Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

frenzy-magazine1. Frenzoo have launched a bi-weekly web magazine called Frenzy, created by its users. You can view the PDF here or the Flash version here.

2. Metaplace have expanded their in-world games, adding Doomgarden,Meep Combat! and a Perfect Match dating game. With the recent controversy over social games, it’s great to see some simple but fun games with no wider purpose than fun.

3. The Wii Fit doesn’t seem to provide as good a workout as some may think, according to a recent study (PDF document). One of the study authors sums it up: “Since using the Wii Fit alone may not produce results that meet recommended physical activity, guidelines” notes study author Alexa Carroll, M.S., “it is important that individuals partici- pate in additional exercises to effectively reach these guidelines.”

4. Malaysia is apparently punching well above its weight in spending in Second Life, its 28 million people making up 4% of expenditure. Australia is sitting on 2%.

5. Whilst on a Malaysia, here’s a great (80-page) piece of research on the use of virtual reality in medicine:

Reserach Report: Virtual Reality: Establishing Medical Hallmarks

(with thanks to ScienceRoll)

Creating a famous Mii for Nintendo Wii

Ever wondered how some Mii creators make some amazing looking avatars that resemble celebrities? I’d assumed there was an option to buy different customisations on top of the default options, but I was wrong. All it takes is the default set with a lot of imagination.


What also helps is a site called Mii Characters which has step-by-step guides for hundreds of Mii customisations. Enjoy.

The most successful virtual world: Nintendo Wii

Here’s an astounding statistic: nearly 36 million Nintendo Wii consoles have been sold, and that’s a conservative figure. The Wii is streets ahead of the Sony Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, and is likely to eclipse behemoths like the Playstation 2 – Sony have shifted nearly 120 million of those but the Wii is at a much earlier stage in its lifecycle than the moribund PS2.

Compare those numbers to even the largest virtual worlds like Habbo and World of Warcraft and they emphasise the dominance of game consoles over similar PC-based activities. It remains difficult in some parts of Australia to buy a Wii over the counter – three months ago when I purchased mine, it took three attempts at three different stores before I was able to pick one up. When I finally did so and set it up, I was really gobsmacked at the centrality avatars are given on the Wii.

It’s all about Mii

A key part of the Wii experience is creating your avatar – your Mii (pronounced ‘me’). Every Mii is highly customisable and it’s very simple to go back at anytime and change your Mii’s appearance. In the pre-teen market this alone can provide hours of entertainment – I’ve seen kids aged between six and ten endlessly altering their Mii. Once your chosen Mii is set up, it then follows you into the Wii games you play. The Wii Fit utilises your avatar totally – it’s truly you as you enter a bunch of personal details like height, weight and eating habits . In the more game-like experiences such as Mario Kart, you can race your Mii against characters like Mario, Bowser and Princess Peach.

I feel connected

All that said, an avatar alone does not a virtual world make – the key is the Wii’s internet connectivity. Your Mii can mix with others you grant access and scores or Wii Fit results can be shared. There’s Mii contests and most games have some sort of online mode – Mario Kart for example allows you to race against other players worldwide, which is enormously fun. Actually getting connected is fairly simple, assuming you know the basic of wireless networking.

Not surprisingly, there’s also a Wii Shopping Channel where you can buy credits that can be exchanged for a range of products including old Nintendo Classic games like the original Mario and Zelda games. They work out at over $10 per download which isn’t cheap given their age, but the pull of sentimentality and convenience is likely to persuade some.

The contender for the title

There’s no standout aspect in the Wii offering that makes it a dominant virtual world contender – though the motion-aware Wii controller is an amazing piece of gear that cements that link between you and your avatar. It’s the overall offering that makes me think it’s likely to come out on top. Specifically:

  • It’s extremely easy to set up after purchase
  • You’re guided every step of the way when performing any activity the first few times
  • It’s plain fun
  • It has wide age appeal
  • It’s already got a lions share of the console market, and that’s only going to increase in the medium term
  • On the age aspect, I’ve seen people in their 60’s immediately grasp the avatar concept as it’s presented on the Wii – two had never owned a computer. The Wii is far from unique in its offering – the Xbox 360 is testament to that. However, Nintendo appear to have created a product that has penetrated the mainstream entertainment market in a way no other console has to date. When you’ve got grandparents happily retelling stories of playing Wii sports with their grandchildren, something fundamental has occurred in the way gaming is perceived in society. Sony’s Home offering may provide some stiff competition in the medium term – but until then it’ll be fascinating to see how much the Wii saturates the market.

    So there’s my hypothesis: by 2010 the Nintendo Wii will contain the world’s most populated virtual world. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this.

    A big thanks to beastandbean on Flickr for the Wii Fit photo and to gamesweasel for the Mario Kart Wii pic.

    Connecting a Nintendo Wii to an Airport network

    For those of you that own an Apple Airport or Airport Extreme, you may find the Wii’s interface a little obtuse as far as connecting to that network.

    If you just want your Wii to connect directly to your AirPort, here’s how:

    1. Ensure you know your Airport’s ‘name’ – if you go to the Airport icon at the top right of your screen you’ll see the name of the Airport network you’re connected to. This is what the Nintendo Wii calls your SSID.

    2. Turn on your Wii and navigate to the Wii settings (icon is on bottom left of the screen).

    3. Go to the second page of settings and click on ‘Internet’, then ‘Connection Settings’. There you’ll enter your Airport network’s name. Then click on the blue arrow to the right of where you’ve entered the name and you’ll be presented with password options.

    4. I had set a WPA2 password for my network so that’s the button I clicked and then entered my password. You may need to launch the Airport Admin utility (Applications -> Utilities) to confirm which type of password you’ve set.

    5. Click ‘Ok’ then let the Wii do it’s connection test. It’ll tell you if it’s successful and if it’s the first time you’ve connected the Wii it’s likely to download an update, which may take a while.

    6. That’s it!

    Study shows virtual sport no substitute – yet

    A recently released study shows that physically active (read: Nintendo Wii) computer-based gaming did burn more energy than more passive gaming options. However, the level of increased activity wasn’t enough to meet the physical activity guidelines.

    That result is no great surprise but the researchers were encouraging of the move toward more physically active gaming as a way of promoting broader physical activity measures. Personally, I’d love to see a way of linking physical activity to virtual worlds. Imagine the kilometres covered if you had to actually walk around World of Warcraft or Second Life? This has been done once but there’s no official development of such options that I’m aware of.

    As far as further research, I’d be interested in analysis of the musculoskeletal benefits of more active gaming – that is, how much better is more active gaming for posture, bone strength and muscle flexibility? I’d wager the results would show that pretty much anything is better than slouching on the sofa playing passive console games. The health impact of virtual worlds is a keystone issue. The bulk of work to date has been on the mental health aspects but expect greater scrutiny of the physical as virtual worlds grow in popularity.

    Thanks to Tony Walsh for the heads-up

    Previous Posts