Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cultural irrelevance - how not to lead a "Korean Invasion" of games

The scenario is all too common:
  • Game (x) is really successful in country (a).
  • Interested parties wish to capitalize even further on success of Game (x) by introducing it to another country (b).
  • Thing is, Country (b) doesn't buy it, and Game (x) is a flop. Country (a) scratches its head.
The story coming out of the Escapist, called "The Korean Invasion," is a nice summary of just such scenarios.

  1. Lineage II did 'barely OK' in North America, compared with the Korean success (1 million players).
  2. Cyworld (the multi-dimensional Facebook-like application used by 40% of Koreans) was ported to the United States in mid-2006, to attract about half a million members (hmm... are they Korean ex-pats?).
The question in this article is why North American launches fall so short of the Asian originals.
The answer, my friend, is in local cultural relevance. Scenarios like these definitely refute the thesis that the 'games' or 'applications' in and of themselves can be in any way addictive. (read some recent developments on this argument). Rather, as I have cranked many a time (especially concerning Korean contexts), a game's success, "stickiness" or what have you, has much more to do with the local context of implementation.

Even going off the top of my head for reasons:
1. The Lineage narrative harkens back to castle-siege mentality and Confucian hierarchical philosophy--something that Koreans are quite acquainted with. North American MMORPGs are generally more individualistic and meritocratic in gameplay. Sean Lai's research at Georgetown addresses some of these contrasts well.
2. As for Cyworld... big strike again. When I heard rumours of its launch in the USA, I was saying to myself... uh oh. Especially after seeing that minimal qualitative research had been done to account for audience reception in the US and the Korean application would be tweaked minimally.
I could hear the big thud from across the 49th parallel.

There are indeed some innovative business models coming from Korea however, such as micropayments and a myriad of mobile phone applications that integrate with daily life.
In a land where piracy is unabashedly rampant, one would do well to observe how people are still making money. In comparison, North American businesses could withstand some adaptation of traditional business models in order participate effectively in a climate of increasingly intangible goods.

A good read. See for yourself.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Digital Voice Recorders - Recommendations for an ethnographer?

My digital voice recorder has died, and I am glad for it. It unfortunately used a proprietary format for recording,and while it created a high-quality, memory-efficient recording--it was ultimately AGONY waiting for it to convert its files to a WAV file (of all things). That, and the software (once you lose the 3 year old CD... come on, we've all done it) is difficult to find online, and once you find it, it -might- be available for a price. Sound familiar? It's lame, and the forums agree... with many users ditching recorders that do such short-sighted, ill-advised things. It's enough to drive me back to mini tapes. Well, maybe not quite.

Having learned from previous frustrations with the now dead recorder, this is what I would want my next recorder to have:

1. Good background noise filtering (probably in the form of different speech settings)
2. NOT proprietary format that requires special software in order to play recording on a computer or anywhere else.
3. Preferably records in MP3 format
4. Memory-efficient
5. Feedback on successful recording (flickring LCD bar, or LED will do).

So far, my experiences with consumer reviews and forums do not adequately address these specific concerns, nor are they targeted to my particular needs. They are also not the most up to date.

Anyway, it's time to move on and move up. So I am looking around and researching what to get as my faithful fieldwork companion. I'm soliciting recommendations from people who regularly do field interviews (ethnographers, journalists,and others of similar ilk) who are familiar with the conditions in which such interviews are conducted, and later processed. If you're like me, that processing will take place on a laptop, in a tiny room, in unfamiliar conditions.

There's got to be a better option than just using 'record' on my MP3 player... or is there?


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Friday, June 15, 2007

Tim Berners-Lee is the BOM(b)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (aka inventor of the World Wide Web) has received the British Order of Merit from the Queen for his achievements. The award is very prestigious: "Previous recipients have included Florence Nightingale, Sir Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russell, Graham Greene, Sir Edward Elgar, Mother Teresa and Margaret Thatcher."


Indeed, comments on Slashdot summarize some of his achievements well:

- Created HTML, which was arguably much simpler than SGML (yes it also allowed some mediocre "designers" to also design pages, but ultimately it lead to greater adoption)
- Created the HTTP protocol, which by far and large was the greatest "enabler" of the technology, ie allow anonymous access to the information held in a ordered and secure manner.
- Still actively in charge of W3C, and creating new standards, largely without breaking old ones.
- Helped begat XML.
- Did not try and patent it.

So his contributions are large, and he is still actively participating.
More importantly, he didn't try to patent it, but freed it.


Read the story from the BBC, and some discussion at Slashdot.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

No no drama, you don't want no drama...

An interesting post coming out of Zen of Design today, talking about one of the world's top raiding World of WarCraft guilds and their no girl policy. One of the reasons cited was that 'girls cause drama.'

I agree with Damion that it's not a one-way street. In fact, in-guild drama I have seen to do with women has tended to center around the tension between males in their real or perceived fight over a certain female guildie (or any other imaginable permutation). Damion's example of guys becoming blubbering idiots around women once that femaleness is confirmed over voice chat is also totally on the mark. A "Hi" becomes a sickly "Hiiiiiiiiiii....." you get the idea. Heck, get those guys outta ma guild. Their pubescent selves get distracted too easily.

Having been in a top ranking raiding guild on a PvP server (and been privy to the often idiotic guild chat), I agree that it can totally get completely brainless--but it's not because of the ~women~.

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