response to an old classmate’s daily expression of ennui.  Worse, I now find myself updating my status, posting videos and roommate notices with the wide-eyed hope and expectation that my stream of personal activities will get the attention of my network and inspire enthusiastic replies. 

One reason this always disappoints me is a result of what I refer to as the Facebook Effect:  More than ever before, we are becoming comfortable NOT responding to the heartfelt announcements, confessions and daily updates from our friends and loved ones.  While glancing at, and essentially ignoring the chaos of daily life can be a healthy defense mechanism in real-life, having those traits on Facebook has a hardening quality that I don’t like, especially in myself.

The problem lies in the numbing effects of so much data from so many people.  Everyone knows that we all experience daily ups and downs, birthdays, professional milestones, etc… and we increasingly share these things on Facebook.  But in some ways, seeing the gigs of ex-classmates and birth announcements of old friends only reminds me that I am not really in touch with them any more with Facebook than I was before I joined. 

In fact, where previously it was easy to let old acquaintances fade away naturally, Facebook now serves as a daily reminder of just how far those relationships have faded from view.  But instead of inspiring me to get more active and involved with the 125+ people in my list, it has the opposite effect of turning up the heat on the guilt gumbo that I already had simmering on the back burner. 

Facebook makes me feel less connected, not more, yet I still check it throughout the day; looking, lurking, updating and occasionally commenting.   I can’t seem to stop, hoping I will start to click with it, not wanting to lose the zeitgeist.  I guess resistance really IS futile.  Maybe a Twitter account will help cure me…

Multiple Sarah Palin Doll Commercials

22 09 2008



The online community has spoken, and it’s using action figures as it’s language or choice. The rapid creation and distribution of a cultural meme has never been easier. Blink and you miss it.

Below are 3 different toy commercial spoofs for action figures based on Sarah Palin (full disclosure, I produced the 3rd one in the list). One of them is an actual toy for sale. The others are parodies.

Are there any other Sarah Palin toy commercials out there? Send me a link!

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My GTA 4 Stunt and Glitch Run In GTA 4 with X-Play’s Gamer Challenge

15 09 2008

Glitchin' and Griefin' in GTA 4 with the X-Play Stunt Crew

Earlier tonight MediaSapien was one of about 14 people who participated in a multiplayer stunt challenge in Grand Theft Auto 4, hosted by Mr. Sark of the show X-Play and slated to air on G4TV this Wednesday or Thursday. Let me say right off the bat, I admire Mr. Sark’s cool and steady leadership under conditions that can only be described as unnerving. It takes a lot of patience to direct actors. It takes even more to direct non-actors. Now imagine trying to wrangle a dozen hyped-up non-actors, all chattering on headset, and many of who are holding rocket launchers and AK47’s.

Hmm, Focus! GTA 4 needs me!

The group assembled was a varied lot – a few kids who seemed up past bedtime, a couple of rambunctious 20 something’s who were willing to focus, there were one or two quiet players who were very good at the game and focused to boot, and naturally there were a few griefers. Mr. Sark managed to be diplomatic – answering everyone’s questions about the stunts, when the video would air, thoughts on Morgan Webb’s relative hotness – all while coordinating players and recording videos of each stunt.

We tried at least 4 or 5 different stunts, with varying degrees of success. First up was a glitch involving a city bus and a swing set. The goal was to have players stand on top of the bus as it hit the swing set and hopefully fling the players clear across liberty city. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work too effectively. A few avatars did get oddly crushed to death, and some were tossed around a little, but nothing from my vantage point looked particularly thrilling. Next it was on to the airport for some runway bowling and coordinated stunt jumps. Both of these were fun and seemed to work out pretty well, in spite of the griefing from the circling helicopters. From there we all piled into helicopters to try another type of “flinging” stunt. By jumping off a roof and onto a hovering helicopter, one can sometimes be chopped and flung in dramatic fashion. Again it didn’t seem too effective. One issue was the sheer number of players, which kinda overwhelmed the Xbox whenever it had to draw them all at once. Clearly the physics of the game was affected as well. Lastly we took a chopper ride out to the Statue of Happiness to get a group shot of all the players leaping off the scaffolding under the secret beating heart of Liberty City’s iconic statue.

Just a few of the the GTA 4 Heroes

We worked at it for about 4 hours, really rallying together as a group in the last hour or so, and ultimately we got the footage Mr. Sark needed. It was fun to be a part of a directed and coordinated project in a multiplayer game. Usually these environments are anarchy, with games descending into pointless team-killing and juvenile name calling. It was refreshing to feel like part of a team – a thing that is so easy in RL, so taken for granted – a dozen or so people following instructions and working together to achieve a common goal. But in the facelessness of VR, it can be nearly impossible to accomplish such coordination.

But this was no ordinary multiplayer game, and no random group of players. We were assembled with a mission. – to create some of the biggest and most elaborate stunts ever performed in GTA 4. And under the leadership of Mr. Sark we accomplished our goal. Are we heroes? Yes, I think we are. We are among the pioneers and patriots – those willing to jump into a chopper blade or take a rocket to the face – if it makes a kick-ass stunt clip.

Check back later this week. I’ll try to post the video here when it becomes available.

Here’s the video.  If you look closely, you can see me (Gamertag: Spark415) during the bowling sequence (00:52)…

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