CAT | User generated
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are running for president in what has widely been said to be the first true social media election. The Democrats’ superior use of social media is claimed to be one of the factors behind Obama’s victory in 2008 and four years later the Republicans are determined to keep up. When 94% of social media users of voting-age are likely to watch an entire political message online the opportunity to be heard is unmissable.
Much of the debate surrounding this issue focuses on what social media means for politics and future political campaigns. Will facebook friends, followers and retweets become marks on a ballot form? Will events such as Obama’s ‘Twitter Town Hall’ replace more traditional grassroots political activities? Social media might be reshaping the political landscape, but what does all this political interfering mean for social media?
Politicians need to spread their message as far and as wide as possible and social media provides a platform to communicate with a vast network of users. We’ve seen businesses do the same and use social media sites to spread their brand message. But are they ‘taking advantage of’ or ‘manipulating’ social media? No, because social media can facilitate communication between politicians and citizens; on a broad scale as well as a personal one but most importantly it allows citizens to communicate back.
There is something about harnessing social media to aid political campaigns that makes me feel uneasy. But I think the reason for this is because campaigners’ approaches feel measured and calculated in a way that is in opposition to the free and easy flow of information that I associate with Web 2.0. There are teams of people who run the social media side of political campaigns and this can make them feel orchestrated or fake. Facebook even have their own Political Outreach Manager to advise political officials on how to use facebook most to their advantage in campaigns. However, social media can also facilitate interaction on a more genuine and personal level; Obama took part in an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on reddit and Romney is running a competition to win a ride in his private jet. In these instances both candidates are trying to engage with individuals rather than a whole population; a task made much easier by social media websites.
The wonderful thing about Web 2.0 is the control it gives to users. Politicians can try to use social media to spread their political messages but ultimately they have little control over that message once it is released and as a result their attempts can backfire. Web 2.0 is a two-way street and if you communicate through social media you become involved in a dialogue. Therefore, politicians can’t carelessly throw out propaganda on social media sites because it will inevitably be thrown back and normally in a much more amusing format.
The fact that social media facilitates a dialogue means that it also allows citizens the opportunity to express political opinions. Social media is reported as playing a role- the size of which is disputed- in the recent political revolutions in Egypt and Libya. Twitter provided a fast way to spread information of protests with hash tags detailing times and dates. Facebook pages with times and dates of protests were created. But it is not true to say that social media provides a universal platform for communication free from the confines of geographical and political boarders. Mark Zuckerberg may intend Facebook to “bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people” but the ways in which politics and social media interact differ vastly between cultures with some political regimes ban social media sites completely. In comparison to this, politicians engaging with social media and using it to increase interaction with citizens looks like a very good thing.
UK politicians have made tentative steps into social media but it will be interesting to see if the recent trends observed in the US are mirrored over here. If the run up to the 2015 UK election has a strong social media focus, we may have more than just the return of WebCameron to look forward to. Is politics reshaping the landscape of social media? Yes, but social media is a constantly changing entity. The beliefs and actions of politicians shape every aspect of our lives – a lot more than a tweet about someone’s breakfast or a youtube video of a surprised kitten.
It was only ever a matter of time before our two main channels of media communication were united. The Internet has revolutionised everything from accessing news to purchasing music – our social lives are managed online, and now the opportunity to transform television has been given the green light.
For those of you who are new to the idea, YouView (née Project Canvas), in a nutshell, is TV delivered over the Internet. It is a collaboration between broadcasters (the BBC, ITV, Five, Channel 4 and Arqiva) and broadband network providers (BT and TalkTalk) to develop a subscription-free, web-linked TV service combining Freeview digital channels with on-demand content such as iPlayer. This long-awaited IPTV project, hailed as the ‘Holy Grail’ for future public service broadcasting by BBC Director General Mark Thompson, promises to ‘change the way we watch television forever’, and is coming to our living rooms in early 2011. Such proclamations are to be expected from one of the project’s main backers – but they leave the rest of us wondering whether we really need another set-top box to add to our collection and whether IPTV really is the way forward.
The answer from the YouView consortium is, unsurprisingly, a resounding ‘yes’. It maintains that this simple and free-to-access service, with its easy-to-navigate interface, will soon be a necessity for all UK homes. YouView Chief Executive Richard Halton says the scheme is a great alternative for those who lack the ability or inclination to pay a monthly subscription for similar services offered by companies such as Sky and Virgin. These rivals are predictably unimpressed by YouView’s developments. But complaints to Ofcom that YouView will stifle competition are undermined by the fact that they’ll always have the lure of additional premium channels to tempt viewers.
The evolution of Project Canvas has been something of a roller coaster. It didn’t exactly have an easy start, with the failure of a similar BBC project (Kangaroo) back in 2008 still looming and vocal criticism coming from the likes of Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch. To make matters worse, Five opted to pull out of the deal in July (they later decided to rejoin). Recently, the scheme has earned a little more support, and Project Canvas was re-christened ‘YouView’, a name touted for some time, in September. Perhaps it’s just a happy coincidence that this name bears an uncanny resemblance to both Freeview itself and a certain global video sharing site owned by Google. A more appropriate moniker might have been ‘iView’, in keeping with ‘iPlayer’ or, better still, ‘iTV’ – although I’ve definitely heard the latter somewhere before.
In terms of functionality, YouView will enable you to watch so-called ‘Linear TV’ (the channels currently offered via Freeview and Freesat) as before, along with video-on-demand services like iPlayer and 4oD. In addition, you’ll be able to access popular sites like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr and on-demand pay TV – films, US drama and sport – all with a wave of your remote control. A recent YouView press release also boasted that it would be a potential platform for local TV services, making it ‘easier for viewers to discover and interact with localised content’.
It’s true that there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about YouView. It has the usual suite of features you’d expect – HD, a video recorder and the ability to pause/rewind live TV – but what it does do is combine this with the enormous potential of the Internet in one nifty, take-home box. The fact that VoD services are available on something other than a laptop screen (or a Virgin Media package) will be the biggest draw for some.
On top of this, as an open platform, YouView is set to boast a whole array of interactive features – apps, widgets, games, you name it. This presents a massive opportunity for content, device and application developers to dip their toes into the IPTV market. The implications for viewers (or perhaps ‘users’ would now be a better term) look exciting.
It will be interesting to see whether this BBC-backed venture pays off. As competition to take over the small screen hots up from a clutch of other big names like Apple and Google, we have to wonder whether YouView will be the one to make the cut. If you’ve been following YouView’s development, or would like to comment on any of the above, please get in touch!
Most of you will be familiar with Foursquare, which allows its users to check-in at various places around town, and share favourite locations with their friends in real-time, while they’re already at the pub, the park or the gig. The point is to connect friends and places with one another – a bit of ‘planned serendipity’, the buzzwords so frequently tossed around by the architects of this and similar services.
Facebook has decided to enter the location-sharing social media market. The company has unveiled a new feature it calls ‘Places’, which functions a little like Foursquare, but with more emphasis on sharing the quality and stories related to particular experiences, in particular places, with particular people, particularly. The first concern which normally emerges with applications like Foursquare and Facebook Places is, naturally, privacy: Is my every location being broadcast to complete strangers? Will I be digitally cased by prospective thieves who know when I’m home and when I am not? Or, rather than being held up at a late-night meeting in lieu of attending her exhibition opening, will my girlfriend accidentally find out that I’m in the pub with my mates through an automatic check-in notification? Don’t let the specificity of the last example mislead you – these are just a few hypotheticals to meditate on (but for the record, the late-night meeting DID take place).
Nevertheless, there’s no question that over-sharing in social media is the result of both the products and services themselves – and how they’re used. Shortly after Foursquare’s release, a campaign called ‘Please Rob Me’ launched. This site did nothing more than aggregate publicly shared check-ins upon its launch, but its name and the design of the website (for would-be robbers and thieves to see who isn’t home) illustratrated its real purpose: to educate people on some of the more dangerous effects of location-sharing.
Point taken. But defenders of services like Foursquare and the newly-minted Facebook Places also are right to point out that the privacy risk is generally based on how these services are used – and the way users configure their privacy settings. Besides, is it any more dangerous than telling someone you have a 9-5 job in town? Or updating your Facebook status to let people know you’re on holiday in Spain? In some ways, no – although the ability for Facebook users to check their friends in without their permission is one issue centred on by critics.
While discussion of these location-sharing services is generally dominated by privacy and the dos-and-don’ts of trumpeting one’s every movement (bowel included), it was actually the words “planned serendipity” used briefly in the marketing video demonstration of Facebook Places which struck me. In fact, they bothered me. Why, beyond the fact of their wilfil self-contradiction, did they bother me? The short answer: because serendipity is fun as it is.
Serendipity is one of the things in life I tend to embrace. How often is it the case that the best people you meet, the most interesting facts, the most engaging events, the most enjoyable and fulfilling jobs you undertake, are happened upon by a seemingly random series of events? Serendipity has also served me well when it hasn’t produced the most satisfying or enjoyable outcomes. All the accidental wrong-turns and (so it seems at the time) dead-ends I’ve encountered in my life, figuratively and often literally, were enriching experiences because (I’d like to think) I’ve learned from them and grew as a result. Failure, which is almost never planned for, is one of the most enriching experiences one can have – even if it may not seem like that at the time.
Colleagues and friends of mine claim they use Foursquare more often than not to see what places to avoid: a certain ex has checked in to the Starbucks down the street; a work colleague – to whom a report is owed – just checked in to the restaurant at which you were planning to eat; and so forth. The downside of being constantly aware of the location of your ‘friends’ (in Facebook parlance – not to be confused with actual friends, obviously) might be the impact this has on your choice to seek out or avoid certain spaces.
Contrary to the intent of its architects, Foursquare – when used like this – does exactly the opposite of what it originally set out to do: open the doors to all kinds of new experiences, and connect them through a variety of overlapping networks. Facebook Places attempts to emphasize the attachment of stories and experiences to various locations – like a running review of existence. The service hasn’t landed in the UK yet so it’s a bit early to tell whether or not it will be used in a more interesting way than comparable predecessors.
A close friend of mine who teaches adult education in Canada is trying to use Foursquare as a force for good, with fairly positive results. His students – all of whom have BlackBerrys, iPhones and Android devices – receive points each time they check in at a museum or art gallery around town, but they can only collect and exchange those points – largely in the form of Starbucks gift certificates – by volunteering a five to ten minute presentation on an exhibit or feature piece at one of these places. Many of his students do in fact visit these places – and use Foursquare to see if their friends are checking (in and) out (of) the same spots as well.
It’s not quite planned serendipity, but as a result of his little experiment the number of half-open bloodshot eyes visible during the early morning portion of his class has dropped by over half. Like myself, he hopes that someone will produce an application that brings serendipity back to location-sharing social media products – kind of like if stumbleupon, Facebook and Foursquare had a baby. Facebook Places is in the early stages of its conception – perhaps this is the child we’ve been looking for.
Even the most casual visitor to the blogosphere will by now have read about Chatroulette, the website which indiscriminately matches strangers with each other and allows them to conduct webcam-assisted conversations. Disconcertingly for anyone writing about Chatroulette, there is no consensus on its relationship with capitalisation and spacing (Chat Roulette? ChatRoulette? Chatroulette? I’ve gone with the latter (obviously)). Created and run by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old Russian student from Moscow, the site was estimated to have had 30 million unique users worldwide in February.
Most of the media coverage of Chatroulette – and there has been a lot of media coverage – seems to have focused on what one blogger calls “the masturbatory aspect of Internet expressiveness”. And, sure enough, a cursory visit to the site can be an unsettling experience for those among us whose idea of entertainment is anything other than watching the graphic onanism of a faceless 19-year-old from Wisconsin.
But others have been using the site more creatively. A number of Chatroulette-based games have become popular – while Merton the improv pianist has become, in his own slightly arrogant words, “a cultural phenomenon”. Meanwhile the imaginatively-named Cat Man has used augmented reality to good effect (as one chat partner says, “IT’S VERY NICE”), and one mischievous user has been taking her partner’s video stream, mirroring it back to them and then recording their reaction. Head bopping is the most common response, apparently. Make of that what you will.
The word “random” is bandied around these days with a regularity that if not alarming is certainly irritating, but Chatroulette is a rare worthy recipient of the adjective. And this randomness is the site’s greatest asset and its greatest flaw. The ease with which users can switch from partner to partner and instantly connect to people on the other side of the world is what makes the site appealing. But it also makes it unsafe for children and faintly pointless for adults.
As Larry Magid has pointed out, Chatroulette – or the idea behind it – has great educational potential. Children can speak to people in Afghanistan about their experiences of the War on Terror – or to women in Iran about life there. Israelis can speak to Palestinians. Creatives experimenting with QR codes or iPad software can learn from people in Japan or the US about these technologies. All these things were possible on the web already, of course, but the introduction of a video element brings people closer together – and this is a powerful thing. The draconian authorities in China have yet to ban Chatroulette, so it is providing a rare opportunity for the inhabitants of the world’s most populous nation to speak openly with Westerners directly and in confidence from the comfort of their homes. But as long as the user has no control over their chat partner, such edifying Chatroulette encounters are the exception rather than the rule.
And this leads to the other significant characteristic of Chatroulette conversation: anonymity. If randomness is one pillar of the site, anonymity is the other. There are no logins, no registration process, no name display – and people love it. Nick Bilton believed the success of the site “signals a nascent desire for anonymity online”. I’m not sure Bilton is right to describe this desire for anonymity as nascent – the anonymity provided by online chat rooms has been attracting many users since their 1990s heyday. In this sense, Chatroulette is not the future of the internet, but its past.
Either way, as with its randomness, Chatroulette’s anonymity is a blessing and a curse. The site is unsafe for children and its anonymity means that users tend to behave in ways they might otherwise not – hence the unsavoury scenes from Wisconsin. As Sarita Yardi, a doctoral candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology who studies the role of technology in teenagers’ lives, puts it, “Right now it’s kind of like an online Lord of the Flies.”
Magid suggests the introduction of channels so users can filter chat partners by things like subject matter, language and region. If these changes were implemented, it would no longer be Chatroulette, of course. If each participant in a game of Russian roulette knew which chamber contained the bullet, and chose whether to load that one or not, it would slightly defy the point. And in some ways, allowing users control over their partners would defy the point of Chatroulette. But the idea and the technology could certainly be used for educational purposes. With logins, channels, moderation and supervision, a video chat site could be a great resource to afford people an insight into the lives of others whom they would never encounter otherwise.
Some safeguards have already been put in place by Chatroulette spin-offs like Chatroulette Map, which ties users to their location. RandomDorm is Chatroulette for US college students, and requires them to log in using a verified college email address. But neither harnesses the educational potential of the medium. Until a site can get the security right and the user numbers up, Chatroulette and its various spin-offs will be like so many things on the web: nothing more than a fun way of wasting time. In the words of Cat Man’s chat buddy, it’s very nice – but that’s about it.
Courtesy of blogefl on flickr.com
2009 has been a truly dark year for the public image of piracy.
And I’m not talking about Somalian pirates, but the issue of digital rights, specifically in entertainment. It’s estimated that piracy and illegal filesharing costs the television, music and film industries £500m a year in lost revenues.
But whereas that story and the more recent imprisonment of Pirate Bay’s founders were knee-jerk events that had us all wildly jabbering / twittering, I feel that we’re now in the midst of a more subtle undercurrent of significant change in the distribution of online music and television, sustained by almost daily reports of possible mergers and deals, new technologies and services, alleged crackdowns and constant shifts of responsibility for monitoring and controlling internet usage.
In 2000 the issue of digital rights was the almost exclusive concern of emancipated geeks interacting and sharing in a space seemingly designed both by and for them; apoplectic heavy metal fans; and a not insignificant number of terribly confused people sat awkwardly in between.
Jump to 2009, and the internet has become for many the first port of call when looking for entertainment. Mobile devices such as the iPhone plug directly into online music stores, and almost everyone has an iPod or other portable media device. Similarly, network improvements and the penetration of broadband has helped BBC’s iPlayer and its competitors to become almost as popular as “traditional” TV.
In other words, the developments in online media distribution have become mainstream concerns.
However, there remains a fundamental conflict between monetising these distribution services and a historic perception of the internet as user controlled, open-source, a community network without restriction. People don’t like paying for stuff online. Although digital platforms account for about 20 per cent of recorded music sales, 95% of all file downloads are estimated to be illegal. If we want to hear a song once, we might YouTube it or call it up on Last FM or Spotify – if we want it on our iPods, the stats say we are most likely to download it illegally.
Similar issues exist for television and film, where downloads and particularly streaming have been giving producers headaches. The most recent example would be the furore over online leaked scenes from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which appeared several weeks before release.
(Why anyone would want to see this, for free or otherwise, is beyond me, but apparently it was an issue…) The problem is worsened by advertising – films and shows are heavily advertised on the web (i.e. globally) but release dates are staggered around the world and vary hugely. Inevitably fans are going to get impatient, and at present it’s just too easy to access content illegally.
However, things are changing. Responses to infringements are getting ever more serious and, as we have seen this year, it’s no longer empty rhetoric. The French are being typically Gallic about filesharing, just two weeks ago approving the “three strikes” bill.
The controversial bill proposes the creation of a new government agency, which translates rather grandly as “the High Authority of Diffusion of the Art Works and Protection of Rights on the Internet”, which could have the power to disconnect copyright offenders without legal recourse.
In the UK, creative industry groups such as the BPI, the Publisher’s Association and Equity and broadcasters Channel 4, BSkyB and Virgin Media, are all lobbying the government to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to police their users. Of course, this is the last thing the ISPs want to hear, and so they in turn are saying it’s the job of the content providers, leading to what John Woodward of the UK Film Council has reportedly described as a damaging “Mexican stand-off”.
To some extent this apparent impasse has already been breached by evolving the distribution channels and therefore providing more choice. Last year a raft of music subscription services, social networking partnerships like MySpace Music and new licensing channels emerged. Each day sees new reports of mergers, integration and innovation – so watch this space.
When it comes to TV, we’re also getting used to on demand programming. At the moment, broadcasters are giving us content for free, over the internet, and it’s brilliant. The BBC are the front-runners, though 4OD also provides a free catch up service on most of its programmes, (and recently, thankfully, opened its doors for Mac users). And if you’re the kind of person that enjoys pouring absinthe in your eyes, there’s the unforgivably awful ITV Player. But here, too, there are revenue-generating changes afoot. Both 4OD and ITV Player have “forced” adverts, and if the troubled broadband platform Project Kangaroo ever gets a buyer (Orange dropped out of talks just yesterday), on demand TV will almost certainly be delivered on a subscription basis.
The BBC are now behind Project Canvas, which plans to allow viewers to watch on demand services and other internet content via traditional TV – i.e. bring on demand away from the PC in the bedroom and back into the living room (although there must be more to it than that, as cable services such as Virgin Media are already offering on demand services including the iPlayer?)
These suspiciously named “projects” are controversial, in a way partly because of their ambition; the aim seems to be to partner with other broadcasters, channels and media companies to develop an apparently essential media platform, which is an inevitably fiddly business. BSkyB have already thrown an anti-competiveness strop over Kangaroo (which has all but killed it), and last week they accused the BBC Trust of “deficient” consultation over its more recent plans for Canvas.
There’s a more obvious complication for the BBC to grapple with: just where the licence fee fits into the various projects, (iPlayer / Kangaroo / Canvas) is, frankly, anyone’s business.
At this point, It wouldn’t be right to ignore what Bob Geldof thinks about digital TV, so here is what Bob Geldof thinks about digital TV:
“In the age of the internet, the notion of television itself is as archaic as the word wireless – even if that has been reinvented for the digital age.” (Bob Geldof)
To conclude a somewhat wayward post: it seems to me inevitable that our perception of the internet as a distribution channel is set to change over the next couple of years. There will always be infringers pushing their luck, and there will also always be a lot of good stuff available for free.
But we will, I think, also have to get used to the idea of paying money, or suffering adverts, to enjoy premium content on the internet.
‘Hi John, what did you do this weekend?’
‘Not much – Friday night I stayed in, but on Saturday a friend was having a youtube party, so I had quite a late one.’
Not true. No-one I know had a youtube party on Saturday, and the notion of a youtube party is not something you are expected to know about, but are actually not aware of because you can’t keep up with the edgy new media vanguard. However, it’s a sentence which I think is closer to being a standard piece of conversation than you might think, and here is why.
A funny thing happened to me the other night. I was having a drink at a friend’s flat when someone mentioned a clip on youtube that they thought was funny . Without a moment’s hesitation a laptop was produced and we all sat down to watch it, oh how we laughed. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, you might say. However, what (quite naturally) happened next was that someone else stifled their chuckles enough to suggest another video, which we all watched and laughed heartily (again). This went on for a good half hour, until we all got a little embarrassed and decided to stop being so damned geeky.
Half an hour. Isn’t that quite a lot?
I don’t expect this kind of an encounter is a rare occurrence. It’s certainly happened to me a good couple of times and I imagine 80% of the student population do it all the time. But if you think about it, prolonged, communal youtubery is quite an interesting phenomenon, for 2 reasons: 1, it brings an element of face to face social interaction to the medium which I’m not sure the people who hailed the revolution of web 2.0 ever really meant. 2, this face to face interaction brings with it a whole set of intriguing social rules and dynamics.
Let me elaborate point 1. Web 2.0 was (is?) all about (among other things) people easily creating and sharing content with one another, with the web providing a means by which to do so. People thought it was great that a guy from Uruguay could make a video about knitting which could be viewed, responded to and commented on by my grandma in Poland, or a janitor in Delaware, or the Queen. It introduced openness of communication. But what it also did was introduce content that could be discussed and shared in a personal context, not just by people firing off links at each other down the information superhighway, but shown to one another after dinner, whilst you’re getting ready for a night out, pointed at whilst crowding around a monitor in the office. It provided content people could physically take someone by the hand and show to them, which is an altogether different thing.
Which leads to point 2. For years marketing gurus have been mindful of the fact that you are much more likely to buy something if it’s recommended by a friend. In focus groups we’ve run here at Online, we’ve heard that it’s important to someone sharing a link to something on the internet that they preserve some kind of reputation. If you post lots of trash on your friends’ walls you exhibit a certain lack of credibility that is not insignificant. This kind of thing manifests itself wonderfully if you bring it into a face to face group dynamic. Picture the scene: my friends and I have worked ourselves into a cheerful youtube frenzy via a string of Japanese TV shows, childhood nostalgia, dramatic rodents, and Hungarian rappers. Then someone enthusiastically types in a link to this. The group tries to get into it, but it’s a slow starter, and they fall into an awkward silence. Energy drops. Suggestor tries to pick it back up with this one, but it’s worse. Mumbles excuses. Gets coat.
Similarly you musn’t over share. You’ve got to let everyone in the audience have their say, otherwise they feel left out. You can get the youtube samaritans, who in the face of their friend’s poorly chosen pat them on the shoulder and reassure them that it was funny, really. Picking a youtube video to share with people in this context requires a judgement of mood and possession / lack of sense of humour. You need to deal with those maladroit ‘Hang on, we need to wait for it to load’ moments. You need to be sensitive to what certain people might find impressive, and what leaves them utterly nonplussed. You need to be consider whether they’ve just had their lunch.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible to over-analyse this. But in thinking about how these technologies are changing communication we mustn’t neglect the possibility that it opens up new ways to interact with the person next to you, not just the Delaware janitor thousands of miles away. Of course all of these communal internet encounters (’social surf sessions‘, if you will) occur as afterthoughts to what you or I might call ‘normal’ social situations – people just fall into them. But 5 years ago no-one could possibly have imagined the way in which youtube wanders into our everyday exchanges now. 5 years hence? Get your party invitations ready.
Fun end to the week at the Game Based Learning conference in the City of London. Highlights include a cabinet minister who actually gets technology and seems to want to support the industry (Tom Watson), the ever inspiring Derek Robertson from LT Scotland and Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell’s vision for the future of education. The latter caused quite a stir (shaking heads in the audience, grumblings on the twitter feed) as it appeared to envisage children in webcam-equipped cubicles and plugged into heart rate monitors to assess fitness levels. Refreshingly controversial! To say that some delegates had reservations would be somewhat of an understatement.
Derek Robertson and Ian Livingstone presented strong evidence that mainstream games (not ‘edutainment’ or ‘chocolate-covered broccoli’, as someone else called it) are having a fantastic impact on motivation and learning in schools where they are allowed/that are lucky enough to be able to afford them.
Gaming in general is changing, not just by making an appearance in classrooms. We are currently seeing a return of computer games into the mainstream. Nolan Bushnell and Ian Livingstone both made the point that 30 or so years ago computer games reached a mass audience.
Then, gradually, games became more complicated and generally more violent, causing the market to shrink dramatically. Game developers and publishers didn’t mind so much because the hard core gamers spent significant amounts of money and kept the industry going. Many casual gamers were alienated along the way, however. Now, of course, Nintendo is beginning to change all that with the Wii and DS platforms. You only need to look at their sales figures to realise that casual gamers hadn’t disappeared, they just hadn’t seen anything they liked for a few decades.
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